You’ll Never Walk Alone

I started this blog in June last year after my mastectomy, following the discovery of a cancerous mass in my right breast.

Through it I have “met” so many women who have had to take the same painful journey as I. At one point I was getting three or four emails every week — women who were single and in shock that they had been diagnosed with breast cancer; women who, in the midst of a terrible divorce, received a second blow of a breast cancer diagnosis; women who are married with kids, and don’t know how to cope with running their household like they always have; children of women who are going through breast cancer treatment, whose love for their mothers drives them to find answers to the pain.

Every single one of you has touched me and amazed me. Your strength and positivity (even in the midst of great emotional stress) bear testament that women are built with an awesome inner strength.

I want to thank every person who has shared her story with me, and the ones who have left thoughtful comments. I have been as blessed by you all, as I hope this blog has somehow blessed you.

I want every woman reading this to know that you do not need to walk alone through your cancer. You can write to me and I’ll be happy to talk to you. Some of my friends, like Rosalind Ng, have been so open and willing to share their tips on coping with chemo and other treatments — I am continually awed by her, and grateful to have this “partner”.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked me if I would speak to a friend of his. She is in her mid-30s and discovered a cancerous lump in her breast at a routine health check. Being single she was terrified not just at the prospect of a mastectomy (which her first doctor suggested), but also at the uncertainty of the future. What would she tell that potential new boyfriend? Could she have children? Would she dare?

I called her. We talked. Her doctor had really scared her — she told her the bare minimum, and simply said “You better have your operation done soon.”

I suggested she get a second opinion, just like I did. Her second doctor suggested a wide excision (partial mastectomy), but the nurse that did her paperwork started psycho’ing her into considering a mastectomy (WHY would anyone do that??! I mean, isn’t there enough evidence to show that a lumpectomy followed by chemo and radiation can preserve the breast and inflict minimal damage to the patient’s psyche?).

But on the day she was warded, the doctor did another ultrasound and found a “suspicious” lump in another part of the breast near the nipple. So she was discharged, having been told to decide if she wanted to do another biopsy to rule out a second cancerous growth.

She was pretty freaked out by this time. So when she called me, I suggested she get a third opinion from my surgeon Dr Hoe Ah Leong, who was the one who managed to calm me down so I could accept even having a mastectomy.

Dr Hoe checked the second lump using ultrasound, and thanks to his many years as a breast surgeon, could tell her pretty much for certain that it did not look “suspicious” at all. Also, he suggested an alternative treatment for her — chemo first, to shrink the lump, then a lumpectomy. There was even a chance the chemo would get rid of the cancer altogether. She went to see the oncologist (same one I did, Dr Tan Yew Oo) and Dr Tan started her on chemo.

When we last spoke she sounded good, relieved and thankful that Dr Hoe had a good alternative for her. I admire her courage and her quick acceptance of what chemo meant. I have to admit I have at moments wished I could have preserved my breast… but my mastectomy was a journey I had to walk through.

I’m grateful to God that somehow, through this blog, He has enabled me to help other women going through the same pain and the multitude of fears and unanswered questions. My prayer to Him had been “Don’t waste my cancer. Make something good out of it.”

I’m glad He heard me.

If you have questions about breast cancer, or know someone who’s going through this who needs to talk, email me at theresa@word.sg. I’d be glad to help in any way I can.

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Zumba Zumba Zumba!

Last night my 12-year-old son came up to our bedroom.

“Whaddup.” (Momspeak for “you better have a good reason for disturbing me”)

“I just wanted to remind you to set your alarm clock so you will not miss your Zumba class tomorrow,” says my beloved firstborn.

*melt* I do believe he is going to grow up to be a gentleman like his Dad.


Obviously I must have complained a LOT last Monday about waking up late and missing Zumba. There is only ONE (1) Zumba class the entire week at True Fitness and it’s on Mondays at 9.30am. So, if I miss that I have to settle for the *yawn* treadmill.

I’m new to Zumba. This was only my 2nd lesson but I could see why it’s the most popular class on Monday mornings. It’s a dance fitness class that employs Latin moves (samba, salsa…) and it’s just plain fun.

Our instructor is a pretty Arabic-looking boy-man who adds to the fun, making the confusing moves look easy as pie (they are not!) and reminding us to smile.

The class is 99% female, save for the one young boy (I’ll be honest, I always wonder how come he’s got time to be in Zumba – doesn’t he have Poly to attend?).

