Adidas KOTR Singapore – Conquered!

Happy to see my love near the 10km mark at Mountbatten!

Truth be told, I was super nervous about the Adidas King Of The Road run last Sunday.

Why?

1. It was 16.8km long, the longest race I’d attempted. And I had not run more than 14.3km before this.

2. It was a morning run. My first. I had to wake up at 5.30am. That alone was worse than doing 200 pushups at a go.

3. I had nightmares the entire night. One of them was that Tan Jee Say won the Presidential Election.

4. My “time of the month” had been threatening to happen the past few days. I felt “Aunty Rosie” ooze through the door as I sat up to turn off my alarm clock at 5.30am.

So, all in, I woke up with about 30% confidence I was going to make it all the way to the finish line without hitching a ride in an ambulance or something.

I got down on my knees at 5.35am and prayed. There was NO WAY I was going to make it through this race without the mighty grace of God, and I needed a double measure of it! My friend Rachel had sent me an encouraging verse the night before, from Isaiah 40:

He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak…
those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

I read those verses again and told myself, “Okay, at the very worst, just walk and don’t faint.”

But God is good and oh-so-worthy to be praised! The race turned out to be the best one I have experienced so far, and I even managed to run most of the way (I brisk-walked about 2.5km in total). For little old me, that’s an achievement!

I have the best husband in the WORLD. When I finally crawled downstairs, he had made a hot cup of magic Milo (his own recipe) and prepared a slice of white bread with Nutella for me.

(And he’d had a crazy night too: Saturday night/Sunday pre-dawn was the counting of the votes for the new President, and our kids Big B and Middle B stayed up till 4am watching and waiting through the recount. Yes, while their parents were fast asleep, not caring…okay, just caring enough that Tan Jee Say didn’t win.)

In the 2nd wave, waiting not-so-close to the start line this time.


When we got to Parliament House where we decided to park, we saw all the reporters staggering out of the Supreme Court, where the counting (and recounting) had happened.

Getting to the start point on Esplanade Bridge proved an adventure and a half. Many roads had been closed off for the race. When finally I managed to get to the Esplanade, it was 5 minutes to gun time. A quick kiss goodbye to my love, and I took my place. This time I was waaaay behind the start line, and had to wait about 10 minutes for the first wave of runners to clear the road.


There was a little bit of shoulder-to-shoulder action at first, as runners trickled down past One Fullerton and Collyer Quay before turning left into Marina Boulevard. But soon there was more breathing space as we trekked past the waterfront area of Marina Bay Sands.

At the top of Nicoll Highway, the U-turn at 6km. Look at them wide, wonderful roads!


It was really fun running the route, not least of all because Adidas pulled out all the stops to make it a trouble-free run. The race took us past Marina Bay Sands, down Republic Avenue and then up and down Nicoll Highway, U-turning at Mountbatten, and then again at the tunnel to Beach Road, before the final stretch through the F1 pit and down Esplanade Drive to the Padang.

The route to Beach Road, U-turning at 13km.


Not only were the roads closed off for this run (oh, SO nice not to hustle with 20 others on a narrow track!), Adidas (and organiser Hi-Velocity) was thoughtful enough to put up huge KM markers at every kilometre, and hydration points with Ice Mountain and 100 Plus every two kilometres. So any fear I had that I was going to be gasping my way to the next water point was quickly allayed.

My sweetheart Mr Threez had planned with me that he would be at the Mountbatten stretch to shoot me in action. So there he was at the corner turning into Stadium Drive with a big smile on his face, camera ready. Now THAT’s motivation to keep running 🙂 After the Mountbatten stretch he drove back to the Padang to wait for me near the Finish Line. *sweet*

It's true, I can't count.


There was such a great spirit among the runners, it was like everyone was in such a good mood. We clapped when we “met” the Closed Category frontrunner as he swept past us on the other side. We clapped for an amputee who was cheerfully running with his wife or girlfriend. We clapped for a really old uncle carrying a large plastic bag with drinks inside who moved real fast.

