I Am a Survivor!
Overcoming breast cancer, Ann tells it all
By Cheryl Koh
Having led a healthy and active lifestyle, Ann Tan was devastated when she was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. Away from her family in Malaysia, Ann admits her 2-year battle against cancer had been a tough and lonely one. However, after numerous chemotherapy and mastectomy sessions, and distress, Ann emerged victor – she survived her battle with breast cancer.
Ezyhealth & Beauty: What type of cancer did you suffer from, and how did you find out you had cancer?
Ms. Ann Tan: I am a very health conscious person and I go for my mammograms annually. It was during an annual screening and subsequent tests that I was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer in my right breast. I found it very hard to accept that despite being health conscious and going for annual mammograms, I had Stage 3 cancer when I was first diagnosed.
EHB: Treatments must have been a long, arduous journey. What were treatments like?
Ann: Unable to accept the reality at first, I delayed for 2 months before deciding on chemotherapy. I underwent 2 cycles, consisting of 16 injections, over 6 months. Because of this, I had to quit my beautician job. My weight dropped from 47kg to 39kg.
Right after the chemotherapy, I had to have a mastectomy and lymph node clearance to try to check the spread of cancer. The breast reconstruction was done during the same operation. I then had to be put on hormone replacement drugs for 5 years to control the cancer.
EHB: Coping with such a disease must have been tough. How did you and your loved ones manage it?
Ann: I came to Singapore from my hometown Perak since 1979. So I was all alone when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer. Even though my family members called often it’s not the same as having them beside me. But thankfully, I have very good friends, doctors, nurses, and staff from Singapore Cancer Society who gave me tremendous care and support. The Society also subsidised my treatment fees and placed me under their Welfare Aid Programme, and that helped a lot. I was also very fortunate to have a friend Annie Cheah who accompanied me for the first 5 chemotherapy session and another friend Colin Chong who would drive me home from the hospital. Truly I do not know how I could have lived through those days without the help and support of the people around me.
EHB: Your diet and lifestyle must have played an active part in your recovery. What were some of the foods and lifestyle habits you practiced?
Ann: I have always been a healthy eater – that means no fried food, crabs, prawns, squids, soft drinks. I stuck to those eating habits during the course of my cancer treatment.
Lifestyle-wise, I quit my beautician job as it was too stressful and I was working long hours. I also attended many breast cancer support group sessions at the Singapore Cancer Society.
More than just food and lifestyle, I find the support of friends, especially those who have gone through similar experiences to be more important. I have benefitted a lot from the advice, support and encouragement from my friends and from the breast cancer support groups at the Singapore Cancer Society and the Breast Cancer Foundation. Advice from cancer survivors is especially valuable as they have gone through a similar situation and they know how I felt and I received a lot of comfort from them for which I am very grateful.
EHB: Any words of advice to cancer patients out there?
Ann: Go out, keep yourself busy, do not brood over your condition and wallow in self-pity. It is crucial to keep your spirits up, by doing activities you enjoy and talking to friends and family. It is also very helpful to join a support group because the members are cancer survivors who have invaluable information and advice that they can pass to you. Also, do not be afraid to share your worries and fears with support group members as they are more than willing to hear you out, comfort, and encourage you. Lastly, try to remain positive and optimistic in your fight against cancer.