Fearlessly launching off a cliff from 109metres high, into a 200metre swing over the Shotover River with a 60metre vertical free fall down a steep rocky cliff face is not an ordinary feat. This is an intense, adrenaline stimulating activity achieved by the dauntless.
Determined to do something memorable on her 50th birthday, Tan Soh Hooi took the plunge. It was a decision she’d made a year earlier, when she was first diagnosed with cervical cancer. However, the news was not easy to digest the first time she was diagnosed.
“Adamant that I will not allow cancer to daunt me off my will to live, I spent three weeks in South Island, New Zealand before taking the plunge. At that moment, I resolved to live like no tomorrow. If anything should happen, I would have lived happy.”
“This was right after a gruelling six weeks of chemotheraphy, radiotherapy followed by high intensity brachytherapy,” she said.
“I remember that I was stubborn and that I supressed a lot of my feelings.”
“When I was 46 years old, a close friend came to visit. An avid marathon runner, she encouraged me to join her. I knew I wasn’t in any shape to run and even if I did, it would be one that was lesser than 100 metres. Determined, I did cardio exercises and yoga in addition to abstaining from sweet treats.”
“This made me drop 18 kilogrammes. That was when I ran my first marathon – a 12kilometre run,” she said sounding gleeful.
In August the following year, she ran another half marathon.
“Feeling as fit as a fiddle and having done regular pap scans, I couldn’t believe my ears the moment I was diagnosed. Initially, I was so angry as I had lost all that weight. Nevertheless, I came to terms after a while and started doing research before doing a hysterectomy.”
“Of course, that didn’t deter me from running another marathon once I recuperated. But, this time around, I ate whatever. I refused to live as a cancer patient at the age of 49 and recommenced all travel plans to New Zealand for the following year,” she explained with a smile.
Assuming cancer was out of the way the following year, she took on several interior designing jobs and kept busy until the month of May. During the same month, she ran another marathon. It wasn’t long before she had a relapse.
“This time, I was devastated, worried if I would survive. Flashes of both my children kept playing on my mind. I wanted them to continue their studies abroad in addition to financial worries.”
“For these reason, I decided to face the problem than being in denial. I started attending talks at the National Cancer Society Malaysia (NCSM) where I was encouraged to open-up emotionally. I felt a huge sense of relief compared to before as I’ve always viewed crying as a sense of weakness. I also practiced Qigong which made me feel much better,” she said.
Gaining strength through breast cancer support groups
As for Citra Dewi, actively participating in breast cancer support groups and campaigns is what keeps her strong, in addition to having her daughter as her fortitude.
“Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 and having to undergo a mastectomy at the age of 43, I still feel very sad as I’m no longer perfect as a woman. I abstain from intercourse and still do not have the courage to undress in front of my husband.”
“During chemotheraphy, I suffered severe hair loss, swollen face and had lost my teeth as well. However, I'm blessed that I had my family, husband as well as the support of friends during these tough times. The best I could do now, is to return the favour to other women who suffer similar fate as I,” said Citra.
Lymphoblastic leukemia survivor dancing to life
To Calysta Tay Yilynn, 26, living a normal life, cooking, dancing, applying make-up, bonding and sharing experiences is the best way forward. Diagnosed at the age of 10 with lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), she underwent chemotheraphy for two years before she was considered cured.
Today, the Biotechnology degree holder who is currently working as a Medical Conference organiser based in KL is an advocate of the Young Survivor Group at NCSM. She reminds others that cancer is not gender bias and hopes that there will be more awareness campaigns to educate the society that cancer is not contagious.
Making life meaningful with photography
Initially finding it hard to secure employment due to having a colostomy bag since infancy in addition to being diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the age of 21, Lavania Nagarajan decided to put her setbacks aside by focusing on photography two years back.
Living by the motto “Don’t find the meaning of life but make life as meaningful as possible”, Lavania today takes maternity and new baby shots. This 23-year old hopes to develop her skills in portraits.
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