Stage actress Emma Yong is one-third of Singapore's well-known cabaret trio Dim Sum Dollies. But earlier this year, she had to pull out of two plays unexpectedly, citing "medical reasons".
She was playing a victim of paedophilia confronting her aggressor in the play, Blackbird, in September last year, but had to go for a body check-up after suffering stomach cramps.
But her prognosis was not good. Emma was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer, the most of advanced of all cancer states. She had tumours everywhere, including in every single vertebra, her pelvis, kidneys and womb, she told The Straits Times.
What is remarkable now is that she has made significant recovery, with all her tumours undetectable now, after undergoing 10 cycles of chemotherapy.
She told The Straits Times: "My oncologist told me recently that when he first saw me in January, he thought I would be dead in three to five months. Now I count every day as a miracle."
The 35-year-old has just gotten married in January and was busy setting up house. She started chemotherapy the day after her wedding reception, a simple affair to which only friends and family were invited.
The actress said that she was lucky in that she did not suffer many side effects, such as losing her hair or feeling nauseous.
Staying positive helped
Maintaining a positive outlook also kept her going, as she decided to reveal the news to only a few close friends 'to conserve energy for healing'
Emma also read up as much as she could on cancer, to educate herself on the illness.
In the end, the self-confessed workaholic thinks that it is her high-stress lifestyle and unhealthy diet that contributed to her illness, as her family has no history of cancer.
Being addicted to carbonated drinks and junk food also did not help..
Now, Emma only drinks water and fresh fruit juice, and eats more vegetables, while eating home-cooked meals prepared by her mother.
Symptoms and treatment
Stomach cancer, as with other cancers, is classed from stages 0 to 4 to indicate increasing severity, with Stage 4 being the most severe.
According to cancer.org, the extent of spread of stomach cancer is an important factor in choosing treatment options and predicting a patient's prognosis.
Stomach cancer can develop in any part of the stomach and spread throughout the stomach, and even to other organs, especially the easophagus, lungs, lymph nodes and liver.
Very often, early stages of stomach cancer does not show up specific symptoms.
By the time a patient is diagnosed, the cancer has often reached an advanced stage.
Some symptoms associated with early stomach cancer are indigestion, or heartburn, loss of appetite and abdominal discomfort.
Symptoms in later stages include nausea, vomiting, constipation, weight loss and bleeding.
Chemotherapy is the commonly accepted treatment for the cancer. Worldwide, stomach cancer claims about 800,000 lives a year.
In Singapore, more than 600 people are diagnosed with stomach cancer every year and about 400 die from it. Stomach cancer is the No. 5 cancer among men and the No. 7 among women here.
Causes of stomach cancer While no one knows the exact cause of stomach cancer, there are certain risk factors which cause make people more likely candidates of the illness.
Smokers, those with a family history of the cancer, a poor diet, or people who eat foods that are high in salt, lack of physical activity or obesity are at higher risk of developing stomach cancer