It took a bad fall from her bicycle after doing a 90-kilometre route at Desaru in Johor to trigger the signs. Jacqueline Teo went through an excruciating series of tension headaches and took herself to the hospital to get it checked. After numerous tests, the doctor had found two tumours at the back of her skull.
Jacqueline was diagnosed with stage-three nose cancer eight years ago, where she went through 33 sessions of radiotherapy, nine sessions of chemotherapy and two surgeries.
“When they broke out the news to me, I felt nothing. I was obviously in a stage of denial. However, my only concern was how I was going to tell my parents. My mother would go hysterical!” she said.
She had been an active endurance athlete and finished a lot of long distance races. Besides marathons, she also did triathlons and had participated in a Half Ironman. “I was a strong tower that collapsed overnight. The cancer, in a way, did kill me instantly,” she exclaimed.
“I really respect every single cancer survivor. I really regard them as fighters and warriors,” said Jacqueline.
She explained how bad her treatment was and told us about wanting to give up so many times. Jacqueline went through a state of depression, to the point that she even thought of ending her life. But one day, her mother was persistent that convincing her that she could still run would change her perspective towards life.
“My mom was desperate that she brought me to Padang Kebajikan. She dragged me to the running track in my weak state and said that she didn’t care if I walked, crawled, or ran… as long as I find myself.”
That moment served as a turning point in Jacqueline’s life and from that day onwards, her parents would drive her to the running track every day for her to slowly build up her stamina.
Eight months after she had recovered from her cancer, Brunei held a Half Marathon where Jacqueline had won first place in the women’s category.
Today, Jacqueline, now in her early 40s, has ran 23 marathons post-cancer. “The fact that I was able to finish a half marathon and emerge as champion was what built my confidence until today. I will continue to run marathons for as long as I can,” she said.
She expressed her gratitude for the support from her family, friends and doctor and said that even though her treatment was not the easiest, that was how she managed to pull through.
“I think the most important thing is to believe in yourself and believe that you can do the impossible. Not to let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do.”