Breast cancer survivors share their life-changing journeys

27 April 2023 dot 6-minute read
Women's health Live Well Healthy Body Feature Breast cancer
Around 24 per cent of all breast cancer cases are reported in Asia-Pacific. (Credit: Shutterstock)
World Health Organization's (WHO) 2020 data reveals that breast cancer is one of the most prevalent cancers among women worldwide. Its International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reports that the Asia-Pacific region has the highest incidence and mortality rates among women. However, amidst the challenges are stories of hope and inspiration.
Meet breast cancer survivors Melanie, Kimberley, and Claire, who share their personal experiences to raise awareness and provide support to others on a similar journey.

The importance of emotional support

Seeking emotional support from loved ones can bring comfort and strength during a cancer diagnosis. (Credit: Shutterstock)
When 40-year-old Melanie discovered a lump in her breast, she approached the situation with composure and got a biopsy done.
"I've always had a rational approach to things. No matter what life throws at me, I keep calm and take control," she said in the interview.
The results showed that she had Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC), which has the potential to spread beyond the milk duct walls and affect other areas of the body.
"For the first time in my life, I felt I had no control. My body was suddenly turning against me," Melanie says. "Emotionally, I struggled a lot. It was the most difficult thing I have ever gone through."
To navigate this difficult time in her life, Melanie sought out help at a local cancer-support centre. There, she found support from other cancer survivors sharing their experiences on their breast cancer journeys.
"Being able to talk with others who had gone or were going through the same was comforting and helpful," says Melanie.
She also turned to her family and friends, who came together to help, listen, encourage and lift her when needed. "Going through cancer and its treatment has changed me forever. This disease gave me a better perspective on what matters and what doesn't. It also renewed my appreciation for the people in my life."
Today, Melanie is cancer-free. She's a health advocate who supports others coping with a breast cancer diagnosis. "I would tell anyone facing cancer that they don't have to face the unknown alone. They can find support among family and friends, at a local centre or online."

Trusting one's instincts

Kimberley was 25 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2022. "I felt a lump on my left breast and underwent an ultrasound. The result came back normal. Still, something felt off," she recalls.
Despite the results and reassurance from her doctor, Kimberley knew something wasn't right. She went for an MRI, a test more likely to reveal any cancer in her breasts.
The result from biopsy revealed she had HER2-positive breast cancer. HER2 is a protein that plays a significant role in cancer cell growth. High levels of this protein indicate a fast-growing tumour likely to spread.
"I was entirely unprepared for the shock of the diagnosis. I remember feeling panicked and going through the following few weeks in a haze. I was in disbelief and denial, thinking I was too young to have cancer. There was so much more I wanted to do in life, and now I was worried I wouldn't get to do any of it."
After removing the cancerous lump, Kimberley needed additional treatment since cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. She received chemotherapy and radiation, and she now continues taking medication.
Although she is not yet cancer-free, Kimberley remains optimistic and advises other young people to stay in tune with their bodies and trust their instincts.
"We all need to be proactive about our health. We must take charge, eliminate unhealthy habits, and listen to our bodies." Kimberley says. "It's important for everyone to follow their intuition. Trust yourself. Seek out information and don't be afraid to ask hard questions. Find out what works for you and be empowered and in charge."

Why early detection matters

Treatment in the early stage of breast cancer can increase the survival rate in the first five years by 93 per cent or higher. (Credit: Shutterstock)
At 50 years old, Claire went for her annual physical check-up, and her doctor recommended getting screened for breast cancer.
Claire's cancer was classified as stage 0, indicating the cancerous cells were found only in the duct where they started and hadn't spread into the nearby breast tissue.
Screening tests can help find breast cancer before any symptoms develop. When this type of cancer is found and treated early, the chances of successful treatment are higher.
"Getting screened saved my life," she says. "My cancer was caught so early that I could recover quickly."
After undergoing surgery and radiotherapy, Claire was given the good news that she was cancer-free.
"Going through cancer and treatment changed my life and perspective. I'm 51 now, and I appreciate life much more than ever. I focus on the positives because I know I am blessed to be a cancer survivor."
After her breast cancer journey, Claire became passionate about educating women about early detection and the importance of getting screened. She hopes that by empowering women to take control of their health, more cases can be caught earlier, and more lives can be saved.
Despite its high incidence in the Asia-Pacific, breast cancer is one of the most preventable and treatable types of cancer with advancements in detection, diagnosis, and treatment. Making simple adjustments to your diet and lifestyle and scheduling regular check-ups can make a significant impact.
Critical illness protection is worth considering for more peace of mind against breast cancer and other critical diseases. It's designed to help and support you financially should you be diagnosed with one of the diseases covered by the policy. Contact an AIA representative to explore your options for a tailored solution or any questions.
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The Union for International Cancer Control's (UICC). 2020. GLOBOCAN 2020: New Global Cancer Data. [online] [Accessed 1 August 2022]
Clinical Medicine Insights: Pathology. 2015. Diversity of Breast Carcinoma: Histological Subtypes and Clinical Relevance. [online] [Accessed 1 August 2022]
Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention. 2020. A Review of the Epidemiology of Breast Cancer in Asia: Focus on Risk Factors. [online] [Accessed 1 August 2022]
Iranian Journal of Medical Sciences. 2018. Medullary Breast Carcinoma and Invasive Ductal Carcinoma: A Review Study. [online] [Accessed 1 August 2022]
The Breast. 2021. Dissecting the biological heterogeneity of HER2-positive breast cancer. [online] [Accessed 1 August 2022]
Clinical Medicine Insights: Pathology. 2015. Diversity of Breast Carcinoma: Histological Subtypes and Clinical Relevance. [online] [Accessed 1 August 2022]
Cancer Biology and Medicine. 2014. Incidence and mortality of female breast cancer in the Asia-Pacific region. [online] [Accessed 8 August 2022]
Carol Milgard Breast Center. N.d. Early Detection is Key. [online] [Accessed 8 August 2022]

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