Soon after cancer treatment, Prunella Ong travelled to Sabah to climb Mount Kinabalu.
For many people, losing their job and then being diagnosed with a serious illness is enough to make them feel helpless and fall into depression.
That’s not the case for 51-year-old property agent Prunella Ong. In 2011, the childless divorcee was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer after a routine checkup.
What’s worse, she received the news over the phone from her radiologist. But instead of getting angry and upset, she stayed calm.
The next four months saw her undergo rigorous cancer treatment. This included surgery followed by radiotherapy everyday for a total of six weeks, which caused uncomfortable side effects.
For instance, Ong developed chickenpox due to a weak immune system. “It was tough and it took me longer to recover,” she told PropertyGuru.
She also suffered an adverse reaction to a drug during a routine scan after radiotherapy.
During this difficult time, she was able to rely on family for support. Like Ong, they too were worried, but remained positive and encouraging, repeatedly telling her not to be afraid.
“They prayed for me everyday,” said Ong, who also relied on her Christian faith for strength.
She is still taking anti-cancer medication and will have to do so for 10 years. But fighting the cancer has given her a new lease on life.
Two months after completing her treatment, she took up the challenge of climbing Mount Kinabalu in Sabah in February 2012, against the advice of her doctor and friends.
Usually, climbers require a minimum of six months’ training before climbing Mount Kinabalu, but she didn’t have sufficient preparation.
Still, under the guidance of a coach, she managed to reach the summit of the 4,095-metre high mountain.
Prior to this, Ong has had to overcome other challenges in life. In October 2009, she lost her job at a healthcare company following a management restructure.
Even though she was headhunted by two other medical companies, she decided to become a property agent as she was concerned about job stability.
In 2014, at the age of 49, she joined ERA Realty Network which wasn’t an easy decision, given that many of her peers were half her age. Also, property was a totally new industry for her.
Despite this, she has managed to achieve a lot of success, receiving numerous awards such as the Top 10 Achiever Award for 2015.
Initially, she didn’t inform the company that she had suffered from cancer. “I didn’t want to be treated as a patient,” she said.
In a statement, ERA’s management said: “We weren’t aware of Prunella’s illness and would have definitely helped her, given the chance. Whenever an ERA agent appeals for support, we discuss amongst our leaders on how to help the individual.
“She mentioned that her Division Director has been very supportive, allowing her to juggle her post-treatment and career.”
In an industry often perceived as highly competitive, Ong says she found a level of support she hasn’t experienced before.
“This is a place for second, third, or even fourth chances in life,” she said.
Romesh Navaratnarajah, Senior Editor at PropertyGuru, wrote this story. To contact him about this or other stories, email firstname.lastname@example.org