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Up Close and Personal

The Diagnosis

I was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer after I consulted a breast doctor about a lump in my left breast.

Upon my diagnosis, I was fluctuating between shock and denial and anger on the Kubler Ross Grief Cycle. Funny as it may sound, the model really is true as verified by my first-hand experience! I feared for my present: How would I cope with side effects? Losing my hair would be very difficult to come to terms with. I feared for my future: What quality of life would I have? What are my chances of living till a ripe old age? So many questions…such an arduous journey to be had.

The Resolution

I wanted to burn every last cancer cell in my body and finish the job! Make sure that nothing ever returns for as long as I live.

Realistically, I knew that cancer lurks beneath the surface and makes an appearance when you least expect it. I was determined to have the best chance of fighting it off, and AARO gave me confidence to overcome the battle.


The Team

During my initial consult with Dr David Tan, we had an engaging discussion about the depth of the treatment plan (the hows, the whys, the side effects, how to manage etc).

For me, chemistry and rapport is very important in a doctor-patient relationship. This is not just a visit to the GP to treat a wound from a fall. Treatment for critical illness is a very personal experience. Everyone copes and deals with an illness and treatment regime differently. I like to be able to have a doctor who isn’t just present to administer treatment but one with whom I am able to have a conversation that flows when I speak of my concerns, a doctor who speaks to you and not one who speaks when you want him to.

Dr Tan was present throughout my whole treatment. I may see him once a week but every time he saw me, his warm and empathetic approach put me at ease and made me confident that AARO was the right choice for my radiotherapy treatment! It’s reassuring to know that I am able to contact Dr Tan and the medical team anytime should ever a problem arise.

The clinical assistant, Stella, was always on hand to answer my queries. Being able to send a WhatsApp text easily was definitely a time saver! Gone is the need to pick up the phone to call and wait for a call back or *gasp* leave a message and pray to the heavens that someone gets back to you. That is definitely a thing of the past! I have received nothing less than stellar support from the medical team.


The Treatment

In the beginning, I had an idea of what radiotherapy was, but I couldn’t fully envision how it would be like.

Compared to chemotherapy, I was told that radiotherapy was a walk in the park! As I had already undergone chemotherapy, I knew how the side effects would affect my body. So in that sense, I was more prepared to face it as well.

During the treatment, I was relieved to discover that radiotherapy was indeed a walk in the park as I was promised! Because of some residual fatigue I already had from chemotherapy, fatigue set in pretty early for me during radiotherapy. However, treatment was painless, seamless and there was practically nothing for me to fear!

The Challenges

Radiotherapy is a very time intensive procedure. While the time taken for treatment is not excessive, the daily commute to the hospital day after day, especially on the days when I felt as though I could not drag myself out of bed, gradually began to wear me out.

Regardless, I continued to power through knowing that these difficulties would pass, and that there was always medication available to soothe the side effects.


The Triumph

On my last day of treatment, Friday, 18 March, I was filled with an indescribable joy. During my darkest days, I was gifted a superwoman t-shirt that I vowed to wear whenever I reached a milestone in my treatment, be it the last day of chemo, after a hospital stay, or the end of my radiotherapy treatment! So, I wore it on my last day of radiotherapy!

To celebrate, I decided to share my love of flowers with the staff and patients at AARO. I brought some gerberas to the clinic to bring a smile to the nurses, Dr Tan and any patients I would encounter that day. Although I only managed to meet one other patient, I left the clinic with a new friend!

The Reflections

Being sick showed me that there is beauty in ruins. Although my world had crumbled when I received my diagnosis, I realised how many people around me loved me and would walk through fire for me.

Now, the phrase “appreciate the little things in life” has taken on a much more profound meaning. As Rumi once said, “Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.”

Reflecting on the treatment process, I am truly grateful for Dr Tan’s constant, reassuring presence and to know that Dr Tan and the medical team were only a phone call away if a problem ever arose. I have received nothing but impeccable care from everyone I have been under the care of, and for that I am truly grateful.

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