World Cancer Day Survivor Story
When I was first diagnosed with cancer (Hodgkin Lymphoma) in late 2014, I was surprised, instead of being sad. Being a fit person, plus a vegetarian, this seemed impossible. There wasn’t a solid answer given to the cause of my condition. If it wasn’t for a medical checkup, I wouldn’t have known about it. After going for a CT scan, I found out that my cancer was already at stage 2, on the brink of stage 3. A PET scan later revealed that I had a tumor in my chest and neck. I was referred to Ampang Hospital for further treatment.
The treatment process wasn’t easy. I lost 20kg and was feeling very weak. Chemotherapy literally kills all your cells in the body, both good and bad. I couldn’t move my body without feeling pain, sleep didn’t come easy, and even when I was sleeping, I couldn’t sleep soundly. To make matters worse, I had chemo burns on my hand (this was when during administration of chemotherapy, the medicine would leak out of the vein, thus corroding my skin from inside out). I could hardly lift my hand now. I couldn’t use my dominant right hand for my daily chores. My normal routine was severely harder than normal.
Regular chemotherapy made my veins to not be very visible on my arms, causing the nurses some challenge in finding a good spot to install the intravenous needle. There were scar holes all over my forearm. When my vein’s wasn’t visible anymore, they had to install a chemo port in my chest via a day operation. I felt really low at this time. I’m the eldest in the family, and I’m supposed to be taking care of my parents and sisters. Instead, they are taking care of me. I felt useless, just wasting away at home. It was at this time that I decided that enough was enough. I recognised my strength before chemo started. Plus, I was a leader and an achiever during my school and university days. I knew then, that I had to fight all the way, for myself.
After completing my radiotherapy, I decided that the only way to fully convince myself that I’m back is to do what I love doing, and doing it big! I had to give myself one last physical and mental test, and see whether I can make it or not. Reaching the peak of Mount Kinabalu was my only aim then. I completed my treatment on November 2015, and hiked Mount Kinabalu on December 2015. Hiking that mountain wasn’t exactly a walk in the park; every hiker will tell you that. During the hike, I was thinking to myself, I’ve been through worst, feeling tired is definitely not going to slow me down. The hike was especially hard when I started my journey to the peak at 2am.
The temperature was 2℃, the breeze was numbing my face and I could hardly feel my fingers. I’ve not experienced a temperature of less than 10℃ before this. My only thoughts at this time was to witness the view at the summit and to call my family and announce that their son and brother made it! When I finally reached the summit, I was overwhelmed with mixed feelings. Never was I prouder of myself. All my cancer treatment journey flashed before me; how my family sacrificed so much for me, how my extended family and friends gave me encouragement, and the suffering that I’ve been through. The view from the peak, that was worth it. This was a personal gift to myself, for bracing through chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
I was told a total of 8 hours from the bottom to the peak was plus and minus an average time. Hey, not bad for a cancer survivor! The Sun was already up on my way down Mount Kinabalu. I was enjoying the beautiful scenery all around me. The clouds, the unique plant species at different altitudes, the rock formations, view at the bottom, etc. I truly enjoyed the hike down the mountain. I’ve also made various new friends from different parts of the globe.
Love, support, and lots of prayers from my family and friends were crucial throughout my treatment. My family, especially my first sister, was there for me all the time. I’m the eldest in the family with three little sisters. Few extended family and friends kept on checking up on me and gave encouragement on a regular basis. Reading the Bhagavad Gita gave me more strength. This journey thought me various lessons. When there is an issue, there was no point in crying over a spilled milk. We should always go for the next plan of action. Cancer gave me more reasons to live, and cancer made the impossible, possible.