December 16, 2022

What I've Learned - "Well, Why NOT me?"

Although there are millions of people currently facing cancer, it can be a lonely experience. Not only is each cancer case different, but each patient's life beyond the waiting room is filled with unique strengths, challenges, goals, and relationships. In this series, we celebrate the people who are our patients and share what they've learned while charting their own path.

Punita K., a mother of one who worked for over 30 years in the healthcare industry, was diagnosed with breast cancer following her annual mammogram in 2016. As a survivor and Oncotype DX® Patient Ambassador, Punita now shares her story in the hope of inspiring others to explore their own treatment options.

What did life look like for you before the diagnosis?

My life had a normal routine: family, friends, work, travel, activities, volunteering. Nothing extraordinary. I remember the months before the diagnosis vividly because I was very happy, thinking that this was the first time in years that I wasn't preoccupied with my autoimmune disorder and back issues. I was planning a new stage in my career. At the advice of a friend, I enrolled in UCLA’s Fundraising Certificate program. I was excited and apprehensive as I hadn’t sat in a classroom for 25 years! I went for my annual mammogram expecting the same outcome as my previous ten mammograms. I was shocked when told that my biopsy was positive for breast cancer. I remember thinking, “What do I do about my life? What’s going to happen to me and my family? What am I supposed to do about work?”

Was there anything that helped you maintain a sense of normalcy in the years that followed?

For my own self-preservation and mental health, my husband and I decided to only tell a few family members and very close friends about my diagnosis. Since I didn’t have chemotherapy, there were no visible signs of undergoing treatment.   I felt that I had to keep moving forward in all areas. I decided to continue the classes. Although radiation affected my concentration and it took longer to read materials and write papers, I finished the Certificate program in record time. I got a new job. I enjoyed keeping up with most of our social obligations, which helped keep life as normal as possible. Two months after my surgery, I held a Bollywood-themed party with 120 guests for my son’s elementary school graduation! I also remember taking it one day at a time. The side effects of treatment did impact my stamina, so I modified my activities when I needed to. For example, instead of walking in the hills, my friends and I drove to the flat part of our neighborhood and walked there. As I look back, I managed to get through this intense period because I trusted my healthcare team. Because of this trust, I focused on living life instead of dwelling on my diagnosis. 

What gave you strength during your diagnosis?

I relied on my faith to give me strength. My faith was based both on a belief in a higher being that I would come through this journey strong, and the knowledge that I was receiving access to the best medical care based on science. 

Building your healthcare team is an important step with a cancer diagnosis. What is one tip you would give someone?

I felt that it was important to find a healthcare team in which I had full confidence that they would provide the best care available to me. I built my team through personal recommendations and my own observations on how they interacted with me.

How do you relate to your experience now? 

When I look back, I am shocked at how I managed to get through that period. It wasn’t easy, especially due to the excruciating pain I was in for the first year and a half of adjuvant therapy. I remember always being tired; not being able to sleep; bone and back pain that flared up again and again. I am glad that I joined a Cancer Support Community where I was able to share my journey and feel heard about my experience. Today, I see cancer as one part of the story of my life. I’m an Indian American woman, a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a professional, a volunteer, a cancer survivor, a patient advocate. 

Why do you think it's important to share your experience?

I'm first generation Indian American, and there's a great deal of reluctance in our community to talk about issues surrounding health and bad things that may happen, especially cancer. So, I feel strongly about raising awareness for people of color and specifically, within my Indian American community, about these issues that need to be talked about.

There was one point in my cancer treatment when I was at a low point, thinking, "Why me? Why, why did this happen?" I was managing life, I had my son, I was attending classes, working, everything. Then it dawned on me, "Well, why NOT me?" With my work experience, my ethnicity as an Asian American woman, and everything else I could bring, I could now be a voice for my community, for women of color, to come forward and say, "There's support out there and we're out there to help you."


This story reflects one individual’s experience. Not every person will have the same treatment, experience, outcome, or result. The Oncotype DX Breast Recurrence Score® test is ordered by your health care provider. Talk to your health care provider about whether the Breast Recurrence Score® test may be right for you. To learn more, visit

If you've used an Oncotype DX® test and are interested in sharing your story with our team, please get in touch here: We'd love to hear from you!