The day before her first chemotherapy session was the most difficult one for Mrs Joanna Sua.

It was April 2019, and the mother of three, 34, was breastfeeding her then one-year-old daughter for the last time before receiving treatment for stage three lung cancer.

Less than two years after the diagnosis, the latest scan - taken last month - shows no signs of cancer in Mrs Sua.

Speaking to The Straits Times from her Mandai office in the week leading up to World Cancer Day today, Mrs Sua - whose company Singapore Lactation Bakes supports breastfeeding mums - recalled how depressed she felt initially, after her diagnosis.

"You actually feel like it's a death sentence... The more that I read online, the worse I felt," said Mrs Sua, whose three daughters are now aged between three and eight years.

But she said those feelings eventually turned out to be misplaced.

Dressed in yellow during the interview, and with purple tints in her short hair, she said: "We want to let people know that it's not that scary and you can get through it."

When asked if she felt hard done by, Mrs Sua said: "I didn't allow myself to think that way because it's very negative. It's already a done deal. So if you think 'why me?', then so what? You have to move on."

She and her husband Nicholas Sua, 36 - who had just quit his banking job to join her company when she was diagnosed with the disease in March 2019 - also encouraged other families fighting cancer to keep their spirits up.

"We cried our eyes out just once that night when we found out. After that, no more... You must constantly hustle and be strong for the kids," said Mr Sua.

Mrs Sua underwent an aggressive treatment recommended by her oncologist. At its height, over a six-month period, it involved going for cycles of chemotherapy and radiation from Monday to Saturday, before taking a week off. She then received immunotherapy for a year.

But the family is aware the battle is not over just yet.

Dr Gillianne Lai, a consultant in the division of medical oncology at National Cancer Centre Singapore, said that despite the multiple-pronged approach to treating stage three lung cancer that includes chemotherapy and radiation therapy, more than half of the patients will experience a relapse within three years.

"The five-year overall survival rate for stage three lung cancer is historically poor, at approximately 30 per cent," said Dr Lai.

We cried our eyes out just once that night when we found out. After that, no more... You must constantly hustle and be strong for the kids. MR NICHOLAS SUA, WHOSE WIFE JOANNA WAS DIAGNOSED WITH LUNG CANCER IN 2019, ENCOURAGING FAMILIES FIGHTING CANCER TO KEEP THEIR SPIRITS UP.


However, she said that adjuvant durvalumab, a type of immunotherapy that was part of Mrs Sua's treatment, has been shown to improve survival and is now standard treatment after chemotherapy and radiation therapy for stage three lung cancer.

To remember how she felt during each part of her treatment, Mrs Sua documented 195 pictures and videos in a private Facebook album shared with close friends and family.

The video clips include some showing her with nurses, updates from the hospital, and shaving her head with her husband while her children can be heard crying.

"They didn't know what was going on," explained Mrs Sua.

The couple described cancer to their children initially as a "monster" that their mother had to battle. The couple remain optimistic about the future even though they cannot be certain the cancer will not return.

Mrs Sua said: "It takes a lot of strength to persevere, I hug the kids to let them know that I want to see my grandchildren. I want to fight to take care of them and they cannot not have a mum."