KUALA LUMPUR: Cancer survivor Nur Aleena was 12 when she was diagnosed with the disease.
She had ovarian cancer but was not told why she had to undergo blood tests and get injections every two weeks. All she knew was that there was pain all over her body.
She said her parents kept the disease a secret from her until she asked them to tell the truth.
A surgery was performed to remove a big cyst. After that, she had to undergo six cycles of chemotherapy, which caused a lot of hair loss.
It took about a year for her to recover and she had to skip school many times.
But she survived and, for the next seven years, she lived a normal life except that she would often feel tired.
She studied hard and managed to get into Universiti Malaya to pursue a degree in business and accountancy.
But her world came crashing down when she was diagnosed with another type of cancer during her first year at the university. This time it was thyroid cancer.
“What’s wrong with me?” she remembers asking herself. “I was scared and I kept asking, ‘Why has the cancer come back?’”
Her parents lived in Johor so she had to handle her sickness alone.
“They would come to KL once in a while to see how I was doing,” she told FMT. “But most of the time, I was alone fighting this cancer. It wore me out, and I almost gave up.
“I was so scared I would cry all the time. I could not focus on my studies.”
Aleena said it took a while for her to gather the strength to go for treatment. She had only to undergo a surgery to remove the cancer.
She is now in her final year at the university. She never skips taking her medicines and she eats moderately.
“I’m glad I did not give up and I survived,” she said. “I know many people may have had it harder. Some probably can’t even find the cures for their ailments.”
Navi Indran Pillai was 22-years-old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I went through chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy and targeted therapy,” she said. “It was tiring, considering how young I was then.”
She managed to complete the treatment in one and a half years and was happy that she could live her life like other adult.
But the cancer returned last year, just when she was about to finish her university education in Melbourne.
“I was sad, but I knew I had to be strong,” she said.
She fought it by going through the same treatment she had when she was an adult.
She has since completed her studies and managed to secure a job. “Being sick should not define who you are,” she said.
Speaking to reporters at a fundraising event yesterday, National Cancer Society adviser Zuraidah Atan said early detection of the disease was important.
“Most people, especially youths, are not aware of this and don’t go for early screening,” she said. “They don’t think that people can be diagnosed with cancer at a young age.”
She said there was a need for more campaigns to create awareness among the public.