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Breast Cancer Awareness - Not just for October October 16 2014

October is breast cancer awareness month and the Pink Ribbon Walk in Singapore kicked off the month of pink, pink and more pink. Every year during this time, there is a huge ramp up to awareness activities, but do you put it at the back of your mind come November?

Her World Singapore gave me and 2 friends a wonderful makeover for their October issue and we have a 2 page spread to show....I'm on the right. The session was great fun! What do you think?

 

Worldwide, breast cancer is the most common cancer amongst women. In Singapore, 1 in 16 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. Being a survivor, I believe that awareness and education are extremely important. In this case, there simply is no such thing as “too much information”.

Without awareness, things like fear, misconceptions, stigma of the disease can get in the way from being treated early. And when the cancer grows from early stage to late stage, treatments become more complicated and take longer.

Over the years, I’ve been a contact point for friends, asking me to speak to those recently diagnosed. Faced with the unknown, it can get rather unnerving during the wait for test results or the surgery date. Questions like surgery procedures, reconstruction options, the recovery process and what to eat or do often pop up and it’s fulfilling to be able to help others this way. I’m mindful also to advise based on my personal experience and not on medical decisions, which is best left to their doctors. Also, introducing them to the Breast Cancer Foundation (BCF) gives them a place to find support in the long term.  Their website www.bcf.org.sg provides useful information and how to get in touch.

If you’re a woman, it pays to arm yourself with some good knowledge, whether for yourself or for your family. Don’t shy away from the many pink booths set up in public places this month or the news and magazine articles that write about breast cancer. Pick up a brochure and read it!

There are ways that you can protect yourself by being aware of your bodily changes. Many patients discover the lumps themselves, so learn how to do your own breast self-examination here, and make it a point to do it every month: http://www.singaporecancersociety.org.sg/WhatWeDo/BreastCancerAwarenessCampaign.aspx

Those above 40, it’s recommended to get your mammograms done annually. Look for the breast clinic in any hospital to make an appointment. While I’m pretty sure most women know about mammograms, it isn’t one of those things that you’d jump up in the morning raring to go for your session. But if you see it as 2 minutes of discomfort which can potentially save your life, maybe that can change your mind. Whether you’re a mom, wife or daughter, do it for yourself and your family.

Here are some links in Singapore you can check out for subsidised rates too:

http://www.hpb.gov.sg/HOPPortal/programmes-article/3324  

http://www.singaporecancersociety.org.sg/WhatWeDo/BreastCancerAwarenessCampaign.aspx

Share this info with your sisters, girlfriends, mom and all the important women in your life!

This month, I’m happy to launch my new Pink Ribbon Luxe Necklace. All Swarovski crystal encrusted with various shades of pink and all bling! Something I’ve been wanting to make to wear for my pink parties. Hope you like it!

 

Lastly, my wish to all…..Stay Happy and In the Pink!

Do leave your comments here.


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!