Keeping fit despite breast cancer

Ms Deborah Roques, a 29-year-old project manager, says she tries not to work too late in the evenings and plans for outdoor activities as much as she can so as to strike a balance with her desk-bound job.

Project manager Deborah Roques tells Joan Chew why engaging in multiple sports is a must for her.

Q How has your exercise regimen changed over the years?

A I started practising karate when I was about 12, but quit at 22 when my focus shifted to my studies and I felt the sport was not as enjoyable any more.

When I was ready again for more exercise, I felt that having multiple sport disciplines was a must.

So, I started to run, cycle, swim and do yoga. These enabled me to work on different parts of my body and improve various competencies, such as endurance and flexibility.

Q What other sports do you do?

A I may swim, play golf with my friends or do rock climbing. These are impromptu activities. I also do water sports such as scuba-diving and surfing when I am on holiday.

Q What would you do if you miss an exercise session?

A I feel guilty when I miss a planned session. I will clock a longer distance the next day or take more classes to sweat it out.

Q Has there ever been a time when you were not fit and fab?

A From around 22 to 25 years old, I was pursuing a master's degree in supply-chain management in Toulouse Business School and working at the same time. So I could not exercise much.

I gained weight and felt tired all the time.

Q What is your diet like?

A For breakfast, I have fruits - it can be a mix of red grapes, kiwi fruits, apples, pears, nectarines, blueberries, bananas - toasted whole bread with honey, agave syrup or jam, and green tea.

Lunch is usually a salad or vegetables with fish or meat.

Dinner depends on what I have had for lunch. If I had a full lunch with fish or poultry, I will usually get a mixed green salad for dinner. I do not count calories. I love eating and I think it should be a pleasure, not something to be calculated.

Q Has your diet changed following cancer?

A I have mainly cut my intake of lactose, coffee, sugar, red meat, and items with a high glycaemic index or made with white flour. I raised my consumption of green tea, organic products, fruits and vegetables.

Q What are your indulgences?

A I am a chocolate addict and usually have a piece of dark chocolate every day. I also enjoy wine.

Q How do you achieve a work-life balance?

A I try not to work too late in the evenings and plan for outdoor activities as much as I can, so as to strike a balance with my desk- bound job.

Q What are the three most important things in your life?

A My family and friends have always been my pillars of support, especially right now when I am receiving cancer treatment.

Second, overseas trips keep my mind open to the world and give me fresh air when I need it. Lastly, physical activities help strengthen my body.

Q Would you go for plastic surgery?

A I have always thought that I would never go for it, but this year, I pushed away my principles. In January, I had a mastectomy and had immediate breast reconstruction.

I think plastic surgery after accidents or diseases is different and helpful to people struggling with physical issues.

That said, I will not go for plastic surgery to counter the effects of ageing. I would feel that I am lying to myself.


I run 8km to 10 km two or three times a week - once or twice on weekdays, and another time over the weekend.

I attend two yoga classes a week, lasting up to 11/2 hours each. These days, the haze has affected my running, so I try to do yoga and meditation every morning.



Age: 29

Weight: 62kg

Height: 1.8m

Ms Roques moved to Singapore in 2011 to take up a job in an electronic systems firm. The project manager, who is French, was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in January.

After a mastectomy and breast reconstruction, she returned to France - where her family lives - for chemotherapy, which ended in July.

Back in Singapore, Ms Roques, who is single, underwent surgery again to cut the risk of cancer relapse.

She is now undergoing radiotherapy and has to receive hormonal treatment for the next decade.

Her mindset, she said, is: "Even if you feel down, you should keep moving forward and looking upward.

"The vicious cycle of cancer treatments can be replaced by a virtuous one with exercise and a healthy lifestyle."

She has taken part in races of up to 21km over the years. She joined the Singtel-Singapore Cancer Society Race Against Cancer last year and had signed up for this year's edition which was supposed to take place last month. The race, however, was cancelled due to the haze.

This article was first published on Oct 13, 2015.
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