When Tanya Bhatia was only 23 years old, she was bathing when she felt a “strange” lump on her right breast. When it didn’t go away, she visited the doctor and knew she had triple negative breast cancer. That cancer was the first of four cancer diagnoses in the past decade. While many would be overwhelmed, Bhatia has not let him stop her.
“Cancer is just part of his routine,” the 33-year-old interior designer in New York City told TODAY. “They have been rushed for 10 years, but I am still here and I am not going anywhere soon. I will continue to fight the fight as long as I can. Even if the cancer comes back, I will continue to fight the fight. ”
From the first job to the diagnosis of cancer
Bhatia was working on her first job after college and was enjoying life with her friends in Bahrain when she found the first lump and was diagnosed with cancer. Her parents allowed her to decide where to go for treatment and they moved to Berlin for care.
“It was really difficult, growing super fast and making these big decisions at 23, like, where do I want to be treated?” she said. “I was moving to a different country, not knowing what was going to happen, if it was a one-way flight and I was wondering when I would be coming home.”
He underwent chemotherapy and then a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. To stay busy during treatment, she studied for the GRE and applied to enter graduate school. It helped her deal with the loneliness of a new city and its strenuous treatments.
“I had no idea what the next day would be like, to be honest. Many of my days were spent with my parents and then, for weeks after treatment, I was like bedridden, “Bhatia said.” I thought, ‘I can’t allow this to be the only turning point in my life at 23.’ So first I have to distract myself and do something. ”
She applied for a dozen graduate schools and accepted a position in a program at Syracuse University, beginning in August 2011 for her master’s degree in architecture. For the next three years, she studied and did not have cancer. After graduating, she accepted a job in New York City. Shortly after she underwent an examination and her doctor found a lump in her left breast in February 2015.
“I was devastated,” she recalled feeling. “Because of my experience at 23, I didn’t want to be that person again. I couldn’t stay home all the time. “
Bhatia informed her employer that she would work on her treatment, which included a mastectomy of her left breast and chemotherapy at the Dubin Breast Center at the Tisch Cancer Institute in New York City.
“Some people think that breast cancer spreads to the other breast, but this was a new and independent event,” said Dr. Amy Tiersten, professor of medicine, hematology and oncology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and director Breast medical oncology clinic, counted TODAY. “She is at high risk because she is BRCA positive.”
Although having cancer a second time was overwhelming, working helped Bhatia cope with it.
“It is always good to have a distraction,” he said. “You can feel some normalcy in your life.”
‘Growing up with my cancer’
In 2018, she found another lump in her right breast and underwent a lumpectomy and joined a clinical trial for treatment. She said she was lucky that Tiersten worked with her to find alternative treatments.
“I was trying to find different solutions with my doctor, whom I have been seeing for the past five years,” said Bhatia. “I was in a clinical trial. It gave me a little different experience to see what different medications are there. “
Tiersten said that having a positive attitude, working and enjoying hobbies can be helpful for women with breast cancer. Although not everyone is physically capable of continuing their normal activities.
“Focusing on being a full-time patient can be a very poor quality of life,” he said. “Trying to keep your life as normal as possible is always a good idea, in my opinion, but that’s not possible or true for everyone.”
In July 2019, Bhatia learned that the cancer has spread to her liver and that she officially has stage 4 or metastatic breast cancer. Again, she enrolled in a different clinical trial to receive treatment.
She began to share her experience so that people understood that having stage 4 cancer “is not always a sad story.” She held back earlier because she didn’t want anyone to feel bad for her. Still, Bhatia maintains a full social life with her boyfriend and does yoga and exercises as often as possible.
“I feel great. I’m happy,” she said. “I work crazy hours. I never stop what I’m doing. I’m very passionate.”
Her experience with cancer in the past decade shaped her and helped her stay strong.
“I am a completely different person than I was 10 years ago. I was a very calm person. It wouldn’t be as vocal or energetic, ”she said. “My personality has changed a lot and that’s me growing up with my cancer and embracing it.”