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Exactly one year ago, on 1st June 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember that day in the doctor’s office very vividly.

Before that, cancer was a scary sickness which I would hear about now and then that someone had. Until it hit home. Now, I have become one of those people other people hear about.

How has life changed over the past year? 

Well, my most frequented places have been the doctors’ clinics. 

There was a whole series of tests and scans, followed by surgery and 9 days in hospital. 

Then, it was followed on with 6 cycles of 3-weekly chemotherapy for 4 and half months. 

Thereafter, I have been continuing on 3-weekly Herceptin and Pertuzameb antibody injections. Come July, I will complete 1 year of antibody injections.

I am also on a 3-monthly Lucrin injection to take me to early menopause and daily Tamoxifen tablets for the next 5 years.

In between those, I had 3-6 weekly blood tests, 6-weekly heart scans, a brain scan, lungs scan and another full body scan. Soon, I am up for another mammogram.

In the midst of these, I became acquainted with people around me battling cancer. I got to know two ladies from Ben’s work circles who were diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after my diagnosis. A mum from Caleb’s kindy also got in touch with me to share her recent breast cancer diagnosis. We shared our diagnosis and treatments. I have been praying for all of them as well as for 2 other ladies fighting cancer. 

As I reflect on this year past, I am clear on one thing. I reject cancer and give it no place and no credit in my identity. 

I refuse to call myself a cancer patient. I do not call myself a cancer survivor either. I am simply someone who was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am well now and I will live my life well, without the shadow of cancer obscuring my life lens.

I remind myself that my identity is in Christ. I am a child of God. And that’s where I will fix my eyes on. The right C. The most powerful C. Christ is my answer.

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 Related Posts:

God Knows Leh #2 – I really didn’t want to drink this chemo cup

Inside-out Kid #2 –It’s not fair, I didn’t want you to be in hospital!

 

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Today is Thank God for Family, Friends and Favour Friday! This Friday, on the eve’s eve of Christmas, I want to take time to thank God for:

1)      The still small voice who prompted me to do a self-examination earlier this year, which led to my early breast cancer diagnosis. I thank God for the Holy Spirit’s prompting.

2)      The doctors who came my way through various relationships – my breast surgeon, plastic surgeon and oncologist – and have been a blessing with their skills and care

3)      The friendship and favour from many whom I got to know over these 6 months

4)      The prayers and support from friends from many circles of friendship, from past work circles to school friends of over 20-30 years to Caleb’s Kindy, amongst others

5)      God’s provisions through big and small needs, from our insurance coverage to seeing me through surgery without pain and chemotherapy with minimal side effects

6)      My parents who have helped ferry Caleb to Kindy and his other activities since my 1st June diagnosis

7)      The bible readings that have revealed to me so many truths these few months, especially on health and healing

8)      The words impressed upon me multiple times on heart issues which I have been unpacking and releasing – a detoxing of the heart

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9)      Ben, who has stoically supported me through this wilderness period and is a wonderful dad to Caleb

10)   For Christmas – for Jesus Christ, who came to bring forgiveness, peace and love to this broken world

Psalms 119:165   Those who love your teachings will find true peace

Jeremiah 29:13  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart

 

“These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise” – Psalms 42:4

Related posts:

God Knows Leh #17 – Rainbows for chasing Start & End Date Chemo Blues

Inside-Out Kid #6 – I want to be with Mummy till Infinity

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This week marked the end of my last chemo cycle. Because the tumour removed in July was rated triple-positive (estrogen +ve, progesterone +ve and HER2 +ve), my oncologist has proceeded with the next phase of treatment. He’s started me on 3-monthly injections to take me to early menopause and daily Tamoxifen pills for the next 5 years – all to tame my hormone levels (so to speak) and reduce chances of recurrence. I’m also on 3-weekly antibody injections for another 7 months. As these aren’t as potent as chemotherapy, it means I can resume normal routine.

Not that I have been in a hurry.

Over the past 6 months, I’ve switched to a slower mode and will not be rushing to get anything done too quickly.   

So, I’ve kept it simple this December. Taking Caleb on a few outings. A few Christmas/year-end get-togethers. Plenty of quiet time to reflect on the year fast passing and the true meaning of Christmas – the birthday of Jesus the Christ.

On a literal level, I am seeing things anew. Like my eyebrows growing back. Now I can raise new  eyebrows in the new year :).        