Great feeling running through the F1 track and pit!


The last stretch was really nice — we ran along the water next to the Esplanade and past the floating platform, before going under the Esplanade Bridge tunnel, and looping back to Connaught Drive to the Finish Line. I had set a target of 2:15 for myself, and I cleared the finish line in 2:10. I know, it’s Grandma speed but it was such a long mental journey, I wanted to finish ALIVE!

All in, an amazing race!
Apart from my thighs calling out “Some Tiger Balm here”, I felt great! My left foot, post-plantar fasciitis, was wonderful. I wasn’t aching anywhere else. It just felt wonderful.

Mr Threez was all smiles coming to greet me. “I can’t believe how fresh you looked at Mountbatten!” he grinned. I couldn’t either. Isn’t God gracious? It was exactly as Isaiah said: I ran and was not weary. I walked and did not faint. How powerful is the Word of God!

Check out the backdrop!


The Race Village at the Padang was picture perfect that morning, with multi-colored racing vests scattered across the green. Adidas even had two photo walls that finishers could pose at, and all the photos were mounted on Flickr for download by the end of this week. Mr Threez couldn’t believe I wanted a photo with the Supreme Court in the background, but hey, at least we didn’t shoot our wedding photos there … *wink*

All in, it was a great experience, this inaugural Adidas King of the Road: fab route, superb organisation, just-right weather. Definitely the best run I’ve had so far. I’d recommend Adidas KOTR 2012 highly!

I got cleaned up, pulled on a dry T-shirt and we trotted off to a fabulous breakfast at Boomerang. Yum!

Epilogue: The fastest man to finish this race did it in 51 minutes. The fastest woman did it in 1:04. Amazing! Mr Threez snorted at me checking my results. I love HiVelocity — on the evening of the Sunday run, the individual results were out on the website! Yesterday, I received a nicely designed email telling me I could check the full results. I finished at 2:10, ranking 775 out of 1878 finishers. I’m no elite athlete but I’m happy with how I did!

To me it’s a matter of meeting my own goal, and psyching myself to train for my next milestone, the Standard Chartered Half-Marathon!

Who Wants To “Outrun Cancer” With Me?

Recently, the church paper that I help put together has been featuring lots of people who shaved their hair in support of kids with cancer, as part of the Hair For Hope campaign. I’ve always admired the chutzpah of the ones who shave — my best friend Karen Tan the stage actress was the first personal friend I had who did it, and she never looked more beautiful to me.

I’m not precious about my hair but I think I should probably spare the world a glimpse of Bald Theresa.

Running? Now that I can do.

The Race Against Cancer happened a few weeks ago at East Coast Park. Organised by the Singapore Cancer Society, proceeds went to “various programmes, such as cancer treatment subsidy, hospice home care, welfare assistance for needy cancer patients, free cancer screenings and public education initiatives.”

Running being such a new thing for me, I totally missed that race. But I chanced upon these two upcoming runs today:

The Run For Hope website — sign up today!


The Run For Hope 2011 run on 20 November at Angsana Green, East Coast Park. This one is organized by Four Seasons Hotel and The Regent in aid of the National Cancer Centre and proceeds go to cancer research. I live in hope that before I die I will see early detection and prevention for breast and gynaecological cancers. I also hope to see effective new methods of treatment that allow a woman to keep her whole breast. I know it sounds like a wishlist but I can dream, can’t I?

There’s a 10K run and a Family Walk. And there’s a 10% discount for bulk registrations of 12 persons (come on, who’s with me? Come on…) It costs $40 per adult.

I am hoping to get friends to pledge an amount to National Cancer Centre if I run. That way, we can raise more funds towards research, and that to me is a great thing.

So leave a comment here or email me directly if you think you want to pound gravel with me for a good cause!

Terry Fox ran 5,373 km across Canada on his prosthetic leg!

