A breast cancer diagnosis can make many people lose all hope. Patients who have been diagnosed frequently feel anxious and powerless, as if they are wandering alone. The tremendous stigma around directly addressing breast cancer for fear of guilt, humiliation, or being a burden exacerbates these feelings. The notion in itself, is completely far from the truth. In fact, many patients and survivors have overcome these struggles.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. See Mee-Hoong, Head of Breast Surgery Unit at University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) stated:
“As a doctor, when we treat our patients, we don’t get a lot of close contact. Sometimes, your clinic duration is very short, and you can’t really talk to them for too long … you [often] don’t understand what they have gone through and what happens to them when they walk out from your clinic. All of them have a very special story,”
The Candy Girls, a non-profit organization at UMMC, has three remarkable breast cancer survivors who have shared their amazing stories of survival.
Battling Breast Cancer Amidst COVID-19
Cikgu Nora, a schoolteacher, was no stranger to cancer, having lost her mother to cervical cancer. Her own cancer journey began in May 2020, at the height of the pandemic and when the Malaysian government implemented the Movement Control Order (MCO).
“Every so often, I would perform a routine checkup in the bathroom while I’m showering. And I found a lump around my right breast.” – Cikgu Nora
Her mammography revealed a 2cm lump, and she was subsequently diagnosed with breast cancer between stages 1 and 2.
Her breast cancer struggle was difficult. Cikgu Nora, who chose six rounds of chemotherapy, was on the verge of giving up at those times, especially during her fourth session.
“I was shivering, and I was asleep throughout the day.” – Cikgu Nora
However, Cikgu Nora managed to complete her remaining chemotherapy sessions and a lumpectomy, which involved the removal of a total of 17 lymph nodes and other suspicious tumors. With the help of her family and school principal, who encouraged her to keep going, she soldiered on.
“We have to act early and quickly. In the earlier stages [of breast cancer], it is still curable, so don’t be afraid of going through chemotherapy.” – Cikgu Nora
Cikgu Nora emphasized the importance of going for treatment and reminded fellow breast cancer sufferers that they are not alone in this path.
“When I joined [breast cancer] support groups, I realized that many others share similar journeys and experiences, and they have managed to overcome [their situations] – so why [can’t the same be true] for myself?” – Cikgu Nora
Overcoming Health Challenges Twice
Lim Chiou Ling had been diagnosed with breast cancer before, but it wasn’t her first serious illness. She had a stroke years before she was diagnosed with cancer, which made it difficult for her to walk and articulate.
“I was almost paralyzed. But I’m a very strong person, [so] I went for all the physio and learned how to walk again.” – Lim Chiou Ling
Chiou Ling’s determination continued after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she was able to push through her medications knowing that she could at least walk, talk, and eat normally.
Her participation in the Candy Girls support group has allowed her to do new things including dancing on stage, climbing Mount Kinabalu, and completing a half marathon.
“We tell people, ‘It’s okay [if you] have breast cancer, life still goes on [and] you can be [even] happier than before.” – Lim Chiou Ling
The Love Of A Family
Phyllis Yeoh, an e-hailing driver, was diagnosed with breast cancer over a decade ago after discovering a lump on her right breast.
“The doctor told me there was a lump, and that I needed to undergo surgery. I had six cycles of chemotherapy and fifteen [sessions] of radiotherapy. It was very difficult because my body was weak.” – Phyllis Yeoh
Phyllis was diagnosed with breast cancer BRCA2 (BReast CAncer gene 2). Her road to cancer survival was extremely difficult, with each treatment session requiring her to rest for six days straight. Phyllis credits her family’s love and support for allowing her to persevere through the difficult times.
At some point in her life, Phyllis said she sensed she was approaching the endpoint of her journey.
“I texted my cousin and said, ‘If anything really happens to me, please take care of my parents’. My cousin replied, ‘Don’t think of those negative things, you have to be positive’. I [thought to myself] ‘yes, I must continue with my journey. I shouldn’t give up [now]’.”
Phyllis has since been actively giving back by helping individuals in similar situations, remembering how she has able to keep going with the aid of those around her.
“When I was a Grab driver, sometimes I would send passengers to the hospital and tell them ‘Okay, you don’t need to pay’. Because it’s usually patients who are [visiting] the hospital. I’m very proud of myself [for] walking through this journey and [being able to] help people.” – Phyllis Yeoh
Fighting against cancer and celebrating breast cancer survivors should be honored whenever, regardless of the Pink October Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Which is why MEDICOS, a medical face mask company, has teamed up with UMMC and the Candy Girls to launch the Hope Is Just Around The Corner campaign, which aims to instill hope in all breast cancer patients and caregivers by encouraging them to share their stories with one another to make the journey of fighting the disease smoother.
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