19/2016 Attack the unknown enemy with every means available

by Tan Thiam Hock

Saturday, 19 November 2016

JUST this Thursday morning, I had a review with my oncologist regarding a CT scan which was done on Monday. Somehow our conversation veered towards the attitude of cancer patients under her care. She was surprised that from experience, her jovial patients with a relaxed cheerful attitude somehow on average survived longer than her patients who moan and groan all the time. Her senior nurse, Rahimah who is ever present beside her nodded in agreement.

Then towards evening, news had filtered to me that Soo Ewe Jin had passed away at 5.20 pm. Ewe Jin had suffered a third relapse of the big C last year and despite undergoing chemo therapy, he continued to write his column “Sunday Starters” faithfully. All in all, he survived for 17 years which is truly remarkable and very inspiring for cancer patients like me and so many others.

Every Sunday morning, Ewe Jin would share his joy of living with his readers, always finding a silver lining amongst the dark clouds and teaching us to be grateful with what we have. He celebrated every new day as a gift, treasures friendship and spreads love and kindness through his softly written words.

When I was diagnosed with the Big C in Jan 2014, I quickly recovered from the initial shock and began to analyse the issues at hand.

Never one to panic, I treated the problem like how I would face major problems in my business life. Slow down, take a deep breath, analyse the scenario, see the big picture, consider consequences of failure, possible solutions and action plan.

After reading up on colorectal stage 4 cancer, the big picture was clear to see. It is terminal. Just a matter of sooner or later. Treatment is multi disciplinary which includes surgery, radiology and chemo therapy. No permanent cure. Control the disease wherever and however possible. Be adventurous. Nothing to lose.

I needed an action plan. New goals and milestones. A new attitude.

So I turned to Ewe Jin. Called him up for lunch hoping to tap on his experience on how he managed chemo treatments, his dietary habits and advice on how to cope with the thought of being inflicted with terminal disease. All I got from him was a cheerful disposition, warm smiles, loads of encouragement and the latest edition of his book which he proudly told me is given to many oncology wards and cancer patients.

He advised me not to be bitter, stop feeling sorry for myself, spend more time with my loved ones and to continue writing my column. Writing to him was another form of therapy. Good for the soul. He was calm, at peace with himself and with God. And all he wanted was to spread more goodness and kindness to a futile world desperately needing some sunshine and love to come through.

Having been an entrepreneur for so many years, I am used to facing major problems alone. I understand the turmoil that goes through my mind, trying to figure out various solutions to the problem at hand. There are solutions to many problems and sometimes no solutions at all. Dead end. You are truly on your own.

My action plan became my business plan or vice versa. Attack the unknown enemy with every means available before it grows in numbers and size. Buy time. Three months at a time. Review scan and strategise on next course of action. Make prompt decisions. Be decisive.

If faced with major problems in business, you have to act fast and decisively. If your competitor is gaining market share, put up your defensive wall or attack. Do not sit still. It will take years to get back what you have lost.

If your business is bleeding continuously, stem the losses, fast. Either you increase your sales or you cut cost. No two ways about it.

If you have staff with bad attitudes, it will spread like cancer to others in the organisation. Either a personality change or a job change. The staff will have to decide.

Never plan to lose money with your new venture. I guarantee it will continue to lose money as the business model was set up for the specific purpose of losing money. Spreadsheet projections is as reliable as knowing when your next cancer cells will appear. People who runs such business models do not know how to make money. Period.

There are many similarities between managing a business and managing a terminal cancer disease.

Skill sets required include great mental strength, positive attitudes, pragmatic outlooks and decisive decisions.

Facing challenges at every turn, you have to stay calm, plan new strategies and chart a new course if necessary. Never give up. No problem is insurmountable. Do not worry too much. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Learn to appreciate what life has given you.

Only when you reach the end of the road and when there is no more runway left, only then should you accept the inevitable with an open heart. You have fought a good fight and it is time to rest.

Dang. I sounded like giving advice to Malaysian politicians.

Unlike the politicians, Malaysia needed a journalist with a big heart to show us that kindness and goodwill will always triumph over racism and self interests.

Rest In peace Ewe Jin. You deserve a good rest.

Published: http://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2016/11/19/attack-the-unknown-enemy-with-every-means-available/

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