The breast cancer movement has come a long way. There once used to be very little discussion of the disease and the women struck by it, but all that has changed and it’s partly due to the efforts of The Estee Lauder Companies and their Breast Cancer Campaign (BCC). 

Today, the iconic pink ribbon is the ubiquitous symbol of breast health. It’s part of the movement founded in 1992 by the late Evelyn Lauder. The BCC is the American beauty giant’s largest corporate philanthropic initiative – one that is a global leading voice for breast cancer, igniting a worldwide movement.

The Campaign has raised more than US$79-million to support global research, education and medical services, with more than US$65-million funding 260 medical research grants through the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which was founded by Evelyn Lauder.  

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women (like all these celebs who have battled breast cancer) and it is increasing, particularly in developing countries where the majority of cases are diagnosed in late stages. Every 15 seconds, a woman is diagnosed with the disease, according to 2018 global cancer statistics from Globocan, which estimates cancer incidence and mortality produced by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, across 20 regions in the world. 

Breast cancer affects us all – physically and emotionally, men and women.

ALSO READ: WHAT SHE’S TRULY THINKING: CANCER SURVIVOR IN HER 20S

According to the Singapore Cancer Society, the most common cancer among women in Singapore is breast cancer, making up 29.1 per cent of all cancers in Singapore.

Breast cancer affects approximately one in 11 women in their lifetime (to age 99) in Singapore with 1,850 women diagnosed with breast cancer, and over 400 die from the disease each year. Majority of the women affected were aged 45 to 64. 

While the numbers may tell one story, the survivors tell another. Three women share their personal journeys to give others hope, confidence and inspiration.

 

Janet Ng, 44, makeup artist and business owner

On Janet: Cotton tie front blouse and pants, from Pinko

A double mastectomy is viewed by many women as a personal tragedy. But for Janet Ng, she took on a practical mindset that all is not lost – and she would be able to undergo breast augmentation thereafter. 

 “If my breasts had to be removed, then they had to be removed,” she recalls. I know there are women who have a deep attachment to their breasts, but I was alright with removing them”.

The 44-year-old makeup artist was not surprised when the doctor told her she had breast cancer in 2017. Ten years before that, she had a benign lump in her breast but it was a non-cancerous lump. 

In March 2019, Janet was diagnosed with liver and bone cancer. This time, thoughts of death floated through her mind, and she was worried about her 10-year-old daughter, whom she shares a close relationship with.  

Janet tells Her World: “Since being diagnosed with breast cancer, I feel that I’ve changed remarkably. I don’t let what others think about me bother me as much as before. I pay more attention to myself, and I withdraw from people who don’t make me feel happy.” 

A big part of her change is attributed to her family, close friends and a strong support group of people whom she got to know from Breast Cancer Foundation. 

The mother-of-one says: “We don’t choose to have cancer, but we can choose how we want to live after cancer. This is what I want to tell others.” 

Indeed, Janet had taken control of the situation when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017.

“I shaved my head before everything dropped off,” she remembers. “I prefer to do it myself, rather than see everything drop out and get stressed over it.”  

 “I wasn’t too bothered, to be honest,” she says of her bald look, wearing a wig to meet her clients. Janet set a one-month deadline to grief, as life must go on.

Keeping fit is paramount, and it’s one of the major changes in her lifestyle.

Janet, who also runs a bridal gown rental business takes walks at MacRitchie Reservoir and Lower Pierce Reservoir at least once or twice a week. 

She has also become diet conscious, limiting her intake of meat to once a day. 

Janet says: “Self-care is an important part of staying positive, too. I shop regularly for sportswear because one still has to look good while exercising. And I pamper myself with massages twice a month, along with occasional manicures. When you look good, you feel good.”

 

Photography Veronica Tay

Art Direction Alice Chua & Ray Ticsay

Styling Dolphin Yeo

Makeup Dollei Seah

Hair Ash Loi at Sonder Hair using Keune products assisted by Aung Apichai

ALSO READ: FIVE WAYS TO SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR BREAST CANCER AWARENESS

Vivienne Wong, 34, freelance singer and emcee / host 

On Vivienne: Crepe jumpersuit, from Club Monaco.  Leather belt, from GG<5.  Earrings and bangles, from APM. 

When she lost her hair to chemotherapy treatments, singer-host Vivienne Wong wasn’t about to let the illness stop her from being stylish. The 34-year-old took to Pinterest to look for creative ways to fashion a bald head with wraps and turbans. 

“I used them as a source of inspiration for my next look,” says Vivienne, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017. “My work gave me a greater sense of purpose, too. It was fun to put on makeup and my wigs.”

Today, Vivienne is a picture of sheer positivity and confidence. One would’ve never imagined that she had gone through a life-changing period when she had to undergo a single mastectomy on her right breast.

She recalls: “I told myself to cherish whatever days I was left with my breasts. After reconstruction, my breast would have no feeling. It’s just a silicon thing under your skin. I felt that things wouldn’t be the same with my body anymore. To stay positive, I reminded myself that my breast had a disease in it, and it was a blessing that it would be gone.”

