Book Excerpt : Cancer, You Picked the Wrong Girl by Shormistha Mukherjee

4 min read

Book: Cancer, You Picked the Wrong Girl

Author: Shormistha Mukherjee

Publisher: HarperCollins

Co-founder of a digital agency, Shormistha Mukherjee ran a very popular blog that featured her undercover name agentgreenglass. She has previously published a series of short fiction stories on Juggernaut. She writes about her battle with breast cancer with a healthy dose of humour in her Book 'Cancer, You Picked the Wrong Girl.'

From getting a Brazilian wax, to navigating through decisions regarding breast reconstruction, Shormistha says it's humour that helped through the journey.

Her book effectively marries humour with hard truths and emotional roller-coasters she face while battling cancer.

Here's an excerpt from here book:


To me there were two parts to chemo. One was chemo day care, which is what you start casually calling the chemo ward after a few turns. Everyone thinks it’s a gloomy depressing place straight out of the dark ages, with huddled bodies crying softly in their beds.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, my solution to normalize cancer and to remove the fear of chemo from people’s minds is starting chemo day care visits for the aam janta.

Many of my friends, who took turns to come with me for my chemo, were bowled over by how normal, and in fact even cheerful, the place is, under the circumstances.

Of course, you have to excuse the Indian habit of bringing a whole baraat with you when you come for chemo. The nurses would literally have to yell at people.

Some days, the aisle between the beds would be so crowded with relatives, caregivers, and once even a pandit, that the nurses were like a dodgeball team that had been handed medicines and syringes.

This is when there’s a clear sign saying not more than one person per patient. But on the flip side, maybe that’s also what makes chemo day care look less scary. It’s the opposite of sterile, it’s a compartment in the Indian railways.

What adds to that train journey feeling is the fact that most people, patients, and caregivers have never heard of something called earphones.

They will chat with their broker, instruct whoever is doing the cooking at home, and listen to devotional music on speakerphone.

And pretty much in the same vein, there’s no way people will not start chatting with each other in minutes. It doesn’t matter if you are reading, not making eye contact, or have needles coming out of you, everyone will ask what happened, how long, who is your doctor, what you do, how many people are in your family. And finally, ‘Bada dhakka laga hoga na?’ (‘Must have been such a shock, right?’).

Nobody really expects the patient to answer. They’ll look right past you and direct the questions at the caregiver. It used to irritate me earlier. Like, look at me. I am not dead, you idiot.

But then I realized, they don’t really want answers. It’s just everyone bound together by anxiety. Like the outside of an exam hall, where you’re waiting for your kid to come out.

I wouldn’t be surprised to hear people have cracked business deals and marriage proposals in chemo day care.

As your chemo progresses, chemo day care just becomes part of your life. Like for six months, this is your office.


I used to come in, say hi to all the nurses, weigh myself, give them the details, and collect my band. Then grab my bed, all the while looking out for my chemo friends.

Yes, I had chemo friends. Two women, also being treated for breast cancer. Our chemo days would sometimes coincide, so we’d look for beds next to each other.

We’d chat and laugh, and discuss wigs and getting the plastic surgeon to fix our lips as an add on. We had nicknames for the doctors, and I would look out for this very cool doctor, who dressed brilliantly, wore heels, carried an iPad, and moved around in style.

It was so good to see her. T here were days that I could pretend I was in a meeting room and not a chemo ward when I saw her.

By now, I was also friends with the guy who looked after the bedding and sheets, and I always got an extra pillow. Anirban had also managed to get me a food pass from Mandy.

Every chemo morning, he’d wake up early, and make me these yummy egg and tomato sandwiches with the softest bread and we’d carry that along with some fruits. He’d carry his laptop, and work at the foot of my bed. We settled into a routine.

There was also a gentleman who worked in films. Twice, I had the bed next to him. He’d be talking non-stop to his friends till his chemo doctor arrived. Then he’d go totally silent.


I carried my Kindle to every chemo, but more often than not I didn’t need it. Thanks to all the free entertainment.

Like the lady who came with her brother and wife. They were obviously massive foodies, because they spent the entire time discussing food in elaborate detail.

Couple of chemos down, I realized I had to find a bed that was far from her, because while I was okay with rajma and chole recipes being read out, I drew the line on hearing about boti kebabs while they were shoving the needle into my port. Plus, it made me very hungry.

The doctor would ask him, ‘Are you still smoking?’


‘I’m asking you if you are still smoking.’


‘Answer me!!!’


At this point the doctor would lecture him loudly and tell him, ‘What’s the point of chemo or medicines, if you can’t stop smoking?’

Once, the man tried to defend himself by saying he was eating thirty oranges a day, so that he got enough vitamin C to beat the cancer. The doctor pretty much lost his shit.

(Excerpted with permission from 'Cancer, You Picked the Wrong Girl' by Shormistha Mukherjee , published by HarperCollins India.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
Read More