Memoirs of Survivors

It was May 1988.That day at Convent Green Lane canteen, a group of lady teachers was discussing breast-self examination. As I was not an expert in this filed, I decided to make and appointment with my family doctor for an examination. “There was a lump” said the doctor. Without any delay, I was referred to Dato Dr. Susila Nair , a Consultant Surgeon with Penang General Hospital. She told me that there were a few options and most probably, it could be a harmless lump. I opted for the “frozen section and when I woke up from my operation, I discovered I had gone through a simple mastectomy-“First stage cancer” I was told…

My World of positive attitude, “helping and caring” and “lending a hand” crumbled. “Why me?” I had a nasty shake -up that time. I could not bear to see violent pictures on T.V. Most probably, cutting off part of my body was a violent act. Fearful imaginations went through my mind and there was a lot of self –pity. Sr. Aidan my school principal then, visited me. “Don’t worry” she said, “God still needs you to be around.” That was the magic wand for me. With doctors’ help, family’s and friends’ support and most importantly, with Divine Help, I went through the conventional way of treatment- surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. That happened 21 years ago. It changed my life.

Other forces were at work in the year 1988, in the form of Dato Dr. Susila Nair and Dato Dr. Zaatar. Both were encouraging ladies to form a society to offer emotional and practical support for women diagnosed with breast cancer. The FMDM Sister, together with some breast cancer survivors, with myself included, sat down to draw up a Constitution for the society, with help of Mrs. Hoa-lim, our first legal adviser. The founder members were patients themselves, who faced great challenges, in the beginning, to keep the society going. They had to overcome many emotional issues, a major one was the loss of members. However, with the support, perseverance, dedication and diligence, the society was registered with Registrar of Society. With that, Penang Breast Care Society came into being in 1992. Thus began my journey with the society.

Today, we, the volunteers in PBCS are mostly women who are breast cancer survivors. The members, with maturity, sensitivity, warmth and flexibility, offer emotional and practical support for women affected by breast cancer. We run a Patients’ Refreshment Trolley, offer help in the fitting of Prosthesis and wigs and share experiences with breast cancer patients. Moreover, we offer our services wherever and whenever we are needed. Currently, we are helping Mount Miriam Cancer Hospital and carrying out counselling in “Mitta for life” Cancer Counselling Centre.

We try to reach out to as many cancer patients as possible, if and when they need us. Our belief is “To the world, you might be one person but to one person, you might be the world.”

by Mrs Lee Chong Hai, President of Penang Breast Care Society