Girls Zumba'ing in a row!


Girls have more fun — if there’s a place this saying holds true, it is at Zumba class. This morning, I was sandwiched between a first-timer (who kept up admirably) and an Indian lady having the time of her life. We smacked our arms against one another and stepped on each other’s shoes, but all it took was a laugh and a smile and we were back on track.

Some of the Zumba diehards look so good! In their tight cropped tops and mini skirts, they looked like they didn’t get enough at Zouk last night. Then there are the 40-somethings and 50-somethings, some of whom have six-packs that Arnie would kill for.

But it really is the energy and one-ness in this room of women that’s the draw. Everyone’s just there, together, having a great, wild, dancing, sweating, sexy time.

Some of the moves are Rihanna-sexy, and it feels safe doing it in a room with 30 other women.


You can tell it looks hot, coz outside the glass-doored studio, the men have stopped pumping iron and are watching the gyrations happening inside. (The girls who are wearing the least and know they look the hottest are usually the ones closest to the glass panes — rest of us are on the other end!)

Some of the spectators, I suspect, are wondering if they should come early on Mondays to join in the class. But seeing how it’s filled with women… well, it’s great to be a woman, that’s all I can say!

I do suspect it would take about 4 hours of Zumba to burn some serious calories, but for now I’ll settle for that 1 hour of estrogen-filled fun every Monday.

Check out www.zumba.com if you’re curious!

PS Don’t forget to make your pledge — Why it’s Great To Be A Woman! Click here to pledge (and tell all your friends — let’s make it 20,000 pledges by 8 March!)

Quick! Make your pledge!

Celebrating 16 Years of Lurve

Freeflow Moet is the only way to celebrate!

The trouble with having a wedding anniversary in early January is that it comes right on the heels of my birthday (Nov) and Christmas (Dec) and New Year (1 Jan) and just before Valentine’s Day.

Usually by 8 January, which is our wedding anniversary, my husband and I have “celebration burnout”, which means, we think we can’t drink another sip of champagne.

But who am I kidding? There is ALWAYS space for one more sip of champagne (or in our case, 2 bottles).

I met my hubby in junior college — a time many consider the “trial period” of relationships. After all, we were only 17 or 18 and this would be our first relationship.

But for us, we were classmates before any hint of romance ever clouded the picture. He was the king of GP in class, and I was put out that I was NOT queen of GP in class. After all, that was all I was good at — writing opinion editorials.

He wanted to be a journalist — and would have made a Pulitzer Prize-level one — while I wanted to be a lawyer. But as God would have it, he became the lawyer and I became the writer. I still say, to this day, that Walter Woon was the definitive factor in my career. Dr Woon had asked me at my law interview if I would defend a man who was a murderer, and I said, “Absolutely not.”

Apparently, my scruples were not pointed in the right direction for Law Faculty, NUS.

Anyway, we met again at the traffic light leading to Orchard Cinema (now Orchard Cineleisure and I’m not sure if there is a traffic light there anymore). I was now in contact lenses and had Shakira hair (read: I was irresistible, har har) and we started dating.

Fast forward: after 8 years of dating, we got married in 1995.

Fast forward x 16: After 16 years we are sitting, once again, at Fullerton Hotel’s Town Restaurant for the best champagne brunch in the world. I mean, the UNIVERSE.

The best fresh seafood in all of the land!


Freeflow Moet champers. Lobster tails. Fresh-shucked oysters. Sashimi that tastes of the sea. Eggs Benedict. And 50 cheeses.

Has it always been Moet and lobster? No.

It has been three kids — one premature who needed to be resuscitated. It has been marital fights that bordered on one of us moving out to a hotel. It has been his brain tumour and habitual headaches. And as of last year, it has been my cancer.

But through it all, God had a plan. We didn’t even know God till 2003. I was saved on 6 October 2003, a Monday afternoon at 12.50pm. And our lives (separately) and together as one in God’s eyes, have never been the same again.

Fullerton remains the same, but our conversations — as the waiter is topping up our 6th glass of champagne — centre around our Lord, and what He wants us to do, the places He has put us in to make a difference, the encouragement He sends in the form of people and circumstances.

Our marriage was good from 1995-2004. It became truly great from 2004-2011 and I pray it will continue to grow from strength to strength.

I can only thank Father God for this man who, as my partner, makes my life worth living, is the world’s best Dad to our three munchkins, is my lover, my friend, truly, my better half. I could not live this difficult life without him — and I daresay, he without me. We are one — God has joined us — and as one, we want to live a life that makes a difference.

