SJMC Cancer Survivors Live Out a Wonderful Life
Ever wondered what happens to cancer survivors after completing their final chemotherapy or radiation treatment? Will life change after surviving cancer? Subang Jaya Medical Centre (SJMC) cancer survivors Ms Tham & Ms Jane share their story in hopes to inspire and encourage those who need it as we celebrate their courage over cancer.
Colorectal Cancer Survivor: Ms Jane, 58 years old
Although it was 11 years ago that Ms Jane had cancer, she still has lingering fears when she talks about her experience.
At the age of 47, Ms Jane was diagnosed with colorectal cancer after seeking medical treatment for frequent stomach pains and diarrhoea. "At that time, I was running to the toilet on average 5 to 6 times a day, with the highest record being 10 times. My stools became abnormally small and black, and I even had cold sweats from time to time. My face also became pale,” said Ms Jane.
Although she felt something was wrong, Ms Jane did not seek for medical help immediately. Instead, she decided to self-medicate and purchased some medication from a pharmacy. The symptoms lasted for about two months and did not improve despite taking medication, so she finally made up her mind to go to the hospital for a colonoscopy, where she was diagnosed with stage 2 colorectal cancer.
Listen to the doctor's advice and undergo surgery as soon as possible
The news came like a bolt from the blue for Ms Jane, who was at the peak of her career. She felt like her life, which had been full of hope turned dark almost instantly. Worry, frustration, grief, fear, and uncertainty about the future made her fall into a pit of emotions, so much so her body trembled involuntarily.
At that time, people around her were offering different opinions, making her feel even more confused. Fortunately, she chose to listen to the advice of her Oncologist, Dr Matin Mellor Abdullah and underwent surgery as soon as possible.
"After the surgery, I had to undergo eight sessions of chemotherapy, and the side effects caused me to experience hand paralysis, vomiting, fatigue, constipation, and bleeding in my urine,” she said. The series of side effects almost made her give up her treatment halfway through. Fortunately, she joined a support group for colorectal cancer patients at SJMC, and with the encouragement from her group members, as well as her family and close friends, she decided to continue her treatment until completion.
Slow down your life
"It is important for cancer patients to have the support of family and friends around them. During my treatment, the support from my sisters, and the comfort and companionship of my brothers, close friends, and support groups made me feel less alone." However, she also cautions to take extra care when speaking to cancer patients because they are in a sensitive period where small & thoughtless comments may make them feel more depressed.
"After the surgery, my friends asked me why I had become so thin, making me feel sad and worried,” she said. It took about a year from the time of diagnosis to the completion of treatment for Ms Jane to return to her former self.
After completing her treatment, Ms Jane who works in the tourism industry and loves to travel, travelled overseas with her sister to relax. She slowed down and spent more time with her family, allowing herself to take a long vacation of about two years to rest and learned to cherish her health more. "I used to be very career-oriented, and would be busy from morning to night every day. In addition to my stressful work, my diet was irregular and unhealthy where I usually wouldn’t eat lunch until 3pm, plus I consumed outside food quite often."
Since her treatment, she started to exercise at least three times a week, including swimming and cycling, etc. In terms of diet, she reduced eating out and ate a more balanced and healthy diet. As for work, she no longer puts too much pressure on herself and tries to cut down on her tasks. In her spare time, she devotes herself to gardening, baking and other interests.
Supporting others through her personal sharing
Ms Jane continues to return to the hospital for annual follow-up visits. As a cancer survivor, she also participates in the SJMC’s support group, giving advice, support and encouragement to patients with colorectal cancer. "It was this support group that gave me the courage to keep going, and now I want to do my part to assist others through this difficult process by sharing my experience,” she said.
She also advocates for friends and relatives to have regular check-ups and to seek medical advice immediately if they have symptoms. Most importantly, she urges them not to be their own doctors when they have health problems.
"I see some friends around me who have cancer and seem to not want others to know, fearing that people will cast them a different look. In fact, they should open up and be brave to tell people around them, don't hold it in!” She encourages.
Live in the moment and love yourself more
As a cancer survivor, Ms Jane is no longer as obsessed as she used to be, she learns to turn a blind eye sometimes, and to live in the moment. "Don't think too much, being happy is most important,” she said.
She also understands that for patients, the news of a cancer diagnosis is indeed "hard to digest", but one must always move on in life.
"At that time, I thought to myself ‘I can't just give up, I still have lots to do! I must have a positive attitude, follow the doctor's advice, and receive treatment. I must have confidence in myself and know how to love myself more!’ I know it's hard, but you have to face the reality and take care of your own health,” she urges.
The sharing of cancer survivors, Ms Tham and Ms Jane shows us that as long as we embrace positive energy and actively receive treatment and continuous follow-up, cancer patients can still live a happy and healthy life.
Read Part 1 about Ms Tham, a breast cancer survivor HERE .