Cancer: Late detection is half the battle lost

We sent off ACGG on her final journey yesterday. I’m not sure if it’s because reality hasn’t sunk in yet or if everything has happened too quick but I know I was exceptionally calm and composed throughout her funeral in the last 3 days.

This morning, many thoughts kept pouring into my mind. I was able to put things in perspective and thought I should just jot down my thoughts and feelings as a note and lesson to self.

One and a half weeks ago…

I visited her just one day before she was admitted to hospital. Didn’t expect her condition to be that bad because she was still alert and talking then. When I saw her again in the hospital, she was already in a semi-conscious state and was hardly responding. Her liver function was at only 25%.

On Monday, I woke up with a very heavy heart like a wave of grief just hit me. I told my husband I felt funny because I had that same feeling in me when my grandfather and my best friend died.

I went to the gym as per normal and when I came home, I received a phone call from my father who was sounding quite distraught on the other end. Before he could utter anything further, I asked, “Did ACGG pass away?”.

During the funeral, we met her sworn sister and god-family and got to know that ACGG had long felt a lump in her breast but chose to keep mum about it because she didn’t want to burden anyone and she was scared of going through treatment and stuffs. Days went by, she tried to end her life by swallowing pills but to no avail. She even bought a cylinder of gas.

Under her god-family’s insistence, she finally sought doctor’s advice. By then, the lump had already grown to an alarming size of a ping pong ball. She didn’t just have a lump in her breast. She had another one in her liver which also affected her stomach. When her stomach grew so big and swollen, she couldn’t get up or walk and had to be confined to the bed.

Advanced stage breast cancer.

She had to be put on morphine to relieve her from any pain and discomfort and the doctors couldn’t do anything more because it was all too late.

I just want to share my aunt’s story with all of you because to me, I feel it has been a precious lesson. While I could understand why one would choose to keep mum about a health condition, we really shouldn’t take health issues lightly too because if we are not responsible for our own body and health, we are actually creating more pain and burden to our family and loved ones, not saving them from it. A lump in our body, regardless of its position, location or size, should NEVER ever be ignored. Even when we suffer from common ailments or extreme fatigue which we probably think will not be life-threatening, we can be wrong at times. Aunt A’s husband died from advanced stage stomach cancer within 3 months and the only symptom he had was tiredness (Aunt even thought he was tired because he was looking after his grandkids) before he got diagnosed.

For the ladies, it is important to do regular self examinations of your breasts to feel for any abnormal growths or lumps as well as schedule biennial (if not annual) ultrasound scans (particularly breast, abdomen and pelvis) and mammogram too regardless whether you’re in your 20s, 30s, 40s or beyond. Cancer can strike anyone at any age.

Regular health screenings are equally crucial. Common tumour marker tests will be able to detect any possible abnormalities in the body because most of the time, symptoms will only show when cancer is already in an advanced stage.

We had lost a number of family members to cancer in recent years. And their experiences had reminded me to take even better care of my own health. I did a laryngoscopy last week because of this big protruding lump (about 4-5cm in diameter) I have on the front-left of my neck. I’m scheduled for an ultrasound scan tomorrow and will see the ENT specialist again on Wednesday. I’m definitely worried that it may be something sinister but I’d still rather find out than not know.

“Don’t run away from it.” I will always keep this in mind. An early detection is half the battle won.

ACGG, you will always be remembered. Thank you for everything you had done for Gran. Rest in peace.


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