I have just finished my slides to talk on "Coping with cancer - what helps and what doesn't". It is a difficult topic. There is no standard textbook answer. I am still learning everyday how my patients tell me how they cope. I begin to imagine too how I would react if I have cancer. Cancer is becoming more common as people now lived longer due to better lifestyle and healthcare. The life expectancy now is 78 years old. A century ago, it was less than 50 years. People are living longer and hence there is a higher risk of developing cancer. It is like an old car; sooner or late, there will be problems. The incidence of cancer is 1 in 4 and 1 in 3 people dies of cancer. Cancer is like an "epidemic". Everyone knows someone who has cancer.
I had first hand experience on coping with my own nephew's death due to a brain tumor this year. He was 11 years old. It was the most difficult and darkest time of my life. Being a oncologist and a specialist in cancer, there was little I can do to help. The cancer was very aggressive and resistant to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Surgery was not possible due to the location of the tumor. Yet, he was the most remarkable and courageous patient that I had ever knew. He never complains of his symptoms, although being well chair bound and seeing double vision. When he eats, it will take him an hour to swallow and food and water droop on the left side of his lips. The brain tumor had affected his cranial nerves and he was like a stroke patient. He was dependent on the wheelchair and was unsteady on his feet. Yet, he never complains and fought to live a normal life. He consoled his parents, asked them not to worry and he worried about the costs of his own medical expenses as the family was not well off. He taught me lots. He taught me that whatever situation that I am in now, there could be far worse. So, give thanks for what you have, fight on to live a normal live, spend time with your family and never let cancer defeat you to the extend that you stop living when you are still alive. Fight cancer till the end and never ever give up.
Come to the NPC public forum. My session will be an interactive session with cancer survivors and caregivers to share their own experiences in dealing with cancer. It will be a heart warming experience.
Dr. Choo Bok Ai
Consultant Clinical Oncologist and