When Vivian Ng heard the words breast cancer, she was in absolute shock.
The mother-of-two had felt a hard mass on her breast, but since it didn’t feel like a lump, she figured it was nothing. Eventually, she decided to have it looked at.
“I went to my family doctor and the diagnosis followed fairly quickly,” Vivian recalls. “At the time I thought my world was shattered, but looking back it was the start of a new chapter in my life.”
Vivian, a recreation therapist at Sunnybrook’s Veterans Centre, was referred to Sunnybrook’s Temerty Breast Centre for treatment.
“I went through the wringer with the treatment plan of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation,” she says. “It was a gruelling experience that took a toll on me physically, emotionally and psychologically. The fear of the unknown after each blood test, MRI scan and examination would leave me feeling like the world was collapsing on me. I was living one day at a time, which is difficult for someone like me whose job is all about planning ahead.”
Now, with her cancer experience behind her, Vivian is using her experience as a recreation therapist to give back to other patients and families at Sunnybrook for cancer care. One of her roles is to coordinate monthly entertainment sessions featuring local musicians.
“Having been a patient receiving treatment, there were times I wished for some entertainment to lift my spirits,” she says. “I have seen the power of live music up close in my work with the Veterans,” Vivian says. “It provides joy, comfort and stimulation. Music can change the atmosphere and create a refreshing and welcoming environment.”
Vivian has created Bands of Colour, an entertainment program that will bring in professional local musicians for mini concerts in the Odette Cancer Centre.
“Being a staff member and then a patient in the same organization has given me a unique perspective,” Vivian says. “The name Bands of Colour reflects all the different coloured ribbons associated with different types of cancer. Through the program we band together to improve our patient experience.”
She says she’s grateful for the love and support she received from family and friends, and the Sunnybrook team.
“I feel like I didn’t survive breast cancer alone: we survived breast cancer. If there’s someone you know or love who’s going through cancer treatment a simple email or text to show that you’re thinking of them can go a long way.
“Life carries on even with a cancer diagnosis. It might not be easy but remember – you got this!”