Actress Chhavi Mittal’s Winning Battle With Breast Cancer



Surviving Cancer: Actress Chhavi Mittal's Winning Battle With Breast Cancer

A seemingly harmless injury in her chest spurred content creator and actress Chhavi Mittal’s life into a whirlwind. In April 2022, the 42-year-old based out of Bombay discovered a lump in her breast, which turned out to be malignant. However, the cancer diagnosis did not crush Chhavi’s will to live. She was a survivor. She spoke to OnlyMyHealth about her journey towards complete recovery.

This is the second story in our series “Survivor Stories” where we hear from people who’ve combatted or are living with life-altering diseases or ailments. Read the first one about a man living with HIV here,

As highlighted in this 2022 articles published on the NCBI website, breast cancer is the most common malignancy among women globally. From being fourth in the list of most common cancers in India during the 1990s, it has now become the first.

A well-known face of Indian television, Chhavi Mittal, who has starred in shows like Naaginn, Bandini, and Krishnadasi opened up about her experience. Speaking to OnlyMyHealth, she said, “I had an injury in the gym, in my chest and that’s what I wanted to investigate, so we had to get an MRI done for it. The injury turned out to be nothing, but we found a lump which needed to be looked into.”

She hadn’t felt the lump before. The radiologist who did the MRI, who saw the lump, insisted on getting the lump investigated. “Even though I was nonchalant, the radiologist persisted. Then we did a sonography, and she said it still doesn’t look good. So then I went to a breast cancer surgeon, who said I needed a biopsy. I was obviously not expecting it to be positive, and initially everyone said that they just wanted to rule it out,” she said. But the biopsy results showed it to be a malignant lump, which meant she had breast cancer. It was diagnosed at Stage 2.


Doctor Speaks:

In an interview with OnlyMyHealth, Dr. Sidharth Shani- Senior Consultant- Breast Oncology at Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj said, “In around 70% of women diagnosed with breast cancer in our country, there are no identifiable risk factors. When it comes to curing cancer, only timely intervention is the key. Stage I & II cancer is curable but after that it is difficult but not impossible to cure cancer.”

Resources for you, Early detection is key to surviving breast cancer, and here is a videos on how to examine your breasts, to check for lumps, or irregularities. Symptoms of breast cancer include:

  • New lump in the breast or underarm
  • Breast pain (in any area of ​​the breast)
  • Discharge from the nipples (other than breast milk), including blood discharge
  • A sudden and unexpected change in the shape or size of the breast
  • Upturned nipple
  • Change of skin on your breasts
  • Swelling of a certain part of the breast
  • Red or flaky skin in the nipple area or breast

While having one or more of these doesn’t necessarily mean you have breast cancer, if you spot any of the above, it’s advisable to see a doctor. Read more here,

“Why me?”

That was the first thought that crossed Chhavi’s mind.

In spite of advanced care and treatment options available today, Cancer remains a disease that’s regarded as a ‘death sentence’. Cancer is scary, intimidating and a disease that, if you are lucky to survive, spells a long road to recovery.

“I felt it was so unnecessary, and asked “why me?” because I’m so particular about my health, I always look after what I eat, I go to the gym, and I look fit, I feel fit, I don’t have any history of breast cancer in my family, so why? I had breast-fed both my kids, my pregnancies were normal, so I did feel like it’s so unnecessary!” she said.

It was hard not to panic for Chhavi, but that was not going to solve anything, “I looked at it as “here’s a problem, which needs to be addressed, I don’t have much of a choice, I will have to fight it,” was her motto through it all.

She went on to speak to her doctor and various other doctors and even a few survivors to get all her information in place. What helped her have faith and remain optimistic was her doctor’s assurance that her cancer would get treated fully. But Chhavi’s concerns were not only about getting cured.

“The only thing that was worrying me was the quality of life after cancer. So I asked him a million questions about that. Am I going to be able to go to the gym? Will I have dietary restrictions? Will I have movement restrictions? How will I look? He put all my questions to rest, and I was happy,” she said.

A mother to two children aged three and ten, she began to view the procedure like a C-section. “I started to think of it as that, that I went to the hospital and was blessed with a baby, so I will go to the hospital and be blessed with a new life, and I’ll recover from the surgery like any other surgery she explained.


Opening Up On Social Media

One of the striking things about Chhavi’s battle with cancer, is how she shared her entire journey from day one on social media. The happy bits, the nervous bits, the scary bits, the thankful bits and even the sad bits, were all out there on her profile. Her scars, her dancing in the hospital and several other posts and clips were widely shared and talked about.

Chhavi shifted from her television career to her social media career seven years back. Since then, she has shared a lot about her life on social media.

“I’ve also learned over the years, that when you share something on social media, you are allowing other people to enter your life, you’re making them a part of your life by choice, and they are entitled to their own opinions . You are sort of giving them that right to talk about you and maybe judge you at a certain level. Since I’ve been so open about so many things, I’ve been trolled or written about. This treatment would take a few months, I’d have mood swings, I’d be struggling. I had no reason to hide it. So I wanted to tell my community about it,” she said.