Honey if you’re reading this, I love you. Words are grossly inadequate, but I love you as fully, overflowing, as my heart could possibly love. I thank God for you every single day, that there is another half of me to live this fabulous life with me, to chuckle at my inane jokes, to make orgasmic faces at my cooking, to re-watch X-Files DVDs with, to serve God together with, to help people experience Christ in their every day lives with.

Happy 16th anniversary.

Breaking in my brand new Asics running shoes — my anniversary present!

A Clean Breast Of It: 2010 in review

I received this in my email from WordPress last week — I love what they did so I’m posting it here. Enjoy!

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

The average container ship can carry about 4,500 containers. This blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2010. If each view were a shipping container, your blog would have filled about 4 fully loaded ships.

In 2010, there were 49 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 57 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 50mb. That’s about a picture per week.

The busiest day of the year was August 31st with 2,225 views. The most popular post that day was Sh*t, There’s A Hole In My Coverage. Make That A Manhole. .

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, offsprings.blogspot.com, diaperbag.blogspot.com, twitter.com, and wee-stories.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for a clean breast of it, acleanbreast.wordpress.com, zoe tay, hoe ah leong, and zoe tay breast.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Sh*t, There’s A Hole In My Coverage. Make That A Manhole. August 2010
33 comments

2

The New Paper Reports On A Clean Breast Of It And My Policy Woes August 2010
21 comments

3

About June 2010

4

Zoe Tay Plays Me! (Not) September 2010
6 comments

5

What My Breasts Looked Like 10 Years Ago June 2010

It’s Great Being A Woman

Happy New Year, everyone!

I’ve just passed the six-month mark since my mastectomy. Though I still wake up with some tightness where I had my surgery, I am 95 percent able to do everything I used to do, and I am so grateful for that!

These past six months, I have met women who have gone through different types of cancers and other life-threatening illnesses and incidents. I am amazed by the two things that unite all of us — the love for life and the spirit to “get over it and carry on”. There is no patience for moping or self-pity of any sort!

My buddy Joyce (left), who had a heart issue last year, is one of the most positive and funny women in the world.

I have also met men who have gone through surgeries for different things — while some of them are positive and have made healthy changes to their lives, I cannot say the men share the same joie de vivre I have experienced with the women.

It’s as if having a second chance at life has unleashed all their creativity and sense of fun. We compare scars like war veterans (except for the part where we collapse in giggles over games of “show me yours and I’ll show you mine”). We swop recipes for healthy, cancer-busting meals (and then some other recipes for “midnight comfort foods”). We encourage each other to live healthier — exercise, drink birds’ nest, take breaks from work, manage stress. We boost each other’s egos — my friends make me smile by telling me they never would have guessed I had a mastectomy because my breasts now look like an absolutely normal pair (from the outside, at least).

Maybe it’s just how God made women. Maybe we just have look-on-the-bright-side DNA. Maybe it’s our inbuilt survival instinct — we have to be our best, strongest self or how can we look after our children who need us?

Whatever it is, I know it’s great to be a woman. We are as strong as we are gentle. We are as intuitive as we are intelligent. We get to have babies, and our babies will always love us no matter how old they grow.

I’m blessed to have a husband who totally spoils me, who is my best friend, who laughs at my jokes and who makes me laugh till I snort rice grains out my nose. I’m blessed with children who know when to hug me when I’m down, who kiss me on my nose “till your chest gets better, Mommy”, who tell me jokes and get the punchline all wrong. It’s truly a wife’s and mother’s privilege.

My good friend’s mother, Aunty Mag, used to be a radiologist. When she visited me in hospital, she said to me, “You know, it seems terrible now, but breast cancer is one of the best cancers to have. Because when you catch it early it is in a part of your body that can be removed. If it’s colon cancer or stomach cancer, it’s far more terrible.”

In the bigger scheme of things, she is absolutely right. I didn’t even need chemotherapy or radiotherapy after my mastectomy. It’s great being a woman.

Post-script: Great Eastern is running a pledge campaign titled “It’s Great To Be A Woman”. Make your pledge at http://www.itsgreattobeawoman.com or click here! (You can vote for my pledge too – search “Threezframe”). For every pledge Great Eastern will make a donation to the Breast Cancer Foundation towards research and support for breast cancer patients. Let’s make it 20,000 pledges!