December 2021 Issue: Co-operator Newsletter Quarterly Issue

Breast Cancer Survivor Shares What Kept Her Going During Tough Times

Breast Cancer Survivor Shares What Kept Her Going During Tough Times
Caption: Breast Cancer Survivor Shares What Kept Her Going During Tough Times

On October 10, we commemorate World Mental Health Day. That was a day when we raise awareness on mental health issues and kickstart conversations on or efforts in support of mental health. For the past two years, World Mental Health Day took place amid a special time – that is, during a pandemic where the bulk of our lives have been drastically affected.

By now, we know that our mental health is equally important as our physical health. As conversations on anxiety, burnouts, and depression proliferate, along with the courageous stories of many mental health advocates, we now know that it is okay to not feel okay. And that our emotions, fears, anxiety and challenges are valid. At SNCF, we believe that it is important to keep the discourse on mental wellness, whether it’s on burnouts, or unpacking the murky feelings within you, or what it means to be mentally healthy, going.

In our second of our three part-series, SNCF spoke the co-founder of dating application Paktor and founder of Singaporean aromatherapy label Breathe Essentials Co. Charlene Koh, also a breast cancer survivor, who shares with us her self-care secrets and how we can empower one another in the face of adversity.

You mentioned in previous interviews that both your mental and physical health took a toll as you underwent cancer treatment. What kept you going when the going got tough?

When the going got tough, I would always remind myself to take a pause to reflect, reset and reconnect again. I would ask myself: ‘What could I have done to make the day better?’

When I underwent chemotherapy, I always tried to be the best person I could be. There were good days and there were bad ones too. I remember the good days outweighing the bad days, and I made it a point to celebrate every milestone. Post-chemo, I would sometimes reward myself with something—for me, it was a handbag (laughs).


As a breast cancer survivor, what does self-care mean to you? 

As a breast cancer survivor, self-care means so much more to me today than before. For a start, I am spending more time off with myself. Why the emphasis on having my own ‘me time’? I guess it is to better reconnect with myself.

Do you practice self-care? If so, could you share what are your self-care secrets?

My self-care secrets are not that secretive though ... (laughs) But I do have a little cafe that I go and seek refuge whenever I sought some time out from the ‘outside’ world. Now with the pandemic going on, I am weary of travelling so I spend a lot of time at the beach. These days, most people WFH… but for me, I ‘WFB’ most of the time. That keeps me sane. 

What can we do to help destigmatize misperceptions on mental health or provide encouragement for those in need to seek help?

There are indeed a lot of stigmas on mental health for sure in this society of ours, but there are also more advocates about it than ever before. Did you know the government also offers counselling services at their Ministry of Family & Social services designated branches around Singapore? 

We need more awareness on the normality of seeking help and how help is readily available when you need it. It is okay to seek help. I am thankful to have a supportive network of friends and family members, who I can reach out to and lean a shoulder on. I guess a more concrete advice would be to identify individuals whom you trust and reach out to them during your down times. 



By Sng Ler Jun

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

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SNCF is the apex body of Singapore’s Co-operative Movement, and secretariat of the Central Co-operative Fund (CCF). Formed in 1980 with the aim of championing Singapore’s Co-operative Movement, the apex body represents majority of co-operative members in Singapore through its affiliated co-operatives.