Staying Alive: Cancer Remission Stories to Warm Your Heart

Early treatment can increase the chances of cancer remission. Here are the stories of people who battled the disease and came out tops.

Man and woman embracing as the man points with his right finger as they look at a view of mountaintops

The Ministry of Health Malaysia’s National Cancer Registry Report 2012-2016 shows that the five-year relative survival rate was highest in people with thyroid cancer (82.3%), prostate cancer (73%), corpus uteri (70.6%), breast cancer (66.8%) and colon cancer (56.8%). On the contrary, the survival rate of people with lung and liver cancer was only 11% and 12.8%, respectively. According to Malaysia’s Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, it relates to an increase in late diagnoses, which delays people with the disease to achieve cancer remission sooner.

Discover the stories of three people who managed to get treatment before it was too late

Nurse holding medical apparatuses in both hands while a woman is seen lying down with her legs on the leg rests that are connected to the chair
A vaginal smear is one of the most effective ways to diagnose cervical cancer.

“I Never Liked Exercise, But Cancer Changed That” – Bong Nyoek Lan, 75 

Bong Nyoek Lan was 60 years old when she was diagnosed with cancer. She initially noticed spotting but thought nothing of it. Fast forward to three months later, she experienced minor bleeding that continued over a few consecutive days. This prompted her to consult a healthcare provider. After performing a pap smear and other tests, the oncologist concluded that she had stage 3B cervical cancer.

To treat the disease, the oncologist proposed the use of a hysterectomy surgical procedure to remove the uterus – and radiation therapy. To support her cancer treatment, she joined a Tai Chi club a year after the surgery. It helped her cope mentally and to socialise with other people.  

In addition, she used natural, herbal ingredients to improve her stamina throughout the treatment’s duration. The use of Chinese herbs was particularly favoured as it helped boost her dwindling energy levels. Thankfully, after five years of perseverance, Nyoek Lan successfully achieved cancer remission. Nowadays, she refrains from eating red meat whilst also living a stress-free life to prevent the cancer from recurring.

“My Diagnosis Felt Like a Rude Awakening” – DT, 36 

DT was diagnosed with second-stage bone cancer when he was only 28 years old. The news came as a complete shock to him, as he was physically active and consumed a semi-balanced diet.

Hence, he opted for the opinion of four oncologists two from Malaysia and two from Singapore before accepting his reality and starting the treatment. The treatment programme was broken down into four individual categories, including: 

  • Six chemotherapy sessions during the first stage 
  • Surgery to remove the tumour during the second stage 
  • 20 radiotherapy sessions during the third stage 
  • An additional eight chemotherapy sessions in the final stage 

Chemotherapy involved an intravenous delivery of drugs and a three-day admission at a hospital every 21 days. Radiotherapy consisted of laser treatment and two-day admission every 21 days.

“It was one of the toughest periods in my life. I struggled physically and mentally every day, but I knew that if I was patient and followed the treatment protocol, I would come out alright,” recalls DT. He also took more breaks during the day and focused on consuming a healthy diet.

This change in lifestyle and consistency with treatment helped him become cancer-free after 15 months. He also stays away from processed foods and spends more time on self-care to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. 

“It Was Needed, But I Felt Like I Lost a Part of Me” – Willow, 56 

Willow’s cancer diagnosis felt like a bad dream happening all over again. “It was exactly like the time I was sitting next to my mother while the physician gave her diagnosis. Only this time, I was sitting in my mother’s place and my brother in mine,” says Willow.

A week before meeting an oncologist, she noticed an unusual lump on her breast and immediately knew something was wrong. She was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer and required chemotherapy and a mastectomy. A mastectomy is a surgical procedure to remove a breast and tissues affected by cancer. It took more than a month for her to recover physically from surgery and get back to life.

However, she struggled with depression and social anxiety post-surgery, as she felt physically inadequate. It has been four years since her ordeal, but she does continue to experience brief moments of anguish from time to time.

She believes that completing cancer treatment has given her a new lease on life. “Having cancer taught me that I should not take the days I have for granted. As such, I’ve been living each day after being cancer-free like it’s my last!” adds Willow. 

Two pieces of ginseng displayed on a black tray with ginseng slices on a bamboo mat
Ginseng has a beneficial effect on lowering a person’s risk of cancer.

The Role of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Accomplishing Cancer Remission 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes that a person’s ability to fend off cancer depends on their genetics, body constitution, lifestyle and dietary habits. Though, physicians can use several herbal ingredients to lower their risk of the disease. These include:

  • Astragalus (Huang Qi, 黄芪) 
  • Ginseng (Ren Shen, 人参) 
  • Hairyvein Agrimonia (Xian He Cao, 仙鹤草) 
  • Scutellaria barbata (Ban Zhi Lian, 半枝莲) 
  • Fruit of Fiverleaf Akebia (Ba Yue Zha, 八月扎) 

Meanwhile, you can also use TCM to alleviate the side effects of cancer treatment. TCM pathologically defines radiotherapy as “heat-toxic” or “Evil Fire” in TCM. Thus, the aim of using herbal ingredients is to clear the pathogen and protect body fluids. These herbs are: 

  • Radix Ophiopogonis (Mai Men Dong, 麦门冬) 
  • Coptis chinensis (Huang Lian, 黄连) 
  • Lithospermum erythrorhizon (Zi Cao, 紫草) 
  • Scrophularia ningpoensis (Xuan Shen, 玄参) 
  • Scutellaria baicalensis (Huang Qin, 黄芩) 
  • Phellodendri Chinensis Cortex (Huang Bai, 黄柏) 

TCM describes chemotherapy as a disharmony of the spleen and stomach. It can lead to dampness and phlegm stagnation in the middle burner. “These imbalances may increase bilirubin, transaminase and alkaline phosphatase levels, and present as symptoms like diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and mouth ulcers.

Poria (Fu Ling, 茯苓), Perilla leaves (Zi Su Ye, 紫苏叶), Houpoea officinalis (Hou Pu Hua, 厚朴花), Pinellia ternata (Ban Xia, 半夏) and tangerine peel (Chen Pi, 陈皮) are widely used in clinical and traditional medicine to correct these problems,” explains Real Health Medical Chief TCM Physician Chu I Ta. 

Early intervention is key towards attaining cancer remission. The use of alternative therapies can help ensure balance as you undergo clinical treatment. Do speak to a TCM practitioner beforehand. It can help you determine the lifestyle habits you can practice and herbal ingredients that are suitable for your body constitution.

References

  1. Ministry of Health Malaysia. 2018. Malaysian Study on CANCER SURVIVAL. [online] [Accessed 15 March 2022] 
  2. New Straits Times. 2021. More than 66,000 Malaysians to be diagnosed with cancer annually by 2030. [online] [Accessed 15 March 2022] 

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