Home > Lifestyle > Women
Friday October 18, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Friday October 18, 2013 MYT 7:37:48 AM
by gayathri nair
Finding strength and solace: Friends and breast cancer survivors (from left) Junaini Ali Hussein, Azlina Yaacob and Jalila Abdul Jalil
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and three courageous women share how living with cancer changed their lives.
BEING diagnosed with cancer can be shattering, even with family and friends’ care and backing. But sometimes cancer patients do not want to unburden their troubles to their loved ones because they do not want to distress them. For some, it is easier to talk to members of a support group who are also going through similar experiences.
National Cancer Council Malaysia (Makna)’s support groups have been instrumental in helping to reduce cancer patients’ sufferings and keeping their spirits up.
As their motto goes, “The human spirit can achieve what it set out to do when the will is able.”
Junaini Ali Hussein, Azlina Yaacob and Jalila Abdul Jalil are breast cancer survivors who first met at Makna support group meetings, and have become firm friends. They have been there for each other through the ups and downs. Cancer has changed their lives tremendously but having each other has made them stronger.
They tell their stories.
Junaini Ali Hussein, 55, Kajang, Selangor
When I was going through chemotheraphy, I cried every day because I was losing my hair. It was my crowning glory, and I was upset when clumps of hair started falling off. All I could think of was, “Why me?”. But then I began to accept that this is one of my life’s greatest challenges, and I refused to give up.
So what if I was bald? I can stop worrying about washing my hair or buying the perfect shampoo and comb. On hot days, my head felt cool. Even if someone made fun of me, it didn’t bother me, as I was surviving breast cancer and that made me stronger each day.
I was first diagnosed with breast cancer stage 3A in 2010. I felt a small lump in my breast in 2008, but a doctor passed it off as a sign of menopause. But the lump got bigger and a biopsy confirmed it was cancerous.
It was shocking news, but my husband and son were very supportive. The night before the surgery to remove the lump, I felt like I’d never see the sun again. All we could do was pray everything would turn out well.
After the surgery, I underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Life has changed tremendously for me. I felt like God gave me another chance in life. I started taking better care of myself. I watch what I eat and include a lot of fish, fresh vegetables and fruits in my diet. I also make sure I exercise regularly.
But what has helped me survive this ordeal was the support group I joined at Makna. There, I met many women who had gone through the same situation as mine.
Sharing my experiences and being among those who knew what I was going through were inspirational.
As a survivor, I don’t take it for granted that I am completely clear from the disease. Cancer cells live in everyone; it’s only whether they are dormant or active.
I always tell myself I may be out of the woods now, but I must continue respecting my body and continue leading a healthier lifestyle.
Always listen to what your body tells you. If you suspect something isn’t right, go see the doctor as soon as you can.
Early detection is best.
Azlina Yaacob, 37, Kajang, Selangor
The day I discovered I had breast cancer was the scariest in my life.
I am a widowed mother of two girls. When I was told I needed an operation immediately, I was worried most about my daughters. What if I didn’t make it out of this? What will happen to my kids? On the other hand, if the operation was successful, I will be alive to watch my children grow up and be there for them.
My children are my inspiration to fight for my life.
Today, my girls are 16 and 19. It has been three years since I was diagnosed with cancer and undergone surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I survived it and I am glad my cancer was at stage one, moving into stage two. I was afraid to have the operation to remove the lump, but I went through it after much persuasion from my family and doctor.
After the surgey, I had chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I also experienced hair loss, but that was expected with chemotherapy. All I could do at that point was to stay strong, complete the treatments and hope for the best.
I have developed a more positive outlook in life. I am thankful I get to spend more years with my children.
Being part of a support group helped me a lot. It is healthy for us to stick together and share our stories. In life, we go through ups and downs, and we learn to accept the trials thrown at us, whether good or bad. Eventually, they become life lessons and we live to tell our stories, in the hope they will inspire those in need.
Jalila Abdul Jalil, 41,
As a single, career-minded and happy-go-lucky woman, cancer was the last thing on my mind. When I discovered I had cancer, it was at a late stage. I experienced a lot of pain and swelling plus there was a very bad infection.
After performing the biopsy, the doctor confirmed I had stage three breast cancer. In my condition, surgery was not an option yet. I was given medication to stop the bleeding, followed by chemotherapy to reduce the size of the lump and the infection. I had to go for chemotherapy treatments everythree weeks. After the six cycles, the size of the lump reduced from its original 15cm to a size that was operable.
In January, I had a mastectomy and surgery to remove my lymph nodes, followed by 15 radiotherapy sessions in April.
After that, my life turned around.
I fought with all my might and refused to give up. It was my inner strength that helped me deal with cancer. Now, it feels like I could live another 100 years. As they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Still, never ignore what your body tells you. For some, it might be the fear of the unknown. Others might be too embarrassed. Whatever it is, if cancer is detected early, it is easier to treat.
I am more cautious about everything in life now. I make sure I read food labels and know what I put into my body. I try and avoid red meat and consume more fresh fruits and vegetables.
Cancer patients inspire each other. They do not only battle cancer, but face each day as a new challenge and appreciate the little things in life. Whether it’s family or friends, everyone around you become your support system.
Cancer can happen to anyone, at any age. Go to a doctor for regular checkups, and be aware of your surroundings and update your knowledge.
> For cancer-related counselling and guidance, please call 1-800-88-62562 (Makna) or
Put her needs first
Tags / Keywords:
Lifestyle, Women, Breast Cancer Month; Survivor; Inspirational
Copyright © 1995-2013 Star Publications (M) Bhd (Co No 10894-D)