Soon after Agnes had graduated from university, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She described it as another “examination”. Despite doing rounds of research to get herself prepared for the diagnosis, she was still extremely worried and anxious about the uncertainties. She worried about losing her source of income and was afraid that her family would blame her for having such illness. Until one day she came to Maggie’s Centre, she received warm support from our oncology nurses and kind encouragement from other Centre users. They accompanied her to overcome all sorts of challenges along the way.
We always see Agnes wearing a smiley face and being polite when she talks to other people. When she felt a lump on her breast, she knew it by heart that it could be breast cancer. The moment she received the news of being diagnosed, she was shocked and emotionally overwhelmed. She worried about the side effects from treatment and was very afraid that her family would blame her, “You must have done this and that, so to get cancer!” Therefore, Agnes did not tell her family about her health condition. Until she had completed her second surgery, she finally had the courage to text her sister. She took two days to edit the message just to avoid scaring her family off. Surprisingly, things turned out differently from what Agnes would have imagined. Her family did not blame her at all, they even took greater care of her daily life and diet, which empowered her to carry on with her cancer treatment. After meeting with an Oncologist at Tuen Mun Hospital, Agnes remembered that she had visited Maggie’s Centre’s booth at the Hong Kong Cancer Day before, she then followed the signage in the hospital and walked straight to Maggie’s Centre.
The very first time Agnes stepped into Maggie’s Centre, she was warmly welcomed by our oncology nurse. Seeing all the unfamiliar faces, she was nervous at first but after chatting with our oncology nurse and learned more about the Centre services, she started to act like a “good student”. She took out her medicine prescription and sought professional advice from our oncology nurse . During her free time, she would join the psycho-educational talk to learn to adjust and relieve negative emotions. She also joined the Maggie’s Music Therapy Choir, while she can enjoy the music and cheer up other Centre users. “You can barely talk to anyone in a busy hospital setting, while sharing your story with other people is relatively easy and relaxing to do here at Maggie’s!”, she emphasised. Agnes does not have many friends who had experienced cancer. She treasures the chance of meeting people with similar experience to chat freely about their treatment, including breast reconstruction surgery, or even a little talk about their life. The interaction between Centre users has empowered Agnes to face her illness in a more positive way.
Agnes is still wearing her scarf today. She started chemotherapy treatment and her hair started to fall off. It was a nightmare to her as she gradually lost all her long hair due to the side effect of the treatment. Even worse, Agnes’s body is weaker than other people. She got fever in three out of six chemotherapy sessions. Just like examinations, her situation just reached the pass mark. In severe case, chemotherapy treatment might have to be stopped to save the patient’s life. During one of the treatment days, Agnes experienced mouth sore and she was worried that her white blood cell count might be too low and she might get fever again. She immediately called Maggie’s Centre and asked for our oncology nurse’s advice. Coming up to their expectation, Agnes got fever once again but she felt much more relieved and less fearful after receiving professional advice and support.
Today, Agnes has finished all her chemotherapy treatment but in order to truly “graduate”, she still needs to continue her medication for up to 10 years. After taking this unexpected “examination”, Agnes found her new rhythms of life. In the past, she would rush through her busy schedule for study and work. Now, she learns to slow down and eat at regular time. Our oncology nurses and other Centre users often remind her to slow down her pace, just like what a teacher would say to their student before they graduate, “There’s still a long way to go and this is the beginning of your new life!”