Live with Breast Cancer

Ai Van and her story of “fighting” with breast cancer.

Artist Ai Van looks splendid and full of vitality in her music clip filmed in Ha Noi. However, eight years ago, she had come face to face with cancer and counted her remaining days. She even thought of farewell messages to her children before she died. She talks about those days.

Recently, I have heard that many celebrities in showbiz have cancer. So, it turned out that this disease is horrible. In my heart, I, in one moment, really want to share with people who are sick or healthy that, even though the disease is terrible, the magic will come if you strive to overcome it.

Normally, women 35 and over should take a periodic examination once a year and so do I. Eight years ago, when I took an examination, the doctor found a tumor in my chest and he advised me to have surgery to remove the tumor immediately. However, I did not feel any sign, everything was fine. At that time, I had lots of music shows. Showcase in U.S is not like in Vietnam because you spend lots of time, at least 2 hours, or about 5 – 6 hours, to move between states; so, I definitely do not have surgery.

Ai Van used to shave her hair when doing chemotherapy. (Photo: Vietfun)

I did not do anything after one month. Then, the doctor called to ask if I had surgery or not. I asked, “Why would I have surgery?”
To delete “that”. But I argued that I did not feel any pain.

Regardless, I followed the doctor’s advice to do a biopsy. The Vietnamese nurse said: “I am so anxious to see the results, you need to make an appointment with the doctor to have a surgery”. At that time, I understood that having this disease could mean death. I made an appointment within 3 days and had a surgery. One month later, I started to do chemotherapy, my hair fell off, then I felt like I was going to die.

The doctor informed that I had cancer and my husband went back home. He took care of me in an unusual way as if taking me to the other side.

I previously had no concept of cancer. I just thought that it was one of deadliest diseases. I was very depressed, and I thought that my life was no longer counted in days, it was counted in hours. Then I wondered how my family would live without me, where my children would go, and how my father was shocked at this news.

At that time, I just thought of my family and relatives; and that I wanted to give my love to my beloved ones. So, through the period of sickness, I still tried to go to the super market and make meals for my family. I wasn’t interested in eating, felt nauseated and vomited frequently. I really wanted to make my whole family happy; so I tried to pretend that everything was fine.

Everyday my hair fall down so much that I thought of shaving my hair. But how could my children not be shocked when looking at me? Then I found out a way; that I would let my children play game. I gave a razor to each child and the winner was the person who shaved my hair the quickest. Evidently, they were very excited about the game, and my hair disappeared in the blink of an eye. When the last shave had ended, my hair fell off and my face fell upon utter surprise upon looking in the mirror.

My schedule was full and I could not give up or cancel my show. The show that I promised to do, I had to perform. I had to keep my prestige with the audience. Moreover, I thought I could perform; so 10 days after the surgery, I was on the stage. The butterflies in my stomach were restless, but I still sang and danced. I remember the first song that I performed after my chemotherapy, when my hair was falling off. It was called “Vo cai trong com”. But I had to practice with some dancers for 1 to 2 weeks with no hair at all. I wore a wig and performed in front of people. Actually, I didn’t think that singing would make me forget my condition, my numbers days and agonizing hours. But I did. Being on stage made me forget everything that I’d suffered from the disease.

During the process of chemotherapy, an American female doctor said: “Do not worry about your disease. Your ears are big. You are going to have a long life. No need to be anxious”. Well, the Westerners might trust astrological physiognomy, might they not? When I sat down with other patients for about an hour, we talked together, wore wigs, and wondered… Actually, when you got sick, your spirit is really very important. Then, I became aware that the most magical thing encouraging me was art and the stage. Hence, many people do not know my disease because they still see me on the stage.

From that moment onwards, I sang every song as if they were the last. I also recognized that my life was really beautiful, which I could feel because of busy work every day.

Luckily, my hair was regrown after 04 months of chemotherapy and I gradually forgot those terrible days. Each time I stood in front of the mirror and looked at my skinny body, I felt heavy-hearted. The surgical doctors said: “You are so lucky because the tumor was found in its early stages and it had not metastasized. You have to take medicine for the next 5 years, and after that, you will have conquered it.” I’d thought that they’d simply been hollow words, comforting sayings, and that my life would soon be over. However, I am still here now, standing here and singing to my audience. That is the magic in my life. My family and my career helped me to fight the disease.

I have advised women that you should take a periodic examination so far. Vietnamese women do not often have a sense of health protection and do not check their health frequently.

But it is not right. You should be lucky if you could die immediately. But it is terrible if you die gradually with lots of pain. You need to check your health each year, especially, examine your chest. I am so happy that I’d found the tumor early. I am so happy that my career was not interrupted outside of the first 10 days. My health now, of course, cannot be as good as good as it was before, so I not only work hard, but I listen to my body, take a rest when it feels tired, do exercise, and eat properly and in moderation.

I love a sentence of Trinh Cong Son: “Không có đâu em này, không có cái chết đầu tiên, và có đâu bao giờ, đâu có cái chết sau cùng (There is nothing to it, dear. There is no first death. There never was. And there never will be a final death.)”. I have been close to the death many times, I see that the life is temporal. You can’t know what the future will bring, what problems you will have to face, which diseases may be inflicted upon you, however, every day will be a new day and you should enjoy it.

Previously, I didn’t understand the song Trinh Cong Son because my life was very peaceful. Despite my hardships, my family really loved me, and I felt my life was drawn by a pink color. After experiencing the rise and fall of life, I felt his music. Compared to my younger self, I am now incredibly grateful for life!

Singer Ai Van – By Thể Thao Văn Hóa newspaper.