Breast Cancer Awareness: Our Friend Kelly


We’re wrapping up October with an interview with Kelly, a long time friend to OBC and myself.

I met Kelly back in 2016 when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer and through texts, and little gifts, we became friends. I’ve always admired her strength to share about her journey with cancer as well as her courage to always own her emotions and face them bravely, whether times are good or bad.

That’s why I’m more than excited to be sharing this interview and photoshoot we did with her. I hope you girls enjoy it too!

— Chow

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Q: Hey Kelly! Can you share a little about yourself with our readers? We’d love to know more about you!

A: I’m Kelly, a breast cancer survivor. But more than that, l’m a daughter, sister, wife, friend and most importantly, a woman. 

I have a chubby body that gives me enough space to hold a lot of jokes, laughter, heart and soul. I’m passionate about almost everything, wearing all emotions on my sleeve. I try to stay true to my heart which can be such a tough thing to do on some days. I am in love with my home, too much, so I spend a lot of time indoors with all my books and way too many art materials. I leave my comfort zone and stay curious only for the love of traveling, such journeys around the world pushes my boundaries and gives me new perspective everyday.

 

Q: When were you diagnosed and what was your diagnosis?

A: I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, when I was 28 yrs old. I’m diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer.

 

Q: What were your immediate thoughts upon receiving the diagnosis? How did you feel?

A: I was in shock but still rather calm because I felt this lump in 2015 and did a check though doctor dismissed it as fatty tissues then. So somehow I prepared myself when they ordered that I should do a biopsy to make sure the lump is fine when I went for my routine check one year later.

I only broke down when the doctor covered issues on fertility, where after treatment I may be infertile. I will be getting married in 6-9 mths time and family planning was something LEH (my husband, then fiancé) and I talked alot about so that moment when I was told I might be infertile, it felt like my world collapsed.
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Q: What kind of treatment and surgery did you undergo?

A: I underwent mastectomy on my right breast as the lump was near the nipple and I didn’t want to worry about recurrence in the same breast. Thankfully I did that because the other smaller lump in the same breast discover during a MRI scan pre-operation was cancerous too.

My lymph nodes was thankfully not affected. My cancer qualified for oncotype dx where a sample was sent to the US to test my recurrence chances and the result was were low hence I have the option on whether I want to do chemotherapy or not. I opt not to due to risk of infertility due to chemotherapy hence going for longer period of medication. Now I’m on hormonal therapy which includes daily pills intake and injection every 3 months for the next 10 years.

 

Q: How did your family and friends react to your diagnosis?

A: It wasn’t easy telling them my diagnosis, my fiancé looked all sorts of calm but he excused himself and returned red eyed without letting me see him cry when he was with me to receive the news. I didn’t know how afraid he was until we did a Channel News Asia interview and he said he thought I would leave him.

My sister called me when I was still at the hospital and she was choked with tears. My parents were calm but they started asking others and doing research on breast cancer, never showing me their worry.

Everyone was anxious, some of my friends came to my place immediately, most called me, some cried with me, basically all the love ever rendered, poured on me and I’ve never felt more supported.

 

Q: Did your diagnosis affect the way you viewed your body and your beauty?

A: I’ve always been chubby, in TAF club since school days and taking weight with the whole class there was horrifying and stressful. Like any other girls, I wished I was slimmer, as if to fit in to certain clothings will bring me some form of joy. Those teenage years was the worst but growing up made me accept myself better, not entirely but better.

Ironically, losing a breast made me realise how enough I actually am. I was happy I have enough tummy fats that can be the “donor” to reconstruct my breast. My arms still strong because the lymph nodes aren’t affected. My hidden abs good enough to supply towards the tunneling of the reconstruction.

It’s a body so wonderful, I don’t have to worry about it as it provides for where ever it lacks.

When I stop concentrating on the numbers and feel completely comfortable, my attention shifted to the wellness of my body instead. When I do things that takes care of my well being, there is this unexplainable good vibes felt.

There are still times when I look in the mirror now and I’m like “this clothes look bad on me!”, but I don’t say “I will slim down to fit in” anymore, instead I fold it away and donate it. I will look at my body in full glory of nakedness sometimes and go, “not bad what, looking good!” and walk away smiling. Nothing beats loving your body, the place where your heart and soul resides. When you accept yourself and feel enough, you have enough, to give, to share and to love wholeheartedly towards others. I’m definitely still a work in progress in terms of accepting myself but when you realise that there are worse things than being unable to fit into that pair of jeans, you will be closer to feeling enough.
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Q: How did you cope with the diagnosis? What was your biggest source of support?

A: I may sound morbid but I’ve always told myself that in case major illnesses hit me, I would like to stay positive through it all. I’ve known and read about enough people who showed me how powerful the mind is over the body.

I was upset but I didn’t want to let myself do the self pity game too much yet still be able to grieve so I gave myself a day to cry it out whenever I feel horrible. Mostly in the shower and I always sing to “fight song”.

