Mothers beat breast cancer with support from BCF
Six weeks after she was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer, Madam Esther Da Silva, then 60, told her daughter that she wanted to try her hand at dragon boating.
She had attended a Breast Cancer Foundation (BCF) symposium, where she met Dr Donald McKenzie, a Canadian medical researcher who believed that the intensive form of exercise could reduce lymphedema.
Madam Da Silva and a few other women decided to give dragon boating a shot, partnering with BCF to start the team, and calling themselves the Paddlers in The Pink.
At the same time, she underwent radiotherapy.
Within six months, the team grew to about 20 women and men, including Ms Dorothy Esther Da Silva, Madam Da Silva's daughter and caregiver.
Under the supervision of a group of breast cancer survivors from Canada who were also dragon boat enthusiasts, the team would meet at 7.30am every Saturday to train for competitions. That was more than 16 years ago.
Madam Da Silva, who turns 76 this year, has since retired from dragon boating because of complications with her knees.
She has also been in remission since August 2002, six months after her initial diagnosis.
Ms Da Silva, 40, said that being able to paddle with her mother gave her a feeling of accomplishment.
"From learning to hold a paddle for the first time, to crossing finishing lines together, the experience has been synonymous with how my mum pushed through her illness," the executive branding and image consultant told The New Paper ahead of Mother's Day yesterday.
The BCF has more than 1,000 members, and between May last year and April this year, at least 523 women have asked the non-profit organisation for help.
Next Saturday and on June 23, the Community Mammobus Program will be heading to locations around Singapore to provide screening for women aged 40 and above.
These are free for first-time screeners who are Singaporean citizens, and $10 for repeat screeners.
Ms Anthea Kiu, BCF's general manager, said: "When a mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, everyone in the family is affected. "
Ms Anne Ang, 46, was one of the many who benefited from BCF's befriending programme.
Diagnosed with stage one breast cancer in September 2012, the self-employed mother of two underwent four rounds of chemotherapy in three months.
She also went through a breast reconstruction.
At that time, Kevan, her elder child, was taking his Primary School Leaving Examination. Micaela, her daughter, had just entered primary school.
When she was put in touch with a volunteer befriender from BCF, she knew she was not alone.
"I needed someone to relate to, and the befriender told me about how she coped with the recovery process and invited me to meet other survivors," she told TNP.
After her cancer battle, Ms Ang felt that her outlook in life has changed.
"During that period, I felt the need to spend more time with my loved ones. It's about getting your priorities right," she said.