This year’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month’s theme is ‘Together’ — staying together, supporting each other can help so much.

Everything happened unexpectedly for Chin Chui Yong. She skipped a regular check up, thought nothing of it and it came back to haunt her. However, the 65-year-old survived the ordeal and is grateful as she said the disease is actually a blessing in disguise.

An experience out of blue

More than a decade ago, Chin Chui Yong went through the most unexpected time of her life. She revealed that the experience became a blessing in disguise as it has changed her life for the better.

Despite going through a rough battle with cancer since 15 years ago, the 65-year-old Chin is glad to have struggled through and overcome her cancer war. “I am thankful because the disease changed my life. It leads me to many good friends from the Sarawak Breast Cancer Support Group (SBCSG).

Chin Chui Yong, 65 was diagnosed with breast cancer when 15 years ago. She was not aware that it was breast cancer until the pain became too unbearable for her.

“Initially, I couldn’t accept the fact and I questioned why me? Why was I the victim of breast cancer? But as a survivor, I am grateful for all the support given. In return, I have many friends and we get to enjoy life together,” she said.

With 2020’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month themed ‘Together’ — Chin’s story is the perfect example of being together, supporting each other and growing better together.

Sharing her experiences during a private interview at SBCSG’s Banglo Matahari Centre, the former accountant first gotten contact with the disease in her late 40s.

“I practice regular check-ups every year. And when I was 49, my family doctor checked my breast and said that the skin was thicker than usual. I didn’t notice it, but she told me to go to the hospital to get a mammogram,” she said.

Following the advice, she went ahead, waited for the results and was told that it was nothing to worry about. “However, the doctor did tell me to go for another check-up six months later. I thought nothing of it. Furthermore, I was busy, and skipped the check-up.”

The next year, Chin revealed that during spring cleaning for 2006 Chinese New Year, she felt a pain on her chest and discovered that there is a lump in her breast. “I didn’t think much of it, as I do have family members who would grow random non-cancerous lumps around their body.”

It was only on the fifth day of the festive season that she felt something was amiss as the pain began throbbing and soon after, unbearable. She immediately rushed to the hospital. After a check-up, the gynaecologist confirmed that I was very near to stage three breast cancer,” she disclosed.

Asked about how she felt at the time, Chin described herself as dumbfounded and confused. “How can I not be? The doctor told me I only have about five more years to live. At that time, my youngest daughter was only 17! I was so scared and I cried my heart out.”

According to Chin, it was so unexpected as her family had no history of breast cancer. However, her father was diagnosed with a different one.

Having support from the Sarawak Breast Cancer Support Group (SBCSG) helped her to overcome the dreadful journey of breast cancer. In returned, she earned valuable friendship.

Chin then underwent a mastectomy for her left breast and had 13 lymph nodes cut off altogether. The aftermath of the surgery to her was a horror, “The pain of surgery is nothing compared to six sessions of chemotherapy every three weeks,” she said.

On the sessions, Chin said the first two were nightmares. “I remembered in the first session, my urine turned bright yellow! After a few days, my hair started to feel dry and flaky then it started to fall. I kept sweating and my whole mouth was in pain from the ulcers I’ve developed!”

To make matters worse, following an advice, Chin consumed Noni juice — said to cure many health problems. “And I vomitted day and night! My stomach hurts a lot, and I had to be admitted to get intravenous (IV) drips as I was so weak!”

Recovering from that episode, Chin was advised by doctors to eat like how she normally would. “I was told not to stress myself, and eat normally.”

The second chemo session went similarly, with Chin vomiting throughout the day. “I was thinking about how was I going to survive six! The two sessions were already very difficult. I still have four sessions left.”

However, to her surprise, the third session onwards went by like a breeze, “I figured it’s because my body had gotten used to it. I no longer vomitted, and I could eat normally, albeit slowly.”

Amidst her journey, Chin recalled that back then all she did was stay at home. “I didn’t dare to go out. I was bald, and embarrassed to even go outside my house. I even asked my daughter to not take photos of me,” she said.

Fast forward to more than a decade later, Chin shared that she is grateful for the support she was given throughout her journey up till today. “I am thankful to SBCSG and also the government, for aiding us in providing silicone breasts. Also my friends in Guo Ling Chi Gung (Chinese traditional exercise) and SBCSG. Being together really changed me for the better. I never thought that I’d become happy again after all that I’ve been through.”