MALAYSIA: Special survival stories for breast cancer awareness month

November 24, 2021
MALAYSIA: Special survival stories for breast cancer awareness month

Breast cancer support group The Candy Girls is collaborating with medical institution University Malaya Medical Center (UMMC), Central Malaysia, and medical face mask manufacturer MEDICOS, for the “Hope Is Just Around The Corner” campaign to spread hope to all breast cancer patients and caregivers, to consistently share their experiences with each other to ease the survival journey.

In conjunction with Pink October breast cancer awareness month, 3 determined breast cancer survivors have shared their experience battling the harrowing disease. The inspiring stories are provided by The Candy Girls.

For many women, a breast cancer diagnosis may seem a hopeless situation. Diagnosed patients often feel alone during this time; the loneliness is amplified by the strong stigma around discussing breast cancer openly for fear of guilt, shame, or fear of being a burden.

Schoolteacher “Cikgu” Nora is no stranger to such feelings. While her own mother had faced and passed from cervical cancer, Cikgu Nora experienced a shocking cancer diagnosis of her own in May 2020, during the tumultuous times of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Movement Control Order (MCO). She happened to find a small lump in her right breast during a routine check-up, which was later confirmed by her mammogram results – her breast cancer diagnosis was between Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the disease.

Cikgu Nora braved through a number of cancer treatments, including several rounds of chemotherapy and a lumpectomy. The schoolteacher was close to giving up during her treatment course, but kept going with the love and support from her family, school principal, and breast cancer support groups – she successfully had a total of 17 lymph nodes and other suspicious lumps removed.

“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 emphasised, encouraging fellow breast cancer patients to go for their treatments, and that they are not alone in this journey.

Breast cancer support groups like The Candy Girls have also given opportunities to survivors to enjoy brand-new experiences. Stroke and now breast cancer survivor Lim Chiou Ling shared that she was able to power through her therapies and treatments by sheer force of will, knowing that she was at least able to walk, talk and eat properly.

“We tell people, ‘It’s okay [if you] have breast cancer, life still goes on [and] you can be [even] happier than before,” Chiou Ling said. With support from The Candy Girls, Chiou Ling has confidently danced on stage, climbed the highest peak in Southeast Asia, Mount Kinabalu, and even participated in a half marathon.

The road to cancer survival for Phyllis Yeoh, who was diagnosed with breast cancer-gene 2 (BRCA2), was particularly gruelling. Phyllis inherited a harmful variant of BRCA2 that causes cancer development at a young age. However, Phyllis credits being able to stay headstrong through the difficult times due to the love and support of her family – from the very first day of her checkup, her parents have never left her side.

Knowing how she has been able to carry on with the help of those around her, the e-hailing driver has chosen to extend her support to those in the same position: “When I was a Grab driver, […] sometimes I would send passengers to the hospital and tell them ‘Okay, you don’t need to pay’,” Phyllis confessed, with a smile on her face.

“I’m very proud of myself [for] walking through this journey and [being able to] help people.”

Associate Professor Dr. See Mee-Hoong, Head of Breast Surgery Unit at UMMC, advises regular breast examinations for women who are more than 40 to 50 years old. “For those who have breast cancer, life is always beyond our cancer – we are always with you, so don’t give up.”

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