More than three years ago, Niyati Tamaskar’s whole world changed with the mention of just one word: cancer. Today, her many words as a published author are changing the world of others in the form of encouragement, hope and honesty.
The 38-year-old Columbus resident and native of Mumbai, India, recently released her second book “Unabashed: Self-Advocacy and the Quest to Foster Empathy.” Tamaskar, who refers to herself as a “a breast cancer survivor, woman of color, immigrant, and advocate for change,” focuses in this 180-page work partly on being one who finds that her old nearly idyllic life cannot quite be recaptured. And she must find a new perspective.
“What does survivorship look like?” she writes in the opening pages. “Better yet, how do we thrive after trauma?”
Her new book follows the inaugural release “Unafraid,” about her cancer journey itself in 2018. And those books have triggered notes from global cancer patients, including young mothers like her, as far away as the United Kingdom and Australia.
“Some of these people are absolute and complete strangers,” Tamaskar said, amazed at how small the world can be. “That, to me, is really impactful. And I thrive on that.
“I really want to help other women see this (situation) to the other side.”
One stark and pointed message in the new book: With all due respect to former patients who have asserted that their cancer journey made their life somehow better or richer, Tamaskar will never submit to such a sentiment. Seven rounds of chemotherapy and a double mastectomy never will endear themselves to her.
“I will say this until my voice is hoarse,” Tamaskar said. “My life already was fantastic before (stage 3C) cancer. I had two beautiful, healthy children, a loving husband (in Nuwan Gallege), I was gainfully employed, I had a roof over my head. Yes, life was fantastic.
“And I did not need cancer to make me see rainbows and sunshine.”
Sure, she is helping other cancer patients, and that’s a good outgrowth of her pain, she surmised.
“But without the cancer,” she said, “I would simply have found other ways to help people.”
The Cummins Inc. engineer already does that in myriad ways, including supporting Foundation for Youth by being the planned guest speaker at its Great Girls Wonderful Women streaming luncheon Oct. 21. She also will be part of a virtual panel discussion for Estee Lauder’s annual fundraiser Tech Day of Pink Oct. 14 to raise awareness of breast cancer.
Estee Lauder heard of Tamaskar from her Ted Talk posted online in 2020 about cultural bias and stigma associated with nearly every culture when it comes to breast cancer.
Plus, she will be a vendor participant in the Oct. 21 Indianapolis-based fundraiser known as BRA Day, which stands for Breast Reconstruction Awareness. It focuses partly on the struggle that minority women or women of color sometimes face regarding a shortage of resources and information when it comes to reconstructive surgery. She will donate sales of her books that day to the cause.
“When you’ve had breast amputation, you have to be able to have access to all the necessary information in order to choose the right path (for something such as reconstruction),” she said. “When you’re not even given a sufficient choice, that’s the part that is unfair.
“And I’ve been an attendee at BRA Day in the past, but now I just thought I have to do more.”