“When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2016, I was devastated. I was only 29 and had just gotten married less than a year before that. My husband and I had also just moved into our new home. Things were falling into place, but then this had to hit me.
I was in disbelief, and I Googled to know more about women who were at risk of having breast cancer. I wasn’t in that group at all. I didn’t drink, smoke, consume contraceptive pills, give birth to my first child after 30 or have a family history of breast cancer.
I only went for a check-up because my aunt was diagnosed first in August 2016. She had Stage 3 breast cancer but didn’t want to seek treatment. She thought she was going to die anyways, so why bother? I cried for her, and I thought I should get myself checked too.
After finding out that I too had breast cancer, I underwent chemotherapy for six months to shrink the tumour. That way, the surgeons would only have to perform a lumpectomy to remove the shrunk tumour.
I didn’t want to do a full mastectomy because if other women had two breasts at the age of 29, why should I only have one? I was scared about changes in my physical appearance, and I was concerned about how people would look at me; how my husband would look at me.
My hair started falling off two weeks into chemotherapy. It was literally everywhere in the house, and it reached a point where I wouldn’t even dare use Magic Clean to mop the floor because the whole white sheet would turn black.
I remember an incident where all of my hair fell off while I was showering. I cried, and I had to scream for my husband to pick up all the strands from the drainage because I didn’t want to see it.
I had to remind myself that it wasn’t my fault; breast cancer is caused by hormonal imbalance. And whatever it was that I was going through, there were other women going through worse. I needed to stay positive, and that was the last time I cried in the shower.
I picked up a couple of new hobbies to occupy my time during the six months of chemotherapy. I drew, did calligraphy, tried clay-modelling, played with jigsaw puzzles and even learnt how to cook as I wasn’t encouraged to eat outside food.
I also grew to be more appreciative of life. I used to be a grump who complained about everything under the sun, and I was very conscious about what people thought of me. But now, I put my own happiness before anyone else’s because I don’t know how long I’ll live.
From 4cm, the tumour shrunk to 1.8cm at the end of six months. The surgeon told me my breast would be as good as gone after the lumpectomy, so I might as well do a mastectomy.
I had already grew more positive and accepting of my situation by that stage, and the idea of a mastectomy didn’t bother me too much. The surgeon basically took my belly fats and put it in my chest. It actually felt like a free tummy tuck in some sense, hahaha.
I was officially declared cancer-free in July 2017. My husband and I are foodies, so we celebrated by treating ourselves to a seafood buffet. But as a precautionary measure, the doctor advised me to go on a minimum five-year period of oral therapy.
I have to take a tablet everyday and I cannot get pregnant during this period because the medication is quite potent and it would cause the fetus to be deformed. I’m also on quarterly injections to put my ovaries to sleep, so I’m in a temporary menopausal state.
I do feel guilty because I can’t have children with my husband in these next few years, but like what the wedding vows say – in sickness and in health. During this episode of my life, I can see why I married him in the first place.
He had so many opportunities to walk away, but he really looked after me. He understood that I would have a temper and flare up once in a while, and he continued to be a very strong pillar of support for me. I have no regrets being with him whatsoever.
Now, I look forward to inspiring others and raising awareness of breast cancer. That’s why I’m here today at the Pink Ribbon Walk. I want women to know that as long as you have breasts, you need to get yourself checked. My story is an example of how breast cancer don’t just happen to people in their 40s.
It doesn’t just happen to your aunts, your moms or your grandmothers. It happens to young people too. You need to treasure your life and love yourself more. Care for the people around you too, because when you have cancer, your loved ones suffer together with you.
I do know of breast cancer patients who are still in disbelief and feel very negatively about their condition. When my husband and I went through this episode of our lives, we felt alone too because we didn’t have other friends in the same situation.
But I want women out there to know I understand what you’re going through, and I just hope to be an inspiration to you. Just stay positive, get the necessary treatment, and everything will be alright. It’s not the end of the world. There is life after cancer.” – Tracy Hoo, 31
Tracy is a breast cancer survivor and she has been an active member of Breast Cancer Foundation (BCF)’s support group to provide a listening ear and emotional support to fellow ladies whom are affected by the condition. For more info click here.
Interview by: Arman Shah