Thinking of mum, as she fights a deadly disease
Battling breast cancer, Nikita wants to send a message of hope to other women dealing with the disease
Ms Nikita Wadhwani will never forget the weeks she spent with her mother and younger sister in 2010, when they went on a trip to Europe after her graduation ceremony in Switzerland.
That was the last holiday they took together.
Ms Nikita's mother, Mrs Sanjana Wadhwani, who had seemed on the road to recovery from breast cancer in 2008, suffered a relapse shortly after they returned to Singapore. In July 2013, Mrs Sanjana died at the age of 48.
It took Ms Nikita a long time to accept her mother's death, as they had been very close.
Speaking to The New Paper last week, the 32-year-old said: "She was such a strong lady. Though she was suffering a lot and in so much pain, she would not give up. She fought till the very end.
"I learnt from her to never give up and to always keep fighting."
Two years after her mother's death, Ms Nikita herself was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer after she had a lump in her right breast examined.
She was 26 at the time and had got engaged three months earlier.
Her family was devastated.
She said: "'Why? How can it be me?' we asked.
"We couldn't believe this was happening to our family again."
Ms Nikita had a mastectomy - a surgery that removed the breast tissues in her right breast - and went into remission after she completed chemotherapy.
She got married in 2016 but just before the circuit breaker last year, she suffered a relapse.
While the Covid-19 pandemic made it tougher for her to go through chemotherapy every fortnight, Ms Nikita was "grateful" for the time spent at home to come to terms with the relapse.
"Our journey has taught me that life is really short and we should spend it doing what we love and with our loved ones."
Now living with stage four breast cancer, Ms Nikita wanted to share her story on National Women's Checkup Day today, reinforcing the importance of regular routine check-ups for women. She also wanted to pay tribute to her mum for Mother's Day.
Thankful for her supportive family and husband, she has a message for those dealing with cancer.
"Just take it one day at a time if it is too overwhelming," she said.
"I was not ready to share my story for five years, but now I am ready. So everything has its own timing.
"Trust the process and know that you are not going through it alone."
Make time for health checks, say doctors
National Women's Checkup Day serves as an important reminder for all women to take charge of their health by making time for health checks.
Ms Sandra Leong, general manager of the Breast Cancer Foundation, said: "Sometimes we may be busy taking care of other people that we put ourselves on the back-burner. By taking care of ourselves, it is also a gift to our loved ones."
With early detection, the chances of survival and recovery are a lot higher. Those diagnosed at stage one have a more than 90 per cent, five-year survival rate.
Ms Leong said there is a misconception among women under 45 that breast cancer is an older woman's illness.
However, while women aged 40 and above are recommended to go for mammograms yearly or once every two years, such screenings are not as effective for women under 40, said Dr Wong Chiung Ing, senior consultant of medical oncology at Parkway Cancer Centre.
"This is because breast tissues of younger women tend to be denser, making it difficult to detect abnormalities. However, if there is a known genetic mutation and strong family history of breast cancer, screening should begin earlier," she added.
Data from the Singapore Cancer Registry showed that 1,763 cases of breast cancer occurred in women younger than 45 between 2013 and 2017 - about one in every six cases.
Dr Wong said: "Breast cancer in young women tends to be more aggressive and has a higher risk of recurrence and metastases.
"It is therefore crucial for all women to be vigilant of its symptoms." - HEDY YANG