Tin May Lwin was a professor at the University of Computer Studies, Yangon (UCSY) until 2001, when she began to feel something strange happening to her body. In the beginning she simply thought that she had a cyst on the side of her breast, which she attempted to treat using traditional herbal remedies. At first this appeared to be successful, as the growth began to disappear, but it then came back intermittently for about a year. Finally, a surgeon friend of hers convinced her to undergo a comprehensive health check. She was diagnosed with breast cancer
It would be easy to assume that this would be a major shock to her, compelling her to leave her tenure at the university, but she took it completely in her stride. She simply chose to believe that she was not ill at all. “Of course, with the lump and the discharge, I knew there was something wrong with me. But when I was finally diagnosed with breast cancer, I felt nothing but surprise at the strangeness of it all.” She told us of her positive attitude. “I never even stopped to think that I was ill, I was more captivated by the newness of the experience. I didn’t pressure myself with thoughts like “I’m sick, I have cancer,” because I knew full well that it would go away.”
A real-life retail therapy
“My friends told me that I should seek treatment in Thailand, which made me feel better immediately. I had already heard of Bumrungrad’s reputation, so no need to worry about that, but what made me really excited about undergoing treatment in Thailand was the opportunity to go shopping in Bangkok. I love this city! I love coming here to shop.”
Even though her mind was at ease, her treatment was not without its challenges. One of those challenges was the speed in which the cancer had spread to her bones. Dr. Vinai Ariyaprakai, the oncologist overseeing her treatment, said something which she did not expect. “Dr. Vinai told me that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes and bones. He gave me six months to live. I must admit I was somewhat shocked, but I was not scared witless. My mantra was that whatever happened, I was going to get through this.”
Win some, lose some
“The care I received was flawless, it was very professional indeed. The way the nurses treated me, and the effectiveness of the interpreters made me feel like I was in good hands.” Tin May Lwin recounted. The treatment began with 3 cycles of chemotherapy, in which the oncologist needed to change the chemotherapeutic agents three times in order to stabilize her condition enough to undergo surgery. “I made a decision to fully commit myself to the treatment and put my full trust in the doctors. Although the doctors successfully removed the cancerous tumor, and the radiation therapy went as expected, a skin graft was still needed. They took skin from my upper back. When that failed, they used skin from my stomach. During the skin graft treatment process my other breast ended up having to be removed.”
A mind at ease cures the disease
By maintaining high spirits, and fully committing herself to the treatment without fretting or putting unnecessary pressure
on herself, Tin May Lwin greatly contributed to the success of her own treatment. “I feel that our state of mind is extremely important to the treatment process. If we believe that we will be cured, we will be cured. Believe me, if you think that you won’t make it, you won’t,” she says with her characteristically cheeky laugh.
“I chose to live a happy life. Even though at the time I was also suffering from heart disease and diabetes, I did not allow them to rob me of my joys.
Even as I was recovering from my treatment in hospital, I would beg the nurses to take me out shopping near the hospital!”
What Tin May Lwin has to tell other patients is this: do not let the cancer own you. Deal with the fact that it is there and then dismiss it entirely. Then, do exactly as the doctor says and don’t give it another thought.
Tin May Lwin let the interviewer in on this secret with a conspiratorial smile on her face, before confiding that she had just come back from a shopping spree to Europe.