A firm believer – Tupou advocates for early breast cancer detection

Asinate Tupou with her Pink Passport. Picture: SITERI SAUVAKACOLO

ASINATE Tupou is an advocate for early detection.

Though she has never developed cancer, the mental trauma, uncertainty and apprehension she went through while waiting for test results on breast tissue is something she never stops talking about.

She is a firm believer in early presentation and early detection — no matter how trivial the symptoms may appear to be.

Ms Tupou was only 15 when a boil on her left breast forced her to step out of the exam room without completing an exam paper. The pain was so unbearable that she informed her teacher and mother that the boil had been bothering her for a few weeks. Her mother accompanied her to the hospital where she was prescribed antibiotics and this, along with herbal treatment from her relatives, cured the boil.

At the time, the breast cancer issue was taken lightly in the country and there was not much discussion about the possible consequences of resorting to such treatments.

She completed high school and started her career in the hospitality industry.

This turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the young mother as it allowed her to take her life seriously and to be an advocate to other Fijian women.

In March this year, her employer, Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay introduced the Pink Passport project — a monthly cancer screening program for female workers of the 5-star property.

Ms Tupou was glad to be part of the new initiative until she received the dreaded news. During a test done in June, a lump had been discovered on her left breast.

“I was terrified,” Ms Tupou said.

“I didn’t know what to do and the first person I thought of was my seven-year-old daughter and who is going to look after her if the sickness gets serious.

“Different thoughts and feelings crept into my mind but the support of my fellow workers and family helped me go through this with ease.”

A few days later, Ms Tupou paid a visit to Suva’s CWM Hospital where she underwent a more thorough check-up and doctors took samples to be tested.

She was also told they would call her later to reveal the test results. Those two weeks were the longest in Ms Tupou’s life. She had sleepless nights and she often hugged her daughter tight as tears rolled down her cheeks. Fear was a constant companion and haunted her most of those 14 days.

While doing her normal housekeeping duties exactly two weeks after her test, Ms Tupou received a call from the hospital.

The test results had returned negative and the lump was a residue of the boil she had more than a decade ago.

Doctors managed to remove the liquid particles in the lump and she was declared free of cancer.

That changed the 28-year-old’s life forever.

She has never stopped talking about the importance of regular check-ups to her family members and even to her friends and every person she meets.

“To all women out there, if you want to live a long life, please do go for check-ups because we do not know what’s happening in our body.

“If you ever experience a boil, present it to nurses when it’s still small and do not wait for it to get too serious.

“Herbal treatment is not bad but we need to visit the hospital first so doctors can see what is really wrong with us.”

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