Early next year there’s the Terry Fox Run 2012. Terry Fox is possibly the most famous cancer-survivor-runner in the world. At age 18 he discovered he had bone cancer in the leg. In 1977, he had to have his leg amputated. But where most humans would have stayed home and tried to live as easy and stress-free a life as possible, Fox embarked on a cross-Canada run, the Marathon of Hope, to raise awareness of cancer and a target of CAN$24 million for cancer research.

He ran the equivalent of a full marathon every day for 143 days, covering over 5,000 km on foot, before his cancer—which had spread—forced him to stop. Terry Fox died in 1981 but his Foundation lives on, as does the Terry Fox Run founded that year by the owner of Four Seasons Hotel Isadore Sharp, which is today run in over 60 countries.

This year was the 30th year of the Terry Fox Run (and I missed the run in January). I found the Terry Fox Run 2012 on Facebook and the date is Sunday January 15, 2012. Runners can choose between a 5K or 10K run. Flag off at Playground @ Big Splash is at 8am.

There’s not a whole lot of registration info available yet but you’ll know as soon as I know.

The official international Terry Fox Run date for 2012 is September 16 so I’m not sure if there’ll be another one.

Let me know what you think and if you will commit to one of these races! I hope I can gather at least 30 people who want to run and make a difference to cancer patients now and in the future!

3 Weeks To Adidas King Of The Road

A blurry photo of me running up the slope in my estate, taken by my son. It's not that I'm going fast, it's that the photo is blur.

Since my last whiny post, my foot has gotten better! Plantar fasciitis is no longer the giant demon it was last week. I thank God, the prayers of my family and friends, and my physiotherapist’s sage advice:
• “wear your trainers, you vainpot”
• “walk straight, don’t try to avoid the pain”
• “ice your foot”
• “take a pill for inflammation”

It’s time to strap on the running shoes and go.

It has been two weeks since I ran the Marina Bay run and my body is beginning to sound like its old, pre-running self:
• “Are you sure you’re okay enough to run?”
• “Your legs are really going to ache.”
• “You’re outta shape, babe.”
• “You’ll never make it up the hill.”

This is why runners say that running really is a mental sport. First, you’re mental for running so many kilometres when you could drive, and second, it takes extreme mental strength to keep going.

Often, the run begins to feel tedious and boring sooner than your body starts to feel tired. So the mind needs as much training – if not more – than the body, for any long-distance run.

“As a (wo)man thinks, so is (s)he,” says my favourite book.

Men's category still open for signups! Closing Monday 8 August, if you're keen!
I have exactly 3 weeks to the Adidas King Of The Road race on 28 August. I signed up right after the Marina Bay run, thinking “Okay I’ve done 10km, and I need to accomplish 21K at the Standard Chartered Half Marathon this year end, so… 16.8km sounds like a good mid-point to aim for.”

Crazy, I know. I really am mental. Especially since, after I put down my 50 bucks for KOTR, my foot became The Hulk.

I heard about this race from my friend and colleague Phoebe, whose husband, a phys-ed teacher, is running it. The KOTR is an 84K race split up across 5 cities in Southeast Asia: Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Each leg is 16.8K. I thought I heard Phoebe say she was running it, but when I bumped into her husband at church, he set me straight. He was running. Phoebe was cheering.

“It’s an okay distance,” he said, comfortingly. “I don’t want to kill myself with a full marathon! Killed myself enough in the army!”

It seemed strange to me hearing that, but I realised after a couple of days that, if you are forced to run (as opposed to being a sucker for punishment like me or my husband) your enthusiasm for running might be severely curbed.

I digress.

So I now have to get from 10K to 16.8K. Except I haven’t run for 2 weeks, which means, in truth, I have to get from 0K to 16.8K in 3 weeks. I have no idea how this is going to happen, but I sure am praying that my mind can follow my heart, and my legs can follow my mind, and angels can follow me and push me from behind.

