Before cancer, Elizabeth’s life was hectic. She was driven by her career as a high-level executive, whilst juggling her family and a newborn daughter until one day she experienced a painful dream and her life changed. After the life-altering news, her perspective shifted. What was important became clear.
Jaga-Me had the opportunity to interview Elizabeth about her ordeal with breast cancer and her journey towards discovering true happiness.
Jaga-Me: Why did you choose to go for a screening?
Elizabeth: I experienced pain which I thought was menstrual pain, but the pain even continued after my cycle. I had just gotten a new job in China and went for a health screening. Initially, I was not very committed to the idea but then I had a scary dream; I was on my deathbed and I woke up in pain and feeling a lot of regret. I remembered thinking “I am not ready to die”. This dream led to a nagging feeling. I scheduled for a slot with the doctor that very morning. By the evening I found out I had breast cancer.
Jaga-Me: That must have been very hard. What was your initial reaction to your diagnosis?
Elizabeth: Obviously, I was in shock. I was struggling to come to terms with it. With my diagnosis, I realised that everyone around me was affected, my family, my caregivers. They were helpless but they gave me the support I needed.
Jaga-Me: What treatments were you prescribed with?
Elizabeth: I was diagnosed with stage 3A cancer. That meant that the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes. I went through a breast reconstruction surgery, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, followed by radiation. Chemo for me, is the worst. Apart from the loss of hair, I felt really sick. I was lethargic, nauseous, had ulcers in the mouth and I became really weak. I had to always wear a mask so that I wouldn’t fall sick from being around other people.
Jaga-Me: How was mastectomy like for you?
Elizabeth: My doctor was a surgeon so I was advised for a surgery first – a single mastectomy. Mastectomy depends on your medical diagnosis. The main reason for the surgery is to reduce the tumour. It is not just purely for aesthetic reasons like a Breast Reconstruction surgery.
Jaga-Me: So, how did you feel about the Breast Reconstruction Surgery. Do you think it is for everyone?
Elizabeth: I am not sure I would do the reconstruction if I was given a chance back then. I was advised that at my age – 39 years old- there was a high depression rate. It was all a blur. Within a week of diagnosis, I was going for a surgery. I wanted it all out. In the surgery, the doctor took a muscle from my back to my chest. Don’t be in a rush, try to digest your diagnosis. Read up about it first. Know what is important for you, staying alive or aesthetic beauty? Without a breast reconstruction, you can still have a confident and happy life. You can define your importance and your happiness.
Jaga-Me: What would your advice be to other women going through the ordeal?
Elizabeth: I understand that not all women will have the same experience but what kept me sane was my faith. Prior to this, I did not have faith. I went back to Catholicism and I found the strength to come to terms with my diagnosis. I was able to deal with it and find larger meaning. I see it now as a life transforming experience in order for me to re-prioritise. I was chasing material things and worldly matters. Now, at 46, my life has been really good. That is true happiness for me. I just learnt it the hard way by surviving breast cancer.
Apart from this, I would like to say that genes only account for a small percent – lifestyle habits, emotional stress, lack of spirituality all contribute to physical pain that we carry for a long time. So take care of yourself and help someone else.
Life After Cancer
Now, Elizabeth lives in the hopes that her experience in surviving breast cancer will inspire others who are now going through the pain that she went through. She also seeks women to conduct regular breast self-examinations, mammogram screenings, and to correct their misconceptions about the condition. Most importantly, she hopes that more women take a step towards practising a healthy lifestyle – physically, mentally and spiritually.
At Jaga-Me, we believe that healthcare should be a social good – it is a basic human need, and should be available to as many people as possible. We aim to deliver the highest quality care through innovation and a commitment to building meaningful relationships.
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