Vivienne, who is single, tells Her World: “I want people to know that despite the disease, we are still us, and in fact, better versions of ourselves. I hope my story will help to add value to people’s lives and inspire joy in people around me.”

Her biggest challenge then was the inability to meet work commitments. She was able to sing through 10 weeks of chemotherapy treatments from September to November, which coincided with the busiest and most lucrative period for gigs. But from Christmas to Chinese New Year, she decided that singing would take a back seat. She was undergoing more aggressive chemotherapy then and she had no energy to work.

Vivienne had to withdraw from a show that she was scheduled to perform at the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, as she was overcome with extreme fatigue.

“It made me feel helpless,” she recollects. “I couldn’t sing because my throat was so dry. Then, I had a fever that dragged on for a week and a half.” 

Vivienne’s family and friends at Bethesda Church Bukit Arang have been an unwavering pillar of support.

To keep healthy, she has a new routine: Spending at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week doing cardio exercises on the elliptical machine, as well as pilates, occasionally. 

“I devote more time to resting,” she adds. “I used to overload myself with activities, but these days I realise that doing nothing can be just as productive.”

 

Natasha Sheikh, 43, volunteer belly dance teacher at BCF

On Natasha: Crepe jacket, from Club Monaco.  Bec + Bridge stretch crepe dress, from What Woman Wants

Dance teacher Natasha Sheikh did not want her illness to slow her down when she found out that she had breast cancer in 2015, and had to undergo a single mastectomy on her left breast.

Instead of isolating herself, she joined the Breast Cancer Foundation (BCF) support group to meet other women just like her, and later she had the opportunity to conduct belly dancing classes once a week as a volunteer dance teacher at the foundation.

Unique to BCF, the BCF Education and Empowerment Programmes (BEEP) is an integrated series is aimed at building the right support context for women with breast cancer. It is meant to help survivors regain their optimum lifestyle after breast cancer through teaching them self-management skills, relaxation and stress management and pain perception. 

BCF also has the Volunteer Befriending Programme, which aims to assist women diagnosed with, and survivors of Breast Cancer as well as family members and friends to cope with their feelings and to regain a sense of control over important aspects of their lives.

The 43-year-old recalls: “After I received the diagnosis, I headed to the community centre to conduct my regular evening belly dance class. It was a good distraction.”

The single, vivacious dancer adds: “Sure, I was feeling upset and angry at first, but I bounced back from all the negativity a week later after I came to terms with the news.”

 “Teaching is my passion,” she tells Her World, matter-of-factly. “It would be too much to bear if I couldn’t do what I love most. My income would also be affected if I stopped teaching.”

The initial months of Natasha’s five-month long of chemotherapy treatments tore her apart physically and emotionally. 

“I was frustrated and tired,” she recollects. “The main source of my frustration was the disruptive nature of the treatments that I feared would interfere with my career.” 

She adds: “One moment, I was happy, and the next, my mood sank dramatically. I never felt worse especially with the dwindling appetite.” She gradually learned how to cope with her emotions through self-affirmations and reminding herself to stay positive.  

Natasha, who lost her hair as a result of the chemotherapy treatments, says, light-heartedly: “I have learned many things during the process…I became an expert at handling wigs. It was a hassle at first. The wigs made my scalp itch, but as the days went by, I became more ‘pro’ with it.”

Even though Natasha leads a healthy and active lifestyle, she has also become more diet conscious. 

“You’ll want to eat healthily after you’ve been sick once,” she explains. “I say no to snacks and junk food. I don’t take rice and I rarely consume carbohydrates, too. My favourite foods include quinoa and grains.” 

With the support of her newfound friends, Natasha developed a more positive outlook in life. She is also a volunteer at the Singapore Cancer Society (SCS) to help run fundraising activities and events like the Race Against Cancer, up to twice a month.

“Volunteering has made me a much happier person,” the belly dancer concedes. “I have met people from all walks of life, and I feel blessed and grateful. The biggest antidote to depression is surrounding yourself with those who are positive people – and staying away from negativity.”

 

The Estee Lauder Companies

#TimeToEndBreastCancer

For more info, go to ELCompanies.com/BreastCancerCampaign 

 

Breast Cancer Foundation 

It’s the time of the year to go pink in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Breast Cancer Foundation (BCF) has kickstarted the annual campaign with many exciting activities this month.

 

Wear The Pink Ribbon!

The pins are available from October 1 for a minimum donation of $2 (basic design) or S$5 (premium design). Visit http://pinkribbonsingapore.org/get-a-ribbon for more info. #wearthepinkribbonsg

 

Photography Veronica Tay

Art Direction Alice Chua & Ray Ticsay

Styling Dolphin Yeo

Makeup Dollei Seah

Hair Ash Loi at Sonder Hair using Keune products assisted by Aung Apichai

ALSO READ: FIVE WAYS TO SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR BREAST CANCER AWARENESS