In the year 2005, at the age of 39, they found three tumors in my right breast, just a month after my neck hernia operation. Within a few days, I had a mastectomy including removal of my lymph nodes. My husband had shifted to Mexico and I was in Delhi for an assignment. A few weeks after my surgery I went to Mexico for my six cycles of chemotherapy.

From the time I heard that I had three tumors in my breast till my chemotherapy my only thought was that I needed to work hard and get this over with and more importantly, in no way it should interfere with my life or the people around me. So the same night I got the news I went out with friends for good food and drinks.

Every time I went to the hospital to get my chemotherapy, I took a waist carrier with me, which could hold my chemotherapy, so after connecting the tubes I could leave the hospital while the chemotherapy was going on for a few hours. On the way from the hospital to our house, there was a very nice shopping mall. I would stop there; watch a movie in the theatre and go on shopping spree and by the time I was home the treatment was halfway. I think it has to do with how you deal with issues. I tend to compartmentalize everything to its relevance and deal with it accordingly. I have been handling other matters in my life in the same way. Partly because of my upbringing thanks to my Dad. He taught me to earn the rewards one deserves in life instead of waiting for sponsors. If you really want something, work double hard for it till you get it.

From the time I heard that I had three tumors in my breast till my chemotherapy my only thought was that I needed to work hard and get this over with and more importantly, in no way it should interfere with my life.

I have a slight problem with words like struggle, dark days. I did not perceive my cancer journey that way as my only thought was to kick it out and to handle it in a way that it did not interfere with my life too much. That would be my advice to other women too. Having cancer is a shitty thing but being scared and sad only makes it worse. My support system was my husband because who was by my side in Mexico during the chemo. My husband even came to Delhi for the surgery.

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Ofcourse, there was the phase of physical recovery from the mastectomy and the chemotherapy, which makes you sick and you lose all your hair even on your body, but it grows back really fast. When I was up and running after the chemo I had breast reconstruction done (from my belly fat), and this surgery had quite a recovery time too but it was 100 percent worth it.

My positive take away from this tryst with cancer is, deal with it without changing the good things in life, things you really like, keep doing them.

While I was on chemotherapy, the plan of bringing Pressto to India was born. The purpose was to start a high-end dry-cleaning chain in India. While the venture gained quick success with its world class quality and word of mouth due to high level of customer satisfaction, I had to gear up for yet another life-changing battle. I was in the middle of developing the concept of Pressto Cobblerwhen one fine evening I collapsed during a meeting in office. And it came as a shock for all my colleagues as I was diagnosed with brain hemorrhage and was in a coma for four weeks and it took two years to recover from it.

To deal with my brain hemorrhage and the consequent memory loss, in the first few weeks I tried to write everything down in notebooks, through mails and all possible modes. But writing things down was not my cup of tea and I made a mess of it. I started forcing myself to remember most of the things which added a lot of frustration while my business started seeing major roadblocks in my absence. Hence to streamline the business and to bring a mechanism I started writing handbooks to ensure we follow standard SOPs. Writing all this in my condition was a hugely challenging task but my will power showed me the way. And during this time I remained crystal clear about the strategic direction of my venture. I am truly grateful to my colleagues and husband for their patience during this tough phase.

Pressto today celebrates 11 successful years in India. Our success is prooves that anything is possible and the journey has just begun.

Picture Credit: Maurer foundation

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Esther Lennaerts is the Founder and Director of Pressto, which offers dry-cleaning and cobbler services through its exclusive stores. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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