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Stories of Inner Strength

Stories of
Inner Strength

Joanna's Story

Beating The Odds To Emerge Stronger

You’ll never walk alone. These were the words of Joanna Poon’s father, who used this anthem of his favourite football team, Liverpool FC, to remind her that her family and friends were with her and encourage her to keep fighting. Joanna was diagnosed with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer in April 2022 and suffered a stroke shortly afterwards. Joanna's doctor felt that she needed a clear mind to battle TNBC, so she did not inform her of the stage of her cancer. Joanna only found out recently that she had stage 3A cancer. Evidently, Joanna had found a strength she never knew she possessed to beat the odds, and she has been in remission since December 2022.

Joanna Poon
1. How did you feel when you were told you had TNBC

I was shocked and confused. I didn’t know it was a rare and aggressive form. That’s when I went to read up and realised how severe it was.

2. How did your family and friends react to your diagnosis?

They were also not sure that there’s this type of cancer. Initially they were saying that I was very strong because I was ready to move on to my treatment but when I broke down, they were consoling me saying that it’s ok. I think they were shocked to see me suddenly cry as I’m usually a very reserved person.

3. How did you prepare for treatment?

I got a new bed, because my dad thought that I needed a good rest at home. I also spoke to people who went through chemo. One of my cousins had leukaemia, and another had thyroid cancer. I reached out to them to understand more about how to cope and find out more about chemo. I also spoke to my senior who had breast cancer who shared about her cancer journey and also passed me some of her caps and wigs.

4. Tell us about your treatment journey.

I fully trust my oncologist. She advised me to go through two cycles. My chemo started once a week and subsequently became once every three weeks. The entire duration took me over 6 months from May till early Nov 2022 to complete. Chemo shrank my lump and then I had an operation. My oncologist also added on immunotherapy. She mentioned that it will increase the chance of fighting the cancer. So I had a few dosages of immunotherapy before and after my chemo treatment.

5. What were some of the challenges you faced?

Unfortunately I had a stroke with cancer, so I had to balance rehab with chemo. Also I had long hair for almost 30 years of my life, so when it dropped out in clumps, it was quite upsetting. I decided to just shave it off. My best friend said she would shave with me and so did my sister. Initially I didn’t give it much thought to it but on the actual day when they really shaved, I felt very touched. We all shaved at the same time in the same room in hospital.

Joanna Poon
6. It takes strength and resilience to fight TNBC. What gave you this inner strength?

Family and friends. I am the youngest in the family and I am very close to my siblings. I was touched when they were very hands on when I was hospitalised. My brother said their love for me actually amplified during this ordeal. When I was down with stroke and cancer and my mobility was affected, I couldn’t sleep in my room alone so my family actually converted my living room into a makeshift room. We shifted away the sofa and put a bed in the middle of the living room and I slept there so they could help me easily if need be. My sister also offered to sleep with me.

7. What did you do to stay positive?

I watched a lot of TV and I tried to plan a lot of things during the weekend. We spent a lot of family time together. My weekends are usually filled with either family or my friends will organise gatherings at my house. So they will drop by, and then we will have a meal together and catch up with each other. We also sang karaoke together at home.

Joanna Poon
8. Have you made any lifestyle changes since you’ve been in remission?
Quote I did not know I had so much strength and resilience in me until I was faced with such adversity. Quote
I eat healthier than before. Being an Asian family, my mum cooks a lot. We usually have home-cooked dinners, so she did the switch to buy more organic vegetables and eggs and she got some tips from my cousins to cook more nutritious soups.
9. Are you still able to do the things you
did before?

Only my mobility is affected because of the stroke. Travel wise, we are trying to resume travel. We make an effort to travel once every year as a family. Because of Covid and my medical ordeal, we didn’t travel for four years. So that’s why we are trying to make up for it. We have planned for a New Zealand trip in July which coincides with my birthday. In New Zealand we will also go hiking as part of my exercise to improve my mobility.

10. Looking back at your journey, what would you do differently?

Schedule yearly health check-ups.

11. How do you advocate for other breast cancer patients?

I want to share my story to help other people, so I’m taking the steps to reach out to people, to reply comments on chat groups and on support groups online. I wrote a book, Glimpse Into Jo Battle, to help others. I recalled when I was first diagnosed, I read up on breast cancer and looked for positive examples but I couldn’t find any.

Quote So I want to be this positive example for people to see that you can get through it. I want to advocate for them, I need to protect them, I want to show them that you still can survive. Quote
Joanna Poon
12. What’s your advice to women facing TNBC?

Keep an open mind. It’s not the end of the world. Everything happens for a reason so always look for that reason. For me, without this medical ordeal I wouldn’t know that I’m so loved by my family and friends.

13. Has your TNBC experience made you stronger?

I’ve definitely emerged stronger. Knowing it’s stage 3A made me even more proud and grateful for this journey.

Share your ‘I Can’ story

Have you been diagnosed with TNBC and chose to forge ahead on your own terms? Do you have a loved one who turned to face TNBC head-on? As a caregiver, do you have tips and stories of encouragement for other caregivers?

Share your story to help empower others living with TNBC.

Remember that there is power in the community, others with a TNBC diagnosis could feel supported and inspired by understanding how you are taking on TNBC.

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