It’s estimated that cancer will affect 1 in 4 Malaysians by the time they turn 75 years old
This means we will probably come across family members or friends who have cancer, and maybe even have to go through it ourselves. The thing about cancer is that it not only affects the patient, but also impacts the patient's loved ones emotionally, psychologically, and financially.
To better understand how cancer can impact our lives, we asked a few young Malaysians to share their experiences with cancer:
1. Giridhran Palani, known as Giri, is a 23-year-old biomedical science student at Monash University Malaysia. He is also a stage 3 nasopharyngeal cancer survivor.
“I was diagnosed with cancer at 20. I was a young, healthy athlete, and I didn’t smoke or drink, so the news came to me as a big surprise. The only symptoms besides the regular cold or flu were occasional nosebleeds and a tiny bulge the size of a marble on my neck.”
What followed were three painful months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. During this time, Giri had to be tube-fed because his throat was inflamed from the radiotherapy, making it too painful to eat normally. Worse still, he lost his mobility and had to be isolated for fear of infection.
His best friend, Jia Vern, recounts how Giri remained strong through it all
“For three months during his treatment, he disappeared from everyone’s life. We were all worried, but we knew he needed space and time for himself. There were occasions when I feared I was losing my best friend forever, but I would remember his words, "Don't you dare ah, I'm not even crying.” I thought I was being strong for him but really, he was the one being tough for all of us."
Giri emerged from this experience a changed man, and shares what he’s learnt through it all
“The only advice I can give is to remain strong, it's really not an easy journey and there will be huge bumps along the road during the treatment, but the only way you're gonna make it through is if you push and tell yourself you're going to make it no matter what. So just keep fighting.
Through this ordeal, my family has also become more health conscious in terms of food and exercise. Thankfully we had insurance that covered the entire cost of the treatment, so I’d strongly encourage anyone to get health insurance just to be safe."
2. Syahirah is a 27-year-old teacher. The eldest of three, she had to take care of her mum who was diagnosed with breast cancer, while managing the household.
“When I first found out, I was so shocked and gutted. I kept wondering, “Why her?” Before this, she really took care of her body, ate properly, and had organic health supplements. No one in our family had cancer before, and I did not expect it at all. I was just scared of losing my mother.”
For Syahirah, the hardest part was having to watch her mother go through six cycles of chemotherapy.
“She grew weak and lethargic. She did not want to eat and often vomited. The pain was simply unbearable, especially when I saw my mother’s hair falling, one by one, until she became bald.”
Nevertheless, Syahirah and her family chose to face this situation with positivity
“The doctor told my mum to be happy and not stressed out, because stress may trigger cancer to spread faster. So as a family, we came together to become my mum’s support system, constantly motivating her and helping her fight the fear.”
Thankfully, Syahirah’s family did not face financial difficulties, as the treatment was covered by her father’s company insurance. When asked what advice she has for others, Syahirah believes that cancer is never the final straw.
“You can fight cancer, anyone can. You need to fill yourself with positivity, and don’t forget to always pray, pray, and pray. Even though my mum survived and it has been 6 years, I haven't stopped praying for her. And yes, the most important thing is to never give up!"
3. Sher, a 32-year-old insurance agent, lost a friend during college due to blood cancer
"I was 20, and Rosline was 19 at the time. We were best friends in college, so when I first heard that she had blood cancer, I was sad and upset. She stopped coming to school because of treatment, and she only ever allowed me to visit her once.
Nevertheless, we talked and texted a lot on the phone. She was the one who introduced me to my husband (or my future boyfriend at that point), and kept bugging me about our progress as a couple. Then one day, she stopped replying."
Sher was finally allowed to visit Rosline in the hospital, but by then Rosline was already weak and balding, no longer able to talk
"It was the first time cancer had taken away a friend of mine. So when Rosline passed on, I was confused and I couldn't understand. It took me many years before I grew mature enough to come to terms with it.
The most recent experience I've had with cancer is with my mother-in-law, who's been bedridden for over six months due to breast cancer. That's why I'd encourage everyone out to go for regular checkups, because the healthiest people can still get cancer. And never think that insurance is a liability—you'll never know when you need it."