When I was first diagnosed with cancer (Hodgkin’s Lymphoma), I was surprised, instead of being sad. I’m a very fit person. Plus, I’m a vegetarian. There wasn’t a solid answer given to me to the cause of my condition. If it wasn’t for a medical checkup, I wouldn’t have known about it. After going for a CT scan, I found out that my cancer was already at stage 2, on the brink of stage 3. A PET scan later further revealed that I had a tumor in my chest and neck.
The treatment process wasn’t easy. I lost 20kg and was very weak. Chemotherapy literally kills all your cells in the body, both good and bad. I couldn’t move my body without feeling pain, sleep didn’t come easy, and even when I was sleeping, I couldn’t sleep soundly. To make matters worse, I had chemo burns on my hand. I could hardly lift my hand. My normal routine was severely harder than normal now. I couldn’t use my right hand for my daily chores.
When the veins wasn’t visible on both my hands anymore, they had to install a chemo port in my chest. The surgery caused further complications. Thanks to side effects of some medicines, my body was throbbing in pain. I could hardly move my body easily, my muscles were aching all over. I felt really low at this time. I’m the eldest in the family, and I’m supposed to be taking care of my parents and sisters. Instead, they are taking care of me. I felt useless, just wasting away at home and being dependent on people around me. It was at this time that I decided that enough was enough. I remembered of my fitness and strength before chemo started. Plus, I was a leader and an achiever during my school and university days. I knew then, that I had to fight all the way, for myself.
Whenever I was feeling any pain, I would force myself to continue doing what I was doing. When I couldn’t lift my hand, I started gripping objects and lifting them. My back was aching, so I forced myself stand up from the chair and walk without limping. Just like this, I forced myself to get better despite the pain. The pain was worse after every chemotherapy, but life goes on.
After completing my chemotherapy, I was recommended by the doctors to go for radiotherapy. Personally, exploring nature is what I love doing (check out my Instagram feed, @natnirus). I used to go for jungle trekking and hiking regularly. During my last days with chemotherapy, I forced myself to slowly start brisk walking. Of course, I lost all my stamina (I was panting away after walking for just 100m), but I pushed myself anyway. When my radiotherapy started, I exercised every single day, despite some complications from the treatment. My aim was to prove to myself, and especially to my parents, that I’m not weak and they don’t have to worry about their only son anymore. I slowly started to regain my strength.
After completing my radiotherapy, I decided that the only way to fully convince myself that I’m back is to do what I love doing, and doing it big! I had to give myself one last physical and mental test, and see whether I can make it or not. Reaching the peak of Mount Kinabalu (highest mountain in Malaysia) was my only aim then. I completed my treatment on November, and hiked Mount Kinabalu on December. Hiking that mountain wasn’t exactly a walk in the park; every hiker will tell you that. During the hike, I was thinking to myself, I’ve been through worst, feeling tired is definitely not going to slow me down. The hike was especially hard when I started my journey to the peak at 2am. The temperature was 2 degrees Celcius, the breeze was numbing my face and I could hardly feel my fingers. I’ve not experienced a temperature of less than 10 degrees Celcius. My only thoughts at this time was to witness the view at the summit and to call my family and announce that their son and brother made it! When I finally reached the summit, I was overwhelmed with mixed feelings. Never was I prouder of myself. All my cancer treatment journey flashed before me; how my family sacrificed so much for me, how my extended family and friends gave me encouragement, all the suffering that I’ve been through, etc.. The view from the peak, that was worth it. This was a personal gift to myself, for bracing through chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
I was told the a total of 8 hours from the bottom to the peak was plus and minus an average time. Hey, not bad for a cancer survivor! The Sun was already up on my way down Mount Kinabalu. I was enjoying the beautiful scenery all around me. The clouds, the unique plant species at different altitudes, the rock formation, view at the bottom, etc. If naturegasm is a term legal to be used, I’ll say that was the feeling I had. I truly enjoyed the hike down the mountain. I’ve also made various new friends from different parts of the globe.
Love, support, and lots of prayers from my family and friends was crucial throughout my treatment process. My family, especially my first sister, was there for me all the time. I’m the eldest in the family with three little sisters. Few extended family and friends kept on checking up on me and gave encouragement on a regular basis. Reading the Bhagavad Gita gave me more strength. This journey thought me various lessons. When there is an issue, there was no point in crying over a spilled milk. We should always go for the next plan of action. Learn from the failure and strive to become a better person.
To anyone who has a loved one battling cancer right now, know that your very presence next to them means a lot. Be there through their arduous journey and never neglect them. It would mean the world to them. To anyone who are battling cancer now, know that you’re already very strong for going through chemotherapy. It’s not easy, trust me I know. Cancer is definitely not a death sentence. In fact, cancer gives you more reason to live! #waroncancer