“May I live like the lotus at ease in the muddy water.” – Unknown
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.
Siti, in her late 40s, is a vivacious mother of three. Dubbed “Queen Chef”, when she’s not busy running her catering business, she is a BCF Befriender. She was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2013.
When and how were you diagnosed with breast cancer?
In July 2013, a lump was detected during one of my yearly mammograms. I had gotten an all-clear in October 2012, so it was really shocking to find out that suddenly I’m not fine. But I knew it wouldn’t be the end of my life. I always had a very active lifestyle, exercising a lot and eating well, I was really slim (laughs). So I knew I could fight it, I knew my body could overcome everything.
When I was confirmed with stage 3 breast cancer, I told them I wanted to be cured as soon as possible. I got the mastectomy on my left breast and took the whole journey very positively.
How did you share the news with your family and friends?
Initially my husband and kids were quite sad… I told them I was not going anywhere. There was no way my husband would remarry or my kids would get a new mother (laughs). I said “I’m sorry, don’t even think about it because I am going to get better.”
On social media, I told everyone I was going for an operation, but did not give details. Yet the amount of well-wishers, prayers and even flowers in my hospital room were overwhelming and made me feel very blessed.
“I knew I had to take control of my body before it took control of me.”
What treatments did you go through? How was the treatment and recovery process?
After the mastectomy, I did a [breast] reconstruction. I also underwent chemotherapy for six months. During chemo, everything was awful. I felt very weak two days every week. Even mineral water tasted bad. But I decided to eat good food to make myself feel better. My first meal after the first round of chemo was always briyani and Coca-cola because they were the only things I could taste.
How did you stay positive?
I don’t like to think negatively, so I converted things in my mind. I told myself that the breast reconstruction was a tummy tuck because they had to remove fat from my tummy area which I was quite happy about. (laughs)
Another example is how I dealt with the hair loss situation. I started chemo on a Monday, and my hair was supposed to be gone by that Friday. On Tuesday, I got all dressed up with a full face of makeup and went to the salon to get my head shaved. I knew that I had to take control of my body before it took control of me.
How has your journey with cancer been?
It’s been 5 years since it’s all cleared. After the chemo, I felt better, my hair was growing, so I started baking and taking orders for cakes. It’s always been a passion and it helped me feel good and energetic during the recovery.
Whenever I share my story, my husband says it sounds like a happy story instead of a fight against cancer. It is all in the mind. Until now, it’s hard for me to believe I had cancer.
“I stayed positive for my family.”
What advice would you give to breast cancer patients?
It’s not easy. To receive this news, one would feel like life is finished. But don’t delay and take action immediately. Ask your doctor about the next step, and what’s best for your health. It all depends on your determination to live, and that will pull you through.
To learn about breast cancer, or to support the breast cancer awareness cause, visit bcf.org.sg.
Siti 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