In December of 2007 I went in for a normal, annual medical check-up. I had started at a new company in August of the same year and already completed a check-up 6 months prior with my previous company, so I was considering not going. Since I would have had to wait another year, I decided to go.
During the appointment, after palpating my breast tissue, the doctor instructed me to go to a hospital for further testing. He prepared my referral letter to a hospital and I went immediately, as I was nervous.
None of my immediate family had a history of cancer, so I had a feeling I wouldn’t either. At the hospital, I had a ultrasonography done and was told there was a high possibility of cancer and asked to bring a family member to my next visit. I had to take five other tests but none could determine if it was truly cancer, so the doctor recommended a surgery to remove the tissue and test for cancer. Three months later, my doctor removed all the tissue and I was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer. If I had waited a whole year for my check-up, it probably would have proceeded.
My relationship with cancer did not end there. I had to undergo treatments, starting with radiation therapy each day for a month. After the radiation therapy was chemotherapy by medicine. The medicine was in a testing stage and very expensive. I tried the medicine for one year, but the side effects were bad and it had difficulties working – I even went to the emergency room a few times. Finally, my doctor decided to do the IV chemo treatment. I had to take a four-month leave of absence from work.
The first set of drip was fine, although I lost my hair. I experienced slow hair loss, so I decided to get my head shaved. My hairdresser spent two hours shaving my head bald. Honestly, I always wanted to shave all my hair off 😊. It was summer time, so the right timing and I didn’t have to spend energy washing and drying my hair. My mother was very worried and came to stay with me overnight. She cried, which made me even more depressed and regrettably affected my attitude toward her.
I also lost my appetite for alcohol, but not for food. I had a total of three sets of drips and by the end of the second drip, it was difficult to wake up. I was told to eat three healthy meals a day to beat the side effects. The recommendations for food included Chinese soft-shelled turtle soup, eels and banana. I tried to enjoy this time at home and borrowed movies (no online movies at this time) and listened to music to pass the time. Mamma Mia was my favorite as the Abba songs were very encouraging. My parents came to visit at least once a week and I was able to spend time with them.
When I returned to work, my health condition was not 100% back to normal but I managed to work wearing my wig. It wasn’t comfortable so at the end of the day, I would take it off and wear a hat.
Fourteen years have passed since then (ten years is the reoccurrence risk period) and to think it over, my parents, siblings and friends helped me to survive. I wouldn’t have been able to overcome breast cancer without them. My father, a retired surgeon, and brother, an active surgeon, had done many breast cancer surgeries in their careers, so it was very encouraging to have them with me. My friends also visited me and sent encouraging emails.
I’ve investigated what the cause could have been and have concluded that it was stress. Six months before the medical check-up in December 2007, my ultrasonography came back normal, which proves that the cancer appeared sometime shortly after. I strongly believe that stress can cause illness and recommend that we try to eliminate stress in our lives and enjoy what we are doing. Knowing what I know now, I recommend getting tested for breast cancer every six months – either by mammography or ultrasonography alternatively. Anyone could be at risk, regardless of family history.
Surviving breast cancer has strengthened me both physically and mentally. I’m thankful for the growth and perspective I gained during this experience. Of course, I don’t want to experience it again, so I’m living a healthy lifestyle and eliminating stress as much as possible. More than anything, I have a much larger appreciation for being healthy and am grateful for recovery.