She went on FB warning women to check for cancerous lumps. Little did she expect her post to go viral
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Salt&Light acknowledges all who are taking on their cancer fight with faith.
by Gemma Koh // September 30, 2021, 7:28 pm
"My God is bigger than cancer" reads Connie Sun's t-shirt. She continues to cling to God's promises in all seasons of her life. All photos courtesy of Connie Sun unless otherwise stated.
Singaporean Connie Sun and her South Korean husband sat nervously in front of their computer in Seoul. Her hand trembled as it hovered over the return key.
The new mother was about to publish a Facebook post that she thought no one would be interested in, that might also expose her family to unwanted scrutiny.
“The world may see us as unsuccessful. Maybe even useless because we couldn’t hold our jobs,” Connie, who just turned 39, told Salt&Light.
At the time in 2020, Covid was beginning its rampage through South Korea, and was already spreading faster than in China where the virus was first discovered. It killed off Connie’s job teaching English and her husband’s work as a freelance tour guide.
Connie had found a lump while breastfeeding her son who was nine months old at that time. She dismissed it as a harmless breastfeeding lump. When she finally got it checked out five weeks later, it had grown three times in size. She was diagnosed as having Stage 3 pregnancy-associated breast cancer (PABC).
Wanting to warn other mothers not to ignore breast lumps while lactating, she hit the return key on her keyboard and sent the post out into the world.
Within two hours, her post had been shared a few hundred times – and a thousand times by the next morning. It had reached countries as far as the US and Denmark.
Going viral in the pandemic
“We had 2,000 to 3,000 comments over the next week, and hundreds of friend requests every day. It was crazy,” Connie said.
The Singapore news media picked up on the story of how the new mother was struggling with breast cancer as well as stranded in a foreign land, separated from family support because of Covid.
“Because I didn’t feel any pain, I thought that it was okay.”
“I had asked God to help me spread awareness of pregnancy-associated breast cancer. But I never expected Him to make it so big,” she told Salt&Light.
Connie first found a small lump in her right breast while breastfeeding her son, Ian, at the end of January 2020. Thinking it was a breastfeeding lump, she tried massaging, pumping and pressing the lump, and using heat packs and hot showers to try to shrink it.
“Because I didn’t feel any pain, I thought that it was okay,” she said.
After a trip home to Singapore during Chinese New Year, she returned to a Seoul ravaged by Covid, and had to observe a 14-day quarantine before she could see a doctor.
Five weeks had passed since the time she discovered the lump. It had grown to three times the size.
On March 5, 2020, she was officially diagnosed with Stage 3 pregnancy-associated breast cancer. There was not one, but three tumours.
On reading up on the cancer, and after joining a few cancer support groups, Connie realised that there was not enough information in public on the condition. Neither was it as rare as it was thought to be.
Connie decided to bring awareness of the cancer to expat and women’s groups in South Korea.
“If I had gone to the hospital earlier, I might have been a Stage 2, not a Stage 3,” she said.
“I would have gone to the doctor much earlier if people had told me that it was possible to get breast cancer while breastfeeding.”
Connie decided to bring awareness of the cancer to expat and women’s groups in South Korea.
“I don’t know how I got the idea to do this. I guess God put it in me,” she said.
Thanks to her post, several women have written to her to say that they were receiving early treatment.
Addressing the difficulty of finding treatment as a foreigner in the country, she also started a blog to journal her journey to recovery.
Help from angels
In 2020, Connie was without family support, without job, and without insurance policy in South Korea that would pay for her treatment. Yet she did not suffer any lack.
Coming alongside her was her cell group leader, Maren Trinh, who had been her doula (pregnancy companion) at Ian’s birth.
“I believe God moved people’s hearts.”
Now Maren became her “cancer doula”, setting up a circle of help with friends from their international church. Other expat women also came on board to extend practical help in the form of babysitting, meals and even gifts.
Maren also convince Connie to allow her to set up a crowd-funding page. (Maren has since moved back to the US).
Support poured in from friends and strangers from all walks of life and different faiths.
“It was definitely God’s work how we raised $100,000 in less than a week,” said Connie. “Because my friends and I could not have accomplished all this based on our own human efforts. The sum was too big. And, to be honest, we didn’t really do anything to promote the page.
“I believe God moved people’s hearts.”
She has continued to be blessed even till today. About two months ago, she received love gifts from two different sets of people within a week. One said God had moved them to bless her. “I was in awe,” said Connie.
“God reminded me that my son was also his child. If anything should happen to me, Ian would still grow up to be healthy and happy.”
