Twenty-five-year-old Praveena M had everything going for her — she was single with an exciting career as a casting director associated with reputed producers in Mumbai, had a great social circle and supporting family. But only until one day in March 2014 when her routine blood test report findings said in red: acute leukaemia.

Then her life took a twist — hospital, treatment, chemo, radiation, all of which she took in her stride, till at the end of a nine-month ordeal, she entered remission.

Her mother, Rani, who stood by her through thick and thin, was the happiest to see her daughter back at her rocking self. And just as the family was getting into celebratory mode, another news shattered it all. Rani was diagnosed with stage-four cervical cancer. With that came another testing time for Rani who was always the pillar of her daughter’s strength during difficult times, with a reversal of roles, though.

Originally from Chennai and now based in Bengaluru, Praveena is a casting director doing national advertisements, while working for several production houses. A workaholic and hyperactive person, she ignored the on and off bouts of headaches and fast beating of her heart, as stress-related. One particular day in March 2014, a day before a client’s showroom launch, she discussed her ailment with a friend who told her mother about it. Rani took Praveena to their family doctor who suggested some routine blood tests.

Next day, they collected the report and Praveena happened to open the cover on her way back to the doctor’s place. “Since I always had low haemoglobin counts, I thought it would be the same. But every count was highlighted and at the end in red was mentioned ‘acute leukaemia’. I had no idea what it was and my initial reaction was, ‘waaw’. I did not understand the seriousness until we met the doctor whose face fell after seeing the report. My doctor said, ‘This can’t be true. You cannot have it. I have been treating you all your life. We will get it checked again.’ Then it hit me,” narrates Praveena.

And Praveena, being in the advertising industry as she was, was already thinking about how she could make a documentary on her own saga. She was told that there was no time for doctor-shopping, as the treatment had to begin immediately. “Then it began sinking into me and I was like, why me? I was referred to the Columbia Asia Referral Hospital where I met Dr Satish who was initially very matter of fact about it. My treatment began and then I realised how Dr Satish pampered me, gave me confidence and said it is 20 per cent medicine and 80 per cent hope, and where there is hope, there is life. I responded well to the treatment, was in hospital for 45 days and my last radiation ended on December 31, 2014. I wanted to begin the New Year afresh,” says Praveena.

Praveena’s real inspiration came from a two-year-old boy at the hospital who was being treated for cancer. “I absolutely loved his spirit and told myself, when the kid can, why can’t I fightback.” She got back to work from her hospital bed with her laptop up and running. She even wrote the lyrics for an oil advertisement jingle, which was sung by a renowned musician.

Says Dr Satish Kumar A, clinical haematologist, Columbia Asia Referral Hospital, who treated Praveena, “Her condition required six months of intensive chemotherapy and two years of maintenance oral chemotherapy. Praveena has responded very well to medications so far and has a year left for maintenance. The first month was extremely challenging for us, as apart from medications, Praveena also required constant psychological support. She is in remission now.”

Out of hospital and back to normalcy, just when the family wanted to put behind everything as a bad dream, a long pending issue of Rani’s fibroids was to be addressed by the end of 2015. But what emerged out of a check was some lesions in her lungs. Then began another round of consultations, which revealed that Rani was in her fourth-stage cervical cancer, which Rani took bravely in her stride. “Nothing will happen to me. I have a lot of responsibilities and pending work. I will not go away leaving all of it,” she told Praveena and her older daughter Prashanti.

Rani was brought to Columbia Asia Hospital and is now being treated by Dr Neelesh Reddy, medical oncologist. She has completed two cycles, and her two daughters are by her side. “Diet and confidence work a lot, and when my daughter was sick, I had researched a lot. Now, they are doing the same for me,” says Rani.

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