15/2018 – Be positive and stay positive
by Tan Thiam Hock
Just two nights ago, I joined my golf and drinking buddies for a Merdeka eve celebration at Mezze. To rephrase, they are just drinking buddies now since they excluded me from their earlier golf game at the newly revamped West Course of TPC KL. To soothe my bruised ego, Vincent brought Wide Churchill cigars and Jagan offered the delicious Morgon red wine from Burgundy.
Kay Tat offered his short Robustos which was politely declined by all whereas Paul brought his usual jokes and bantering skills.
I had just returned from London where I had my 18th ablation procedure of two active tumours discovered in a PET scan a month ago. After a few drinks, we were exchanging sobering news of friends and business colleagues who just discovered that they had cancer and friends who had passed away from cancer.
Jagan was amazed that despite my terminal fourth stage cancer conditions, I am always jovial and still enjoying my wines and cigars. Most cancer patients upon discovering will go into shock, depression and then become a self morphing recluse. Why me?
Self pity sets in as the patient drag his/her family into gloom and despair. The patient and family then look to the oncologist for answers and reassurance. Is there a cure? Can chemotherapy kill the cancer forever?
Hoping on hope.
Jagan, Kay Tat and Vincent wanted me to tell my story of how I faced this big C to all cancer patients and hope that from darkness, the patient will see light. Not hope. Hope is for dreamers. Hope is looking to God for a cure.
As an atheist, I am pragmatic. As a businessman, I am action oriented. As a father and husband, I am assuring and caring. As a human being, I am not afraid to die. But I want to die with a smile on my face knowing that I have lived my life to the fullest and leaving good memories for my family and friends.
This is about attitude. Positive or negative. I chose positive.
Being pragmatic, I read up and talked to many oncologists and medical doctors. There is no hope for a cure for fourth stage colorectal cancer at this moment. I will die sooner or later. I chose later.
I remembered Vincent and Kay Tat having breakfast with me at KLGCC the morning after my discovery in early January 2014.
They had urged me to fight the disease with a positive attitude. Tough battle ahead.
Many Christian friends prayed for me.
Even more friends (with good intentions) offered suggestions of miracle cures and alternative treatments, anti cancer drinks and supplements and all kinds of diets. It was kind of confusing, raising hope of a cure and feeling deflated when you realise it is unproven. I thank all of them, staying calm and collected.
It is important for cancer patients upon discovery to have a clear medical prognosis by an oncologist.
If it is early stage, what treatment is needed for a permanent cure? Surgery if possible is always the best treatment for early stage cancer followed by chemotherapy. Be decisive. Be wary of unproven alternative treatment. Do not delay as cancer spreads fast.
If it is at an advanced stage, what treatment is required to delay the inevitable?
How much time do I have? An experienced oncologists will be able to give a decent prognosis based on statistics and former case studies. In my case, primary cancer was colon so surgery was required to remove the primary source. I had the surgery within a week of discovery.
The businessman in me then took over. Kill or be killed was my motto. Just like facing a tough and ruthless competitor in the market place. Discovered that ablative radiotherapy works well with chemotherapy for my treatment.
So I would ablate all the active tumours followed by chemo treatments. And when side effects affect my quality of life, I will just do ablation procedures.
I was deciding my course of action on average once every three months after a CT/PET scan. It was just a business decision. No emotions allowed.
I learnt to keep the roller coaster emotions to myself. Away from the family, business partners, colleagues and friends. My wife, the caregiver, suffered the most and she needed reassurance from me. My children were all schooling in UK so I kept them informed as openly as I could without alarming them, so as not to affect their studies.
I continue to plan my medical trips with their entrance into universities and shifting into new accommodations without fail.
I have to stay strong for the family and they stay strong for me. Family love is therapeutic and comforting. Normal family activities keeps you going, willing you to continue living. No self pity was allowed in my family. Life goes on as normal as possible. Plan A for the future together and Plan B without me. Just be pragmatic.
So life goes on. I continue investing in new businesses. Continue to learn new trends in emerging digital businesses from young entrepreneurs. Difficult to shake off the old school mindset without reducing my ego but these are next generation consumers whom I do not understand.
Kept my mind busy to avoid thinking of death.
Spent more time searching for nice wines and nicer cigars. Refuse to ask for more strokes from golf buddies despite being weak from chemo treatments. With golf buddy crocodiles as friends, who needs enemies? Ended up paying more tuition fees. So what’s new? Life goes on.
To all the cancer patients, life have dealt you a cruel twist.
Just remember nobody owes you a living.
So stop the self pity. It is ok to tell the world you are a cancer patient. It is not AIDS for god’s sake! Deal with it. Without emotions and with pragmatism. You might suffer physically but you must stay strong emotionally and spiritually too for those who believe in God. Live and let live should be your motto and you will live longer than you think possible. A positive attitude is all you need.
As a Malaysian, this year’s Merdeka celebration is in itself a miracle. Changing the previous government to the current is like getting out of darkness into the light. Hopes are raised as despair turned into joyful expectations. As a pragmatic Malaysian, I dare not hope too much for fear of being disappointed.
Outdated politicians will continue to use race and religion to prolong their political careers. Corruption will continue albeit at a slower pace and on a smaller scale as it is difficult to eliminate systemic corruption across all levels of the administration.
As a Malaysian father, I look forward to a future where my children and grandchildren will not be subjected to racial and economic discrimination. I will be able to rest in peace knowing that political and religious bigots will not be given a place in this country.
To all Malaysians, you have found your voice, so please continue to act positive, be positive and stay positive.
This is the Merdeka attitude.