- Sanya Somani & Anaiya Patel
The Story Of Niti Chhaya
Updated: Aug 22, 2022
Written by: Sanya Somani & Anaiya Patel
More often than not, women’s health stories do not get the recognition and attention deserved. Fighting diseases and health issues play a larger, more difficult role in one's life than one may perceive. HealthForHER, a nonprofit youth-led organization based in Phoenix, Arizona, is dedicated to providing necessary health resources and education for women in impoverished areas. One of our goals, as the founders, is to share information about the health struggles women go through by conducting a series of interviews to educate the public about the stories of these incredible female survivors.
Niti Chhaya, a 74-year-old senior citizen, was the first to share her experience through HealthForHER. Her truly inspiring story shines some light on the mental, physical, and emotional battles needing to be fought. Chhaya explains that she has Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a rare type of blood cancer which can be controlled by chemotherapy or medication. However, there is currently no viable cure. Her first diagnosis, which was unrecognized at the time in 2012 “was through the bone marrow and the second one was localized in [her] leg. Chhaya states, “I was petrified in 2012 because the obvious things were that I had lost a lot of weight. I was very sad, but did not know I had lymphoma.” The cancer “was sort of indolent or rather it was indolent lymphoma that grows very slow.” Her second diagnosis in 2020 showed aggressive lymphoma, which can be completely cured if treated correctly.
During this journey, Mrs. Chhaya feels her family was a predominant factor with support considering that the majority of them are doctors. “I think family members, many of them being doctors, were really disappointed and shocked. But, at the same time, they had an awareness of what to expect.” In 2012, there was no well-known treatment for her cancer, and she was told all the doctors could do was monitor her. Regardless, Mrs. Chhaya consistently had her family by her side to support her: “My daughter and the family came right to help me and my husband.” She expresses her gratitude towards her family and the consideration and love displayed. Eventually, a medicine with the name of “Rituximab” was released to help her access remission. The combination of easy access to reliable healthcare and her doctor-heavy family gave Chhaya an advantage that the majority of individuals battling cancer do not have.
In this case, cancer and all these rapid moving treatments were completely new aspects of Chhaya’s life. She explains the feeling of being constantly surrounded by diagnostic tests, blood work, CAT and PET scans, all just to ensure the cancer was not spreading, as well as to monitor the development and shrinking of the lymphoma. She reveals that the doctors informed her about the lump that had formed, and she was forced to return to her hospital in New Jersey. This devastating remark was one that Mrs. Chhaya will never forget. In 2018, when the cancer started to develop aggressively within four to five months, chemotherapy was required in order to stop the attack on her body. Contrary to what Chhaya originally thought, the cancer got worse in 2020: Chhaya said, “[It was] the scariest time I had ever had to go through.” She was required to go through chemotherapy five days a week, every three weeks, for six cycles. Chhaya states, “The cancer treatments became more difficult to live with as they went on” and mentions seeing “57 nurses over 8 months, [and] 5-6 doctors.” Fortunately for Chhaya, having access to healthcare was much easier compared to the hardships some disadvantaged women are presented with.
While undergoing treatment, a patient not only suffers through the physical impact, but also the emotional weight brought upon them. As the cancer slowed down with treatment, Chhaya was given ample time and opportunity to reflect on her journey. The biggest challenge she was presented with was “walking around from place to place like bed to the bathroom.” Her strength was very low due to her low hemoglobin and white blood cell count to the point where she would need assistance with almost everything, such as having a person lift her onto the bed, as she was not able to herself. Constant physical pain took a toll on her mindset. The most prominent emotion Chhaya felt was the unstable fear, “just like a rollercoaster between 2012 and 2019.” Nonetheless, she “thanks God for everything as [she] was able to get access to cancer screenings and the proper help.” Chhaya gathered herself and recovered, regaining her mental strength to fight off the aggressive cancer.
In her family, Chhaya is known for having incredible advice to share in times of need. For others fighting cancer or another disease, these are her words of enlightenment: “Have three things—have patience with the rest of the world because they are always trying to help you...Second is to have big faith. There is always some solution coming your way. And [finally], have love from the family, which sometimes isn’t in your hands. But, people like me ended up in a situation where there was more love than I expected or felt I deserved...You always have to remember these three things. God will decide which way we are going to go.” Chhaya says that even with a good diet, exercise, discipline, or attitude, there is never going to be a complete guarantee of what types of challenges life throws at you. “Always be prepared for that because anything can happen. But, if it happens, leave it to your Lord, your doctors, or your family.” HealthForHER greatly thanks Niti Chhaya for sharing her motivating story. Stay tuned for more interviews coming soon!
Works Cited: Frothingham, Scott. “The 13 Most Common Cancers with Statistics.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 7 Mar. 2019, www.healthline.com/health/most-common-cancers#bladder-cancer. “Lymphoma - Hodgkin - Statistics.” Cancer.Net, 10 Mar. 2020, www.cancer.net/cancer-types/lymphoma-hodgkin/statistics.