 

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The Lehs see dinosaurs at the Zoo’s Zoorassic Park

 

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With gratitude and a full stomach, I had my final chemotherapy session this week. My plan was to finish this last chemo session with Char Kway Teow. But the Zion Road Char Kway Teow hawker closed his stall to attend his daughter’s graduation.

I did have a ducklicious equivalent- Kam’s Roast, the Michelin Starred restaurant from Hong Kong which recently opened in Singapore. Kam’s Roast is founded by a 3rd generation family member of the famed Yung Ke Goose in Hong Kong.

Thanks to Ben who has been catering to my food cravings during every chemo session – starting from chicken rice, moving onto Teochew mee kiah and then Zion Road Char Kwayteow by chemo session 5.

I should qualify that my diet has improved in healthiness by leaps and bounds since the breast cancer diagnosis on 1st June. I’ve endeavored to eat one course of fish and two courses of vegetables every day as well as cutting off sugar. But you can’t take Singaporean food from a Singaporean. So I have my occasional indulgences. And what better time than during chemo when all those drugs are being pumped in to whack out the bad stuff in the body?

My oncologist is continuing me on 3-weekly antibodies injections for another 7 months. I’ve completed 5 months of these injections to date, which were done together with chemotherapy. I’ll also be on 3-monthly injections to take me to early menopause. The analysis of the tumour had shown it to be triple positive (progesterone+, estrogen+ and HER2+). In my layman’s speak, my body is too hormonally active and my oncologist is taming the hormones down several notches.

Since these aren’t as potent as the chemo drugs, I look forward to returning to normal routine. I should say ‘new normal’ because these few months have been life-changing and has altered some of my perspectives on life.

It’s been a long 6 months since I was first diagnosed with breast cancer on 1st June this year. As I count my blessings, I am especially grateful for family and friends who have supported and encouraged me through this journey:

  • Many friends who have been receiving my whatsapp prayer updates and prayed for me as well as other friends who checked in on me over the months
  • My parents who have helped with ferrying Caleb to Kindy and his other activities.
  • Ben who has accompanied me for all my doctor visits and sat through every 5-hour chemo/antibodies treatment with me

I know it is only by God’s grace that I have sustained through this wilderness period. The joy of the Lord has been my strength.

I had originally planned my Tibby & Scaredy Snout and Benji, Yumi, Origami! double book launch cum celebration party on the weekend after my final chemo cycle. But the chemo cycle was delayed 3 weeks till after the party. My friend Bernice said that was better because I would then be celebrating my healing in faith. And so I did. I thank God that I am well and healed in Jesus’ name.

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“These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival”           – Psalms 42: 4

Related posts:

God Knows Leh #5- I ate chicken rice for my first chemotherapy session

Inside-out Kid #2 –It’s not fair, I didn’t want you to be in hospital!

 

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I was supposed to finish off with my final chemotherapy session last Friday. I had planned what I was going to wear and eat during that last session. I had even counted off the last day of this final chemo cycle for a celebration.

So, when my oncologist told me that morning that we would need to hold off the last chemo, my heart sank a little. Based on my heart scan report, he wanted to wait it out and review me again in three weeks to see if I was ready to proceed with the last chemo session.

My past 5 chemo sessions had been right on track so I had left no room in my mind that the last session would move.

In the bigger perspective of things, I have much to be thankful for and this three weeks delay isn’t the end of the world.

But I had not planned for a delay. I was already counting down the days when I could:

– stop gargling salt water (multiple times a day) to keep sore throat at bay

– get pass the few days of insomnia from the steroid tablets that I had to take for the first 3 days post-chemo.

– ditch wearing  a mask when I go out

Amongst other things.

I was in R.O.D. mood but the Run Out Date shifted.

I’m a planner. But I did not leave room for this wet weather plan.

After going through 5 chemo cycles over the past 15 weeks, I couldn’t wait to count down the last 3 weeks, which has now extended.

So after a mild case of the blues last Friday, I perked up for my 5-year old’s year end concert the next day, which would have been one day after that last chemo. Although I have stayed away from crowded places and his Kindy events since June, I had promised him that I would attend the concert to watch him perform. So, I got to watch him without insomnia. And seeing him on stage (and we gelled his hair for the first time) made me teary-eyed and proud. It was a day where I sighted a big rainbow. 

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I had a much bigger case of the blues just before the start of chemo 4 months back. I didn’t want to start. Although I didn’t express it, my girlfriends of over 30 years surprised me with a party on Hari Raya.

