Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Dish of Hope

Share About My Friend's Journey


Issue 4 – A Dish of Hope

Yvonne, Stage 4 Nasopharyngeal Cancer Survivor
Yvonne, Stage 4 Nasopharyngeal Cancer Survivor aka The Foodie
Ask any Singaporean about the best part of Singapore and their answer would be the same – her food. Known far and wide for her culturally diverse mix of food bound to whet just about anyone’s appetite, it is hard to resist the tantalising spread of food across Singapore, which is no wonder why some would go the distance by travelling from the East to the West and vice versa, just to satisfy their food cravings.
Meet Yvonne, otherwise also known as a foodie, defined as someone who has an ardent interest in food and seeks out food experiences as a hobby. In the flesh, one would never think of Yvonne as a foodie; petite and unreflective of a person with a voracious appetite, Yvonne pleasantly surprised us with her love for food.
However, life for Yvonne has not always been peachy and her story is testament to not taking the littlest things such as eating, for granted.

Lost Childhood
 Yvonne as a young girl pictured with her grandmother, her primary caregiver growing up
Yvonne, as a young girl pictured with her grandmother

Her primary caregiver growing up 42 years old this year, Yvonne’s troubles began when she was just a young girl. Growing up sandwiched between her parents’ tumultuous marriage, Yvonne bore the brunt of a fruitless marriage when her parents finally decided to divorce. The youngest child in the family, Yvonne was cast to her grandmother, while her mother continued to care for both her elder sister and brother. Isolated and neglected from her parents’ love, Yvonne found love and refuge under her grandmother’s wings who took it upon herself to care and provide for her till adulthood.
A child estranged from her parents, Yvonne’s childhood was peppered with troughs. When both her parents remarried, she once again found herself caught between two separate families, with little emotional and physical attachment to either. It was as though she was the missing piece to the puzzle; even though she belonged somehow, but was ultimately still lost without any sense of belonging.

 Yvonne's children Sean, Dawn & Gwen
Yvonne’s children Sean, Dawn & Gwen

The Rainbow after the Storm
When she was 21, Yvonne saw a glimmer of hope when she met the love of her life, Eddie, through her cousin. In the blink of an eye, Eddie and her now share a beautiful marriage of 21 years and counting, as well as three lovely children, Gwen, Sean and Dawn, aged 20, 18 and 13 years old respectively.
Eddie, Yvonne & youngest daughter, Dawn enjoying a fun day out

A victim of divorce, Yvonne fully understands the importance of family and treasures every single moment spent with her family. She brightens up as she tells us of her family’s love for bowling and of course, their all-time favourite activity, eating! She giggles as she referenced her husband to being the “jest of the family”, constantly jostling the family into high spirits with his comical antics. Her voice lowered into a note of seriousness as she expressed her heartfelt love for her husband, and how thankful she was to have met him.

Yvonne with her favourite sinful indulgence - ice-cream waffles from Kovan
Yvonne with her favourite sinful indulgence – ice-cream waffles from Kovan

For the Love of Food
Yvonne then let us in on her favourite food haunts; a fan of local food, Yvonne’s comfort food come in the form of ice-cream waffles, chicken chop and steak, located at Kovan. She also delights in Xiaolongbaos, a type of steamed bun that originates from the Jiangnan region of China, found in Causeway Point shopping mall. Her eyes sparkled as she enthusiastically added Serangoon and Marsiling to the list, her favourite dishes there comprising of Hor Fun (a type of Chinese noodles made of rice), crispy noodles, bitter gourd fish soup and Wonton (dumpling) noodles.

A Twist of Fate
A trip down memory lane caused Yvonne’s lips to curl downwards as she reminisced the time when food was not her friend. The year was 2011 when she discovered swollen lymph nodes on the left side of her neck; a trip to her nearest General Practitioner diagnosed her with a bacterial infection to be treated with antibiotics. However, the swelling never subsided and one year later, to her horror, she discovered that the lymph nodes on the right side of her neck were swollen too.

