The Road To Cancer

Since returning back to Singapore from Shanghai with Liu Ge in February 2010, I had been having constant and regular discomfort in my anus region. I kept having the feeling to go to the toilet to discharge my waste. Every time when I visit the toilet, there was nothing. It was so uncomfortable, I had to keep soaking my buttocks in hot water to ease the discomfort for a short while. The feeling to discharge my waste got worse after each meal.

At this point in time, I still thought it was hemorrhoids. I even went to Kim’s Clinic, my usual clinic to treat hemorrhoids to had another one removed. But even though it was removed, the pain and discomfort remains.

My wife finally decided that it was best that I visit my company’s clinic to get a professional opinion on my condition. I started reading up on bowel problems and at this point in time I suspected I could be having Irritable Bowel Syndrome “IBS”.

On 17 April 2010, which was a Saturday, I went with my wife to Raffles Medical Clinic (located near my home) to have a check-up. The doctor on duty suspected it was something else instead of hemorrhoids or “IBS”. He wrote a note for me to pass to a specialist in Tan Tock Seng Hospital (“TTSH”) for a more detailed review of my condition.

On Monday, 19 April 2010, my wife and I went to TTSH for an appointment to see the specialist. We met up with Dr. Tay Guan Tze, a surgeon who specializes in Gastrointestinal problems. After explaining my problems with Dr. Tay, he asked me to remove my pants and lie down on the bed. He then put on a pair of gloves and using his finger, he shaft it through my anus. As he moved his finger deeper, I felt a terrible pain.

Immediately, he removed his finger and he asked me whether I need to go back to work. I asked him why and he inform me that he wanted to perform a colonscopy test. I felt at that point that my condition was definitely more serious than I thought.

I was warded to Clinic 2B for the Colonscopy test. Once I was wheeled in, Dr. Tay was there. He insert a tube with a camera through my anus. Without moving in very deep, just  near the rectum and the sigmoid colon he found the tumor. There was a TV screen attached and he show me the tumor. It was what that was blocking my waste from being discharge from my anus. The tumor looks so soft and lumpy with red blood vessels surrounding it. It really looks horrible.

Dr. Tay inform me that it looks like a malignant tumor and to confirm, he took a biopsy of the tumor for further analysis by the Pathologist. He then move the tube and camera further up my colon but not completely. In the end instead of a colonscopy, what was conducted was a Sigmoidoscopy.

After the Sigmoidoscopy, Dr. Tay advised whether I could stay on in the hospital to have a CT scan conducted. I agreed to stay to have the scan conducted. I could see from his expression that my cancer was more serious than I thought.

The CT scan equipment was quite scary. It was a huge piece of equipment. This was the first time I had ever had a CT scan on my body.

Dr. Tay advised Liu Ge & I to return back to Clinic 2B at 4pm so that he can review with us on the result of the CT scan. The waiting time was a time of reflection for myself and my wife. I can tell from Liu Ge’s expression that she was very worried. I was trying very hard not to show it.

The amazing thing at this point was that I did not smoke at all. This was all down to me being a ‘Kiasi’ individual. The moment I knew I had cancer, the phobia of dying kicks in and I immediately quit smoking though I had been smoking for more than 30 years. All my family members and friends were very surprised that I could just quit without suffering any withdrawal symptoms. I, myself was surprised too. I am really an extreme ‘Kiasi’ person.

When we met up with Dr. Tay again at 4pm, the news from him was bad. According to the CT scan, the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes. This means it was a Stage III cancer. The only good news was that my liver, lungs and kidneys was still cancer-free. But the fact that it was a stage III cancer was bad enough and I could tell that Liu Ge was very upset with the news and she started to shed tears. I was just lost for words. I did not know what to do but just felt totally lost.

Dr. Tay advised that we must return to TTSH on 23 April so that he can go through with us the pathologist report from the biopsy he had taken during the Sigmoidoscopy. He also advised that I must get the surgery done as soon as possible and he propose the date of 27 April 2010 for the surgery. (That date would be exactly 1 month since Liu Ge and I were married as we tied the knot together on 27 March 2010).

On 23 April 2010, Liu Ge and I met up with Dr. Tay for the pathologist report review. According to Dr. Tay the review was not as bad as it seems. Out of 30 lymph nodes identified, only 1 lymph node was confirmed carrying cancer cells. This news was a huge sign of relief for Liu Ge and I.

Since the tumor is located at the rectum and next to the Sigmoid Colon, Dr. Tay advised that he would need to do a lower Anterior Resection with Anastimosis. He will also be performing an Ileostomy for me. What Ileostomy means was that Dr. Tay will perform an operation that would brings the iLeum (last part of my small intestine) through a hole in the abdominal muscles and sews an open end of the ileum to my abdominal skin so that my body’s wastes (feces and gas) can be eliminated into a special stoma bag. The waste materials are more liquid than they would be with a colostomy, and they are highly acidic, which kills off most of the bacteria. One of the problems with an ileostomy is that the digestion of food is continuous. Even when I am sleeping, I have to wake up 2 or more times in the middle of the night to go to the toilet to clear the stoma bag. Our intestine never sleeps. It works 24 by 7. Amazing!

According to Dr. Tay, the diverting ostomy will be temporary. I would need to have this temporary ileostomy for at least 6 to 7 months until I complete my Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy treatments. Once my treatments end, Dr. Tay will do a ileostomy reversal surgery.

Dr. Tay advised us to go ahead and make the arrangements for my operation to be performed on 27 April 2010. As it was a Friday that day, we need to arrange all the paperwork before the weekend since the 27th was a Tuesday. Frankly, I wish the surgery could had been earlier as the tumor was really giving me severe discomfort.

I remember that Sunday, i.e. 25 April, my eldest sister, Chew Foong, Jin Lee, Karen & the kids came over to my place. In the evening, my eldest sister bought us dinner at the Prawn fishing place. She ordered a huge steam Pomfret but I could hardly eat it. For I know after eating, I would need to soak my buttocks in hot water again. That weekend leading towards my surgery was one of the toughest weekend for me to get through. I wish the surgery to remove the tumor could had been conducted over that weekend.

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