January 05, 2014

Cancer: Do You Really Know What That Means?


"Cancer"

I first came to know how deadly that word can be when I was in elementary school. My beloved cousins lost their dad to brain cancer, and to me it was the first death I've ever encountered that involved somebody very close to me. At that time everything happened so fast. One day, we were just celebrating our birthday together in happiness (my late uncle, my cousin and I were born in January) and just not long after that, he was gone. It was our last birthday together. It was my last memory I have of my uncle.

But I was too small at that time. Sure, I knew what death means. I knew that once people die, you will never be able to see them again. But, only after awhile, I learned how the sudden lost could turned someone's life upside down. My cousins were still small, and my aunt (my mother's sister) was struggling to get their life back on track again. There were so much to cover, school fees, food money, electric bills, water bills, house rent etc. The struggles lasted for a few years, and although I'm just watching through the sidelines, I could see how hard it was for my aunt. And until now, I still think of her as the strongest woman I've ever known. I don't know how my aunt made it alone, but I could see how much family support really meant during the darkest time.

That time, I thought that it would be the end of it. And oh dear, I was wrong. A few years past by, and I finally started high school or 'Sekolah Menengah' as we call it in Malaysia. I entered Maktab Rendah Sains MARA, a boarding school in Perak. And not long after that, my grandfather (my father's dad) was diagnosed by the same illness that took my uncle's life. 

Brain Cancer.

It was a baffling moment for me. Because this time, there were actually hope for my grandfather since his cancer was diagnosed early. The doctor suggested on operation, but my late grandfather refused to do it. Some of old people at that time were still a bit skeptical on modern health practice. I still remember how chaotic it was. Some of my uncles/aunts were dead set to follow my grandpa's wish while my father and some of his other siblings and aunts were trying to convince everyone to accept the surgery. I was about fourteen years old at that time, so I was old enough to understand the conflicts. My mother who is a nurse was being convinced by her fellow colleague to make sure my late grandpa took the surgery, but as the daughter in law, she doesn't have much saying in it.

In the end, my grandpa didn't have the surgery and his condition started worsening as the days goes by. It was painful to see because I was very close to my paternal grandparent. We always went to my grandpa's house during the weekend since it's close to where we live. As his condition deteriorates, my grandfather started to have problem in speech, and he also became bedridden. My father used to commute for about forty minutes every lunch hour everyday so that he could change the dressing on my grandfather's wound on his back due to being bedridden. Since I was still in boarding school, I only got to see my grandparent once a month when I went back home.

The psychological impact on the family members became even more obvious at that time. Due to slight misunderstanding from my uncle side, my father even had a fight with him. Well, I won't say the cause since it was all in the past, but you could say that was one of the rare moment where I saw my father cried.

And about one year after that, my grandpa passed away.

I didn't even had the chance to attend his funeral. My parent only told me on the Friday, the day after the funeral. I can't even go home because I was about to have a test on the next Monday. If I were to tell you my biggest regret until now, it is for not being able to say goodbye to him properly. He was a strict but a loving man, and until today, I still can't forget the way he smiles and laugh.

I'm now 22 going to 23, and again I lost someone dear to me to cancer.
And its just a  few weeks ago.

This time, I lost my dear grandma to bone cancer. Although she wasn't my grandma by blood, but I've known her all my life. She was my nanny but I call her grandma, and she used to take me everywhere when I was young. All her children treats me like their own niece, and their own children treats me like their cousin. 
So, when I received the news of her death from my father, I was devastated. 

Unlike my uncle and grandfather whose struggles lasted relatively shorter, my grandma fought cancer for so long that I can't even remember when it started. But I'm pretty sure it's more than five years ago. She was first diagnosed with cervical cancer and had an operation to remove it. But sadly, the cancer cells started to spread to her bone. She lost so much weight over the time, but every time I went to visit her, she never fails to flash her smile to me. I wasn't there when she passed away, but she finally rest in peace after struggling for so long. But luckily, I'm at least able to send her away to her grave.

So again, someone I hold close to my heart was snatched away by cancer.

If you ask me what I feel about cancer now, I still would say that I don't know much about it. I know how ugly it is to both the patient and the people around them, but I haven't personally see the effect of treatments like chemotherapy or how it is done. My uncle treatment time was short, while my grandfather didn't even start his. Meanwhile, my grandma always went away for her treatment and operation. I only see her once in awhile, and although I could see how she lost her weight and doesn't have much strength to walk, I've never really see the dark side of it. I never see any of them writhing in pain because I'm always away for school.