Yvonne (top row, left) with her family & friends who helped her tide through the difficult times

A delve into her family history uncovered her family’s run-in with cancer; her mother was a victim of cervical cancer, and her sister, a victim of throat cancer which she eventually succumbed to at age 40. Yvonne was then scheduled for a blood test.
20 April 2012 – A date that remains permanently etched in Yvonne’s mind as it was the day Yvonne found herself diagnosed with Nasopharyngeal Cancer (NPC). Her world came crashing down as a biopsy revealed her to be suffering from Stage 4 NPC, a large tumour located behind the left side of her nose.

Yvonne with her youngest daughter Dawn
Yvonne posing for a wefie with her youngest daughter, Dawn

Tsunami of Bad News
Upon hearing the news, Yvonne found herself in the shoes of a young girl she once filled years ago, lost and scared. However, this time round, she was not alone. Her husband and friends were overwhelmed with shock and sadness at the diagnosis and to Yvonne, it was as though the happy life she built for herself was slowly crumbling away.
Another wave of bad news followed – Yvonne was told that she might lose her sense of taste and was advised to extract all her wisdom teeth before commencing on treatment. To someone whose life passion revolved around food, the news came as a huge blow. Yvonne vividly recalled how the news set her off on a food rampage to conquer all her favourite foods to prepare for the worst case scenario.

Yvonne celebrating her birthday with her husband, Eddie
Yvonne celebrating her birthday with her husband, Eddie

The Route to Recovery
On 23 May 2012, Yvonne embarked on her chemotherapy treatment that lasted over a period of four months. She shared with us her struggles as an inpatient; with the treatments often leaving her drained, fatigued and waned. Although dispirited, Yvonne kept her options open and never lost hope, even participating in a research drug study that used novel drugs aimed at shrinking tumourous growths in concurrence with chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatment.
Yvonne & her family who supported her through the stormy times
Yvonne & her family who supported her through the stormy times

The course of treatment was very trying, said Yvonne as she suffered from temporary hearing loss, blistered skin and an inability to swallow food and drinks. However, she found comfort in her loved ones who provided her with both emotional and physical support during this period. No longer having to fight her battles alone, Yvonne’s family and friends took turns to accompany her down for her treatment, a gesture she is truly appreciative of.
Yvonne shared of how she drew strength from her doctors, as well as the NPC Support Group, which she considers one of the biggest blessings in her life.

Yvonne (left) celebrating Chinese New Year with her friends

To Yvonne, the NPC Support Group members are more than just beacons of hope. Coming from all walks of life, battling and overcoming different stages of cancer, their forthcoming passion and enthusiasm to help others in the same boat has touched Yvonne’s heart and shaken its core. To her, they are now her friends, her family, united in strength and hope. It was with their support, that she got a better hold on what to expect during her cancer journey, and how to cope.

Yvonne celebrating Chinese New Year with her NPC oneHeart Support Group family
Yvonne (extreme right) celebrating Chinese New Year with her NPC Support Group family

After five cycles of chemotherapy and thirty-three sessions of radiation therapy, Yvonne’s perseverance has paid off. Fast forward to today and she has officially been declared cancer-free for two years now. Yvonne believes she walked out of battle stronger than she ever was, and has newfound joy, love and inner peace that have since shaped her perception of life.

A Dish of Hope
A survivor who has emerged courageously from battle, Yvonne now has a different take on life. To her, time is now tagged with a value, and every moment has to be spent wisely, on things she holds dear to, particularly spending time with her family and loved ones.
Apart from bowling and eating, Yvonne has also acquired a myriad of new hobbies under her belt, ranging from singing, swimming, zumba to yoga, healthy exercises that are beneficial to her health and personal wellbeing.
Yvonne (right) and fellow cancer survivors at the NCIS Celebrates Life Party 2014
Yvonne (right) and fellow cancer survivors at the NCIS Celebrates Life Party 2014

Still an active member of the NPC Support Group, the once introverted Yvonne has now broken out of her shell and relishes every opportunity to inspire and motivate others around her, to fight arm in arm with fellow cancer patients. She no longer lives life in the fast lane and has learnt to slow down and not push herself too hard, be contented and appreciate life to the fullest, let go of any misgivings and above all, live life in moderation.
Battered but not broken, Yvonne wants others to know that life is an adventure, regardless of the circumstances one may be in. A strong heart and mind is the recipe to beating the disease and the journey to recovery will reward you with strength, inspiration and hope.
Yvonne (right) at the finish line of a marathon
Yvonne (right) at the finish line of a marathon

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