Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Of Mammogram and Needle Biopsy - Reminiscent To 1997

The alarm rang at 7.20 am. At the back of my mind, I thought about the long day ahead. I am worried for mom. I wondered, how is she taking it?


As I walked down the staircase, I asked my wife where is mom. She pointed to her. Mom stood next to the pond, looking intently at the fishes swimming underneath the water, yet lost in her thoughts. Again, I wondered, how is she taking it?

Anyway, we left the house around 8.10 am. As usual on a working day, we have to face the dreaded morning crawl. The sky looked gloomy. Big menacing dark clouds were gathering over our heads, certainly clear ominous sign of impending torrential rain.


Well, the hospital looked busy. Who would have thought about such a large crowd seeking medical attention on a working day? I guess like the morning crawl, we know we are rushing somewhere, lots of vehicles around us but yet we are only engross with our own, oblivious to those around us. Am I guilty of this too? I know I certainly am.

Anyway, the doctor told mom to do a mammogram followed by the needle biopsy. Apparently, the ultrasound test done a few days before sufficed. So we went to the 1st floor to get it done. Again, there are large number of people waiting to do tests. As we waited for mom's turn, my mind wondered off to what it was like back in 1997.

That year, I woke up one fine morning not too different from today.
I am not sure it was a clear blue sky or dark overhanging clouds covering the sky. But I noticed my phlegm is red. It is not streaks of blood, but deep bloody red. Perhaps it is the heat or so I thought. I went to see a doctor later that day but after a few days, the medicine prescribed didn't help. Told dad about it and we decided to see his office panel GP. She examined and prescribed different medicine but she told me to come back if the prescription fails. She told me she is narrowing down the possibilities. I suspect she knows what it is but she don't want to jump the gun. Anyway, a week later, the bloody red phlegm remained. Dad was getting worried and we saw the office panel GP again. She told me she will be referring me to an ENT specialist.

The ENT specialist did his rounds and noticed a growth in my nose. He extracted a sample using a long pencil-like metal apparatus. He told us that there is a possibility the growth is malignant. That was my introduction to two new English words that day, malignant and benign. And a few days later, our fears were confirmed. It is malignant.

Yes, it is something like this...


Life took a drastic change from thereon. It was, if I recall correctly, 35 daily sessions of 3-min, 8 am sharp, Monday to Friday radiotherapy treatments specifically directed from my nose to the neck. Health obviously deteriorated from thereon. First it was the vomiting, followed by intense burning sensation on the face, losing of appetite, stiffen jaw, daily weariness while at the same time, the sides of my face turned dark with dead skin falling off. And yes, I lost hair too.

On the social front, college mates gave me strange looks.
It was like I am a freak of nature. I don't blame them. I will do the same too if I didn't know better. Luckily some good friends of mine was informed upfront. I had difficulties attending classes but I had to. I want to go to Australia to further my studies. I can't let this disease ground me. Every night is a struggle too. I can't sleep because the pain was very intense. Imagine your skin being seared while you can't open your mouth because every muscle in your face are being killed by powerful atomic radiation. I cried myself to sleep sometimes, wondering if it was easier to just die.

I remember in the middle of the treatment, I can no longer bear to eat. I lost my taste bud as my tongue too, are being stripped of life while my mouth were filled with blisters. Mom saw my struggles and she cried. She must have wondered, Why? Why my son? So I forced myself to eat, albeit slowly, as I felt by projecting courage, it will give hope to your love ones.

Thank God after that 7 weeks ordeal, I survive! A month after the treatment, the lost skin and hair grew back. I can taste again! No more blisters but I can no longer open my mouth wide while I am constantly thirsty. Because of this, I often carry a bottle of water with me and drank constantly during meals. Somehow, my mouth no longer produce sufficient saliva to consume food. Oh well...

Anyway, back to the present, I looked at my watch. It is about 10 am. Mom, who was seated next to me, watched TV and once in awhile, looked around at the growing number of patients. Later, they called her to do the test as it was her turn. I think it was around 11 am but I didn't check as I was busy doing my work on my laptop. The result was out at 1.30 pm and we went back to the the doctor to perform the needle biopsy. His prognosis, based on the mammogram and ultrasound report, is similar to the other doctor mom saw yesterday. He said the needle biopsy result, which will be out on Friday, should provide a more concrete finding.

Sigh... another long wait.


Anonymous said...

Hi, thank you so much for the financial support. fong

zewt said...

iwill remember you once offered me prayer support and rest assured, i will be praying for your mom.

your ordeal is really a testament of courage.

bayi said...

You have my sympathy.

My Mum went through an irrational period of time when she discovered that she was bleeding after menopause. A check showed she had cancer in her womb and an operation was out of the question as the malignant cells had spread a little upwards. She went for 8 weeks of radiotherapy that was a period of hell for her. She had toilet problems where she did not before. She was constantly thirsty. More difficult then was her fear and constant doubts about her ability to survive. I had to answer and call her more than 10 times each day, each time motivating her to stay positive when I was having a hard time myself.

My employer was not that understanding and this was yet another problem. Friends and relatives tried to show their concern and gave numerous references where someone had supposedly recovered from incurable and terminal cancer. This made my life more difficult because if my Mum had wanted to see these "doctors" (most of them sound like quacks) and if I had objected, I would be perceived as not being filial.

But thank God, I managed to convince my Mum that radiotheraphy followed by a strict diet and exercise would be the best answer to recovery. Of course, we got an excellent specialist to watch her recovery.

It's been seven years and no relapse. My Mum did another MRI last year and there was no indication of any growth. Of course, there were a lot of false alarms that made my heart race to the moon. But overall, I am thankful to everyone who helped.

All the best and may the Lord bless your Mum.

Samuel Goh Kim Eng said...

My Mum recently went thru' Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA) in University Hospital, KL, for her
2nd stage breast CA.

If you wish to find out more, pls contact me via 0175736644.

Samuel Goh Kim Eng
Fri. 21st March. 2008.

Seaqueen said...

Hi there,

How is your mum? I thought of smsing you on Friday but I didn't want to intrude. How's things???

kaki.ayam said...

Brother, will pray for you and your mum. Do take care.

myop101 said...


anon @ Mar 20 aka fong : no worries. we need you to make sure this country a better place. we see hope in you. thank you for being there for us.

zewt: no worries. thanks 4 your prayers. don't be too worried k.

bayi: yeah, now i recall about the "alternative" medicine solutions. I am sure most people have well wishes. but glad to hear your mom's case is now in remission with no relapses. let's keep our fingers cross for many many more years to come...:)

samuel goh kim eng: bad news from the hospice front. doc said my mum is level 3 case. she is seeing the doctor who referred her to do the mammogram and biopsy tomorrow. she will most probably tell my mom what to do. will write more. thanks for the offer.

seaqueen: sorry. i was in hanoi since thursday. i wrestled with the idea on whether to go or not but i decided to go anyway because seriously, i can't do anything at home. called mom almost everyday though.

kaki.ayam: thanks man.