On a bright and sunny Monday morning, we had the privilege to meet Summer Ng, 30, a cervical cancer survivor. Upon entering her humble abode, I instantly experienced a sense of tranquillity and calmness. Her house exudes a cosy and serene vibe, accented by notes of modernity.
Dressed in a comfortable white top and blue midi skirt, we were greeted by Summer’s warm smile. Just by looking at her radiant face, one could never tell the battles she had fought through.
Summer was only 24 when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Like many others, it never occurred to Summer that cervical cancer can affect young and healthy adults; it came as a shock to those who heard about her diagnosis.
Accepting the Cancer Diagnosis
In 2016, Summer experienced unusual bleeding after intercourse and decided to go for a check-up six months later. Her world changed in an instant when she was told what her diagnosis was — it was cancer.
“When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I felt like my life stopped for a while. I lost my direction in life and was unable to see my future. It was terrifying not being able to see the path in front of you.” She recounted.
After discovering she had cancer, her oncologist advised her to undergo a hysterectomy, which is a surgical procedure to remove the womb. Summer was shattered as it meant that she will never be able to have children of her own, a dream that she had ever since her childhood.
“Removing my womb is like crushing my dreams.” She said in an exasperated tone. Summer took a chance with her life and decided to keep her womb and underwent surgery to remove only her cervix. While the surgery was a success, the cancer returned in 2017 and 2018.
Overcoming the Ordeal
Learning that you have cancer is a difficult experience; Plans and dreams take a backseat as one embarks on a pursuit of survival.
“We all have our moments where we self-pity. Why did this occur to me? How can I remain positive?” Summer would constantly question herself.
Summer only told her family about her cancer diagnosis when she went for surgery to remove her cervix. Though shocking to hear, it showed her level of maturity and independence, and our admiration for her grew tenfold.
“Some people need the care and concern, the constant (reassurance), but for me, I don’t like that. I coped with it (cancer diagnosis) myself. I am not comfortable to have someone beside me, worrying unnecessarily when they are in a powerless position.”
As compared to the first cancer diagnosis, coping with the news that she had cancer for the third time was devasting and even tougher to handle. Summer said that she felt like she was losing control of her life as it felt like a never-ending loop that she could not break free from. While battling cervical cancer for four years, she experienced times of distress and went through a wide range of strong emotions such as disbelief, fear, anger, hopelessness.
In 2019, she went to Europe for half a year. Despite her doctor and family’s disapproval, Summer knew that a self-healing journey was exactly what she needed; It was a respite from all her treatment and doctor visits, and planning for a trip gave Summer something she could look forward to.
During her trip, she had a four week stay in the Netherlands, where she did two weeks of farm work in a small village at Brummen. “After working at the farm, I begin to have this sense of gratitude and appreciation. I started missing home on my third week. To be honest, I never thought that I will miss home because I have been dreaming of having this trip for many years. Thank you, Netherlands, for letting me find out that deep inside, I actually love my family very much.” She said.
This trip was a turning point for Summer; It was one that strengthened her resolve in her fight against cancer, as well as taught her to see the ordeal in a different light – “Although I came back to Singapore with a worsening condition, the trip did me good. I was living again.”
I found enlightenment. I finally realised that life is not about work, about people. I realised that I have not been living for my entire life. I realised that I have not been loving myself. Resilience is what helps me overcome, but self-love is what truly healed me.” She added. Her perspective in life before was ‘Live to Love’, and now it is ‘Love to Live’. – Summer Ng
Living with Cancer
While undergoing chemotherapy, Summer experienced side effects such as feeling nauseous and tired, loss of taste, hot and cold flashes. However, she shared that coping with hair loss was the most traumatic.
“Seeing a whole chunk of hair coming off is scary. When it touches water, it becomes a lump.” She recounted the shocking incident.
When she did her first chemotherapy, she tried to keep her hair as long as possible. However, there came a point where she accepted that hair loss was a part of the cancer treatment.
She said: “ I remember that depressing night when my scalp was itching too badly that I decided to wash my hair. It was a bad move. Once the hair got in touch with water, the fallen hair sticks together into a big lump and there were no way to untangle it nor dry it. The only thing I was looking forward was daylight to come, so that I could go to the salon to shave. I never knew I would be so happy and relieved to have my hair shaved off.”
Lifestyle changes often follow a cancer diagnosis; Having a good diet is key when battling cancer. For Summer, she avoided sugar and pork, and tried her best to achieve a balanced diet every day.
“There was a period of time where doctors and nutritionists were saying that I can’t eat this, I can’t eat that. And I felt so stressed whenever I ate. Eating has never been so stressful to a point that I did not want to eating anything at all. Eating should bring us joy and not distress. I think it is more important to eat mindfully and happily —that’s one thing I’ve learnt.” She adds.
Summer also shared that having a strong support system empowered her in her fight against cancer; Her family, friends and workplace were very supportive and encouraging as she battled cancer.
Due to her company’s accommodating nature, she did not have much to worry about for her professional life and could focus on getting better.
Self-Love is the Best Love
Getting diagnosed with cervical cancer at such a young age has taught Summer how to face life in a new way. In the past, she used to be a workaholic, and did not give herself ample time to rest. But now, she sets aside time to do the things she loves — such as playing the guzheng, learning the piano, going to pottery lessons, painting, meditating, doing yoga and many more.
“Cancer don’t just impact (people) physically, it affects you mentally.” She shares.
Through her fight against cancer, she learnt how to love herself and take care of her mental wellbeing. Now, she’s on a mission to inspire people to do the same.
Recently, she has embarked on her health & wellness food business ‘Summer Origin’ which encourage people to love themselves, overcome their challenges, and find a purpose in their life. She offers a plethora of nutritious food products such as sauces, soups, teas, snacks and keto products. Additionally, Summer also offers soul therapy, such as Seifu therapy, a natural-healing technique that subtly goes into one’s mental state. Additionally, Summer also offers healing services and planning to open workshops in the future too.
“People lack love, especially self-love. Through my services and workshops, I hope to provide the love to them as well as to help them be the love for themselves.” Summer said with an affectionate smile.
Through her business, she hopes to help people with cancer, and support them in their fight against cancer.
Prevention is Cure
In Singapore, cervical cancer is the second most common cause of death by cancer in women ages 15-44. However, cervical cancer can be prevented with vaccination and regular screenings.
“My friends see me as a living example, but unfortunately, some of them still take their health for granted.” Summer says.
Last year, the young survivor advocated for the ‘I am’ campaign to raise awareness about cervical cancer and its prevention measures.
“I believe that everything happens for a reason. I think it (cervical cancer) happened to me because God thinks that I can handle it, so I can inspire and help people through my experience. ” She said optimistically.
Writehaus Asia hopes that everyone continues to stay and healthy, and to people who are fighting cancer: There is a “can” in cancer because we can beat it! For more stories head on over to our website! Also, check out our works on our website and Instagram! www.writehaus.asia and @writehausasia!