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  Jessy Tai, 48 years old
Breast Cancer patient; housewife

I will never forget the day of my diagnosis, 4th October 2007. It was my husband who first noticed the lump and we rushed to the hospital the next day to seek consultation. We didn’t wait any further, opting to do a mammogram and a biopsy on the very same day.

The next two days were torturous as we waited for the results. I thought I had braced myself, but when the word “cancer” was pronounced, my guard broke and I cried like I had never cried before.

But one determined sentence from my husband, gave me the courage to fight my cancer. “No matter what, I will do anything to have you cured!”

And so our battle with breast cancer began with an immediate mastectomy. I wasn’t worried that losing my breast would make me less beautiful; I know my husband loves me for who I am. Beauty is not just skin deep, it’s more than that.

In time of adversity like this, I still feel like the luckiest, most loved and blessed woman on earth. My husband and children have been nothing but pillars of strength, faith and hope for me. When I was just recovering from the surgery and going into chemotherapy, my husband’s constant encouragement, hugs and caresses kept me going on. Not only that, he cooked meals for me and the family each day before he went to work. My children wrote encouraging notes and cards for me daily.

Our friends were also tremendously supportive, always offering to help in ways that they could. One of them did some research over the Internet and printed out a book on living with cancer for me. Get-well cards poured in, pronouncing their support when I was down. They really inspired me to get well and continue to live life.

I can’t wait to fully recover and to do things that I love again like line dance and going out with my family. With love and care from my family and friends, I know I will!

Leong Kok Ong, 58 years old
Husband of Jessy Tai; caregiver and lecturer

I was at work when Jessy called to break the news; the biopsy results confirmed our fear that the lump in her breast turned out to be cancerous. I was numbed with her sobbing momentarily, but I told her I would have her cured at whatever cost.

When we were advised for Jessy to undergo a mammogram, I was not perplexed at the fact that she would lose her breast at all. I heard stories of women who did not want to have their breasts removed for cancer, fearing that their husbands would leave them. This may be a reason why many women keep mum about their conditions which lead to fatality. I reassured Jessy that I loved her for who she is, not merely her physical beauty. Thankfully, she agreed to undergo the mastectomy.

From the day Jessy was diagnosed with cancer, I knew I had to takeover the caregiver role from her. As a wife and mother, Jessy has been terrific in taking care of me and the children. Faced with big shoes to fill, I was determined to do as much as it took to help her fight and recover from this ordeal. Together, we sought advice and help from doctors and organizations such as BCWA for information on cancer, its treatment and recovery process. We also spoke to some cancer patients so that we could learn from their experiences. They were very helpful and supportive; they even visited us to give moral support and encouragement.

It is never easy caring for your loved one suffering with a potentially terminal disease. All along when I reassured her and gave her encouragement to stay strong, I was also encouraging myself. In a way, we needed to be strong for each other in order to fight this battle. The children were wonderful and supportive, always writing her encouraging notes. Friends were also very kind in extending comforting words and help in whatever they could.

My experience has shown me that emotional and moral support is a very important part of caring for a patient. When a patient feels loved, he or she will naturally have the fighting spirit, to get better and to look forward to live.

Margaret Lee
BCWA Volunteer, cared for her late sister, Joyce Lee
founder of Johor Bahru Breast Cancer Support Group

Life has taught me many things. I am a volunteer at the Breast Cancer Women’s Association (BCWA), an organization that supports and guides women who are breast cancer survivors, family members of breast cancer patients, related professionals and interested persons.

My sister was diagnosed with 3rd stage breast cancer. The news stamped our lives with fear and anxiety. My sister on the other hand took it with stride and began her battle against cancer, learning about her disease and even becoming a member of the Breast Cancer Welfare Association (BCWA). After the surgery, she had chemotherapy and was put on medication. Her regular check ups showed she was healing and doctors were happy with her progress. She was in the teaching profession but due to treatment she went on long medical leave. She was so dedicated to her students that even during treatment she would drive to her students’ home to give free tuition classes for poor students.

Four yours later, the family moved to Johor Bahru as her husband was relocated to Singapore for work. There, she founded the Johor Bahru Breast Cancer Support Group to provide support to other women cope with the diagnosis of breast cancer.

8 years later, she had a recurrence of the tumour and this time it had spread to her brain. My sister and her family moved back to Kuala Lumpur as her husband’s work required him to be in Malaysia. I immediately offered to care for her. Her husband continued to care for her and their 3 children who were still schooling, work and to manage the household and finances. It was without hesitation that I chose to give up my corporate job for a consultancy position to help out and care for my sister.

I helped my sister with regular chores like managing the home and her medication. I would also read to her during bedtime and she also liked listening to her children’s day at school. The highlight of her day would be spending time with her children, talking or even just watching TV together. Her husband took care of her every night, once he was back from work. We would hold her hand or caress her hair when she was sleeping and at times she would smile in her sleep. We fought hard, but God called her home to be with Him. We bade farewell to her in April 2002.

My sister’s battle with breast cancer, the support she received from BCWA and especially her own compassion in supporting other women diagnosed with breast cancer through her Johor Bahru Breast Cancer Support Group, inspired me to become a member of BCWA volunteering my time and service in her memory. I suppose my decision to care for my sister involved some sacrifice, but I felt it was worth every second I shared with her. We always had a strong emotional bond as sisters and the time we spent together only made our bond even stronger.

Love is an attitude. Love is good will for the gain of another. When we put others’ interests before our own, we learn to love, serve and sacrifice. When she passed away, all her loved ones were by her side. She knew she was loved.

A Community Service Project by: Malaysian Oncological Society and Pfizer Malaysia - (latest update: 24-02-2011)