Breast Cancer Awareness

Breast Cancer Awareness

October 13, 2020

Breast Cancer Awareness Month 

Q&A with Charlene Koh

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual campaign that helps to drive awareness of the disease that impacts 2.1 million women each year. In order to improve breast cancer outcomes and survival, early detection is critical so we urge you to take charge of your health and go for regular screenings. Early Detection Saves Lives. 

This month we speak with Breathe Client and Founder of Breathe Essentials Co, Charlene Koh who shares with us her story on her diagnosis, how her lifestyle has changed, and life after fighting the cancer.

Charlene Koh, Breathe

Can you tell us more about your journey, how did you find out, what were the signs?

I was working out in the gym and I found that I couldn’t last the whole hour. I rang my Pulmonologist and he told me to come in for a lung CT scan (I was diagnosed with adult asthma a year back) and they picked up that I had some calcifications on my left breast and one thing led to another. I was soon diagnosed with her2-positive breast cancer stage 0-1 soon after.

 How did you mentally process your diagnosis?

I couldn’t fully process my diagnosis as everything happened very fast. Overall, I was trying to recover from the shock when the doctor told me “you have cancer”. I was 25 at the time and there’s no history of breast cancer in the family. My initial thoughts were, why is life so unfair? Was this karma? Why me? Thankfully, I have great friends and family as my support system and a friend who had breast cancer 15 years ago that could relate to what I was going through. I found out on the 8th April 2019 then the following day I was warded into Gleneagles. I was scheduled for a mastectomy and reconstruction surgery on the 12th of April.

 What were the lifestyle changes, during and after treatment?

During the treatment, my diet was very strict. No hawker food, no processed food, and also no raw food such as sashimi or fresh oysters. I also avoided dairy products. Salads were only allowed when I made them at home. But after treatment of course I just ate everything I wanted to in moderation. Who can say no to food especially ice-cream?!

I started using products like Cetaphil as a body wash and a milk-balancing shampoo to help moisturize my scalp. While I was going through chemo, I definitely couldn’t go out with my friends as much as I liked, I stayed home often as I couldn’t afford to catch any illness outside. During this time, I learned how to spend more time with myself and tried to slow things down in my life and get used to this new pace.

The hardest part was to get used to my new body and also the after-effects of chemo.

 What was 1 thing that kept you going during this difficult time?

I knew that better days would come. I was young and my body could handle all the cancer drugs. I just needed to bite the bullet and get it over with.

Charlene Koh Breathe

So you came to Breathe when you were first diagnosed with breast cancer. What made you choose Pilates and how did it help with your treatment and recovery?

I chose Pilates because it’s a low-impact style of training. I had to give up barre and more strenuous activities because the impact was too hard on my body. Nicole (one of Breathe’s Pilates instructors) is also a good friend of mine who saw me through my cancer journey. She encouraged me to try out Pilates and I’m so glad I did! During my chemo journey, I went for a few private sessions of Pilates and found it beneficial as it kept me moving and made me stronger. This was the perfect style of training during this difficult period.

What would you say to someone who is currently going through what you’ve gone through?

Don’t give up. Be positive. A positive attitude is key to conquer this dreaded disease. 

How has this changed your life since?

I have learned to be more present and to love myself more. Life is short, so just be happy. 

We hear that you have launched your own business! Can you tell us more about that, how did it come about?

The idea for Breathe Essentials Co was born during the toughest challenge of my life; chemotherapy. As a very young breast cancer fighter, I sought a lot of comfort and relief from essential oils and scented candles during my cancer journey. But now as a young breast cancer survivor, I have found my life to be beautiful and triumphant after this ordeal. It is with this hope that Breathe Essentials Co desires to inspire others in times of need.

Breathe Essentials Co is a lifestyle company that specializes in formulating essentials for everyone. For our launch, our products include hand-poured cocosoy candles, pure organic essential oils from the French Riviera and also locally formulated yoga mat sprays that naturally disinfects. We have more products that are in the works and are currently working on our Christmas bundles.

Thank you so much to Charlene Koh for sharing your personal story with us at Breathe! We are excited to announce that we will be hosting a Breathe Essentials Co Pop-Up at Novena Medical Centre this month 24-25th October. Please check out our newsletter and social media for more information.

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