Topmost on Connie’s mind was what would happen to her son if she did not recover. He’s her “baby miracle, conceived through IVF and the mighty power of God”.
“God reminded me that Ian was also his child,” she said. “And if anything should happen to me on this journey, Ian would still grow up to be healthy and happy with God’s love. All I have to do is to tell him about Jesus and God will do the rest. God took that burden away from me as a parent.
“I know that my life is not within my control. No matter how much I worry, I cannot prolong my days.”
God also reminded her of the previous time she was seriously ill in 2010: “He said, ‘I was with you then and I walked with you despite what the doctors said. Do you think that I would really just leave you on your own now that you have breast cancer?’
“Over and over again, He kept reminding me that He will definitely make my story a beautiful one. No matter how bad it is.
“With God, all things are possible.”
Chinese worship songs
In 2008, Connie’s dad was diagnosed with late stage esophageal cancer. Doctors gave him a year to live.
He went through chemotherapy, and seemed to be doing well after a year and a half.
“I was expecting him to scream at me. Because those Chinese worship songs were very (explicitly Christian).”
She wondered how to talk about Jesus to her father, who had years before threatened to disown her if she ever got baptised into the Christian faith. She had been taken aback by the harshness “because he really loved me and was always a kind and gentle guy”.
Then God gave her the idea, and her small group members gifted her with an iPod loaded with Chinese Christian songs.
“Dad was sleeping. I put the earbuds in his ears and left the hospital.
“When I came back the next day, I was expecting him to scream at me. Because those Chinese worship songs were very (explicitly Christian), with lyrics like ‘Jesus, your blood washed me clean’.”
Instead of the shelling she expected, her father asked: “Where did you get the songs from? I’ve never heard such beautiful music.”
They brought him a lot of peace, and he wanted more.
“As I fumbled over the prayer in Mandarin, Dad started reciting the Lord’s Prayer in perfect English.”
At the suggestion of her then-boss, Connie approached her father, asking: “You know how much I love you. Can you do something for me because you love me?”
She offered to say the sinner’s prayer with him.
“As I fumbled over the prayer in Mandarin, Dad started reciting the Lord’s Prayer in perfect English (which he rarely spoke).”
Her dad was 69 at that time, but recalled it from his days in a Catholic primary school.
“It could only be God who enabled him to remember it,” she said. “I told him, ‘God really loves you, and He’s with you.'”
Not long after this encounter, Connie’s dad was admitted to hospital. He never made it back as he went home to be with the Lord.
God threw the doctor at me
The year after her dad was diagnosed with cancer, Connie got up from her seat in the bus and slipped right down the aisle. She noticed that her entire thigh looked so bruised, it was almost black.
She was often falling down and had problems using her left hand, her dominant one, to open her locker, bottles – even pushing open doors. She started having violent bodily spasms. The weakness slowly affected her left leg and she needed to use a wheelchair. Then her left leg turned inwards.
She consulted psychiatrists and neurologists in her search for a diagnosis and cure. They led her to two possible answers – both fatal. One of them ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).
“The specialist said I should try to make my life better because I didn’t have much time left.”
In 2009, Connie left for China to seek more conclusive answers and alternative treatments.
After a few months, she was left with $1,000 of the $10,000 she went with, and was no closer to an answer.
Firing up Google in her search for a new doctor, she found a specialist who is well-versed with ALS.
“He said it was likely that I had ALS but I should stop wasting my time trying to find out what’s wrong with me, and try to make my life better because I didn’t have much time left.”
She was just 26 years old then. The life expectancy for ALS is two to five years. She had already wasted a year.
To ease her pain, the specialist recommended she undergo tui na (Chinese massage) by a doctor certified by the state.
One day, an elderly doctor saw the five doctors at the hospital massaging Connie at the same time. He decided to take on her case.
A nurse later asked Connie how she had become a patient of the elderly doctor.
Patients line up a day in advance for a queue number. These queue numbers sell for S$80.
“I said, ‘I don’t know how he found me, because I didn’t look for him.’
“It turned out that the doctor was really famous and he only saw 15 patients a day.”
The nurse told her that five patients were taken through phone appointments; the remaining 10 needed to line up at the hospital a day in advance for a queue number. There was a market for these queue numbers which sold for 400RMB (S$80 at that time).
“And here this doctor was asking me to come see him every day – rain, sunshine or snow – without a queue number,” said Connie.
She praised God, telling Him: “You led me to this doctor. You basically threw him at me!”
