November 6th, 2007Guage
Jus Breast Cancer Experience Part 2: Initial Reaction When Diagnosed With Cancer
By Chris Teo, Ph.D.
Ju came from a closely-knitted family of five sisters and two brothers. She was thirty-six years old when diagnosed with breast cancer in 1995 – a most unexpected and shocking episode indeed. It has been twelve years since her diagnosis and Ju is still doing fine. In May 2007, I conducted an in-depth interview of her case.
Q: Tell us how the problem started.
Ju: It was 1995. My son was only seven years old then. I always felt numbness in my right hand. One night while sleeping, I felt a lump in my right breast. I jokingly told my husband, “Alamak! What if this turns out to be cancerous?” I tried doing qigong etc. When I did it, there was no numbness. When I didn’t do it, it came back again. In those days, I did not read and do not know much about cancer. After the check-up, the surgeon confirmed there was a lump and advised a lumpectomy. So, I went in the morning to have the lump removed. It was a 4 – 5 cm tumor. Two weeks later, the doctor confirmed that it was cancer and I was asked to go for a mastectomy. I refused mastectomy. The first thought that came to her mind was: “Who is going to take care of my six-year old boy?” To most people, cancer is a death sentence.
Q: Why didn’t you want to remove the whole breast?
Ju: Because I always believe in natural healing. I believe that our body can heal by itself, if given a chance to do so. That was one of the main reasons. I also believe strongly in going back to nature even before my diagnosis.
Q: Then, why did you go for the lumpectomy?
Ju: I thought that something that is not supposed to be there, better to remove it.
Q: So it is okay to remove a lump?
Ju: (Nodded in agreement).
Q: But to remove breast?
Q: Apart from believing in nature, is losing a breast something that you do not want to happen? How would you feel as a lady?
Ju: I believe that our body is not permanent. Our body is only for us to use temporarily for a good cause. So, I am not very attached to any part of my body. And I have a very good husband who said that whatever I wanted to do, I should just go ahead. He supported my decisions. And for me, any decision I make, it is my life.
Q: So, you don’t mind losing a part of your breast? Removing a breast is okay?
Ju: Yes, but at that point of time, I said no. I felt that a lumpectomy had just been done. My body had hardly recovered fully and you want me to go for a mastectomy? That was one of the reasons why I was not for it.
Q: So, it is not so much of “my breast is precious” and I do not wanting to lose the breast?
Ju: I never felt like that at all.
Q: You mentioned that you believe that natural healing is the best. Did you grow up with this kind of thought? Was it because of your family? Or something that you had learned or was exposed to?
Ju: I believe in the way and life of Buddha’s teaching. We are all part of nature. I believe in karma too. Whatever has to happen has to happen. And it my case, it had already happened. So, let it be. The important thing is to live. If I could, my aim was to have a life and hope to see my son grow up. I started to read books. I learnt that there was no guarantee of a cure, irrespective of whether I do a mastectomy or a lumpectomy. There is no difference.
Q: When you were told that you had cancer, how did you take the news?
Ju: When I went back home, I was with my family. So, we sat down. My husband, my sister and all, and I really cried. I let it all out. The only person I did not tell was my mum. I didn’t want my mum to worry at that time.
Q: In front of everybody? Others cried too?
Ju: Oh yes.
Q: In 1995 when you felt a lump in your right breast, you went to the hospital. What made you decide to go for the lumpectomy? How long was the time between discovering the lump and going to the hospital?
Ju: Something like four to five months. Given a choice I wouldn’t want to go for medical intervention. But because after doing the qigong and change of diet, I could still feel the lump and a little numbness in the body
Q: When change of diet and exercise did not help, you went to the hospital. What happened?
Ju: I went to the Specialists’ Centre. After the surgeon examined me, he said, “Oh, very simple. Only the operation. Just come in the morning and in the afternoon, you can go back.” He scheduled it for a week later.
Q: Were you ready for the lumpectomy?
Ju: Oh yes! Once I made up my mind, that’s it.
Q: So you wanted to get rid of it?
Q: When did you break the news to your family?
Ju: After the lumpectomy after the lab results came back. I went to see the surgeon again with my husband and my son. My son was running around I can still remember that. The doctor did not stage my cancer, except that it was a very early stage. But he told me this: “If you do your mastectomy, I guarantee you that you will be cancer-free.” But I did not believe him. I am very skeptical about things. I did not go back to see him anymore. I realized that it was only I, myself who could take care of my well-being.
Q: This lumpectomy was it a family decision or your own?
Ju: I made up my own mind.
Q: Did he suggest any other treatment?
Ju: No. He said that a mastectomy was good enough for me.
Q: How do you find your doctor? Was he an understanding person? Was he nice to you?
Ju: Yes. He did not pressure me. He just did his job.
Q: Was he fair to you?
Ju: Yes. I voiced out what I felt and he did not react negatively.
The Cartesian Medicine treats the human body as a machine devoid of mind and soul. Doctors pronounce the diagnosis in a matter-of-fact matter and the removal of women’s breasts is nothing more than a routine procedure. Patients react to doctors’ diagnosis and prognosis with great emotional pains and distress. Ju “really cried” and let it all out this is something we encourage patients to do.
How a person reacts to an initial cancer diagnosis varies from one individual to another. Some even try to deny it. Others try to find scapegoats but in Ju’s case “whatever has to happen has to happen.” She did not wallow in self-pity or indulge in a blaming game. Her attitude was, since it has already happened, what then is the next step to move forward.
Religious beliefs play significant roles in helping patients to cope with their cancer diagnosis. Ju showed her Spiritual maturity when faced with the greatest problem of her life. In her case, the teachings of Buddha had helped her and made her realized that her body is not permanent and is only for her to use temporarily for a good cause. Indeed, if many of us can appreciate this “truth”, our world will be a great and harmonious place to live in.
Entry Filed under: Breast cancer
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