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CANCER Why They Live
by Chris K. H. Teo, Irene E. A.Teo & Ch’ng Beng Im-Teo
(Irene holds a M.Sc. in Health Psychology and is currently doing her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology)
EIGHT PEOPLE HAD CANCER. They followed a healing path few dared to follow. They live to share their amazing stories of recovery and self-discovery. They spoke their minds on various issues of cancer treatments. They share with their hearts what they have learnt while on their healing journeys . May you be imbibed with their good values and use them for your own journey.
THE COMMON ATTRIBUTE SHARED among these outstanding people is the realisation that health is their own responsibility and that they must do something for themselves if they want to live. To do something means to institute changes in their lives. They traded the conventional invasive and toxic treatments recommended by their doctors for something simple and very much less harmful – a change of diet, lifestyle and taking of herbs. They lived! And they live to share their stories with you.
Our first book, Cancer Yet They Live was popular. It gave hope to many people and touched many lives. More than a decade has passed since that first book was written. We are now ready to write another – Cancer Why They Live, a sequel to the first.
CA Care has been around helping the helpless and often confused cancer patients since 1995. Unfortunately not everyone who came to us found what they sought. Only thirty percent of them found help and relief.
Perhaps many patients are naïve and ignorant, especially those who have not had any experience dealing with cancer before. Some people believe that their doctors can cure their cancer. They comply with whatever their doctors want them to do. Of course, some have obtained their cure – albeit temporary relief or remission. But many have found themselves worse off than when they first started. Such is the unpredictable nature of cancer cure ….
Chapter 1: Johnny
Summary: Johnny, 46-years old, was diagnosed with Stage 2B, colon cancer. He underwent a surgery in a private hospital in January 2006. Unfortunately, things did not work out well. Nine days later, Johnny had severe hiccups and he had to undergo a corrective surgery. According to the surgeon, his intestines had to be rearranged. After the second surgery, Johnny was unable to move his bowels for several days and the surgeon suggested a third operation (three operations within a month?). Johnny declined further surgery. He said: I am going to discharge myself and go to the General Hospital. Fortunately, everything worked out well this time and Johnny did not need a third surgery. Subsequently he was discharged from the hospital on 14 February 2006. Johnny was asked to go for chemotherapy. But he declined further medical treatment. He came to CA Care in March 2006, and was started on herbs.
Q: Are you okay?
A: I am getting better and better. So far no complaints.
Q: Have you gone to see your doctor for a check-up lately?
A: I went to see an oncologist three months after I started taking the herbs. This was the last time I went to consult a doctor. Since then I have not gone to see any more doctors. The oncologist said there was nothing wrong with me but he still insists that I go for chemotherapy. I told him I have no money. Now, I am doing fine. I work eight to ten hours each day – and seven days a week. But I am okay.
Q: We are going to talk about your cancer experience. When I mention the word “cancer”, how do you feel? Does it make your heart “jump” a bit? Angry? Fearful? What’s your reaction?
A: No, I feel normal. Waah, before I first came to see you, I was stunned – thinking I would die because I had cancer. Now when you talk about cancer it does not bother me at all. When I first came to know I had cancer I was really stressed out and worried. Now having understood and found my direction on how to deal with it, I feel much better.
Q: During these seven months living with cancer, was there any time when you felt you were going to sink or lose hope?
A: No, I never had such feelings. Instead, I felt so energetic and active.
Chapter 2: Jack
Summary: Jack, a 52-year-old male, was diagnosed with Stage 2 nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) in December 2002. He underwent thirty-five radiation treatments but these did not cure him. He suffered a recurrence eight months later. Jack was asked to undergo a surgery to open up his face so that the tumour could be removed. He was on the verge of doing that when a friend suggested that he looked for another option. Jack consulted a doctor from Hong Kong who felt that only radiation was necessary. In April 2004, after six radiation treatments, Jack found CA Care.
Life After the Treatment
Q: After this radiation treatment, you went back to your old lifestyle?
