Vivienne Wong

Share something with us about yourself, Vivienne :)

VV: After graduating from university I worked 7 years in the public service before becoming a freelance entertainer and copywriter at age 30. In retrospect, leaving my job was quite YOLO haha…at the time it felt like “now or never” to explore the passions which I’d never had the chance to. I haven’t looked back since. It’s not always been easy. Getting cancer just a year or so into freelancing was a bummer because of the work I had to let go of and concerns about income + medical bills. But it’s also been immensely rewarding and I regret nothing!

Beautiful - being able to accept - even embrace - the aches, pains and battle scars on my body. Feeling happy, healthy, and my best self. Experiencing joy at how it re-shapes character, outlook, relationships.

Woman - I used to wonder if losing a breast, being in an induced post-menopausal state for the next few years for long term cancer control, would make me feel less like a woman. But somehow it’s affected me less than I thought it would.

What do the three words - strong, beautiful and woman - mean to you now?

VV: Strong - when you are going through a difficult time, the common phrase people say to you is “Be strong”. But I feel we have to normalize being not-strong, because grief, fear, anger, are real and valid reactions to terrible things that happen to us. What felt much more meaningful was people saying to me “I know it’s hard but I’m here for you, tell me what you need.”

Also, when people call survivors strong, it feels like they’re saying we’re exceptional or superhuman… and we are not. We are just like you - because this can happen to anyone. I never ever expected myself to be a statistic at 32. If you meet a storm you can’t run from, all you can do is just get through it… and that’s what we have done! I don’t think it’s strength per se. It’s patience, endurance, acceptance - qualities that anyone has. Maybe that’s what’s real strength.

Beautiful - being able to accept - even embrace - the aches, pains and battle scars on my body. Feeling happy, healthy, and my best self. Experiencing joy at how it re-shapes character, outlook, relationships.

Woman - I used to wonder if losing a breast, being in an induced post-menopausal state for the next few years for long term cancer control, would make me feel less like a woman. But somehow it’s affected me less than I thought it would.

What do the three words - strong, beautiful and woman - mean to you now?

VV: Strong - when you are going through a difficult time, the common phrase people say to you is “Be strong”. But I feel we have to normalize being not-strong, because grief, fear, anger, are real and valid reactions to terrible things that happen to us. What felt much more meaningful was people saying to me “I know it’s hard but I’m here for you, tell me what you need.”

Also, when people call survivors strong, it feels like they’re saying we’re exceptional or superhuman… and we are not. We are just like you - because this can happen to anyone. I never ever expected myself to be a statistic at 32. If you meet a storm you can’t run from, all you can do is just get through it… and that’s what we have done! I don’t think it’s strength per se. It’s patience, endurance, acceptance - qualities that anyone has. Maybe that’s what’s real strength.

Strength is cause for celebration, as is vulnerability. Let us in on some moments when you feel down, and your sources of comfort in times of need.

VV: As a Christian, God was really my greatest comfort in this time and I was blessed to encounter Him so differently from any other time in my life. At my lowest points when I felt the most bitterly disappointed about thwarted life plans and miserable about treatment, He came through so clearly to reassure me that no matter the outcomes, my future - in life, and after life - was secure and I wouldn’t walk alone.

My mom was my most devoted caretaker and inspiration, because she too is a breast cancer survivor. I also had a network of super supportive friends who did everything from just hanging out with me at home, sending me care packages and randomly FaceTiming me. I also use humor as a coping mechanism! Being able to joke about my situation, and even helping people to laugh with me - about the weird things my reconstruction makes me feel, losing my hair, my medical tattoos from radiotherapy, how I’m post-menopausal and “my eggs are fried” - always makes me feel better. Maybe it’s the performer in me that gets a nice feel-good adrenaline rush every time I make someone laugh…

 

Complete the sentence. Life is...

 

Photography: Nicole Ong (@knickieophotography) and Sharon Leisinger (@studioleisinger)
Hair & Make Up: ARLY
Lingerie: Demi Padded Bodysuit by Perk by Kate
Robe: Bells & Birds