A breast cancer di­ag­no­sis can be dev­as­tat­ing. Be­ing told you need A mas­tec­tomy is a dou­ble whammy. These fem­i­nine two con­ven­tion, women de­fied opted against breast re­con­struc­tion, and Nei­ther of them Ever felt less of a woman. Hoe I Yune re­ports

Herworld (Singapore) - - HW -

When 49-year-old prison co-fa­cil­i­ta­tor and ad­min man­ager Felicia Yeo-Chua was di­ag­nosed four years ago with cancer in her left breast, her doc­tor gave her the op­tion of a lumpec­tomy. But she wasn’t tak­ing any chances. “I didn’t want to be bur­dened later on in life with the pos­si­bil­ity of more lumps ap­pear­ing,” she says.

So, she made the de­ci­sion to re­move the breast. Her mother backed the de­ci­sion, and friends weighed in – some sup­port­ive, oth­ers in­cred­u­lous about what seemed an un­nec­es­sary course of ac­tion. At the time, Felicia was a new­ly­wed, and fret­ted that her hus­band would see her as no longer “whole”. As it turned out, she need not have wor­ried. “He re­as­sured me many times, even un­til now, that he loves me for who I am, and not how I look.” That, in part, helped her reach the de­ci­sion not to un­dergo re­con­struc­tion. As she was also keen to move on with her life, a breast re­con­struc­tion didn’t square with that pur­pose. “I thought I would feel bad about my body post­surgery, but I didn’t,” says Felicia, adding that she fo­cused on get­ting her health back, so she could have more time with her fam­ily. She ad­mits, though, that age prob­a­bly had a hand in it, and that she might have been more deeply af­fected had this hap­pened to her when she was younger. To­day, the scars on her chest are a re­minder of the bat­tle she fought to sur­vive.

In fact, Felicia and her hus­band re­sumed sex­ual in­ti­macy two months af­ter her surgery. It wasn’t easy, and she re­calls hav­ing to talk to her hus­band about her fears so he could give her the re­as­sur­ance she needed. Tears well up as she re­counts how con­sid­er­ate he was, and how he told her that he loved her. “His line has al­ways been, ‘You’re even more special now than be­fore’.”

“Breasts are just sur­face beauty. They’re not vi­tal or­gans,” says 50-year-old homemaker Jo­ce­lyn Gwee. Un­like Felicia, it’s taken Jo­ce­lyn longer to make peace with her de­ci­sion. When Jo­ce­lyn was first di­ag­nosed in 2016 and told she would re­quire a mas­tec­tomy of her left breast, she couldn’t han­dle the thought, and even got a sec­ond opin­ion. When the di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment plan were con­firmed, she knew she would have to face up to it. A dou­ble whammy fol­lowed when she found out there was a high risk of the cancer spread­ing to her right breast, and it was rec­om­mended that she re­move that one as well.

Af­ter the op­er­a­tion, her doc­tor sug­gested an im­me­di­ate breast re­con­struc­tion, and Jo­ce­lyn – who loved go­ing to the beach in pretty biki­nis – was quick to agree. But a week be­fore the op­er­a­tion, she can­celled. “I was con­cerned an­other surgery would be too much for me to han­dle,” she said. She was de­ter­mined to make peace with her de­ci­sion and live life as well as she could. Even though Jo­ce­lyn now has two 12cm-long scars across her chest, she doesn’t let that stop her from swim­ming, chill­ing at the beach, or stay­ing ac­tive. She’s sim­ply made ad­just­ments – swop­ping a bikini top for a tube top, not wear­ing low-cut or strappy tops which might ex­pose her scars, and buy­ing sur­gi­cal bras that al­low her to in­sert pad­ding so she can have a more tra­di­tion­ally “fem­i­nine” sil­hou­ette when­ever it suits her.

Sim­i­larly, Felicia – who has a hor­i­zon­tal scar stretch­ing from her left chest to just be­low her armpit – has ditched her spaghetti-strap tops, be­cause they ac­cen­tu­ate her miss­ing breast. But she still en­joys fit­ted cloth­ing.

For Felicia and Jo­ce­lyn, life af­ter their mastectomies means new per­spec­tives. “You’ve got to ac­cept your­self, and the sup­port that oth­ers – whether it’s fam­ily or friends – give you,” says Felicia.

Jo­ce­lyn is en­joy­ing life to the fullest. “You have to stay strong and pos­i­tive, be­cause it’s all about the way you think that helps you over­come ob­sta­cles and fears.”

“My life isn’t less full with­out my breasts.” “I learnt to take things in my stride.”

Felicia Yeo-Chua’s hus­band con­stantly re­minds her that he loves her for who she is, and not how she looks.

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