A: After the radiation I asked my oncologist about my diet – whether I have to avoid anything. He said: You can eat anything you like. My wife was beside me. He spoke quite strongly about this, to the extent of telling me off – like why should you even ask such a question. He said: See your wife. Your wife eats the same food as you. Why doesn’t your wife get cancer? He was annoyed by my question. (Laughing). So, I was happy to eat anything I like. I did not know anything about cancer then. I took his word as gospel truth.
Q: What made you ask that question?
A: Generally I hear people with cancer cannot eat this and cannot eat that. People become vegetarians after being diagnosed with cancer. But when the doctor confirmed that I could eat anything, I was happy. But then, I got a recurrence in November 2003.
Recurrence and Radiotherapy – Round Two
Q: There was a recurrence hardly one year after you were first diagnosed. How did you know there was a recurrence?
A: I had to go for a scope which was done once every three months. The first few scopes were okay. But, it looked like I could not have another Christmas! (Laughing)
Q: When you were told of your relapse, how was your reaction? Was it as bad as the first one?
A: Not as bad as the first one. But when the oncologist said I would have to have my face cut, my feelings were like the time when I was first diagnosed with cancer. Actually, a week before I was told I had a relapse, I went for a scan and was told that it was all clear. Then a week later, I went for a scope – very confident that everything was going to be okay. The scope showed the cancer was there. The scan did not show it. I did a scan after a year but the scope every three months. That particular scope coincided with my scan. The doctor didn’t say much. It was a very small lump. So, he did a biopsy. Two days later, he called me.
Q: Was he the same doctor?
A: The same ENT doctor. When he called me, I thought to myself: Finish already, otherwise he would have just sent me the result. He said: Don’t worry. It is just a small thing. Probably you need a little radiation and it would be okay. The only thing is that it is a recurrence. A recurrence is no good. But the problem started when I went to see the oncologist. He said it was a big problem and I had to cut it out. The oncologist said: Actually the radiation didn’t work for you. And radiation won’t work for you anymore. You must go for surgery. So he recommended surgery, cutting through my face (showing cutting motion along his nose and lifting up his face), opening it up, then digging out the thing layer after layer.
Q: How did you take it after hearing the oncologist?
A: Terrible, very, very terrible. Imagine cutting up my face. I didn’t feel like wanting to live anymore. At first, I felt numb. How could this happen? But he said: If I were you, I would do it – for the sake of your family and the kids. That was what he said. I took those words very seriously. If you, as an oncologist, were prepared to go through it, I was left with no choice. When an oncologist says: for my family – these are very powerful words. I was prepared to go for this surgery because of his words. My wife and I started to calculate the costs – we were looking at hospital rates, room and board, etc. It would be a major surgery. So, we were prepared to go for it. It was really scary. You know, mentally I was finished. I couldn’t think anymore following the news. He described to me how my face would be cut through, opened up and scraped (showing scrapping motion), then put back. So there would be scars after that.
Conflicting Professional Advice
Q: After you went home, how long did you brood on whether to go through this operation or not?
A: I brooded for a few days, until the friend (who was with me, listened to everything and was not affected) found out about a Hong Kong oncologist. With some good friends who cared, he searched around and found out that this doctor used to come here. I called this Hong Kong oncologist. But there were a great deal of politics between him and the local doctors. So he said: You have to fly to Hong Kong before I can treat you. But I was very reluctant because in this state of mind, I just did not like to travel. So I said: Can you find a way to come so that you can treat me? I knew friends in a hospital who could arrange for him to come.
Q: So, it was this friend who saved the situation? Without him, you would have gone ahead with the surgery? You and your wife had decided to do it?
A: (Nodded in agreement)
Q: What made him decide to contradict the oncologist’s advice? He was there with you. He heard what the oncologist said. But unlike you, he decided against it?
A: When he heard what the oncologist said, it sounded terrible to him. He also knew many general practitioners (GPs) and specialists. These people also agreed that it sounded terrible. One of his GP friends knew this Hong Kong oncologist. So he helped make the contact.
Q: So, you had treatment from this Hong Kong oncologist?
