The burden of being strong: Anny Au
What was your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
My self esteem took the biggest hit through this journey. The whole time leading up to my surgery I would be looking up photos of other women who had gone through the same thing and felt dread and hopelessness. Up until the final moments before going into surgery I was in despair about how I was going to look. To be honest, a year after the mastectomy and reconstruction I am still uncomfortable with how my body now looks.
It is a daily battle some days are worse than others but there are also good days. On the good days, I just remember these scars saved my life. I was given a second chance and I am grateful. Not to mention that I now have an awesome party trick. Just seeing the look on people’s faces when I show them my peck dance makes it a little better. :)
What are you most grateful for?
All the hard lessons cancer has taught me; that life is short and that people who don’t want to be around don’t deserve your attention.
We all know life is short but I don’t think we really believe it until something drastic happens like cancer slapping you in the face. My whole outlook on life has changed. I may not make extremely good use of my time but I know how I don’t want to waste it. I walk away from petty drama, I don't beat around the bush, I no longer have the patience for time wasters. It has been a blessing that I can now see all the things that I no longer need in my life.
What have you learned that you wish you knew when you were first diagnosed?
That life is now one big roller coaster and there is no getting off. I spent the last two years waiting for the roller coaster to end and getting upset when it didn’t. Cancer doesn’t go away, it’s a life sentence. Even after all the treatments, even after you’ve been declared cancer free, every pain in your body will take your mind into panic mood and you can’t help but wonder if its cancer.
The roller coaster doesn’t end but it's alright. It always gets better you just need to ride it out and… it's never as bad as you think it is.
How did breast cancer impact your relationships with friends or family?
It really brought out people's true colours, a real eye opener. Although there were people who wanted nothing to do with me, I was more surprised at the amount of support I had. Even people who I had had minimal contact with would reach out.
In what ways did breast cancer change how you feel about yourself?
The physical and mental scars left behind has made me feel like an outcast. I am too afraid to get close to anyone because I don’t want them to see my body. Too afraid to get close to anyone because I don't want them to notice the mental struggle.
If you could make people “aware” of one thing about breast cancer what it be and why?
Just because she seems strong, it doesn’t mean that she feels it. I am always hearing people tell me how strong I am, sometimes it becomes a bit of a burden. Sometimes I just want to complain about it all without someone saying you’re strong you’ll get through it, but sometimes smiling makes it easier for everyone else around you.
What are your words to live by?
Be fearless, be brave, be bold, be fabulous and most importantly, be real.
What advice would you give to a newly diagnosed woman?
Do your research. Nothing will give you piece of mind like information. Speak to people who have walked the path before. They will give you personal insight into their journey with all the raw details and that’s what it is all about.