Breast Cancer is the most common type of cancer among women in Singapore, with numbers on the rise. This Singaporean mama explains how goal-setting got her through the darkest moments
In honour of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Breast Cancer Foundation‘s #EveryWomanMatters initiative, throughout October we will be sharing the stories of women across Singapore who have battled, or are fighting, breast cancer. Today we hear from teacher and mother of two Jayanthi Kanagaratnam, 59, who was first diagnosed with Stage 2A breast cancer in 2014. With one daughter about to be married and another about to leave for university, Jayanthi was determined to be there for her daughters, no matter what sickness might throw at her. Read on for her inspiring story of determination and support from her family, and the importance of goal-setting.
Jayanthi K: My Spirit Will Endure
My name is Jayanthi K., and I’m 59 years old. I was a teacher for more than 25 years. Having majored in Humanities back in University, I went on to teach these subjects at school. My husband, Yoohen and I have been married for 31 years and we have two lovely daughters, Priya, 29 and Vinodini, 25.
As an avid history buff, and being familiar with topics pertaining to warfare, I was totally unprepared for the impending ‘war’ that I was going to face in my life. I was going to be up against an internal and faceless enemy! It was going to be a fight for survival.
In June 2014, whilst showering, I felt a strange swelling on my right breast. I made an ‘educated’ guess as to what it was but chose to ignore my spot on ‘diagnosis’. Four months went by and the lump grew bigger. It was very visible and rather unnerving.
I went to see my cardiologist for my usual appointment with him and he insisted that I was to be referred to see a surgeon at the Breast Care Clinic. Little was I prepared for the shocking events that unfolded after that. It was indeed going to be the mother of all battles for me.
After a biopsy was done, I was diagnosed with Stage 2A, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. I had been feeling perfectly healthy and did not even have a family history of any kind of cancer. My whole world seemed to be falling apart – my elder daughter was planning her wedding and my second daughter was preparing to leave for Australia to do her degree.
Although I wanted to just fall apart, I knew I had to hold it together and stay strong. As a mother, I felt I had to be brave for my girls. They needed me, and no one else could take my place. I was feeling a whole gamut of emotions but a determination to fight was uppermost. I had to fight to see my daughter as a bride and battle on to travel to Australia to see my second daughter graduate! My goals were set, my strategy was to follow the instructions given to me. The battle lines were drawn and I was going to wage a war against my condition!
In all, the treatment recommended by my oncologist lasted from November 2014 to November 2015 and that was surely the lowest point of my life. I was in pain much of the time and there were many times when I wanted to beg the doctors to stop.
I turned to God and my faith was seriously tested. I was angry, upset, bitter and I stopped praying for a while, too. However, at every step of the way I felt a strange ‘presence’ which would calm me down. My faith was gradually restored.
Fortunately, my large extended family of my mother, my five sisters and their spouses, my nieces, nephews and grand nieces, grand nephews kept me afloat through my entire journey. Everyone took turns to see to my every physical and emotional need. My nieces and nephews put together a huge gift box and within that massive gift box were smaller gift boxes that I could open only when I did my chemotherapy successfully. I lost my sense of taste but my second daughter consistently cooked special dishes for me before she left for Australia. To cheer me up, not only because of my treatment but because I was missing my second daughter, my elder daughter would consistently gift me flowers and keep me company. I had a constant flow of visitors and phone calls to take my mind off the ‘torture’ I was going through.
There were moments when I wanted to, but I never allowed myself to give in or give up. It is easier said than done but in reality, being positive moves mountains! The human spirit is indeed amazing. As long as you have the ‘I Will Not Quit’ attitude, despite the fact that everything is bringing you down, you will ultimately win.
The battle started in 2014 and now in 2018, I have achieved both my goals. My eldest daughter got married in November 2017 and I travelled to Australia to see my second daughter graduate from university.
In 2016, I joined Breast Cancer Foundation (BCF) and gained many new skills such as painting, crocheting, sewing, and Tai Chi. I participate in activities as a volunteer to raise breast cancer awareness through sharing sessions, and I gained a whole new bunch of amazing friends! My life has been transformed tremendously and I treasure and live by each day as a gift from God.
My battle with cancer has left many battle scars. Having lost my long, thick hair, I now have hair that is thin and rather sparse. I also have to live with peripheral neuropathy and my condition is being treated by a neurosurgeon. I have been put on hormonal drugs that have brought on osteoporosis and brittle bones.
But like any soldier that has been through battle, I can proudly say I fought the battle of my life and now I am fearless!