There, but for the grace of God, run I.

My Foot!

It takes a lot to get me down, but I have to admit, I really am down this week.

And it seems such a very little matter, but it’s annoying the peanuts out of me.

It’s my foot.

My left foot: bandaged, bothered and bewildered.

What began as a typical muscle ache after the 10K run 10 days ago has grown into a pain that is driving me to tears. I probably shouldn’t have gone to Zumba class on the Monday after… or to Body Combat the next day…

By last Tuesday night I was limping like a shot dog. It’s been a week and I’m still limping.

My physio Chris saw me last Wednesday and declared it an inflammation of my plantar fascia (the muscle that runs along the bottom of the foot). She gave me calf exercises to do, and then did an ultrasound that helped the pain a little. She also told me to throw out my ballet pumps. “They’re killer for the foot, really bad!” she chided.

She also told me to ice it every night before I went to bed. And I was not to run for a few days, and no more Combat or Zumba till the inflammation subsided.

The next 4 days were TORTURE. I wanted to get well quickly and get back on the road. So I diligently stretched and iced and wore FitFlops, which do support the arch considerably more than my ballet flats. (Actually Chris’ instructions were to wear my Asics Kayanos all the time, because they support my arches, but I couldn’t bring myself to look like Dora The Explorer. Just. Could. Not. Blame all my years at ELLE and Female.)

Yesterday Chris gave me permission to go for Zumba, “but NO jumping! And wear your Asics, not your son’s wornout New Balance shoes!”

So there I was, moving like C3PO in Zumba class, feeling kind of like a vegetarian at Carnivore restaurant.

I saw Chris again after Zumba, limping really badly now because shooting pains had started zig-zagging across my foot.

She was openly dismayed at my pathetic state. “Why are you not wearing your trainers like I told you? Lie down on your face, I’m going to get your calf to be less tight,” she barked.

Boy, was that an understatement. She did a deep tissue massage — if you’re one of those suckers for pain who always feel that you didn’t get good value coz the masseuse was too gentle, you should go to Chris. It was such a deep massage I thought her fingers were going to go right through my legs and pop out between my fibia and tibula!

I had to exhale every time her hand pressed up—a little pain management trick I learned at pilates. In fact I concentrated so hard on my breathing that she said after a while, “Wow, you’re tolerating this really well!”

I gasped, “It’s REALLY painful! I can’t talk!!”

After the calf torture, I could actually walk a little better and limp less.

I was miserable at the thought of not going for my runs — if there is one thing I still fear, it’s losing momentum.

Chris’ advice was to go to the gym and do the elliptical, as it doesn’t impact the foot, and I can still get my cardio.

So here I am at home, doing my stretches like a good girl. Just downed two anti-inflammatory pills, and two Panadol for good measure. I hope and pray I can be up and running by the end of this week.

And I really shouldn’t be whining so much—I’d much rather have an inflamed foot than cancer! Thanks for letting me feel sorry for myself.

Beating The 10K Monster

A year ago, if you told me I was going to complete a 10-kilometre run, I would have laughed till my stitches burst.

So it is with no small measure of gratitude and amazement that I completed my first 10K run last Saturday: the Marina Bay 21K Run.

Pre-race at the lovely Marina Bay Gardens East

I have God to thank, and the incredibly awesome Mr Threez, who has not only encouraged me all these past 13 months since my surgery but has, since May, picked up running to keep me company.

It felt amazing to be running a race with my husband. It’s been many years since we pursued a sport together (pizza and beer don’t count, right?). We used to kayak every Saturday, but running was never my thing. He was the marathoner before we got married; I was the step aerobics fan.

So to be able to discover and share a sport 17 years into our marriage feels incredible to me.

Okay, so how was the run?

The run was organized by Epic ESR and flagged off by MP for Mountbatten Lim Biow Chuan. (Okay, I don’t really know why I wrote that, just that reading other runners’ blogs, it seemed the thing to do!)

