Connie Sun was diagnosed with aggressive, pregnancy-associated breast cancer (PABC) while her son was still an infant. To make the diagnosis most terrifying, she received the diagnosis in the midst the coronavirus pandemic.
Sun was screened for breast cancer in July of 2019 and was given the all-clear. But in early 2020, she felt a lump while she was breastfeeding her son. She initially thought it must be a clogged duct.
She waited a little bit for it to go away, but it didn’t. Then when she tried to get in to see the doctor, she had to wait even longer because of the pandemic. When she finally got in to see the doctor, it was early March.
She was told that she had stage III pregnancy-associated breast cancer (PABC).
She had a grade 3 tumor in her breast as well as tumors in her lymph nodes. Her health care team at Gangnam Severance Hospital told her it was fast-growing and HER2+, and that she needed immediate and aggressive treatment.
Her son was only nine months when she was diagnosed. Sun had been teaching English and working as a translator for several years and was the primary wage earner for her family. Her husband was a tour guide. But COVID-19 and her breast cancer diagnosis have knocked both her and her husband out of work.
In South Korea, patients need a “helper” to be with them during any hospital stay. The family couldn’t afford to pay someone to take on the role, so her husband is her helper — which means he has been unable to work. The family has no income.
The bad news kept on rolling. Sun’s treatment was not covered under South Korean health insurance.
Because of the aggressive nature of her breast cancer, Sun needed to get chemotherapy, have surgery to remove the cancer, undergo more chemotherapy, have multiple cycles of radiation, and also start an experimental drug. Sun tried to explore getting treatment outside of South Korea (she is originally from Singapore) but she couldn’t because of travel limitations.
This is not the first time Sun has faced a health crisis. In 2009, she was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. It’s a disease that attacks the nervous system. Nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord begin to break down, and this triggers muscle weakness. There is no cure.
Sun experienced muscle weakness and stiff limbs for about a year, beginning with her left hand. She was living in Singapore at the time and doctors there diagnosed her with ALS. Then she started having problems with her left leg; it turned inward, and her entire body would be rocked with spasms. She couldn’t walk and had to get around in a wheelchair.
Her doctors in Singapore told her there was nothing more they could do for her. So Sun went to China to get alternative treatment. Her doctors were not optimistic, and told her she had only a handful of years left to live.
But Sun didn’t believe them. After three years, she was able to walk again. She says that God healed her from an incurable disease. She hasn’t had issues with it since.
Getting diagnosed with breast cancer was a shock to Sun.
“Many worries flooded my mind, with the greatest one being my son,” Sun wrote. “He was our baby miracle, conceived through IVF and the mighty power of God. I wanted to be there for him as he grew up.”
Sun has begun chemo. She has a supportive network of friends and church members who help watch her baby son and even cook for the family.
On top of that, a good friend of Sun’s started a fundraising page for her to help cover the cost of treatment, and Sun was also interviewed by news outlets. As of this writing, they have nearly hit their goal!
“I still do not know what God’s plan is, but I know that He is still with me,” Sun wrote. “I was filled with an immense amount of peace and that peace has sustained me. The road ahead is tough but I know I am not alone; my family isn’t alone. God is with us!”
Sun hopes that her story will help other women and increase their odds of early detection.
C. Dixon likes to read, sing, eat, drink, write, and other verbs. She enjoys cavorting around the country to visit loved ones and experience new places, but especially likes to be at home with her husband, son, and dog.