The doctor kept insisting, “We are not looking to heal you. I just want to make you feel better.”
She kept telling her doctor: “God will use you to treat me.” The doctor kept insisting, ‘We are not looking to heal you. I just want to make you feel better.’
“After a year, I was hobbling about on a walking stick. The doctor started boasting about me to his other patients.”
This was in November 2011 – three years after being in a wheelchair. God had healed her.
The doctor that God had “thrown” to Connie used to be a neurologist. He was exploring other disciplines and options for treatment.
“That is why he had such knowledge of my disease and knew exactly what to do for me,” she said.
A quiet and focused brain
In late 2020, Connie joined a Freedom in Christ course that was hosted from Singapore. The 10-week DVD-based course (designed by Neil Anderson and Steve Goss) which was conducted over Zoom, equips participants with tools to resolve personal and spiritual conflict and renew the mind.
“My brain has been so quiet and focused, I have been able to do things I never thought I could.”
“I started the first session half-heartedly. Thursdays were my chemo days. I wasn’t even sure if I could attend the course every time.
But in the first class, she was blown away.
“It showed me who God is, and reminded me of all the good He has already done in my life.”
After the sessions, “my brain has been so quiet and focused, I have been able to do things I never thought I could”.
“My brain is enjoying a peace like never before,” she said.
Her brain had “been cluttered with a lot of noise” for years, and worsened after chemotherapy. “Previously, I couldn’t think straight on most days. I almost gave up reading the Bible,” she said.
“God loves me, I’m accepted, I don’t need to find my security from anyone else.”
God also “gently, calmly and completely” freed her from the memories of the rape that still were still affecting her life (See Part 1 of her story).
“I know that God loves me, I know that I’m accepted, I know that I don’t need to find my security, my acceptance from anyone else. And I am already all of that in Him. And I know that He is still doing so much more in my life.
“All I need to do is just to walk in freedom with Him and know that in Him, I have the power to reject everything and anything that attacks me. And I know that I am seen by Him.”
Her relationship with her husband also improved.
The course has also given her ammunition to fight the second round with cancer.
Raising a hallelujah
Connie’s chemotherapy sessions ended in mid April, and she was looking forward to rebuilding her health.
Then a few weeks ago in early September, she discovered a small painful lump under her collarbone. Her cancer markers had doubled.
Connie recalled the time several months earlier when she was “feeling extremely defeated” and “anxious, depressed and fearful”. Her husband was going to be gone for six months to care for his father who was ill in hospital. Which meant that she was left alone to go for two rounds of chemotherapy, and on top of that, take care of their active son.
“Six months is just a few seconds in eternity … It helped me put things in perspective.”
She asked God if He could shorten the time.
In her kitchen, she heard God tell her: “Six months is long. But six months is just a few seconds in eternity.
“It helped me put things in perspective. That lit a lightbulb in me.
“The Lord is again reminding me that this battle is the Lord’s. I just need to take my position, stand firm and see His salvation,” she said, referring to 2 Chronicles 20:15-17.
“He says taking up position means to stand firm, praising and worshipping him. (2 Chronicles 20:22)
She is using Raise a Hallelujah as her battle cry, her “fight song”.
“He keeps telling me, ‘Do not be afraid, do not be dismayed at the great horde. Go against them and the Lord will be with you.’
“So I believe that is what I need to do.
“If you’d like to pray for me, please pray that I can continue to worship and praise the Lord.”
The next Freedom in Christ course runs over every Sunday for 10 weeks from November 7, 2021 till January 9, 2022, from 8pm-10pm (Singapore time).
There is no homework and the Zoom-based course is free but participants are required to get two course books (titles in registration link here). Click here for course overview and here to see sample videos.
Early detection saves lives
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2021, the Breast Cancer Foundation brings attention to the increasing incidence rate of women in Singapore diagnosed with the condition.
1 in 13 women in Singapore will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. This is a stark contrast to 1 in 45 women 50 years ago.
Early detection through breast self-examinations and mammograms can save breasts and save lives.
Women who are 40 years and older are advised to go for regular mammograms (yearly for women between the age of 40 to 49 and once every 2 years for women 50 and older). To request for an appointment, readers can scan the QR code above and fill up a form at the link.
The Pink Ribbon Walk is also back – this year in a virtual walk format through the month of December 2021. Join the breast cancer community and advocates to walk for a cause. Event highlights include exclusive prizes for winners in competitive and creative categories. Find out more about the Pink Ribbon Walk 2021 here.
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