The human body is an amazing thing. As long as you put your heart and mind to it, you can get to where you want to be.” For breast cancer survivor Charlene Koh, being diagnosed with cancer impacted more than just her health – she struggled with low self-esteem and lost her confidence because of the physical changes she had to undergo.
Charlene was diagnosed with stage 1 HER2-positive breast cancer in April 2019 when she was 35. She underwent a mastectomy and reconstruction surgery on her left breast, and thereafter did four rounds of chemotherapy, as well as immunotherapy.
“The recovery journey doesn’t stop when you’re cancer-free,” she notes. “With the trauma and mental challenges, it’s a long journey post-cancer.”
Mark Lin, manager of the Singapore Cancer Society’s Psychosocial Support Services, agrees. He has observed how cancer treatments such as chemotherapy can have a damaging impact on one’s self-esteem.
“Cancer patients who undergo surgeries that result in visible external physical changes, such as mastectomies, are more likely to be anxious. Symptoms such as hair loss, poorer skin condition, weight loss, and cancer-related fatigue due to treatment side effects collectively also impact a cancer survivor’s self-image and identity, especially for female cancer patients,” he explains.