And Still I Rise

A cancer diagnosis should have brought financial advisor Sara Sukardi to her knees.
Instead, it brought her to her feet.

Written by Fateen Ariff

With her cheerful personality and bubbly grin, you can't help but be drawn to Sara Sukardi from the get-go. She radiates so much positive energy, it's infectious.

Which is why it's hard to imagine that a bit over two years ago, Sara was diagnosed with cervical cancer Stage 1B.

It wasn't news she wanted to receive, of course. But instead of letting it weigh her down, Sara used this life-changing illness as a wake-up call to pursue her dreams.

This is her story.

"It happened so suddenly. There were no warning signs at all."

In 2020, just as the country was going into its first COVID-19 lockdown, then-31-year-old Sara started to experience really heavy vaginal bleeding.

Initally believing it was just her monthly period, she realised something was wrong when she kept having to change her menstrual pads every ten minutes.

This went on for hours, during which Sara experienced pain worse than any menstrual cramps she's ever had before. The situation peaked when a large piece of human tissue passed through her canal.

There was no doubt about it: something was very, very wrong.

"The doctor assumed I had miscarried. I wasn't married. I'd never been sexually active. No way could it be a miscarriage."

Despite going to the hospital immediately, it took a while for Sara to be diagnosed, especially since most facilities were busy dealing with the pandemic patients.

For the next five months, she went through a series of tests that included a pap smear, colposcopy, and a biopsy. What made it worse that throughout all these, the bleeding never stopped.

"By the time my result was coming in, both my doctor and I already suspected what was going on," she declares. "But I was still in denial - there was a part of me that hoped it was something else."

"Unfortunately, the suspicions proved to be true."

"You have cervical cancer, her doctor informed her. The best course of treatment is surgery."

"For a moment, I genuinely felt like there was no point in living. I was only thirty-one, and I had to remove my uterus. Now all the dreams I had of one day being pregnant and carrying my own children were gone."

"Grief was swiftly followed by depression."

"I drew into myself, she confesses. I stopped talking. Stopped smiling. For weeks, all I did was cry. I was so depressed, I didn't leave the bed."

"But by the grace of God and the love of her family and friends who never left her side, Sara got up."

"It's just cancer!" she recalls telling herself as a way to diminish the power it had over her."

"Why should I let it ruin my entire life? I have people who love me, I have a stable job, I have things I can still do and enjoy, and I want to fight.">/q>

"So on 16 July 2020, Sara underwent surgery to remove her uterus. The treatment was successful and true to her happy-go-lucky nature, she found a bright side to it all."

"I was thrilled I didn't have to go through chemo!"

"Am I going to die?, Who would want to marry me now?
These were the thoughts that kept running through my head. Surely there was a reason this was happening to me."

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

"Although I was trying to stay positive, it wasn't easy," Sara admits. "It wasn't just my physical health that was affected - it was my mental and emotional health, too. I felt like I had just lost something that defined me as a woman."

"Still, Sara knew there was more to her than her illness, and she wasn't going to let it take anything else away from her. Digging deep into herself, she found the determination to use cancer not as a barrier but as a reason to push forward."

"I wanted to be happy. Unexpected things can happen at any time and life is too short to not go after the things you love and want. And for me, that was turning my love for fashion and music into a second career."

"I'd like to advise all women to monitor their periods and to perform a pap smear at least once a year. Cervical cancers can't be detected through blood tests. You have to do screenings like pap smears or HPV DNA tests. And if the worse happens, don't give in and don't give up."

Take a deep breath, smile and start again

"Singing and fashion styling were always hobbies I enjoyed outside of my work as a financial advisor," Sara shares, "but after my cancer diagnosis, I took all the pain and grief I had and poured them into the pursuit of a second career. I started taking vocal lessons. I became active on social media, posting pictures and videos of myself constantly. Basically, I started doing things I was previously too timid to try."

"Soon, offers begin trickling it. Not a lot, but enough to build her confidence. She's been invited to sing at small events and to give plus size outfit reviews - or as she cheerfully puts it: "I get free clothes. I love it!"

"Of course, it hasn't been smooth sailing all the way. She's gotten rejections and random social media trolling, but they don't faze her."

"I've had cancer. I removed my uterus. I battled with depression. If I can make it through all that, a few negative opinions don't matter. At this point, no one and nothing can make me lose faith in my dreams."

"Some may say my dreams are too big. But I've been through a nightmare and I'm still here. I'm not a cancer victim - I'm a cancer warrior."

For more on our Cerita Kami series, head over to our Instagram @msreadmoments!

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.