I won’t pretend to be a hero and tell you that I breezed through it. It was tough going! But there was a lovely energy about the crowd, and what could beat the beauty of the riverside sights?

The women runners were flagged off at 5.30 and the men at 5.40, to give us chicks some room on the narrow tracks, I suppose. “All the elite and fast runners, please come to the front,” said the host. Being neither elite nor fast, I nevertheless squeezed as close to the Start point as I could because I just feel less discouraged when I don’t see a sea of people in front of me!

The women runners had a 10-min headstart.

One lovely perk was that the National Day Parade rehearsals had begun so we were privy to some of the colorful river-borne displays on the water as we ran. At 8pm that evening, after the gun went off for the 21K runners, the fireworks took place!

The route was a main attraction for many of the runners. Marina Bay East Gardens has a running track leading to Tanjong Rhu, so you literally are running along the river for most of the time. 23 July was, apparently, the first time that track was open to the public.

The downside to this route was that it took runners through some extremely narrow points – some that forced us into single file. There were also parts where we had to run on uneven grassy patches. For the full battery of complaints, including the lack of km markers and the not-very-well-trained marshalls (poor kids), you can probably Google “Marina Bay 21K” and read your fill. In the words of my “women’s run friends” who did not sign up for this race, “The goodie bag was useless and the T-shirt is bleah.”

But I tend to run for the route, not the goodie bag. And I loved 80% of the route. Of course, there were the dreary parts along Jalan Benaan Kapal where we had to loop around to make up the kilometres to hit 10K, but getting back along the river, and especially the final stretch from Tanjong Rhu back to the Bay East Gardens, was sheer joy.

I actually felt a great urge to sprint the last 50 metres toward the Finish line! And “sprint” is not even in my vocabulary! But seeing the seconds tick – and knowing that my personal best was 1:15 for 10K during my own training – I ran like a cat on fire to cross under that yellow gantry in 1:13.

The official results came out yesterday. I ranked 189 out of 898 women runners.

Compared to the Nike Goddess 5K, this was tougher for various reasons (aside from the obvious one that it’s double the distance!). While the Nike race was hard to run because of the prohibitive heat, the Marina Bay run took a toll on my body. For the first time I felt my quadriceps ache. My back started to niggle somewhere after the 7K mark and I had to stop to stretch at one point because it just got too achey to continue. And the exercises really helped because I could clear the final 2K without much issue.

The finisher's medal. It's rather cute with the Flyer and all...

I am so, so grateful that what seemed impossible months ago has actually come to pass. God is good! Now I know how Moses felt facing that big fat ocean with 1,000,000 children of Israel as the thundering hooves of the Egyptian army bore down on him and his motley crew. And how he must have been beside himself when striking the water with his rod, the seas parted. He couldn’t have been shouting “woo-hoo!” and taking his time to saunter across. He would have been more like “Thank you, GOD! Now quick! Finish crossing this sea bed before those chariots catch up! Hurry up!”

As for Mr Threez, who, unlike me, breezed through the run without as much as an “ouch”, the flame of long distance running has been fanned into a furnace. We’ve signed up for the Standard Chartered half-marathon at the end of the year.

Postscript:
As I write this, I am nursing a sore left foot. The run had left me with an inflamed foot but I didn’t realise it, and happily went for Zumba on Monday and Body Combat on Tuesday. By Tuesday night I was in agony. By Wednesday I was calling Chris my physio begging her to see me even for just 5 minutes and tell me what to do. I have a plantar fasciitis-type inflammation in my foot. Chris taught me two calf-stretching exercises to do, and told me to throw away the ballet flats I was wearing because they’re killer for foot injuries. She told me to look for “stability shoes” for my Zumba/Combat classes — obviously wearing my son’s cast-off New Balance cross trainers was not doing my feet any favours.

And I thought running was a low-maintenance sport, haha!

