In the #BCMTalks sessions, a sharing of talks that focus on women’s breast cancer experience to an online group, Gia Sison (@giasison) became the recent guest speaker. Gia shared her extraordinary experience of being a patient and doctor of breast cancer. She started by taking the audience back to the very beginning.
“I was diagnosed just over one year ago when, by coincidence, I felt a lump in one of my breasts,” she explained. “I had a mammography procedure done and I was able to understand the image of my breasts. When I saw it I said to myself ‘this looks bad.’ As a physician I already knew it was cancer.”
The shock didn’t end there as a mix of emotions threatened to overwhelm her. However Gia’s profession as a specialist implied she started to formulate a plan of action.
“I was totally numb at first. I wasn’t able to cry. I had to pull myself together and work out how to manage it. I was debating with myself as to the best course of treatment.”
She said that the bungee jump from doctor to patient was very deep. “I felt lonely at times, other times it was happiness. It was a roller-coaster of emotions.”
The theme of connection and support is a frequently neglected part of breast cancer treatment. Patients are regularly left without a method for support group alongside fellow cancer patients. However Gia, utilize the social media in building up a support network and keeping her spirits positive all through her chemotherapy sessions.
“The social network knew my story first even before my friends did,” she said. Through them I began to form support groups. They were instrumental in my support system when I was diagnosed and undergoing treatment.”
“Whenever I would go into chemotherapy, I would tweet. There would be a surge of tweets cheering me on. Through their support I was able to go to chemo. They put up a Facebook fan page and posted messages of hope, which I read every day. They served as my support group and reinforced for me the wonders of digital health.”
Gia shared the extraordinary position she was set in as a cancer patient and doctor. She explained how her bedside way has changed and how effective her experiences are in encouraging patients to keep positive.
“Whenever I see patients with cancer now there is an extra dash of empathy because I have had that experience and can empathize. I find myself sharing my own story with the patient as I don’t want them to lose hope as their doctor had cancer too.”
Gia went onto portray a portion of the actions she made after she was given the all-clear. “I started to become my conscious of the ingredients in my food. I did cheat occasionally with junk food though!”
“I’ve also been exercising and becoming extra vigilant with my health. I also try to get six hours of sleep.”
Gia’s last words to the session’s audience were one of positivity and courage in the face of adversity. “If there’s anything that cancer taught me is life happens for a good reason and it’s really all about perspective,” she said. “You can either see your disease as something to gripe about or as something that can get you to change your lifestyle for the better.”
“You cannot handle cancer alone. A support group is very important. It has taught me to connect and conquer cancer with courage in my heart.”
She finished up with one basic recommendation – a self-regulated breast exam every month. “If I had examined my breasts earlier I could have caught the mass and avoided chemotherapy,” she said. “I regret not doing that. So that’s my advice: go for early detection and screening and if you feel a lump go see your doctor.”