Dr. DEEPA HALAHARVI
STAGE AT DIAGNOSIS: 1
ER DIAGNOSIS: Positive
PR DIAGNOSIS: Positive
HER2 DIAGNOSIS: Neu Negative
In Her Own Words…
- You see — I am THE true American dream.
- I wanted to be a doctor since age 5, my parents migrated to the US from India in the late 80s. My Father was an electrical engineer and his only dream was for his kids to get a great education and become successful. They told us to dream big, work hard and always be honest and I remember my father telling me constantly, “Whatever job you do, you have to be great at it, there was no place for mediocrity in our home.” So, I became a doctor and my brothers who like to diagnose non humans became engineers.
- As early immigrants, my parents could not afford my college tuition, I trained as an LPN after HS and worked as an LPN at night while I went to school during the day to get my bachelors.
- A few years later, my father suffered a hemorrhagic stroke during a surgery to remove his brain tumor (benign meningioma), he remained bedridden/quadriplegic for 16 years, while my family and I help take care of him, I enrolled in the local PA school and worked as a PA for almost 2 years before I went to medical school at KCU in Kansas City.
- Even thru ups and downs of my life, I never forgot my father’s words to dream big and I stayed true to my dream of becoming a physician. I pursued medical school with the help of my husband and my family- I was married with 2 kids, …. Yes!! I chose the road less traveled.
- After I graduated 15 years ago, I did residency in general surgery at OhioHealth Doctors Hospital and Fellowship in breast surgical oncology at OhioHealth Grant Medical center in Columbus, OH.
- After I finished the fellowship in 2014, I started working as a breast surgeon at OhioHealth, in Columbus, OH. Unfortunately, my father passed away 4 months after my training, but I never forgot his words to be the best at my job as a breast surgeon-so, I prayed and asked God, how I could best serve my patients, the answer came in the form of my own breast cancer diagnosis. After being a breast surgeon for eight months, I faced my own breast cancer diagnosis on March 27, 2015.
- My initial reaction was same as what you would expect from anyone getting the same news- denial, followed by anger (why me? Why now? As I was starting my career, and I wanted to do a lot of things with my life), then came bargaining, depression and finally acceptance of my diagnosis.
- I became that statistic, I told my patient (1 in eight women) who gets diagnosed with breast cancer. This was another challenge in my life…life is funny that way, none of us are spared of the obstacles….we will each face them in form of difficult patients, crisis, setbacks, illnesses…these are all part of life… just remember, you all have come this far, you have the resilience, maturity, and courage — you need to pick yourself up and dust yourself off and keep going. It is not the failure that counts, it is what you do after the failure that is important in life. Helen Keller said, adversity is not what happens to you but what you make of it.
- I have seen both sides of the experience as a breast cancer surgeon and a breast cancer patient and have gained a unique insight and perspective into what it is like to face cancer.
- I had complications and underwent 5 surgeries in one year. It was the most challenging year of my life.
- My journey has taught me that, the character cannot be developed in ease and quiet, only thru trial and suffering that the soul can be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.
- Cancer has become a blessing to me: I know I did not feel this way when I was first diagnosed. But having gone thru the diagnosis and now 7 years later, I not only have greater compassion and empathy for my patients, but cancer has allowed me to gain strength, endurance, tenacity, and perseverance. I hope my story and life will inspire other people.
- When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I asked the question, how long will I live, will I die of this cancer, but seven years later, it no longer matters to me how long I live but it matters how I live.
- Emerson said, “the purpose of life is not just to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
Get To Know Deepa…
What has been the most challenging part of your journey?
There have been lot of challenges, including complications of my surgery as well as the side effects of the medications I take now.
What is your superpower?
Compassion and kindness
What is your theme song?
What is your favorite movie?
What your spirit animal?
What is your favorite food?
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?
What is your favorite quote?
“Be the change you wish to see in the world” — Mahatma Gandhi
What I want all breast cancer patients to know…
- You want to be your own advocate
- Two things are really important to me — serving society and not taking away “hope” from my patients.
- As a cancer doctor, it is really important to me to never take away a patient’s hope regardless of the patient’s diagnosis and prognosis. A doctor’s mission is not just to prevent death but to improve the QOL. That’s why when you treat a disease you may win or lose but if you treat a person, I guarantee you will win every time no matter what the outcome.
— Deepa Halaharvi