Can’t wait to get well and get back on the road…

The Girl Who Makes Me Scream

There’s one professional I haven’t had the chance to thank for aiding me in my recovery — and that’s because I kept forgetting to take a photo with her all the months I went to see her last year.

This is my physiotherapist Chris. She is the only person who has full permission to make me scream.

Me and Chris at Physionique, where she sets me straight!

After my surgery in June last year, I could barely walk. My radical TRAM Flap forced my body into a deeply uncomfortable pose — I was bent over and my right shoulder was thrust forward. I felt kind of like this:

After three months I’d had enough. It was torture sitting down and being unable to straighten up. It hurt at night to sleep. I couldn’t lift my right arm to get my clothes off my wardrobe rack.

Chris came to mind. It’s a story too long to tell but we had done a Nuskin business together many years ago in our lives, and I recalled she was a physiotherapist. I had never been to her professionally, but I knew she had an amazing bedside manner, and hopefully wouldn’t be too hard on me.

I hunted for Chris’ number in my phone — and amazingly, even after nearly 7 years, I still had it. Even more amazingly, she was still at the same number, and yes, she was now back to being a physio.

I went to see her at Physionique, a really cool, brightly lit physio and sports therapy centre at 8 On Claymore. I shuffled in through the door, and she was like, “What happened to you?!!”

Seeing Chris was great — she had not changed one bit. She is tiny but the woman is super, super fit. Toned arms, tight butt with the face of a 10-year-old. And she always had the best hair—funky, colored and spiky!

Chris eyeballed me with some sympathy—but not enough to go easy on me. She taught me to stretch my right arm using the wall (“Owwwww!”), to bend to one side till I felt like my really-tight-torso was going to rip open, and she would massage my stiff right shoulder with that mix of pain and comfort that only she can. She may be small but she is strong!

As the weeks progressed, she gave me “homework” to do—after every session she wrote down a list of exercises for me to practise daily. I would diligently do all the stretches she gave me because, truly, they made me feel more flexible and my posture did begin to inch back to some semblance of normality.

What a departure from my teen years when I was forced to undergo physio for two years at Tan Tock Seng Hospital. At the age of 12, I discovered I had scoliosis — a wedge-shaped vertebra twisted my lower back into an S-shaped curve (it’s still there) — and had to quit all my extra-curricular activities (including my beloved National Cadet Corps) because marching, running, jumping, etc was deemed to be harmful to my spine. On top of that, I had to wear a prosthesis in my left school shoe, because my left leg was an inch shorter than my right. And every Wednesday I would go with my Dad to his workplace at TTSH, do revisions till 10am, then walk over to the Physio department where my stern (but pretty) physio made me do an hour of excruciating and seemingly “stupid” exercises. I hated physio – I felt like a freak. But being forced to do the exercises did actually reduce the degree of my spinal curvature, and to this day there are a few of those exercises I still do whenever my lower back seizes up.

Chris brought all those memories back for me, only this time I was much better motivated to obey my physiotherapist! After seeing her for about three months, she released me. I had improved over the weeks, and as long as I kept practising the exercises I would keep getting better.

Yesterday I went to see Chris because I’m training for a 10K run in 10 days. I’m running up to 8km now, which is pretty good for me, but am experiencing stiffness in my right lower back, and a painful lump in my left heel. Chris was pleased and surprised to see I had been keeping fit — to hear it from her was gratifying! I mean, not many of us can tell “toned” from “skinny” but she’s a pro.

Chris said I’m just not stretching enough. She took me through some deep stretching exercises — I need to do them after every run — to help me decompress my lower back. For my heel — my Planta Fascitis — it’s a matter of not stretching my left calf enough. She made it sound so simple, but those 40 minutes I spent with her yesterday will serve me well for the weeks and months to come (if I do sign up for that Standard Chartered run…).

