Issue 5 - Hope Springs Eternal

 

Nita, Stage II HER2-Positive Breast Cancer Patient 

 

“Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is, but always to be blessed:
The soul, uneasy and confined from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.”

– Alexander Pope


It is no secret or surprise that a cancer diagnosis is not to be taken lightly. We have all heard the stories. Apart from the physical toll, the mind and soul will also be tested, time and again. But as bystanders who have only heard the stories, most of the time, words of encouragement and support can only be deemed as lip service; for how can we possibly counsel those on the frontline waging war with the disease when we are simply civilians in the fight?


This issue, we meet a real-life warrior at war – her name is Nita, and this is her story.


Nita (left) and her sister

Modern Day General

When we met Nita, what struck us most was her spot-on embodiment of a modern-day warrior. Fearless and with full conviction of nothing less than a victory, Nita came across as the General of her troops, as her priority was not on the trials and tribulations of war, but rather, the well-being of her troops (other cancer patients) and how to prepare them for war.

Nita (right) and her son

56 years old, but exuding the energy of a boisterous teenager, Nita is a proud mother of two – a 19 year old daughter who is currently studying in the United States and a 17 year old son who is enrolled in the first year of his International Baccalaureate programme.

 

A lawyer by profession, Nita is currently a part-time real estate consultant who enjoys spending her free time playing sports, her favourite include swimming and taking long strolls, as well as chauffeuring her children around for their daily activities.


The Calm Before the Storm

On the surface, it is easy to look up to Nita and be enviable of her polished demeanour and effortless ability to juggle a pseudo-perfect family and work life. However, beneath her impeccably groomed fresh-faced exterior masks a story of strength as Nita is currently a patient of Stage II HER2-Positive Breast Cancer.

Diagnosed with the disease a year and a half ago, Nita said the news did not come as a big shock to her. Her young niece had just lost her newborn 3 days before her diagnosis and to Nita, the oxymoron between life and death could not have been amplified more timely, and she took comfort in the fact that she still had a shot at life.


Living life confidently

Taking Fate into her own Hands

To Nita, there was no time to waste. She took fate into her own hands by embarking on treatment immediately, registering her interest in suitable clinical trials. A very positive person from the onset, Nita took everything in her stride, even disapproving the use of a wig despite experiencing hair loss from chemotherapy, as she wanted to live life confidently, no holds barred.


 

Finding Purpose in Uncertainty  

Nita has since been through 8 cycles of chemotherapy comprising of 16 treatments over 24 weeks, 33 cycles of radiation therapy, two surgeries  and has even been hospitalised twice due to an infection. Now, she makes a trip down to the hospital once every three weeks for her treatment and through it all, Nita still remains upbeat, a huge smile on her face, as she tells us of her newfound purpose in life – volunteering.


Nita and her circle of friends

It all started with the frequent trips down to the hospital. While waiting, Nita would find herself surrounded by fellow cancer patients who looked bleak and distraught, their caregivers mirroring their despondent state. Through her interactions with some of them, Nita saw her situation as commonplace for empathy, however, where she saw light, they saw darkness.

Nita (in green) enjoying a day out with family

A Different Perspective

Having lost her father to bladder cancer when she was 32, Nita wants her fellow cancer warriors to understand that cancer is definitely not a death sentence, especially with modern day advancement in medicine, particularly in Singapore, where everyone, regardless of their income level or background, can seek treatment.

Nita (2nd from left) and her close-knit family

It is Nita’s ability to see the rainbow after the storm, the silver lining in the clouds that motivated her to help others and encourage them to draw strength and hope in their situation. Nita shares of how her friends take comfort in confiding in her, as she is blessed with the gift of providing them with a different perspective to their situation, for them to make the best and most out of it.

 

To Nita, there is nothing worse about battling the disease than bottling it up. Speak up, talk about it, find support, she says, as these will form pillars of support to help get through the journey.


Words of Strength

Nita’s words of advice to her fellow cancer warriors?


“Consider yourselves blessed that there are many treatments available, and know that every breath is hope. While chemotherapy is indeed a very trying period, take comfort in knowing that the pain is only temporary, and that you will bounce back after every treatment, stronger than before. Open up, do not bottle up your feelings and share them with your families or volunteers. Being diagnosed with cancer is not the end of the world, and you should be ready to handle it.”


Nita with her family aka her circle of support


Drawing most of her strength from her husband, sister, children, family and friends, Nita has this to say to the caregivers:


“Be strong, otherwise the patients will feel even worse about themselves. Constantly encourage the patients so that they can feel better about themselves, as this will give them strength mentally, aiding their recovery process.  With a strong and positive mind half the battle is already won.”


Nita (right), with her husband and two children


Nita also emphasises the importance of a nutritional diet, and recognises that it may be hard to maintain a good appetite while on treatment but she says it is very important to force an appetite in order to boost the immune system and facilitate recovery.

 

To wrap up, she leaves us with her favourite Carrot & Tomato Soup recipe which is not only high in vitamins and nutrients, but fuss-free and easy to make!



Feeling alone on your cancer journey? Nita is here for you. Feel free to drop her a call or text at +65 9646 0921 or email her at jhaveri@singnet.com.sg if you need words of encouragement, advice, or just a listening ear.

 

To learn more about Breast Cancer, click here.