JOHOR BARU: Having breast cancer does not spell the end of a woman’s life and a group of survivors, still living an active and fulfilling life post-treatment, are here to prove it.
Insurance agent and will writer Manijeh Bama, 53, is not letting breast cancer stop her from carrying on with her favourite activities such as jungle trekking, line dancing and hosting cooking demonstrations.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 40 and again at 50 years old but is still determined to live a full life with her husband and three children.
“Early detection really does save lives because I found out about the lump in my breast during my annual health check- up and immediately sought medical treatment.
“Having breast cancer is not a curse, it is just another challenge that life has thrown at us.
“The most important thing is to spend time with like-minded people and in my case, I found it in the other breast cancer survivors, ” she told StarMetro in an interview.
Manijeh added that most women were overtaken by fear upon knowing that they have breast cancer and even shy away from help.
“Being a breast cancer survivor, I can attest to the fact that we are able to lead a normal life after treatment.
“I still make it a point to exercise and achieve at least 10,000 foot steps a day to keep myself active and positive, ” she said, adding that having a positive outlook and a strong support system were crucial in a patient’s recovery.
Businesswoman Jenny Chong, 46, stressed on the importance of seeking accurate information from the right sources as opposed to “just listening to unsolicited advice from friends and family who are trying to be helpful”.
The mother-of-two said she was 29 when she first felt a non-cancerous lump in her left breast and quickly had it removed.
“About 10 years later, I felt another lump in my breast and when I was diagnosed with cancer, I felt my whole world crumbling down.
“I could not stop crying and spent my days regretting over the things I should have done and the time I should have spent with my family instead of focusing on my personal accessory business.
“I felt sorry for myself, thinking that my life is ending and even had suicidal thoughts.
“When people around me, who were trying to be helpful, told me that as a cancer patient I can only eat steamed fish and vegetables without any seasoning, it made me even more depressed as I could no longer enjoy my favourite food, ” she said.
Chong said she had almost given up hope after her first chemotherapy as it was too taxing on her body.
“Then I got to know about the Johor Baru Breast Cancer Support Group (JBBCSG) and decided to give them a call to seek encouragement because at that time, I could not see the point of going through so much pain and suffering.
“I was surprised when the women in the support group gave me a lot of evidence-based information, which were different from the earlier advice I was given, and that I could still eat my favourite dishes in moderation.
“So I went and ate my favourite Korean barbeque and immediately felt the happiest I have been in months. It is amazing how a different perspective can change a person’s mindset.
“With my husband’s encouragement and support from JBBCSG, I completed four chemotherapy and 18 electrotherapy sessions, ” she said, adding that she did not feel as afraid when the cancer recurred five years ago, as she was well-equipped with the right information.
“Recurrence is not the end of the world. There are too many misconceptions out there and that is why I love volunteering at JBBCSG to share my personal experience and information with other patients to get them through the rough patch in their life, ” she said.
Another survivor, Salwana Mohd Dadiri, 53, too, felt that life was unfair to her when she found out that she had stage two breast cancer in October 2017.
“My doctor advised me to undergo a mastectomy to remove my right breast with the lymph nodes. I felt that I was dying.
“Through a nurse in Hospital Sultanah Aminah, I found out about the support group, and the women there were welcoming and caring, in turn giving me the strength that I needed to go on and undergo chemotherapy treatments, ” said the housewife.
Salwana, who was appointed JBBCSG ‘s vice-president last month, said she spends her time volunteering at the centre after recovering from the illness.
“The Covid-19 pandemic did not stop us from carrying out our activities like patient visits, counselling sessions and exercises online via video calls.
“I feel at home with my fellow cancer survivors who emerged from our respective fights stronger and happier than before and I want to continue spreading this strength and hope to others who are battling breast cancer, ” said the grandmother of six.
Other than advice and medical consultation by qualified healthcare practitioners, JBBCSG also offers assistance such as prosthesis and special bras for breast cancer patients, as well as activities including handicraft, line dancing, cooking sessions, laughter yoga and karaoke.
The public can learn more about breast self-examination and other information at the JBBCSG centre, located at No.12, Jalan Ru, Taman Kebun Teh, open from 9am to 1pm, Monday to Friday.
For more details, call 07-335 7211.