Breast cancer is not a new topic. It has been around for quite some time and is famously known among women. Breast cancer is, in fact, the most common cancer among women and the second most common cancer overall.
Although breast cancer is common, you shouldn’t call it quits if you are diagnosed with it because the survival rate for breast cancer is actually quite promising. According to a 2017 report by the Singapore Cancer Registry, stage 1 breast cancer patients have a five-year survival rate of 90% and stage 2 patients have a five-year survival rate of 80%.
Recently, we were given the opportunity to understand more about what goes around when battling with breast cancer. We had the pleasure of interviewing a Bokbunja subscriber, Stacy* (*name has been changed to maintain confidentiality), who is an Accounting Professional and a breast cancer survivor. Here are some insights from our interview that might be helpful to you or someone you know who is fighting breast cancer.
A Fighter, Survivor, and Warrior
Q: Hi, tell us more about yourself.
A: My name is Stacy* and I am an Accounting Professional in my mid-40s.
Q: When and how did you first find out that you have cancer?
A: My journey with breast cancer started in 2014, around the end of May. While I was taking a shower, I felt a lump in my breast and it felt quite painful. That was the first sign I noticed and after it was confirmed to be breast cancer, I straight away informed my spouse and a good friend of mine.
Q: How did you cope with your work back then?
A: Back then, I just joined an audit firm for about only two months but my then employer and colleagues were very understanding of my situation. I continued working during my initial treatments but then, it became more and more intensive, up to a point where I couldn’t commit myself to work anymore. To show you how understanding they were, they didn’t bother me and waited for me to resume work. I am tremendously grateful for all the help and support I received from everyone throughout my journey with breast cancer.
Q: At any point in your journey, did you ever feel like giving up?
A: There was not a single time during my struggle with breast cancer where I felt like giving up. I believe the support system that I had played a huge part in that. My family members and friends from church are always encouraging me and supporting me. Not to mention that my in-laws took perfect care of me and cooked for me while I was staying with them.
Q: Do you mind sharing with us the breast cancer treatment process that you went through?
A: Most definitely. I started chemotherapy immediately in June and after the second or third treatment, the tumour started to shrink. Six months later, I went through surgery to remove the remnant of cancer. After that, around January 2015, I started radiotherapy for two months and during this time, I started to head back to work.
Q: What is the best thing to do to keep your mind off the treatments, and does it help to talk with people that you can strongly relate to?
A: It was quite an easy path for me. I rested, watched a lot of videos and from there I developed an interest in makeup. I also spent my time reading books to keep my mind off the treatment. Before this, I had no time for books as I was too caught up with work so I took this time to give my body a well-needed rest.
At the time, I didn’t know of any other breast cancer patients so I didn’t get to talk to one but I do believe that having a strong support system is crucial for everyone battling breast cancer. The support that others can give you won’t leave you feeling as if you are battling this cancer alone.
Q: What is the one thing that sucks during the time when you were battling with breast cancer?
A: When I first received news that I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I didn’t cry. I did, however, cry when I started to lose hair. My doctor reassured me that my hair will grow again but I was affected by it. My first wig was terrible and I didn’t want to step out of the house with it. My second wig that was from a Japanese brand was great, fortunately, and it helped me gain the confidence to go out in public again.
Q: When you first found out you were cancer-free, what was the first thing you did?
A: When I first found out that I was cancer-free, believe it or not, I treated it as I would any other day. I didn’t celebrate or do anything special, I just treasure each day as it is. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s not about how long we live but more about how we live. This is important to me and I would recommend other breast cancer fighters out there to work with your doctors and keep yourself meaningfully engaged with friends and families.
Q: What is the one thing you hope people know about breast cancer, based on your experience?
A: As for those who are unfamiliar with breast cancer, do not assume that you won’t have it just because you don’t have any family history. That was the case for me; I have no family history of chronic illnesses. I was slim and I ate healthily but I got it anyway.
Q: Do you have any advice that can hopefully help other breast cancer fighters out there?
A: My medical bills came up to a total of $100,000 so I would say it is extremely important to have adequate insurance coverage. I do have insurance coverage so I was able to concentrate on my recovery without having to worry about my medical expenses and bills. If there is one advice I can give to others out there, this would be it.
Q: Last but not least, how are you taking care of yourself now?
A: My doctor is always asking me if I am exercising so that must be important. Other than that, I still watch what I eat every day and occasionally treat myself to some Bokbunja in the evening. Not too much, just a pack of 50ml for when I unwind. It’s sweet and delicious and packed with antioxidants! It’s the little things that get me excited…
Thank you for sharing, Stacy! You are indeed a warrior and we believe your story and tips will surely come in handy for those who may be going through a similar situation.