How I Fought Cancer, Got Back In Shape

Aarti Sondhi tells us how she fought cancer and got back in shape during the pandemic.

When I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in August 2020, the natural initial reaction for such devastating news was of fear, doubt, and helplessness.

It was during the peak of the COVID pandemic, which meant no travel, so treatment outside Dubai wasn’t an option.

Also, once I started medication, my entire family and I had to self quarantine for three-four months. This was especially difficult with kids, and they had no social interaction.

From never having been to a hospital except for my two deliveries, I was thrown into a whirlwind of ultrasound, PET scans, MRIs, blood tests, all new and daunting, especially the MRI where you have to stay in the confined space for half an hour or more.

The journey has been long and the challenges were many. But I have been practising Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism and I am a member of Soka Gakkai (a religious movement) for 17 years.

Through faith and prayer, I found courage, hope and the wisdom to tackle the obstacles head on.

Maintaining a balance between treatment and taking care of my family, children, school and providing emotional support to the kids was tricky but with my hubby’s support who was working from home, we were able to find an equilibrium.

The transformation

I became an active member of Fittr, (a community of fitness trainers and aspiring enthusiasts). Till then I used to be a silent member of the group.

I had been part of three transformation challenges but I was unable to stay consistent and complete it successfully due to my health situation.

This time I resolved to make it happen for two reasons;

1. To boost my self confidence by losing the extra fat and getting fit.

2. To prove to myself that I can make a transformation, irrespective of the challenges.

Since I am a certified nutrition and fitness consultant from INFS (Institute of Nutrition and Fitness Sciences), I trained myself.

I applied the learning of my expert course on quantified nutrition and made a home-based training plan for myself with dumbbells, the available tool for strength training.

I opted for healthy eating options along with an active trained body.

I had reached 75 kg at the peak of my treatment when I wasn’t able to focus on diet training.

I am at 67 kgs now, so I lost a total of 8 kg in the last one year.

Dietary changes

  • Included ABC (apple, beetroot, carrot) juice and coconut water daily.
  • Added protein and vegetables consciously in each meal.
  • Healthy snack options like sprouts, fruits, nuts.
  • Included yoghurt as a probiotic once a day.
  • Gave up on fast food, sodas, junk snacks like biscuits, namkeen and alcohol.
  • Reduced sugar and other sweets/desserts from diet; treated/cheated once or twice a month.
  • Reduced red meat intake.
  • Increased water intake to at least 3 litres.
  • Limited eating outside food.


I made training a habit rather than a choice, yet made a point to listen to the body and rest whenever needed.

With my health and the COVID situation, joining a gym was impossible so I have only been doing home-based exercises.

I work out 4 to 5 days a week between 45 minutes to 1 hour.

I started yoga, breathing exercises along with meditation and actively started counting daily steps.

For strength training, I opted for home based exercise plan using dumbbells only.

The important thing is listen to the body and rest whenever needed, but not use that as an excuse.

Other changes

  • Getting good sleep
  • Prioritised daily activities to focus on important ones
  • Ensure to get ample rest whenever needed
  • Spend quality time with family/ friends
  • Enjoy a hobby like reading for mental happiness

Breakfast: 2 eggs, ABC juice

Lunch: Dal, rice, one vegetable and paneer, low fat flavoured yoghurt

Snack: Sprouts, coconut water, raw vegetables-carrot, broccoli, capsicum

Dinner: Chicken/fish, dal, roti, salad

Since I started chemo, I am on maintenance, as it is not advisable to lose weight during treatment. But having a healthy balanced diet and some sort of exercise, like yoga, walking or cycling is what has kept me going.

My faith and practice of Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism and my Soka Gakkai member’s support kept me going. My day starts and ends with my daily prayers.

My two lovely children — son Aarush, 12, and my daughter Amala, 8, have been my constant support and motivation.

My learnings

  • Have faith in yourself and develop self confidence from within, then that will be reflected on the outside.
  • Start with a goal or a vision in mind; there can be no progress if the end goal is not clear; keep it realistic and measurable
  • Do not over complicate things; keep diet/training plan simple so it’s easy to follow.
  • Enjoy the journey, otherwise you will give up midway.
  • It’s OK to falter, as long as you remember to get back on track.
  • Keep a record of statistics and weekly photos, they really help motivate you as you start seeing the differences.
  • Do not compare your journey with others, everyone’s journey is unique.
  • You are your own best friend. If you believe in yourself with all your heart, there is nothing that cannot be achieved.

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