Why you should never fight alone July 10 2014

When most people hear that I’m a 15-year cancer survivor, they’re usually very surprised and say “wow but you’re so young” and ask “how did you find out?”

I was diagnosed in April 1999. I was 26.

In the previous year, I found a pea-sized lump on my right breast while showering. When it didn’t go away after a few days, I knew I had to get it checked. After I was told by a specialist that the lump was benign (non-cancerous), I went home feeling so relieved, and in the next few months, willed the lump to go away. I was 25! I had no time for this.

But it was not meant to be. Not only did the lump not go away, my right breast gradually became swollen till I could not ignore it further. In this 2nd visit to a different hospital, a biopsy, mammogram and ultrasound scan was called for. Doing a mammogram for the first time is not the most comfortable thing. And because the swollen lump was compressed in between the mammogram plates, the pain was excruciating.

The month of April filled with weekly appointments of tests and consultations. In the final week, the doctor dropped the bad news on me. Despite her patience and empathy, I broke down again, my mind whirling from the bad news. I was fighting inside me about how my life was going to change. I wasn’t sure if all the medical terms made any sense at that time. My surgery was scheduled to be in a week’s time, in the first week of May. It was a full removal of my right breast.

My biggest regret was not going earlier for my 2nd check up, and not wanting to accept that something was really not right. And because the lump had grown larger, it wasn’t possible to save any breast tissue.

As I stepped out of the doctor’s room, to wait for my hospitalisation registration, I just felt waves of emotion overcoming me. Surprisingly, when the staff came to go through the thick registration booklet with me, I somehow managed to understand all the medical fees and details of the stay... Till today, I believe God must have held my hand through it.

Throughout these visits, I never told my parents, choosing to break the news only when the situation was confirmed. I chose to go for every visit alone as I felt it was my fight alone. I was wrong. Looking back, it might have been less traumatic if someone had accompanied me, to be a source of support. 

Five years on, when I joined the dragonboat team Paddlers in the Pink, I felt what was missing out all these years. It was having the support of fellow survivors to talk about anything and everything.

You don’t need to fight your battles alone. In this internet-connected world, it isn’t difficult to find people near you to help you through. If you know someone that would find this post useful, please share it with them.

Also, leave your comments here, tell me about the people who were there to support you. I’d love to hear from you!