My name is Deborah Roques. I am a 29 year-old French woman who's been calling Singapore home for the past 4 years. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2015 and underwent surgeries, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and hormonal treatment. I'm in remission now. 

 

Back in 2011, while I was completing my master's programme in France, I requested my company to be transferred to a position abroad. I love travelling. 2 months later, I was sitting on a plane with a one-way ticket to Singapore in my hand. This sunny city would be my main base for exploring a region of the world that was completely new to me. I settled in for the life I'd always dreamt about.

A few years went by and I was making the best out of my life: I had a very exciting job with a team that puts a smile on my face every day; I make friends; I go out; I play sports; every month, I get on a plane and set off for new destinations around Asia. All that changed when I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the start of January 2015. I was 28. I've always lived a healthy life, so the idea of being struck by cancer was unimaginable. I've always exercised. My diet has constantly been under control with, you know, the essential basics: tons of vegetables and fruits, and a light hand on French fries and sugar. But then, one day, a cell took a wrong step.

 

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Were there any early warning signs? On paper, nothing was wrong. I made every effort to follow all the guidelines that should have kept me far away from hospitals. I had great working conditions and a fulfilling daily life.

But in reality, things were not that rosy. A few months before I was diagnosed, I went through a very difficult emotional situation when I lost a loved one. It caused great stress which I was unable to manage, or should I say, unable to manage well enough to safeguard my health.

I lost my appetite and my sleep. I lost 8kg in 2 weeks and I had so much trouble eating after that that I was not able to regain any weight. This was how I got caught in a vicious cycle: I started to exercise more as I had felt that sport was the only thing that could help me feel better and keep me afloat. It ended up being a mistake as my lack of food intake and sleep deepened my state of imbalance. I was exhausted. Yet, I could hardly sleep.

 

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Until that moment of my life, I could count on the fingers of one hand just how many times I had seen a GP in Singapore. Then, in a matter of 2 months, I went through so many medical appointments that I could have been rewarded with a loyalty card! I had multiple visits due to intense stomach aches, recurrent urinary tract infections, insomnia…I was aware that something in my body was wrong, but I just didn't know what.

I did not fully realise the major impact that one's mind can have on the body. A few months of stress combined with some kind of a breakdown, a few months of trying to manage a fireworks display of emotions, a few months of imbalance which I had tried my best to keep under control, those few months were all it took for my immune system to become weakened and unable to fight cancer.

Right after Christmas, just before setting off on my vacation, I unexpectedly noticed a lump on my breast. Straight away, I booked an appointment with my GP who sent me off to see a breast surgeon after recommending an in-depth medical examination. The appointment was set one week later. I left and returned from my holidays and went for the medical examination. The diagnosis hit me hard. At that point I couldn't understand what was happening to me, and I couldn't face the feeling of unfairness arising from that situation.

I managed to put one foot in front of the other and got out of that hospital. I immediately drew up a war plan. I am a fighter, and I want to live! But first and foremost, I have to survive. The first step is to understand the disease. I decided to take back as much control as I could over the situation – I chose my treatment and was determined to sort out what was best for me. It became clear that if it was my mind that threw me into that state of physical distress in the first place, then my mind can also pull me through it. I decided to fight for my own life. At that very moment, the cancer that was gnawing away at me had become the sole target of my war.


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These are the lessons I learnt:

  1. Get screened
  2. Listen to your body
  3. Don't over stress yourself
  4. Be conscious of your emotions and manage them
  5. Accept the events of your life

We all have this tremendous inner strength that, most often, reveals itself only when we are faced with the challenges of life. It is up to us to learn how to turn it into a positive energy that will help us get over the obstacles that life puts in our way.


 

Cancer does not discriminate. It can strike any one at any time. We first met Deborah when she signed up for Race Against Cancer 2015 early last year, shortly after she was diagnosed and was still being treated. We've kept in contact ever since. Deborah will be sharing regularly about her cancer journey every month as a volunteer writer for SCS, especially about how she's readjusting to life after breast cancer

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