A: Yes, he radiated me six times on that part of the nose (showing the part on his nose) – only radiation, no surgery.
Q: And he did not ask you to go for surgery? Why did the first oncologist ask you to go for surgery?
A: Personally, my reading is that for the first oncologist to admit his radiation did not work would be a loss of face. I came to this conclusion after everything was over and when I looked back at what had happened. He could not admit that he did not carry out the radiation well enough. Since he said that radiation did not work for me, I had to go for surgery. This is my personal view.
Chapter 7: Lee
Summary: Lee, male, was 53 years old when he was diagnosed with cancer of the kidney on 11 March 1997. A CT scan showed a well defined solid mass in the right kidney. This could be an adenoma or a low grade carcinoma. Lee underwent an immediate surgery to remove his right kidney. The pathology report dated 14 March 1997 stated: Specimen of kidney: 225 gm, measuring about 11 cm x 5 cm x 4 cm. Yellowish tumour with fibrous areas seen in the middle of the kidney. The tumour measures about 4 cm in diameter. Interpretation: right kidney consistent with clear cell adenocarcinoma. After the surgery, the surgeon did not consider mop-up treatment like radiotherapy or chemotherapy necessary. There was no medication to take either. Lee came to know us through our book: Cancer Yet They Live, which was given to him by a friend. Since then he has been on our therapy.
Personal Growth With Cancer Experience
Q: Did the experience of cancer ever change you in any way or teach you anything?
A: Yes, cancer has taught me what life is all about. From my viewpoint, life tells us that there must be a reason why we are here. Many people may not understand the reason. We go to school – but some people do not understand why they go to school. To some it is just to get a certificate, that’s it. There is more to it. Life is also like that.
My mother died when I was nine years old. I had to stop schooling after Form Five (high school) because my father met with an accident and was not able to take care of us. My sister had to support my younger brother. In order to lessen my sister’s burden, I joined the navy. To me, this was my sacrifice. Indeed, my childhood days were very stressful. After I had cancer, the basic concept of my life still remained the same – sacrifice for a good cause. That is why I have devoted my life to helping cancer patients.
Cancer has changed the way I look at life. Before cancer, my life was self-centred. I went after things that made me happy. I enjoyed to satisfy myself. The main concern was me and what I wanted. In addition, I did things in style to show off or to impress.
My life after cancer was a total change. I am more humble now. Humility and gentleness do not mean weakness. These are noble values. Yes, I am more adaptable and flexible now when dealing with people around me. In past days, I wanted people to adapt to me – I said something and I expected them to obey me. Now I am more accommodating. Before my cancer, life was about what I wanted. Now, I don’t want anything anymore – I just want to be myself and make people around me happy, i.e., to create happiness around my immediate surroundings. I have learnt to appreciate everything around me – human beings or animals, etc. I am more conscious of what goes on around me. Previously, I did not realise or appreciate all these things. I was in a world of dreams of my own. I was twenty-three years in the navy. I started from the lowest rank and climbed up to the highest possible rank of a non-commissioned officer. That was my career achievement. After I had cancer, I started in a similar way. I knew nothing about cancer. Now I am learning more and more and I want to be able to help as many cancer patients as possible. It is now my calling and mission in life.
In short, cancer has nurtured within me a sense of closeness to people around me. I find life more meaningful and enjoyable. I am more humble and less arrogant. As a result of my changed attitudes and lifestyle I cultivated a new set of friends who think and behave like I do now. I lost contact with my old friends. They don’t click with me anymore because my values and thinking have changed. If I want to go to the bar, ah … then, I would end up with the group of old friends again.
Q: Following your cancer, have you found that you are more “empowered” – being able to know what is going on?
A: Definitely. My life is in my hands now. I can control its outcome. Before I had cancer, I accepted everything that came along. Now, I have fine-tuned my life and I do not accept everything and anything that come along. I know more about how to maintain the health of my own body. I am not ignorant anymore. I understand much more now about how to be healthy. Before, I knew nothing and accepted everything that people told me.