Former model and actress Lum May Yee found out that she had breast cancer last year but the jewellery designer was determined not to let the diagnosis get her down. As Breast Cancer Month comes to a close, May Yee’s story of inner strength has touched and impressed us all here at Mummyfique, and there is much that we can all learn from her experiences.
In this interview, she shares with us her journey and how she managed to stay positive even in the darkest of times.
Melissa Lwee-Ramsay: It must have been a really tough time for you but if you don’t mind, please share with us a bit more about your experiences.
Lum May Yee: Last year, just after I had stopped breastfeeding my second child, I found a little lump on my chest. At first I thought it was a milk duct but it didn’t go away. The doctors initially thought it was a fibroid but the lump turned out to be cancerous. I later found out that I had Stage 2A slow growing cancer and did four rounds of chemotherapy.
What was the chemotherapy like and how did you get through it?
The thing about chemotherapy is that it works, but that’s also because it kills everything in your body — the good cells, the bad cells and everything else. And it hurts. It really is as brutal as people tell you. You feel like death, especially the first eight or nine days after a dose. I couldn’t eat, had very bad stomach cramps and you have no energy at all. But I had excellent family support and that made a real difference.
My in-laws, who live right above me, were great throughout my treatment: they took care of the kids and made me soups. My husband would put the boys to sleep and ferry me to treatments, and my mum would come over every day.
My five-year-old understood that I was sick and he would hang out with me on the bed and talk to me. The younger one was too young to understand so maybe that made things a bit easier but I could have him on my lap and cuddle him which was nice. Although I couldn’t do much with them, just having the boys around made me feel much better.
What were some initiatives that you took that you feel helped in the recovery process?
After every chemo session, I would go for a session of bioresonance therapy to clear the blockages. I really believe that contributed to me recovering faster. I also worked with a trainer the minute I felt better to get my strength up. We did yoga, light weights, stretching and breathing, and I really feel that helped. I have gone back on a pre-dominantly plant based diet, I eat as healthily as I can, and I avoid processed food.
What were some things that you learnt from the experience?
What you can do in this situation, is be very positive. I definitely think that the kids were a motivation. I want to watch them grow up, I want to see them finish school, so I told myself, I had to get better.
Another key takeaway from this period for me, was learning how to manage stress. I went back to work part time when I could so that helped to take my mind off the cancer. I also try not to sweat the small things anymore. If I’m going to be late, I just say I’m going to be late, I don’t rush and I don’t stress about things like that. Let’s face it, what’s 15 minutes in the grand scheme of things?
I also learnt who my true friends were. I had very good friends who bought me nice turbans and scarves when my hair fell off and brought food over for me. I had a girlfriend who I wasn’t terribly close to but every day she would bring over bottles of Kangen water (ionised alkaline water) and my best friend did the school runs for me.
What advice would you give to other women who may find themselves in your shoes?
My advice is that you have to keep telling yourself it will get better. If you’re not positive, the treatment will just bring you lower. Just take baby steps, it’s ok.
And please, fellow women, go for regular breast checks. I discovered mine fairly early because I’ve always made a conscious effort to check myself as my grandmother died of breast cancer.
That awareness is very important and self-examination is very key.