I always experience it from the eye of the third person. 
And I hope that will be the end of it. 

After three loses, I really hope no one I know would get the same illness. Because even to me whose role is just as the third person, I still feel the grave sadness and fear. Therefore, I don't ever want anyone to feel the same pain anymore.

Cancer doesn't just take away one's life, it takes away time and money. It takes away laughter and only the strongest heart would be able to face it without crumbling in helplessness. Therefore, we should start to take this disease more seriously and starts to do something in order to reduce the risk of cancer on everyone we love, including ourselves.

Cancer comes in many type but according to the National Cancer Society Malaysia the Top Five Cancer that affecting both male and female in Malaysia are:

1. Breast Cancer
2. Colorectal (Bowel) Cancer
3. Lung Cancer
4. Cervical Cancer
5. Nasopharyngeal Cancer

You could read about Cancer in Malaysia here.

There are some ways to prevent cancer like:
(taken from preventcancer.org)

1. Eat Healthy

Improving your diet is a great way to a healthy life. The food pyramid wasn't just there for us to stare at, starts following the correct way of eating by reducing the amount of fat intake and increasing the amount of vegetables and fruits in our daily diet. If you drink alcohol, limit the alcohol consumption. Or just don't take it at all! Don't make yourself too familiar with processed meat and eat less red meat. You can read more by clicking this link.

2. Don't Smoke

 Nearly one-third of death due to cancer are attributed to smoking. Even 'third hand smoke' which is toxic residue left behind on clothes, hair, carpet is reported to present a serious health risk. The number of smokers in our country is relatively huge in number. Almost everyone knows that 'Smoking' is the No 1 killer in our country yet nothing has significantly changed. Being an asthmatic patient I am, I personally have a very strong dislike towards smokers, even if he is my dad (thankfully he finally stopped smoking already). I tend to have a difficulty in breathing when I accidentally inhale tobacco smoke. You can read more about it here, and if you have any intention to quit smoking, you could visit any 'Berhenti Merokok' clinics near you or call the operator to get the hotline number to stop smoking

3. Be Active

 Moderate exercise for at least three days a week could give you a significantly positive change in your health. Don't make excuses especially on weathers when it came to exercising. There are a lot of indoor activities that you can do as much as outdoor activity. Doing it together with others will also help in motivating yourself. Need more guide? Click here.

4. Get Screened

An early detection through screening along with knowing your family history is an important step in preventing cancer. There are also immunization that you can get for certain type of cancer. Help yourself by being updated to the cancer related news and also make sure to make a visit to a screening center as often as you should. Click here to find the link to help you determine your risk by completing a medical history chart. Click here to view January 2014 promotion for screening by the National Cancer Society Malaysia in conjunction with Cervical Cancer Awareness month

Who knows, these steps above might be the only distance between you and the deadly killer.

And if you're still among the lucky one, you should not forget to help the less fortunate one. You could help them facing their struggles and makes it even more bearable by reaching out to them. There are so many ways to help, not only through volunteering (click here to volunteer), but also in form of financial support.



This time, AXA Affin is collaborating with the National Cancer Society Malaysia in a campaign to help in financing cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy. In order to help, our role is to blog about their 110CancerCare website and their effort to help these patients. For every blogger who blogs, one cancer patient would receive funding from AXA Affin for their chemotherapy daycare usage at the National Cancer Society Malaysia cancer treatment center.

Isn't that great?
With just a keyboard and a blog, you could help someone in need. 
And you could also help in spreading knowledge about cancer to the public.

Like what I wrote above, battling cancer is not just the patient's war. Family members and friends need to be their comrade, sharing the same pain. Because more or less, you will be affected in more than just one way. In order to help them get through it, the people close to them need to be not only physically prepared, but also psychologically.

And if you're interested to take part in the campaign, you can reach Sam Yoong at sam.yoong@lionandlion.com for more details and inquiry.





2 comments:

  1. This is a very meaningful post. I will definitely be contacting Sam and blog about this. Thank you for sharing your story with us :) http://extraordinarinn.blogspot.com/

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  2. @Carinn Tan Thank you. I'll be looking forward to reading your post! :)

    ReplyDelete