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Slogging arduously for hours over her office desk, Cherrie Ho, 49, was a self-identified workaholic. Time for family, friends and even herself were thrown in the backburner as she prioritised nothing but her career as a business manager and the success of her company. But everything changed when she was diagnosed with cancer. 

 

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It had all started when she underwent hysterectomy to address the fibroids found in her uterus. A further scan and biopsy revealed that these fibroids were malignant and she was diagnosed with uterine leiomyosarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer. In utter disbelief, Cherrie could not fathom how her fate had played out, especially since she was into a healthy lifestyle and conscious diet. But she refused to let this break her momentum as she continued to work tirelessly albeit her circumstances - opting to work from home and even at times still returning  to her office.

She was never once resentful or anguished about life, and proceeded willingly with her chemotherapy. However, the cancer eventually took a toll on her body as it entered stage 4, with metastasis spreading to her lungs. She recalled the time where she could not even bathe herself, requiring the assistance of nurses and family members. This spiralled even further as she was inflicted with a pneumothorax after receiving ablation treatment for her metastasis. The resulting collapsed lung induced insurmountable dread and despair as she gasped for her life, thinking every breath could be her last. 

Cherrie broadened her view on life and learned to appreciate things that truly mattered. “Life shouldn’t be work-centric. Life is meaningless if we only focus on one thing. Much less materialistic pursuits”, Cherrie advised with utmost wisdom and sagacity. Looking back on how every moment of life has its inextricable beauty, Cherrie is resolved to live every minute conscientiously appreciating the present. 

During this time, she also connected with the Singapore Cancer Society Rehabilitation Center to bolster her recovery. With the assistance from Singapore Cancer Society (SCS), she was able to air her worries, putting her mind more at ease with her situation while also connecting with others who faced similar predicaments. Through progressive exercises and therapy, she also had ample opportunities with physiotherapists to steadily return her strength back to normalcy. While the entire recovery process was often frustrating, it was like “chalk and cheese” to Cherrie, who could pin her hopes on this support group than to go through recovery without one.

She began to spend more time focusing on her own personal well-being. Cherrie posits that the idea of loving oneself first is crucial in order to love others. The many precedents that map her journey can be a testament to that, as Cherrie began contributing to her community and inspiring meaning in those around her when she realised the importance of her experiences.

One of the many initiatives she takes part in is the Singapore Cancer Society-TalkMed Relay For Life when she chanced upon SCS’s instagram page @sgcancersociety. She assembled her own team with her closest friends to participate. This year they are taking on the apt mantle of “Faith, Hope, Love”, in a bid to personify a positive message for all cancer patients and survivors. Cherrie even took the effort to design the logo herself.

From a point where she found it hard to even stand, Cherrie was now jogging an unimaginable distance of 100km - a feat truly to be admired. However, the true highlight according to Cherrie was not her personal achievements, but the unyielding support from her fellow peers who fervently pounced at the opportunity to support SCS.

Cherrie has also developed a newfound love for learning. Picking up a multitude of hobbies such as sour-dough bread baking, photography and healthy cooking. She thoroughly believes that learning promotes a healthy mental environment crucial in battling cancer. Cherrie even decided to utilise social media by using instagram as a platform to document her entire cancer journey and in effect, raising awareness on @sakura.cherrie

From experiencing the judgement of others in the public eye to negative responses on social media, Cherrie understands the importance of breaking away the social stigma around cancer. 

“We do not need to be sympathised. What we rather need is empathy - for others to understand what we go through, and the side-effects treatment for cancer can cause,” she commented. Hopeful that perceptions of cancer may change, Cherrie remains optimistic.

We wondered how Cherrie was able to persevere despite all the judgement and pain that came from a cancer beyond her control. To which, Cherrie laughed and told us it was no secret but a matter of the mind and positive lifestyle habits. Even a relapse of stage 4 cancer did not phase her and she encourages others to do the same, taking cancer and treatments head-on, battling cancer for what it is. 

“A stage 4 relapse is not a death sentence! If you keep your mind on its course, your willpower can overcome anything! Do not succumb to fear. Believe, and everything will fall into place!” 

She would like to reach out to all survivors and patients currently struggling with cancer with a few simple words of advice. Firstly, exercise as much as possible for the physical and psychological benefits. Secondly, eat healthy as the body requires proper nutrition to bolster its immune system. Lastly, it’s not about how long your life is, but how you live it!


Article contributed by : SCS volunteers: Ian Chia and Nathaniel Chin

Support Cherrie and her team for RFL. Fundraising ends 31 March 2021.

Find out more about volunteering with SCS here

 

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