Icon Cancer Centre Medical Oncologist Dr Lee Guek Eng is passionate about ensuring cancer patients receive personalised care throughout their journey. She has a particular focus on the continued development of breast cancer treatments and further helping women of all ages during a difficult time in their lives. We sat down with Dr Lee to find out more.
Why did you become a doctor?
I didn’t start out wanting to be a doctor. My first degree was in Science where I did research work in oncology. It was then that I realised that I want to do more – I wanted to have more ‘human touch’ and to be able to offer comfort and help those in need.
I think oncology is a discipline which really comes face to face with life and its meaning. I feel strongly about taking care of patients who are at a turning point in their life. I am truly humbled and privileged to be walking the journey with my patients. While there are a lot of emotional stress and rollercoasters, patients teach me a lot about strength and resilience in the face of adversity.
Why did you chose to specialise in female cancers?
I chose female cancers and specialising in young women cancers primarily because of my interest in the topic and also because I can relate to my patients and want to give them every opportunity to receive the best possible care.
What are the challenges young women with cancer face?
When young women are diagnosed with cancer they are often at a vulnerable or changing time in their lives. They can be juggling work and family, all while navigating through other life commitments. Issues like fertility, genetic testing and financial stress are factors during treatment and into survivorship. They are also often more susceptible to psychological issues, so we need to be able to support them by connecting them with the right specialists, allied health professionals and support groups.
How would you describe the care you provide your patients?
I like to empower my patients to make the best decision with current evidences. A decision that they can live with and not regret after. I see myself as their counsel who is equipped with the knowledge to guide them through this decision-making process, balancing the pros and cons of treatment and also taking their priorities in life into considerations.
What do you think is important for patients going through cancer?
I think it is important to focus on oneself. Most of the time, as women, we may not be very kind to ourselves; we may have high expectations and take on various responsibilities at work, and at home. Upon diagnosis, I think it’s important to let go of all these responsibilities, and truly let yourself rest and recuperate. Be kind to yourselves, delegate jobs and responsibilities. Accept help from others and take it one step at a time. One of my favourite quotes from author Murakami: “The point is, not to resist the flow. You go up when you’re supposed to go up and down when you’re supposed to go down. When you’re supposed to go up, find the highest tower and climb to the top. When you’re supposed to go down, find the deepest well and go down to the bottom. When there’s no flow, stay still. If you resist the flow, everything dries up. If everything dries up, the world is darkness.”
What inspires you in the work you do each day?
The strength and the grace of how different patients confront their disease is a daily inspiration for the work that I continue to do.