They showed up with food, balloons, party favours and a makeover for me. Everyone was yakking away at the same time and no one was interested to talk about bluey things. In fact, I could barely get a word in because everyone was talking at the same time. Outrageous 🙂.

 

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The party was a bright rainbow that lifted my start-chemo blues.

So, in these weeks ahead, I will quieten my heart as I watch and wait out the end of this season. And I will look upon new rainbows in my horizon.

Psalms 27:14 – Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes wait for the Lord.

 

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Today is TGFFF – Thank God for Family, Friends & Favour Friday!

October is my wedding anniversary and birthday month. This year has been especially significant, following the breast cancer diagnosis, as I am reminded to cherish my time with my family and friends.

Family!

Ben took leave on my birthday and we had a quiet lunch together.

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I also decided to attempt 9-holes golf for the first time since my mastectomy and reconstruction surgery. I wasn’t sure how my reconstructed body would hold up given I only have my left six-pack muscles in my tummy. (My right six-pack was promoted upwards to become the left breast.) Well, I got through 5-holes and managed to tee off further than pre-surgery. So that’s a good start.

Friends!

For our 18th wedding anniversary, we decided to celebrate with a group of close friends. I asked our friends to come in matching couple outfits and everyone did so sportingly. No prizes for guessing who won 1st prize for the Best Matched Couple. (Their photo is the biggest amongst our friends).

 

For my birthday week, I also caught up with both old and newer friends.

 

Favour!

I caught a strong flu bug right after my last round of chemo and was holed up at home for a week. It was a reminder to rest and not run ahead of myself. And that reminder came through again when my last chemotherapy session scheduled for today had to be postponed.

My heart scan showed up some fluid retention around the heart which could possibly be due to a side effect of a chemo drug or from the recent bout of flu. I will need to do a follow-up review in 3 weeks before the final chemo session can be scheduled.

I’m thankful for my oncologist who has seen me through all this over the past 15 weeks of chemo treatment. As I approach the tail-end of chemo (now delayed by another 3 weeks), I need to be still and wait patiently for this season to pass.

Proverbs 3:5-6  Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

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Today is TGFFF – Thank God for family, friends and favour Friday!

Favour!

I had my 5th chemotherapy session yesterday – a day earlier than usual as my oncologist is on leave today.

My 4th chemo cycle went extremely well and I feel better than ever.

Family!

For the first time in 4 months since the breast cancer diagnosis, I did the following:

  • Had my first cup of coffee (turns out I didn’t miss it since switching to green tea)
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Having my 1st cup of coffee in 4 months at Chop Suey over at lunch with Ben

 

  • Went to Tanjong Beach with Caleb, followed by pizza with live music (a family routine we used to do) where he (i.e. Caleb) made his song request for Adele’s Hello. Caleb was so thrilled that he didn’t stop talking from the time we left home till we got to the beach.
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Building sandcastles at Sentosa’s Tanjong beach

 

  • Took Caleb to Botanic Gardens to feed the fishes, where he talked non-stop to the fishes and turtles for 1 hour. (I had avoided doing that because I didn’t know if I had the energy to catch him if he sprinted off.)
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On the way to feed fishes at Botanics

 

  • Took Caleb to his Kindy exhibition (after missing out on his last few Kindy activities)
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Attending Caleb’s Kindy Exhibition which was nicely uncrowded

 

Friends!

Over the past few months, a number of friends from eons back reconnected with me after reading my God Knows Leh blog posts.

Amongst them:

An old MGS school mate whom I hadn’t seen in 30 years came over to visit.

A friend from Bible Study Fellowship from 10 years back emailed to encourage me.

And last week, a friend I made through work 20 years back came to see me. I was then in my second job at a Malaysian start-up property company. Madeline was with Epigram (long before it started publishing books) and working on a commemorative book for my company. Back then, we didn’t have mobile phones, emails or social media so we lost touch after I left that job.

Madeline contacted me after reading my blogposts and we finally met up again! Long lost friends – literally – but we didn’t miss a beat getting right into heart talk and catching up on each other’s lives. I’m thankful for our paths coming together again.

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With long-lost friend Madeline – 20 years later

 

And this week, I caught up with my dear friend Karen (and my bridesmaid once upon a time) over lunch – something we haven’t done for  some time.

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Two October babies celebrating our birthdays in advance

 

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

 

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