Resilience and action in the face of fear
The words in the article title above are attributed to Robert Ingersoll. It is powerful, inspiring and focused on good. It moves me to share a deeply personal story.
13 June 2018 will remain etched in my memory for years to come. This was the day my life changed monumentally in a way that is still unfolding before me, strange and surreal. This was the day that I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
The pace of change was fast
Let me take you back a few months.
One completely random day in June this year, I found myself feeling a lump in my breast. It was distinct and clear that it was a lump. I spent a few days wondering about what action I should take, how I felt about this discovery and then decided to get it checked out. Not knowing was a lot harder to bear.
After a few mammograms and ultrasound checks, I was asked to get a biopsy done. The diagnosis was Invasive Carcinoma NST (Modified Bloom & Richardson’s Grade 2). A lumpectomy (removal of the tumour) and radiation were scheduled and a sentinel lymph node removed to check whether the cancer had spread further. Thankfully, it had not.
Two weeks after surgery, my oncologist advised me to undergo adjuvant chemotherapy. Chemotherapy effectively uses a host of drugs to kill cancer cells throughout the body. It is aimed at preventing recurrence and catching any cancer cells which remained and/or are undetectable with current methods. I was to complete six cycles of chemotherapy, each cycle to last three weeks. Things were moving at breakneck speed for me, which in many ways, did not give me the time and space to process all that was happening. I was still struggling to make sense of it all.
Changing things up
As a reader, you’re probably wondering why I am sharing this.
For a private person like myself, coming out and talking about this is difficult. Cancer, a cell growth disease, can be deceptive. People can look so healthy and yet be sick. At the same time, when you undergo chemotherapy, what could have been a private affair becomes entirely public facing because one of the side effects of this treatment involves loss of hair. You have no choice but to confront the stares, unasked questions and quizzical looks as you walk around going about your business with no hair.
I have a few reasons for making this story a public one.
In no apparent order, firstly, I have done so because of the hair loss. There is no hiding, no slinking into a corner with this one.
Second, (and for me, this is the bigger reason) my personal story is also a very universal one. 18.1 million new cancer cases and 9.1 million deaths due to cancer were reported in 2018 for both sexes, all ages, according to the International Agency for Research on cancer. 2.1 million new breast cancer cases and 676 thousand deaths were due to breast cancer in 2018. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the overwhelming majority of countries around the world, and 75% of deaths occur in low and middle-income countries.
Millions of people around the world – yesterday, today and tomorrow – suffer or have suffered from this debilitating disease. This means that the work – the vital work that needs to continue – into research and other breakthroughs needs to continue.
I saw an opportunity here to make a real difference and with your help, I am hoping that we can create some significant impact for those who will really need it. I have today launched a charity campaign for the next six months that sees me raising funds for cancer research. I am channeling all my efforts towards an organisation called Cancer Research Malaysia, an independent and non-profit cancer research organisation based in Malaysia which is funded entirely by donations, research grants and the public.
This is not just my story
The reason why I have decided to do this is because I want to take positive, proactive action to deal with cancer that goes beyond my individual experience. I’m hoping that the work I do to shine a light on this and the collective effort of many through donations, amplifying my message and discussions on this topic, will help drive a greater good that can only be achieved by a collective spirit and not just the one individual. This matters because we all can take action to make a difference, in whatever capacity we wish.
This makes it wider than the single experience. This helps me feel like I am contributing to something bigger than myself, and ultimately, it will make a difference and be impactful to many others.
This matters because this is not just my story – it is the story of literally millions of people around the world, people like you and me and their families. This matters because we all can take action to make a difference, in whatever capacity we wish.
It matters because this is both personal and universal.
According to Cancer Research Malaysia, breast cancer is the most common cancer and each year, more than 5,000 Malaysian women are diagnosed. You should know that breast cancer survival in Malaysia is the worst in the APAC region because of late presentation and poor adherence to treatment (even worse than China and India).
This needs to change.
I share this story, in the hope that by doing so, I can raise more awareness of what we need to do to take charge of our own health and that prevention, early detection and generally, facing our challenges head on is the way forward for all of us.
My request of you
If this story resonates, if your life has been touched by this disease in some way through family, friends or people who matter to you and/or you want to do something meaningful that will have an impact, consider making a donation (of any amount you’re comfortable with) and amplifying my message through social media.
As a perk and in gratitude for the support to those who donate, I am offering free 30 minute skype calls where you can ask me questions on leveraging LinkedIn, how to write your first article, improvements that can be made to your profile, content marketing and more. I am also making myself available to answer any questions on breast cancer, lumpectomies and chemotherapy, for those who are interested.
For more details on this charity campaign and to donate, please visit my Indiegogo campaign page at https://igg.me/at/rowenamorais/x/19625887
Feel free to reach out and connect or share any feedback you may or raise questions.
#takecharge #cancer #cancerresearch #resilience #courage
You may find that making a difference for others makes the biggest difference in you. – Brian Williams
This article was originally published on my LinkedIn on 22 October 2018.