22/2015 – Where there is life, there is hope

Saturday, 12 December 2015

LIKE any parent, my heart goes out to the Sultan of Johor and his Permaisuri after having seen the heartbreaking picture of the Sultan in tears over his son’s grave.

It reminds me of a scene in The Lord of The Rings when King Theoden of Rohan grieves over his son’s death with the words “No parent should have to bury their child”.

Earlier, he had told Gandalf the Grey … “the young perish and the old linger. That I should live to see the last days of my house”.

My wife and I had earlier this year witnessed a similar scenario when her university classmate Yussli had lost his young son also to cancer. He was about the same age as Tunku Jalil and he had fought a brave battle too. Yussli exhausted his life savings seeking various treatments for his son every time the cancer spread, but the cancer was just too aggressive and the battle was lost.

Such is the love of parents that they are willing to sacrifice everything to save their child from sickness and harm. Nothing is as heartbreaking to a parent as when they see their child suffering in pain. Parents can only suffer in silence with a sense of hopelessness and pray that the suffering ends.

I am no expert on the topic of cancer. But since two years ago, I was forced to read up on the topic and seek consultation with various medical specialists. So my knowledge is limited to my personal experience.

All I know for certain is early detection of cancer gives you a good chance of recovery. Late detection is bad news and your life span is now dictated by the unpredictable behaviour of the cancer cells in your body and the effectiveness of the various treatments available. How long you live depends on how lucky you are.

Handling the bad news upon discovery is extremely tough for anyone. It starts with disbelief and then the truth sinks in. Like a slow-motion movie scene, you watch the world crumble down on you. You are now in shock.

What is Stage 4 colorectal cancer? The oncologist will patiently explain to you that your primary cancer started in your colon and that it has spread to your liver and lungs. Pointing to the computer screen, her finger will point to the dark lesions here, there and elsewhere. Okay, you have five lesions in the various segments of your liver and three lesions in your left lung and para aorta.


The good news is that all eight lesions are below three cm, which means you can ablate (burn) them if you need to. The bad news is millions of micro mets (micro cancerous cells) have broken out of your colon and have travelled all over your body. Full body infection.

The bad news is your tumour in the colon has grown too big and you need to have immediate surgery to remove it. The surgeon says the good news is, the tumour is not at your rectum so it looks like you might not need to wear a colostomy bag for the rest of your short life.

The good news is he can resect (cut a section off and reattach) your colon by laparoscopic method, which means no open surgery. The bad news is, you will not be able to move your bowels for a week.

I tell myself that this is just another pain-in-the-arse problem that I normally face at the office. No big deal. With my vast business experience, I can handle it.

Can I be completely cured after surgery, ablation and chemotherapy?


According to statistics compiled over the last 20 years, the bad news is only 50% of Stage 4 patients survive more than two years and only the lucky 5% survive beyond five years. The good news is, nobody can tell you with certainty that you are not the lucky one. There is still hope.

So, began the journey of good news, bad news, good days and bad days. Somehow, it felt like another day at the office, making decisive decisions at every turn and handling crisis after crisis. Stay calm and decide. Stay positive. After all, it is only a matter of life and death.

To the young entrepreneurs, you will definitely experience good days and bad days in your entrepreneurial journey. Some crises require immediate decisions, others can be decided later. Staying calm gives you a clear head to make the best decisions.

Small problems should be solved immediately before it becomes a big problem. A big problem is normally complicated and extensive in nature. It will require multiple solutions with many twists and turns along the way. Don’t give up. Your survival depends on your never-say-die attitude.

Sometimes, when you are faced with what seem like insurmountable problems, take a step back, go hide in a corner and have a good cry. Only when the weight of sorrow and despair has been lifted from your shoulders that you can see the light and find hope. Then resume your journey with optimism and joy.

As for me, I can feel the force in me awakening. I will be hiding in my little corner in a galaxy far, far away come next Thursday watching the seventh episode of Star Wars. Since watching the first episode 38 years ago, the most memorable scene was the revelation of Darth Vader as the father of Luke Skywalker. And despite crossing over to the dark side, he saved his son from the evil Emperor out of fatherly love.

My new target in life is to watch this latest trilogy with episode 9 slated for cinemas in 2019. Wish me luck!

Published: http://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2015/12/12/where-there-is-life-there-is-hope/


3 thoughts on “22/2015 – Where there is life, there is hope

  1. I have enjoyed reading every one of your articles Thiam Hock and thank you for sharing your experiences in business and life’s journey.
    I am positive you will enjoy good health to see perhaps a new govt in 2018, catch your Starwars in 2019, and help mould the Nation’s renewed vision 2020 and beyond.
    God be with you Always, my friend.


  2. I am a surgeon treating all sorts of cancers and am an old acquaintance of your wife from 3rd college if she can still remember me. Yusli is also a friend of mine. Your column in general, and this one in particular is so engaging especially as I feel that you are baring your soul for everything you write. I have used this particular blog to help my patients cope as it gives them a shared experience as well as a strategy on how to live. Its not the years in your life but the life in your years but this is phrase is easier said than practised but through you i am able to give them more understanding especially on the way we play around with numbers. Even if it is one in a million, there is always a chance that you can be the one so we should always remain positive. Another thing I tell them is that the longer you live, the better your chance of seeing a new approach to may be cure you. I pray that you will achieve the goals you wish for and continue to give meaning to various aspects of this confusing world through your insightful writing.


  3. Hey Bro, I like your attitude – my hat’s off to you man! You’re an inspiration to me cos I’ve got pancreatic cancer 2 years ago. After surgery, radiation and chemo my oncologist said I looked better.
    Yes we’ll look forward and ‘live’ everyday and cherish every happy moment that comes our way.
    Have talked to Soo Ewe Jin some time back and he has given me some pointers on his experiences.
    I still have a lot of “bad days” (if you know what I mean) even though I’m not going through any treatment but the doctors said it’s part of the recovery process after the radiation & chemo.
    Do keep on writing and you will definitely watch Starwars Episode 9 in 2019 !!!
    Wishing you all the best
    Regards and thanks
    David Ong


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