“The lotus flower is a reminder of the beauty that comes from change, the magic that a new beginning brings, and the seed of potential that’s buried in the most unlikely places.” – J.W.
This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we celebrate all who have devoted themselves to the cause and inspired with their courage, spirit and strength.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women worldwide. Along with the challenges that come with most cancer treatments, breast cancer patients also grapple with the possibility of losing their breast or part of it. The journey from diagnosis to recovery is an extremely emotional one for affected women, hitting at the very heart of femininity, as we have come to believe.
As part of our Pinktober campaign, we team up with Breast Cancer Foundation to bring you the stories of four wonderful women who not only fought and triumphed over breast cancer but also volunteer as BCF Befrienders, supporting other women along their recovery journey.
Together, they show us that even in one’s darkest moments, life still finds a way.
At the young age of 28, Branda was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer and underwent aggressive treatment. Now in her early 30s, she is cancer-free, happily married and works in a law firm, helping with recruitment.
When and how were you diagnosed with breast cancer?
I was diagnosed in July 2015. My then boyfriend, now husband, felt something in my right breast. I ignored it at first but after six months, the tiny lump grew to the size of a pebble. As with most people of my generation, I went on the Internet for answers but still didn’t see an issue. Google gives you false hope that young people don’t get breast cancer.
On the urging of my boyfriend, I finally decided to get it checked. I was so clueless on where to go that I went to a gynaecologist. I was then referred to a breast surgeon. I saw two surgeons before settling on doing a biopsy, which proved my tumour to be cancerous.
While at work, I received a call from the nurse. She didn’t tell me the diagnosis but I sensed that something was wrong and broke down immediately. It was shocking because I kept hoping for the best, which obviously didn’t happen.
How did your friends and family react?
It was tough breaking it to my family because they are in Hong Kong. I decided to call my dad first, as he’s usually the calmer one of my parents. When I told him about the diagnosis, he didn’t react much, just asked if I was getting good care and whether I wanted to get the treatment back home or in Singapore. I told him I had good breast surgeons and oncologists here, and that my boyfriend would take very good care of me.
I did feel guilty for not taking good care of myself. Being in the legal industry, there were a lot of social commitments and late night parties. I wouldn’t get a lot of sleep or have time for myself. I took everything for granted. I blamed myself a lot, but realised I had to be brave, accept it and face the consequences.
How was the treatment and recovery process?
Recovery was hard but all the support and love I received helped me through. The thought of losing all my hair was very hard. To avoid seeing them fall out, or find them on my pillow or the shower drain, I actually had my boyfriend shave my head the night before I started chemotherapy.
Since I was diagnosed at a relatively young age, I was also concerned about losing my breasts, scarring and also not being able to have children in future. I was lucky to only have a portion of my right breast removed. My breasts are now a bit uneven but my husband is the only one who sees them and my scars, and he still loves me (laughs), so it’s okay. I’ve come to terms with it. They’re my battle scars.
Right now, I am still on medication so I’m technically infertile. But I’ll have kids if it’s meant to be. And if I really do want kids, I’ll just adopt.
What was the most memorable moment of your journey?
My husband proposed to me on my last day of work, before I was due to start my treatment. He gave me a ring and told me he wanted to be there for me for the rest of my life. He couldn’t afford a proper diamond ring, but all that was so much more than a ring. He was there for me throughout the treatment. Every time I talk about this I cry. For him to do that for me, being younger than me by 5 years and in his early 20s at that time, to commit to someone who was going through this – I never expected to find someone so loving.
“Google gives you false hope that young people don’t get breast cancer.”
How has breast cancer changed you?
I was quite sensitive and career-minded, so office politics and stress really affected me. After cancer, I now realise there is so much more to life than career. I have grown much stronger emotionally and physically, and I now prioritise my health and the people who matter most. I’ve also changed my lifestyle, I now go to bed earlier (laughs).
What advice would you give to breast cancer patients or women in general?
Firstly, don’t take your health for granted, early detection really saves lives and offers more options. Secondly, appreciate the people taking care of you, they’re also going through a lot. Everyone usually focuses on the cancer patient, no one asks how the caregivers are coping. I also wish I was more vigilant, and knew more about my body and about breast cancer. But I think everything happens for a reason.
To learn about breast cancer, or to support the breast cancer awareness cause, visit bcf.org.sg.
Branda wears Banyan Tree x Lucinda Law Lotus Wrap, designed in commemoration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. 15% proceeds go to Breast Cancer Foundation, in support of breast cancer awareness, and women and families affected by breast cancer. For more information, visit essentials.banyantree.com/collections/lotus/products/lotus-wrap
Words by Doreen Tan and Durva Simone Bose
Photography by Serena Lilianto
Styling by Applelyn Teo
Hair and makeup by Joey Chan