The Pink Gladiator shares her story
That was what an old friend of mine, Fiza Kamarudin told me when I was at her place not too long ago to hear her story battling breast cancer. A happy-go-lucky mother of two with an impressive career in journalism, who would’ve thought she was one of the first among our circle of friends to be diagnosed with breast cancer! At Stage 3 for that matter too.
“I first noticed something that looked like a mole around my nipple but I didn’t pay much attention to it because there were no lumps or anything like that every time I did the breast self-examination. Then, it started to spread covering my nipple. I thought it was a scab so I kept peeling it off”.Fiza Kamarudin, Pink Gladiator/Breast Cancer Fighter
Not too long after, Fiza started feeling excruciating pain from her breast. “It was like being sliced with a knife repeatedly from the inside,” she explained. Then she resorted to taking painkillers to comfort herself. One night, she just couldn’t bear the pain that she went for a checkup at the hospital. Fiza was given some antibiotics and was asked to come back if the pain didn’t subside.
The next day, she went to the hospital and the doctor suggested a biopsy to test out the tissue sample taken from her body. “The doctor called me back after about a week or so and said, ‘I don’t like giving bad news to my patients. That was when I knew,” Fiza told me. “Only Allah knew how I felt at that time when the doctor finally said the Big C”.
Dodi, her husband who is equally a fun-loving joker like Fiza, stood by her the whole time the doctor explained Fiza’s condition. “I told Dodi to stay put while I went out to cry my eyeballs out. People passed by and I didn’t even care. I just needed to vent it out,” Fiza recalled her reaction.
Still unable to accept the news, Fiza decided to go and get a second opinion from another medical centre. She took a CT scan which confirmed the first diagnosis. “The doctor was so kind to me. She explained to me the next course of action and suggested that I remove the right breast before the cancer cells spread further,” Fiza told me. “But it got me thinking, I’m a woman, how could I live without my feminine asset?”
Fiza told me, she was grateful that her husband had been nothing but supportive while she was recovering from the shock. He allowed her time to grieve and vent it out without pushing her to do anything until she was ready.
“As a woman, I had a dramatic moment. I asked my husband if he still wanted me once I had removed one of my breasts. Naturally, I thought about death. I wondered what could’ve happened to my kids! I was spiraling downwards for two weeks after receiving my diagnosis”.
So, Fiza decided to proceed with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. She observed her surroundings during chemo. After a while, she started to adjust to the side effects of the cancer treatment including nausea, headaches, fatigue and so on. Truth be told, she said, she managed to brave the next few weeks because she had so many strong people around her.
“The strongest support actually came from my late dad,” Fiza said, trying to hold back her tears. She started choking and sobbing as she continued, “He was there all the time, babe. He moved mountains to make sure I was comfortable”.
“Even when I started to lose my hair, I went completely bald! Even in my private areas! He even joked, ‘Look at my girl, how beautiful she is, even without hair’. He gave me such strength, that whenever I talk about cancer now, I don’t feel sad at all. I just remember how my late Dad was and how much I’ve missed him”.
After the surgery, the doctor took some tissues from her back to reconstruct the right breast. In fact, Fiza showed me her ‘battle scar’ and I could only imagine what might be occurring in her mind every time she saw the almost foot-long scar on her back and her newly constructed right breast.
Even when writing this article, I asked for Fiza’s permission to include the full description. You see, when Fiza had her right breast removed and reconstructed, the doctor actually suggested that an artificial nipple was installed as well to recreate a more natural look. “But Dodi told me not to go through that sort of BS for what were only meant to be accessories to me,” she added. “Do you know what he said to me, that really made me go through this with ease? He said, ‘I didn’t love and marry you for your breasts’. It was those words that made me feel alive again. I replay that line in my head and I don’t feel flawed or handicapped, or even ugly at all”.Fiza Kamarudin, Pink Gladiator/Breast Cancer Fighter
Fiza also joined a few breast cancer fighter groups to find people who share the same experience battling breast cancer. “It’s so great to know that all of them, regardless of their background, age and religion are extremely positive. Nobody ever mentions death. They keep telling me that we are the chosen ones to go through this amazing journey in life and I believe them wholeheartedly,” she said.
Since she started sharing her breast cancer experience on her Social Media, Fiza also receives inquiries from others. “Some people send me direct messages, asking for my opinion. In fact, one girl texted and asked for advice after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s actually quite a lifting feeling knowing that our experience may help others in need,” she said.
“I just hope that women out there take extra care of themselves. Should they find any signs of tumour or anything that is out of the ordinary, they need to go and seek professional help,” she said.
Aaaah, yes, because I told her what happened with some Malay women. Well, let’s just put it this way, one of my aunts succumbed to breast cancer because, after her diagnosis, she actually went to a traditional witch doctor. Yes, as funny as it sounds, that was the truth. In our Malay culture, it’s not uncommon to hear about people using black magic against others. I suppose, when my Mum suggested to my aunt a long time ago to undergo surgery, the latter probably declined. I remember overhearing my Mum saying, my aunt feared losing her assets once the surgery was performed. Well, no judgement there, but .. let’s save this story for another entry.
“I get it! Some people believe in alternative treatments, I have nothing against that,” Fiza commented. “But would the government and healthcare providers bring in all those medical advancements into our country if they didn’t work? Thousands of cancer patients have benefited from modern treatment. We have researchers who spend years finding the best cure for cancer”.Fiza Kamarudin, Pink Gladiator/Breast Cancer Fighter
And I couldn’t agree more. So, Fiza told me that her doctor has given her 5 years to make full recovery before she can be declared cancer-free. Knowing Fiza for at least 10 years since I became a journalist, I know she can go through this with a smile. Or in our own crude words, “It will take more than cancer to kill this B*!”
Special thanks to Fiza and her wonderful family – Dodi, Riyadh and Raisya for welcoming me to their home to do this interview. Feel free to watch our video interview below. Just remember, if you have any family members or friends who may share this experience, be a great support. At times as such, you never know when your love and friendship can make a difference!