To begin with I was really, really happy that Chris did not tell me, “Sorry, Threez but running’s not for scoliosis patients,” which is something I have heard over and over again throughout my life. She’s a runner too, and she laughed when I told her I was glad she was greenlighting me to run.

As an extra treat, yesterday she made me lie on my face as she worked the hard knot out of my lower back — I ooh’d and owww’d a lot! Only Chris gets to hurt me like that, haha.

So, Chris, if you’re reading this, I credit you for my recovery. Whenever people ask me how I got back on my feet I always tell them I have an amazing physiotherapist who knows just what to do. You’ve been a pivotal part of my getting all better, and I’m so grateful for you.

Dark Day: Another Friend Diagnosed With Breast Cancer

Yesterday, a good friend SMS’d me.

“Just read your article in Lifewise. Looking good, girl 🙂 I just got diagnosed yesterday evening – “abundant malignant cells”. Doctors says chemo likely. My surgery on Wednesday to discover extent. Will be reading your blog regularly.”

My heart sank like a huge rock. I don’t wish cancer on anyone — but it really breaks my heart when the sweetest, fittest, healthiest people who really have no reason to get cancer, get it. And this friend is just one such. After my surgery, she came over for dinner and brought macaroons from ET Artisan Sweets (they really are artisanal — my favourite is the Black Forest with the brandied cherry in the chocolate ganache filling). She made me laugh out loud with her funny stories, including the one about how she signed up for a 10km run and was so unhappy with herself because she walked some sections of the route. I thought to myself, “I’d be happy if I could run 1km!” And now I can, because she inspired me to think it is possible.

Hers is the fourth case I have heard in two weeks. Two of them, thankfully, have cysts in the breast, which are being removed surgically. Another one hasn’t updated me… I really hope she’s taken my advice.

My best friend Karen had a scare too, about a month ago. But thank God hers turned out to be a fibroid, not cancerous in any way.

I have a feeling more cases of breast cancer are discovered in the month of October, thanks to the fact it is Breast Cancer month. And although it’s terrible to discover it, it’s still better than not discovering it early enough for treatment to be had.

I saw my oncologist two weeks ago (you can read about my latest dilemma soon at this blog). You might wonder why, after my breast surgeon Dr Hoe Ah Leong had basically given me a clean bill, I had to see an oncologist. Dr Hoe said he felt it was safer for me to get an expert opinion as an oncologist is a doctor that deals specifically with cancers, while a breast surgeon may deal with different ailments relating to the breast, whether cysts, fibroids, or cancerous growths.

In short, Dr Tan Yew Oo of Gleneagles concurred with Dr Hoe, based on my histological reports which showed that, given my hormones levels, it would not be profitable for me to go on tamoxifen, which is often prescribed for patients who have had one mastectomy and tested ER+ (estrogen receptor positive). Tamoxifen is understood to help reduce chances of cancer in the second breast. It’s also used in many preventive situations, including male breast cancers. (See here for more on tamoxifen.)

Anyway, Dr Tan gave me some useful literature on breast self-exam. I learned how to do a self-exam when I was 20 — my mom showed me, standing in front of the mirror. I realise that most moms wouldn’t (though I do plan to teach my 2 girls), and so it would be useful for someone who’s trying to find out exactly how to do a breast self-exam (BSE) to download this diagram and practise. I’ve been told the best time to do your BSE is just after your period has ended. I personally use the circular method — mainly because I’ve used it for 22 years!

Ultimately, I have to say that I think BSE saved my life. Even though it wasn’t quite a lump, I was familiar enough with my breasts by this year to know when something didn’t feel quite right.

Breast Self-Exam Diagram

Right now I am praying for my friend, whose surgery happens this Wednesday. She is a real “can-do” lady. I am very sure she’s going to pull out of this and she will have a long, fulfilling life ahead of her. I intend to live as many years as God will give me, and I know she shares my sentiments. So though right now, it seems a tragedy, this is not the end for either of us. We shall live on and fight.