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It had always been Zoe Yap’s dream to have three children. Just one month after giving birth to her firstborn son at 33, she was shattered to find that her dream was no longer possible.

 

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Family trip to Phuket the same day after being discharged from the hospital to celebrate Zoe having "conquered" another mountain.

Diagnosed with rectal cancer, Zoe was advised to make the decision to begin menopause early. Little did she know what started as an asymptomatic diagnosis of Stage 3 rectal cancer would lead to a six-year ordeal with intensive chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and even surgery to remove the malignant and persistent tumour. 

The next year and a half was filled with intensive treatment of both chemotherapy and radiotherapy whilst having to live with a temporary stoma, an opening in the abdomen to allow bodily waste to pass through. While the tumour had seemed to have significantly reduced, it was a disappointing revelation when the tumour returned after two and a half years, this time, metastasizing to both of the lungs. Zoe spent the next few months enduring more agonizing treatments.

Upon learning that the cancer had resurfaced for yet the third time, Zoe now regarded surgery as the most acceptable treatment compared to the others. “Location is sometimes more important than size,” is a point that Zoe stressed in reference to the tumour. The tumour was found near the main blood vessel and the only option was to remove half of her right lung. 

After a year, the cancer spread to her left lung, but due to the location of the tumour, Zoe had to spend a few more harrowing months in chemotherapy. She mentioned that the pain was excruciating, and the excess painkillers taken only led to non-stop internal bleeding. Throughout this she never gave up and persevered through.

By late January of 2020, Zoe completed her final treatment and has been on remission so far. While her survival rate had devastatingly swindled from 65% to 20% by the end of her treatment, Zoe’s joy had only grown enormously. 

While sharing her story with other cancer patients, Zoe posits her point that, “We need to be a blessing to others,” and that, “When you are happy, people around you will be happy, too.” Zoe never once regrets living her life to the fullest and following her heart. Zoe is a strong believer that her purpose as a storyteller is to tell others about her cancer journey.

More than a year has passed since Zoe’s last treatment, and she continues to find ways to give back to the cancer community. Part of her strong belief in taking life “One Step at a Time” was largely influenced when she met Elil Mathiyan, a double cancer survivor and Patient Ambassador of Singapore Cancer Society (SCS). Zoe then joined the SCS SemiColons Support Group and gained further insights into how others cope with their cancer journey. The support group also gave her an avenue to give back to the cancer community by rendering emotional support to others.

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Zoe at SCS Relay For Life 2021, the second year in a row

 

Today, Zoe continues to choose happiness every day, laughing her way out every step of the way. She would like to advise those currently battling cancer to “follow your heart” as “you’ll never know what the future may bring.” She believes that if it were not for her cancer, she would not find such beauty in the world nor have the patience to practice gratitude and appreciation for her family members–her loved ones.


Article contributed by SCS volunteer: Zera Te

About the SemiColons Support Group

This support group aims to rehabilitate newly-treated colorectal cancer patients to enable them to adjust to a new quality of life. Members meet to share their personal experiences, exchange information, and gain insights into how their peers cope with their stomas and the common problems encountered.

Find out more here: https://bit.ly/2lIkDFv

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