Jo: Raising Awareness
October 2012 marks the third anniversary of my diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer. I would like to share my story with the hope that it will raise awareness of MBC, and help those in my situation.
Prior to my diagnosis, I had been aware of a lump in my breast, but was too busy to do anything about it. I was busy at work, busy working on my masters' degree, busy concentrating on home issues and busy helping my daughter prepare to go to a university in another country. It's just a lump I thought, nothing that can't be sorted out when I have the time.
After all, I had seen bits of the pink campaigns here in Singapore and I bought into the misconception that breast cancer was somewhat like having the flu - it would cause short-term trouble but would be easy to get over. I really didn't see the need to be concerned. It was a surprise when I found out that my cancer was metastatic. At first I didn't even know what metastatic meant--it sounded scary and I didn't want the label! I wasn't aware that 6-10% of women and men are diagnosed initially with metastatic breast cancer. The millions of dollars that have been spent over the past decades on breast cancer awareness campaigns are important, but I think that they have lulled women into a false sense of security. I felt like I had been fooled.
When I was finally diagnosed, I learned that the cancer had metastasized to my spine. I discovered that I would not "cured" in six months and that my "flu" was here to stay -- a bit like a marriage "till death do us part."
I felt terrified, helpless and isolated. Fortunately, after some time I found a couple of Internet forums where I have made many friends who share the same predicament and who are my virtual support group. My virtual friends have supported me and helped me to adjust to my diagnosis and to be at peace with my current status.
I have benefitted from advances in treatment and, as a consequence, I am still here to tell my story. I have been blessed to have had these last 3 years and look forward to many more, science willing. I am grateful for the support I have received from my friends. The sense of feeling cared about is extremely healing.
Please share this story with your mothers, sisters, daughters and girlfriends. I hope that telling my story will encourage women/men to listen to their bodies and to check out troubling symptoms. It's good to be optimistic, but don't let the optimistic messages of the pink campaigns result in inaction.
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