Iconic Community / 18 May, 2022

Be brave to fight on

Icon Writers

How a positive mindset helped Julia through her cancer battle

Julia Koh has always tried to live a healthy and active lifestyle. In 2010 her world came crashing down when she was diagnosed with Stage 3A Lung Cancer. Twelve years on, Julia is now cancer-free. She credits keeping a positive mindset and the support of her loved ones for getting her through the tough times. As she reflects on her cancer journey, Julia offers some words of wisdom for people going through a recent cancer diagnosis.

“Open your heart and do not keep things to yourself. Feel free to share your feelings with your loved ones. Stay strong and positive to fight on. Life is always challenging and no one can predict what is next. There is no point lamenting why you are suffering this sickness, even though you may have eaten well and had a healthy lifestyle before getting cancer,” Julia said.

The initial diagnosis

“I couldn’t believe it. I was and still am a very active woman with so many things in life that I had not achieved and completed. At that moment, I felt like all my dreams and plans were ruined. I was 51 and felt I was too young to die,” Julia said.

“There were so many worries in my mind after I received the cancer diagnosis. I kept thinking ‘What if I pass on, what will happen to my loved ones? I have not completed my duties as a daughter to my mother, as a wife to my husband and as a mother to my daughters. How could I fulfil them after getting sick?’ I knew I needed to be strong to continue my journey and spend more years with my loved ones.”

The recurrence

Julia’s first round of treatment was successful, but less than a year after her initial diagnosis the cancer came back.

“The relapse was discovered at my nine-month review. I had to do a PET scan. The report showed that my tumour had grown bigger, and the cancer cell was more active and aggressive. The initial diagnosis was Stage 3A, but the relapse was classed as Stage 3B. I was devastated and couldn’t imagine the relapse coming so quickly. My emotions were in a downward spiral of panic. I really felt like giving up on my life,” Julia recalls.

Julia’s family sought a second opinion at Icon Cancer Centre in Singapore.

“My oncologist suggested that I should go for six-cycle chemotherapy to shrink the tumour. Once the tumour shrunk and the cancer cell subsided, the tumour was removed. The doctors and nurses were extremely kind and warm. They always encouraged me and the other patients to stay strong and played a positive role in the entire treatment cycle. They are like family members to me,” Julia said.

“During chemotherapy sessions, my constant worry was that my white blood cell count would be too low and the treatment session would be postponed. That would only delay and drag out my treatment and recovery. The side effects were also terrible. I had bad nausea, ulcers, headaches, constipation, bloating, coughing and spurs in my feet. My legs became weak. Every step to me was tough. Despite the side effects, I had to force myself to eat to gain the strength for my body to go on. I looked at my recovery as a task that I must complete and excel at, so I tried not to focus much on the side effects.”

Support from her loved ones

Julia said her love for her family and their love for her kept her going.

“My husband meticulously cared for me throughout the night, every night. When I coughed, without fail, he would get me warm water to soothe my throat. Before sleeping, he would massage me and ensure I wore socks to prevent getting cold. My daughters always tried to make me feel loved and happy. My aging mother was also very worried about me. My siblings were always by my side and organised gatherings to cheer me up. I work in sales, so my boss and colleagues helped to take care of my clients so I could relax and remain stress-free during my treatment. I wanted to stay strong and fight the sickness, so I didn’t disappoint anyone,” Julia said.

Julia continues to undergo yearly checks to monitor for any cancer recurrence. She is now thankful for each day.

“We should treasure every single day that God have given us. Be brave to fight on.”

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