In 2011, Sarangi was leading a full, busy life. She was a healthy, active wife and mom of a 3 year old, working in the financial industry and attending grad school at George Washington University. Everything changed after the Virginia earthquake on August 23rd of that year. During the earthquake, Sarangi fell while trying to leave her building. After falling, “I felt a very hard ‘rock’ in my chest.” She experienced radiating, intense pain and her husband urged her to go to the doctor. Her OB/GYN ordered a mammogram and it came back normal – but Sarangi knew something wasn’t right. “I insisted he check because there was something in my chest…[this] moment of advocating for myself led me to a diagnosis of breast cancer and probably saved my life.”
She was stunned to learn had an aggressive form of breast cancer in her early thirties. “My world just spun around in so many directions…The words ‘you have cancer’ initially felt like the end was at my doorstep and I was trying to bolt the door shut. I thought I might not see my 7th wedding anniversary, or see my son get on the bus for the first day of kindergarten.” Filled with fear of the unknown and worry for herself and her family, Sarangi’s son became her North Star. “He reminded me of what I was fighting for when things got pretty tough.” Still, it was difficult to explain to her energetic 3 year old why his mom couldn’t carry him, or play with him like before. “My husband came up with the idea of telling our son that Mommy had bad guys in her and that the doctors were helping us get the bad guys out, so we have to be very gentle with her and take good care of her.” Her son had to grow up faster and do more for himself, but Sarangi says the experience has helped shape him into a strong, compassionate person.
Sarangi found her oncologist, Dr. Rajendra, after watching a video of him discussing his approach to patient care. “I really felt he cared about me as a person first, then as a patient…He made sure no stone was unturned when it came to developing my treatment plan. The office staff and nurses were just wonderful. They each offered a piece of kindness that just went a really long way.” Throughout her cancer journey, Sarangi found courage through the love and support of her husband, family and friends. “I didn’t know what my outcome would be but I knew one thing: I would fight hard with my support system by my side.” She kept reminding herself, “I didn’t have a choice to get cancer, but I have a choice on how I walk this path.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, the importance of wearing masks became evident. Supplies were scarce and homemade masks filled the gap. Sarangi borrowed a sewing machine and began sewing masks to protect herself and her family. Then she thought of all the other cancer patients who needed the protection of a mask to go to treatments or tests.
This spurred her to sew hundreds of masks before work and during lunch breaks and donate them to clinics and hospitals in the area. While sewing, she was filled with immense gratitude for all she had been through with the support of her medical team and her family and friends. “I felt joy because I could help people on a path I am all too familiar with. Each mask had a handwritten note with words and phrases that gave me courage during my journey in hopes of providing a little encouragement to someone else on this path.”
It’s been 10 years since her cancer diagnosis and Sarangi cherishes each and every moment with her husband, 13 year old son and 7 year old mini schnauzer Murli. She’s learned that she has greater physical and emotional strength than she ever imagined. For her, being a survivor means making good choices each and every day. “Some days those choices are very clear. On other days I have to dig deep. It’s really about taking each moment as it comes in an authentic way to be the best version of me.” Sarangi chooses to live each day with authenticity, courage, conviction and hope. We wish her continued good health and all the best in the future!