Zerodha’s Chief of Quality Seema Patil details experience with breast cancer

Seema Patil said that while she hadn’t spoken about her cancer until a few weeks ago, she thought it was necessary after she realised that speaking about cancer is taboo in the country.
Seema Patil and Nithin Kamath
Seema Patil and Nithin Kamath
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On International Women’s Day, Zerodha CEO Nithin Kamath shared his wife’s story, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in November last year. His wife, Seema Patil, who is Chief of Quality and a whole-time director at the company, penned a blog post on her experience as well as awareness, regular health checkups, and more.

“Seema, my wife, was diagnosed with breast cancer last Nov. She decided to share her journey & learnings till now to create awareness on cancer & the importance of regular health checkups, health insurance & overall health & well-being. Happy Women's Day (sic),” Nithin wrote in a tweet.

In the blog, Seema, a fitness enthusiast, says she was the healthiest and fittest person she knew when she was diagnosed with stage 2 cancer which was not more than two years old. She added that while she hadn’t spoken about her cancer until a few weeks ago, she thought it was necessary. “While I am generally a private person, I also realised while going through all the tests and conversations trying to find the best doctor, that maybe I am not talking about it also because like mental illness, cancer is also a taboo in our country,” she wrote.

Seema said she has been getting a full-body health check-up for many years, and this time, her mammogram showed a small lump in the right breast. “Even though I had no symptoms, I decided to go meet an oncologist who did a biopsy, followed by a PET scan which confirmed that the lump was cancerous and was localised to the breasts. I have since then spoken to many oncologists and all of them just reiterated the same - how important regular health checkups are.” She said that cancer can be tackled if spotted early, and as a takeaway, asked people to talk about how important health checkups are.

She reflected on what she could have done differently, adding that she noticed a slight bit of deformity in her nipples over the last year, and in a previous checkup said the shadow of the breasts seemed slightly abnormal during a test.

“But the results said I am alright and I believed that there couldn’t be anything wrong with me. Maybe I should have done a mammogram back then. And yeah, a mammogram isn’t part of all health check-ups, something I hadn’t really cared about, maybe I should have,” she wrote.

Seema added that she had to undergo a mastectomy, and that the breast cannot be saved when surgery is done to remove cancer. Adding that the cosmetic aspect did bother her, she added it only got bigger when doctors only spoke of cancer.

“It took me a few days to make peace with it, maybe it got easier when in one of the conversations the plastic surgeon mentioned how many Bollywood and Hollywood heroines get a boob job done. And thus my mastectomy and cancer treatment became my boob job event for Nithin. All the fun and fooling around has made my last four months a lot less tough than what it could have been,” she wrote.

Seema also needed chemotherapy and had to get four chemo sessions at 21-day intervals, followed by 20 days of radiation. She also had to get a port implant to deliver the chemo medicines, and that is permanent as opposed to an IV, which is temporary.

“I experienced nothing for the first two days after chemo and I thought ah this isn’t too tough, and then suddenly it hit me. It felt like being run over by a truck for the next five to seven days. Weakness, joint pain, diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, no sense of taste, and more,” the post read.

Due to the hair fall caused by chemo, both Nithin and Seema decided to go bald and stay that way till hair grows back, which is 2-4 weeks after the last round of chemotherapy. She elaborated on her learnings, stating that remaining positive was the key and hoping that the worst is done. “It is usually the mind that gives up before the body, and we cannot let it happen,” she said.

She also stressed the importance of regular health checkups and said if she wasn’t getting them regularly, she may have spotted cancer too late. “And yes, regular health check-ups even if you can run 10 km in 40 mins,” she wrote. She also stressed the importance of a support system.

A good insurance policy is crucial, she wrote, adding in the last few months, her insurance policy would have covered almost all medical expenses. “I can’t imagine how a family at or below middle afford this without health insurance. So, please make sure to have a comprehensive health insurance policy to cover all health conditions,” she wrote.

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