Staying Positive Was Her Strategy
She Won with Family, Friends and Good Medical Care
My name is Christine Miljkovic, I am from England and I am 47. I am married, with three sons aged 12, 18 and 20, and returned to live in Singapore for the second time, in the summer of 2007, making a total of 14 years in Singapore. I would like to share my journey with you.
When I first heard I had breast cancer in March 2008, I was shocked and upset, but I felt from the very beginning that I would be able to get through the treatment and to live a long, healthy life afterwards. I paid absolutely no attention to the statistics about my survival, they are just numbers and I am not one.
I am qualified life coach, which means I have been trained on how to move people forward from where they are now, to where they want to be in the future. What perfect training for dealing with cancer!
I have always been a very positive person and decided to see the cancer as a temporary setback. I gave a breast cancer awareness talk to some British school girls and told them "I was taking a gap year".
The first thing I did was to be thankful for all the things I have in my life, and the fact that I have sunny Singapore to recover in; the Botanic Gardens to walk my dog in and my full-time maid, who is very cheerful. My husband Alec, has been very supportive and took over all the running around with the children. He organised all my appointments and came to almost every chemo session. This really helped me, as while you are having your treatment you can easily feel sorry for yourself and worry about the future, but instead we had a lovely time chatting and planning things.
It is strange to hear, but I actually enjoyed my chemo days, as the staff were also really nice. We went to lunch after the chemo as I knew I would not start to feel tired until the next evening.
I kept a diary of how I would feel after every round of chemo, so I could plan for the next round. I must admit, that apart from a few days each cycle, I felt pretty good most of the time. I went out almost every day, just for lunch with friends or a walk with my dog and made sure there was always something to look forward to.
I tried to keep the routine for the family as similar as it was before, I got up for breakfast with them at 6.30 every morning, then went back to bed when they were gone. I rested while they were out and was always there in the afternoons to show them that they had nothing to worry about and that I would be well again soon. If I was alright, so were they. My youngest son said he thought I was even more positive when I had cancer. I think I was the same; it is just that people are not expecting it when you are ill.
One of the best things I did was to join the Breast Cancer Foundation (BCF). Catherine Ng came to see me during my first chemo session and since then, I have been to many activities at the BCF and made so many friends. I was particularly impressed that I was immediately welcomed at every meeting even though I am an expat. Having cancer breaks all barriers of race, religion or class.
There is an amazing energy at BCF which you feel as soon as you walk in. It is a place where you know everyone understands how you feel without having to say so. I regularly get together with my local friends and have fun. We support each other, compare side effects, laugh a lot and don't feel alone. It is very important to be with positive people and those who know what you are going through.
I have recently joined the BCF dragon boat team and am having great fun with an amazing group of strong and determined ladies.
One thing I did that also helped me was to tell all my friends around the world that I was ill. I know that this is difficult in the beginning, but I know that they would have wanted to support me and they couldn't do it if I hadn't told them. I sent out an email update every six weeks and was very happy to receive so many positive replies, all full of encouragement, telling me how strong I was, which I needed to hear to keep me going.
My oncologist and his staff have definitely made my journey much easier. He was a pioneer in the field and is now a very experienced world class oncologist. He always has time for my questions and I never felt rushed. I have made lots of friends at the clinic and always enjoy going in to support others now. Funny as it may seem, the only memories I have of the clinic and care are good ones. My experience with cancer has definitely made me realise the importance of not only support from family and friends, but also the care of a good physician.
I always believe there is something to celebrate and marked every milestone with a small party of some kind, like the "End of Chemo Cake". Just because you have cancer doesn't mean you can't have fun! Supporting other people with cancer and spreading awareness will now be a big part of my life.
I believe it is fundamental to stay positive and remain active in all aspects of life. With this kind of attitude, the battle with cancer is half-won.
Breast Cancer Foundation
Helpline : 6356 0123
Website : www.bcf.org.sg
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
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