While support, love, and empathy poured in endlessly, there also existed negativity and trolling. People even went to the extent of asking her if she really had the disease or was it all for gaining views.

“Why Should I Be Depressed?”

One of the key elements of Chhavi’s response to the condition was that of hope and unbridled optimism.

She added, “I always feel like whenever there’s a problem in life, you can face it happily or sadly, but you have to face it, that’s the only choice you have! So I wondered if my treatment takes a few months, why should I be depressed all through it? I laughed my way to the OT, and laughed my way out.”

She even posted a dancing reel from the hospital before her surgery captioned “Doc said, Chhavi…. You need to chill! So I’m chilling ??#preppingforsurgery”

From discovering she has cancer to the day of the surgery, she posted loving, smiling photos on her Instagram.

It speaks volumes of Chhavi’s temperament that what she remembers from the day of the surgery were the jokes she was cracking with the hospital staff.

“It’s funny, because just before the surgery, all I was thinking about was that I’m extremely hungry, so when are they going to take me in because I really want to eat. I had to be on an empty stomach for eight or ten hours, and I kept joking with the nurses around about sneaking me a snack,” she recollected from the morning of the surgery.

The only worry that she had was about the reconstruction happening properly. “I didn’t want to look different, in the sense that, every time I look at myself in the mirror I didn’t want to be reminded of it,” she said.

Doctor Speaks:

Responding to what reconstruction entails, Dr. Sandeep Nayak P, Director – Department of Surgical Oncology & Robotic & Laparoscopic Surgery, Fortis Hospital, Bannerghatta Road, Bengaluru, said, “An entire or large portion of breast needs to be removed for breast cancer to perform breast reconstruction and to maintain the appearance ofbreast. There are different methods to perform reconstruction based on how much breast is removed. These are called oncoplastic surgeries and may involve simple to complex reconstructions.”

The surgery took around seven hours, but the doctors were happy with how it went.

Post-surgery Recovery

The next few days right after the surgery were quite painful.

“I was in a lot of pain. There’s a fluid bag that is attached to your body which made me very uncomfortable. I hoped every day for the doctors to come and remove that bag, and they finally did it after seven days. That’s when I went back home,” said Chhavi.

The fluid sacs attached after internal surgeries are for collecting pus, blood or other fluids which helps prevent them from accumulating inside the body.

She was back in the gym 10 days after the surgery. She couldn’t exert herself much just yet, but she started with basic physio at the gym.

However, her body did feel vastly different. Even after eight months of the surgery today, there exists discomfort when she does certain movements. Right after the surgery it was difficult to even move her right hand. “I couldn’t even pick up my kid. I used to do the physio two to three times a day, and it was excruciating,” she said. “Everytime I raised my hand a little higher, I celebrated.”

Doctor speaks:

Dr Nayak elaborates, “Immediately after surgery, patients have pain and restriction while lifting the arm up. However, this reduces with physiotherapy. It is important that the patients perform physiotherapy despite the pain. Another piece of advice we always give is to avoid hand injury on the side of surgery as there is a risk that the damage will cause the limb to swell excessively.

Also, it is advised to refrain from hard lifting for at least a year following surgery.”

Due to the surgery and stitches, one has to be careful around the area. For about three months, Chhavi avoided wearing a bra, and wore bustiers instead, for support. Now, she wears bras and bikinis and whatever else she wants to do.

Radiation for Chhavi went on for four weeks. A procedure that took about half an hour every day end-to-end. Her oncologist took extra care that she didn’t have burns, thickening or anything else. The only change she noticed was that her breasts would swell up and be a bit painful.

Read more about radiotherapy, how it works and recent developments in breast cancer treatment here. Read more about post-surgery care and changes in the body here.

Doctor speaks:

Speaking on radiation, hormonal therapy and changes in the body, Dr Nayak said, “Radiation has no impact on hormones unless it is directed at the ovary. However, chemotherapy and hormonal therapy can. Chemotherapy can cause ovaries to fail. Hormonal therapy is given to suppress the ovaries. This is important for those breast cancers which have hormone receptors on them. When ovaries fail patients experience symptoms of menopause.


Battling something so life-changing often leaves one with a newfound respect for life itself.

“I think the universe always has a plan for us, and sometimes we curse it and wonder why something happened to us, but it all happens for the best. This whole journey with cancer has changed me a lot. It’s made me realize the importance of spending time with myself, the importance of not obsessing over work, and not being a perfectionist at everything,” said Chhavi.

She took extra cognizance of the fact that life has to be led while her projects are going on, and sometimes it’s best not to put off plans. “I’ve become more relaxed now, and I think I’m a better person for it,” she adds.

Chhavi has two scars from the surgery. “I think these are battle scars. They don’t remind me of the fact that I had cancer, but only remind me that I fought it and came out victorious. That’s why I’m so proud of it,” she said.

If you or anyone in your family is suffering from cancer and need help, please get in touch with 1800-22-1951 – the helpline of Indian Cancer Society.