Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2021: Cindy Wong’s Inspiring Journey Part 2
This month, we’re spotlighting Cindy Wong, a young educator who beat Breast Cancer at the age of 29. Read along as she shares her story in the hopes of spreading awareness about this illness.
What did you do to make yourself feel good and comfortable during your treatment?
Before I first got diagnosed, I was eating everything under the sun. I loved snacks; you could find me snacking at all times of the day. But after I got the news of my diagnosis, I started to eat only “healthy” food like steamed chicken and vegetables. I felt like I was doing something to improve my condition by eating healthy. I ended up feeling absolutely terrible by denying myself of even that small bit of happiness.
So, after a few weeks of that, I decided to stop. I usually didn’t have much of an appetite the first few days after my chemo session. Once I felt a bit better, I made sure I had some of my beloved snacks and comfort food. I made it a ritual of sorts, just so that I had something to look forward to at the end of the week.
I had a very strong support group in the form of my close friends during my treatment. They used to regularly come over, keep me company and my spirits high as I recovered.
These were some of the small ways I made myself feel good during my treatment.
What was your biggest worry?
My biggest worry was about the relationships in my life. I was afraid that my boyfriend at that time would leave me because he would stop loving me. And so, I ‘protected’ my heart and broke up with him, before he could do so himself. But he turned out to be my biggest pillar of strength, supporting and sticking by me at my lowest points, and I’m so happy to say – he’s been upgraded to fiancé!
My family initially blamed each other for my illness out of guilt, especially when they found out that I had the BRCA gene. But funnily enough, my cancer experience ended up bringing us closer, because we came together to focus what was truly important – which was to be there for me and each other.
Why did you decide to share your story?
I felt extremely lonely in the beginning, after I first got diagnosed. I felt like I had no one to look towards for reassurance in my immediate circle.
Being a child of the Internet, I went online and found hundreds of communities dedicated to sharing cancer stories and uplifting each other. I met many women just like me from all over the world, who were looking for people we could relate to. My experience on these forums also showed me that there’s a huge difference in Singapore’s attitude towards breast cancer compared to the rest of the world.
I observed that there’s a huge stigma associated with cancer – as an older person’s illness, something to be ashamed about and kept hush within the family. Ignorance about the illness, especially among young women, is also very prevalent here. And this is why I, and many other young breast cancer survivors, are speaking out and spreading awareness about the illness, in the hopes that my story can encourage and inspire other women like myself to get checked and treated early.
What advice do you have for young ladies?
Breast cancer is not an old person’s illness. It can affect healthy young women too. However, it also not a death sentence, if detected early. It is very beatable and with Singapore’s advanced medical facilities, you have a high chance of returning to your pre-cancer lives.
Put your health and comfort first and take the risk seriously. Get checked regularly. Do monthly self-assessments and schedule annual health check-ups with your doctors. Set aside time every day to check in with yourself, physically and mentally.
Another important way you can help yourself is to ensure that you have proper healthcare insurance. Cancer treatment can get expensive, and you might not be able to work while getting treated. Facing a financial burden on top of the havoc chemotherapy will wreak on your body is an extremely stressful situation that you want to avoid.
If you get diagnosed, know that you’re not alone. Singapore’s Breast Cancer Foundation is a beautiful community of people who are there to provide you with support and community that you will need. There are also many local and international forums online that you can turn to look for advice and inspiration. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, it is never a sign of weakness.
What have you learnt from cancer?
Cancer forced me to get perspective. It got me thinking, now that I’ve gotten this new lease of life, how do I want to live it? It really reminded me that life is extremely fragile, and no one is guaranteed a tomorrow.
My mastectomy and hysterectomy also got me thinking about what it means to be a woman. I no longer have the physical organs and abilities that typically define a woman – childbearing, breastfeeding etc. So, what makes me a woman? I’ve figured that it’s all about what’s inside your heart. The ability and willingness to love and empathise – that’s how I redefined myself as a woman.
I no longer sweat over the small stuff. I’m very appreciative of everything that I have today, things that I used to take for granted.
My new goals for life are no longer about chasing numbers or positions. I just want to be more present. I’m savouring every single day, while being fully myself and present in the lives of my loved ones.
Thank you so much Cindy, for sharing your breast cancer survival story in such a candid way. We hope this will inspire more young women to take charge of and prioritise their own health for a better life.
For Breast Cancer Awareness month, we have launched our signature Je Dors Collection in a precious Pressed Rose colour in all our classic styles (Full Set, Long Set, Short Set and Sleepshirt). For every purchase of a Je Dors Pressed Rose Pyjama set in October, we will be donating $5 to Singapore’s Breast Cancer Foundation, and you will get a free Pink Ribbon pin with your order.