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Taking the Big C fight in their stride

Beyond treatment, vital to have emotional support to overcome cancer

28 Oct 2020 / 16:52 H.

CANCER features prominently in Adeline Joseph’s (pix) life. This is no surprise given that she has spent many years working at the National Cancer Society Malaysia (NCSM). Even so, it came as a shock when she herself was diagnosed with the “Big C”.

Similarly for Navi Indran Pillai, it was quite alarming when she found out she had breast cancer.

Instead of wallowing in self pity, both women fought and won the battle against the disease.

Today, they are using their experience to help other patients get through their ordeal.

Adeline, now aged 60, recalled she was first diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer in 1995, when she was 33. She was working at the NCSM clinic in Kuala Lumpur at the time.

“My ordeal began when I felt a lump the size of a 20-sen coin in my breast during a self-examination,” she told theSun recently.

Realising something was amiss, she went for an ultrasound at the clinic where she worked.

“First they found a lesion but they could not confirm that it was cancer,” she said.

But a week later, she was told that she had early stage cancer and was given a choice of lumpectomy or mastectomy to treat the growth.

Lumpectomy involves removing the cancer from the breast while a mastectomy involves removal of the affected breast.

“It was a tough decision but with the support from my family, I opted for a mastectomy,” Adeline said.

She said the surgery and six cycles of chemotherapy were difficult.

“I wanted to give up after the first cycle. I threw up. I even had to put on a wig and that was quite uncomfortable,” she said.

But Adeline’s sisters rallied around her, spurring her to continue with the treatment.

She also took comfort in the fact that survivors, who visited the NCSM clinic for consultation and treatment, also led healthy and meaningful lives.

Today, Adeline is paying it forward. As head of the NCSM resource and wellness centre, she gives talks, conducts workshops and attends peer group support meetings to help other survivors.

Beyond the treatment, she said emotional and psycho-social support is vital.

Navi was only 23 when she was told she had Stage 4 breast cancer, which had also spread to her liver and backbone.

She is still fighting and counts her parents as her pillar of strength.

Nonetheless, she refuses to have her parents bear all the burden. Navi is using her talent as a classical Indian dancer to raise money for her treatment.

“It costs me about RM15,000 every three weeks, and it’s for a lifetime,” she said.

Navi, now also a volunteer co-ordinator with NCSM, has documented her journey through her Instagram handle @Naviindrapillai with the hastag “kissed by cancer”. For her, cancer is “merely a word, not life itself”.

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