M'sian City Life #32: I Was Only 7 When My Brother Was Diagnosed With Stage 4 Cancer

"I remember seeing both my parents breaking down and my heart was completely shattered."

Cover image via Esther Erin

It was 2003.

Walter Aaron was only 13 then while his younger sister, Esther Erin had just begun primary school.

Image via Esther Erin

"My brother was a very active young boy but all that changed when he entered Form 1. From riding the bicycle for hours to not being able to even climb the stairs to his class at school, he got weaker by the day," Esther recalled.

"We thought it was just fever, so we brought him to a small clinic one day because he told us he felt unbearably cold. The doctor at the clinic said it was just a viral infection and gave him some medications."

One week passed since their visit to the doctor but instead of getting better, Walter's condition only got worse.

"His nose was bleeding and he was losing weight dramatically."

"This wasn't just a VIRAL INFECTION."

Desperate for some answers, Walter's family brought him to the Sime Darby Medical Center, which was known as Subang Jaya Medical Centre (SJMC) then.

"They ran some tests on my brother and the haematologist, Dr Lin, broke the news to my parents."

"Imagine hearing, 'I'm sorry but I'm afraid your son has acute myeloid leukaemia'. I remember knowing he was at stage 4 and it would be a miracle for him to recover. The doctor even told my parents he might only have a few months left."

On top of worrying about Walter's health condition, their parents were troubled with financial issues

"That was probably the worst day of my parents' lives. I remember seeing both my parents breaking down and my heart was completely shattered. I was just confused because I was still young and didn't understand back then," Esther noted.

"We were having financial issues. My dad was working all day and all night. My mum quit her job to look over my brother full time and was doing whatever she could to raise funds for my brother."

Thankfully, strangers reached out to the family with financial assistance back then and the family is forever grateful to everyone who offered a hand in those times of need.

Esther and her family spent the next few years with Walter, fighting alongside him to win the harrowing battle against cancer

Image via Esther Erin

Esther remembers the vivid details of what her family had to go through while they had to watch Walter struggle in his illness.

"I would skip school quite often with so much going on. I spent most of my days in the hospital with my brother. I saw the amount of pain he went through. I heard him scream from outside the operation room."

"I've seen him forget my mum and dad, and even me, every single time after chemotherapy. He started to go bald and his nose was always clogged from bleeding so much. He lost 10kg a week and looked as fragile as glass."

"It didn't matter how bad his condition was, we never gave up."

After five long years of perseverance, the journey of recovery ended with joyful tears in 2008 as Walter received long-term cure for his condition

Image via Esther Erin

"I am the happiest sister to know that my brother has been in recovery for the past 11 years. We have gotten closer than ever since then. He makes sure no one bullies his little sister and I make sure he eats healthy (as he has many food restrictions) and stays healthy," Esther said.

"We've gotten closer because he faced a near death situation. We were never close before he got leukemia because of our age gap. I was too young then and we didn't have many similar interests."

"After he recovered, we got closer than ever because he said that life is really short and we should always never take our loved ones for granted. Honestly, he really changed as a person after he recovered."

The experience did not only bring them closer together as a family but also inspired the two siblings to have a deep desire and passion to give back to the society

Image via Esther Erin

Walter is currently pursuing his Masters in Microbiology while Esther is pursuing her Degree in Medical Biotechnology.

"We both aspire to be cancer researchers one day and hope to contribute to a better future," Esther said.

She is also going to volunteer in the upcoming CPR relay event this 31st August by UKECharisma.

"I volunteered so that I could learn the basics of CPR because it's a useful life-saving skill. I'll also be teaching and spreading my knowledge to the people who will be attending the event."

"My family and I have been trying to help other people through charity. We would visit different old folks home and orphanages frequently. As for healthcare, I am hoping to contribute a lifetime to it through knowledge and career in the future."

"I want to make a difference and help others in need. The best thing in life is not to be rich with money but rich with kindness. If we have the ability to use our knowledge to help others in need, why are we not doing so?"

Living in the city ain’t a piece of cake but it could also be exciting and adventurous. How are you coping? How are you making the best out of things? Do you have a story or experience to share?

SUBMIT YOUR STORY NOW, or work on it and send it soon. Share a personal experience, your story as an urban city-dweller in Malaysia, whether it’s yours or from someone you know, email [email protected] or FB message us.

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Stay tuned for the next episode!

Previously on Malaysian City Life #31, Syed Ahmad Fathi shared about his encounter with a homeless man he met at a restaurant:

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