I also wrote about my journey on Dayre, which is an outlet for me to tell my story and find strength. I believe that the more I say it, the less I fear it. This platform was such a blessing and the encouragement I got from strangers and friends gave me so much courage. I remember writing about going for the operation the day before, telling myself that tomorrow, I will write and tell everyone that I’m safely out, kind of like telling myself I have unfinished business and also to show that I overcame it. Many girls also wrote in to me about their personal ordeal, I realise I wasn’t alone and was glad I can be there for them too. Strangers who share similar fate. It dawned on me the awareness and reach my blog created and how little this subject is discussed which motivated me to write more.

Art was another source of outlet, in the form of painting and calligraphy. It brought alot of peace in me while I reflect on life.

After surgery, I had reconstruction issues and liver problems even till today. It was initially very depressing as I thought I finally came to the end of a journey. But I’ve since come to terms that cancer is a never ending battle and with this understanding, I learnt to trust that every problem has a solution, I just have to adjust and adapt instead of resisting. Willingness to change perspective sets you free from the pain of resistance.

I always tell myself that I’ve got cancer because I can handle. I came across this saying and it stuck to me “Cancer chose me but I choose how I want to live it.” There is life after cancer and I’m convinced it is a more brilliant one, for this illness brought me much realisation on life and I tried things I never thought I would.

I made sure to never feel alone,  I always say life is not a drama, so don’t push away loved ones like they do in dramas.

 

My fiancé is my pillar because I know this man is waiting for me to begin a new adventure so it kept me strong. He is so gentle and loving towards me, he was with me for all 8 nights that I was hospitalised, no matter how late he ended work, he will shuttle to and fro home-work-hospital just to be there. I remember how he volunteered to clean me and wash my hair 3 days after operation. I felt a little embarrassed as I didn’t smell good, not to mention the smell of blood too. That moment, I was in tears and glad that this man will soon to be my husband. He makes time for me, care for me, always goes out of his way without complains. I think this episode in our relationship makes us treasure each other more.

My family’s unconditional love kept me strong. My mum finally broke down a day before my operation. She told me that I have to wake up and many people are waiting for me. She cooked for me, bathed me and checks on me everyday. My dad rush to be the one sending me into the operating theatre, kissed me and reassured me. My sister gave me a tear jerking letter while they wheel me in. My little niece, even till today, asked after all my scars and kisses them. It was emotional but because of such ordeal, everyone expressed their love generously and with all the love I had a very successful operation.

This support also works the other way. Loved ones around you will feel very helpless, watching you suffer but not being able to relieve you of it. So I told myself that the least I could do is to be positive. When they see how well I feel, how I’m still making jokes and laughing, they felt relieved and more at ease. I blame this on tv dramas :p as they always portray cancer patient to be really weak.

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Q: How did bralettes affect life after diagnosis?

A: I always thought bralettes aren’t for me because I have bigger boobs but the day Chow lovingly hand washed the bralettes and delivered them to me one CNY eve, everything changed.

Wired bra didn’t house my reconstructed boobs well, it was always slightly uncomfortable and rigid so imagine my joy when the bralettes sat well with the boobies. I always thought boobs needed support in the form of wire but these gentle fabric nailed it. The beautiful lace boost my confidence, especially when I worried about how I look after mastectomy. Bralettes also allow boobs to feel ‘free’ and not restricted to the rigid wires. Freedom and beauty all in one, what’s not to love?!

I recall this initial period of discovering bralettes where I was obsessed with wearing it and got my clothes to match my bralettes not the other way round. I caught myself looking at the mirror longer when I’m in one too.

 

Q: Would you recommend women (breast cancer or not) to start replacing bras with bralettes?

A: I changed my mind about bralettes only after trying it so I actually bought my closest girlfriends one each, that bralette was named “here for you” it’s to tell them that I would be here and also to thank them for being here for me. The reception for it was great, especially for my friends who were mum.

OBC has grown so much over a span of one year. The bralettes now has so many choices and all from seriously taking in the feedbacks and preferences of customers. Padded, lined, clasp etc etc. I can tell the difference because I have so many from the beginning till now. So I’m definitely recommending it! It is pocket friendly so I like how comfort doesn’t come with a price.

More than anything I love that OBC promotes body positive and always has the human touch. For me, the values a brand embodies speaks volume because ultimately it is a business looking to have profit to sustain. When a brand choose to go through the hassle of doing good while doing business, you know the brand has heart. Somehow, I have the tendency to appreciate brands like that.

Q: If there’s only one advise you could give to young women out there, what would it be?

You are brave, braver than you think you are. You can handle everything thrown your way and you will be amazed at how you will be able to handle it, emerging from the dust a more beautiful version of yourself. Trust your heart and let it lead you with positivity, never doubt yourself. Even if things are bleak, trust that what you are doing will lead you places, meant for you, at the right time.

And of course, have the courage to take care of your well being. Do your self check, routine body checks and stay healthy. Early detection means early treatment and that is key to higher chance of recovery. Keep faith, fight strong.


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