Facing kidney cancer upfront in 2010, one senior finds the strength to move on and continue being positive. This is Part 1 of a two-part story.
BY: Yen Fang
Seize the day! This phrase is often used to encourage people to enjoy life before it is too late. Molly Lim (left) is one such person. At 70, she has endured a kidney removal operation and knows the need to bounce back from a tough experience. She shared with Agelessonline her experiences and looking forward:
How did you discover that you had cancer of the kidney?
It happened on October 30, 2010. Early that morning, I discovered some blood in the urine. As I did not feel any pain, I thought it was not serious enough to cancel my plans which included taking part in a 10km marathon in Singapore the following day.
I proceeded to take the bus from Kuala Lumpur (where I live) to Singapore. However half way enroute to Singapore, I felt excruciating pain. Arrangements were then made for an ambulance to pick me up at the Singapore Customs Checkpoint to bring me to the nearest hospital which was the National University Hospital (NUH).
Did you have any symptoms or knew anything was wrong with you?
There was no symptoms until that fateful day.
When they discovered you had a mass in your kidney, what was your reaction?
The CT scan showed a gigantic growth in the kidney. When the doctor/surgeon told me that I needed to remove my left kidney, I started to cry. I collapsed, totally shell-shocked. Fortunately, my two daughters and son-in-law were with me when the bad news were told. I decided, with the evidence presented, that I should not procrastinate further but to take action speedily.
You had a chance to return to KL for a short time before the impending operation. How did you use your time?
After receiving a jab (to deal with the pain) at the emergency ward in NUH, I felt better. I was almost back to normal. Without delay, I took the first plane back to Kuala Lumpur (Petaling Jaya) and for the next two days, I tried to clear some unfinished business – issued cheques for contractors (the house was being renovated at that time), cleared my bills, etc.
Friends were in a state of shock, as they were not expecting a person like me who is a health-nut to face such a dilemma. I received much support from my friends and relatives. Many Christian and even Buddhist prayers were made on my behalf – from two pastors and several friends.
You also did homework on your doctor too. How is all this important?
Once the news broke about my tumour, my classmates and daughter rallied around me. They wanted the best treatment and so they went around checking the surgeon’s credentials and getting various confirmations including from the CEO of the hospital and his two buddies. It was quite embarrassing having to inform him of our ‘research’ but it did the trick, I received VIP treatment!
Finally, I rushed back to Singapore to re-do my Will and burial arrangements, just in case I did not make it through the operation!
How long was your surgery and what did they discover?
I never expected the surgery to take seven hours. The tumour mass weighed over a kilogram. The biopsy results showed that the tumour was cancerous and luckily it was contained within the kidney.
The incision was very large, it went from the left to right of my tummy. The Chinese word ‘ren’ is now literally stitched on my tummy!
How was your recovery and how long?
I took only a month to recover. The many years of exercise and diet played a big part in my recovery. I do regular workouts in the gym and have gone hiking, backpacking and even skiing plus my diet contains mainly vegetables.
The surgeon was surprised that my organs were not “antique” enough considering my age. The rest of my organs, apart from my left kidney are very healthy, according to what he said. After my surgery, my friends were pleasantly surprised as I appeared fresh and not like a person who had recently undergone a major operation. I even got back a bit of my weight!
Any history of cancer in your family?
On my side of the family, there has been no incidence of cancer. Many of them lived to a ripe old age.
What lessons did you learn from the whole experience?
After such a major operation, I was grounded for several months. I started to take stock of my life. For the last two years, my life was overwhelmed with stress. I was literally living on edge and could only unwind when I was on vacations. I have always been an independent woman, a loner some would say. But this trauma has brought me closer to the family – my daughters and son-in-law.
What now lies ahead?
I will continue my same healthy regime, maybe try to increase my vegetable intake to 99 percent from 95 percent. I will continue to go for my regular medical checkups and screening.
Would you like to add anything else?
The Lord above has given me a chance to live. I shall not fail to treasure this life and continue to extend the betterment of others. Thanks to all, relatives, family, hospital staff and friends who have provided me a lot of help through that period. Without them I could not survive through this “tsunami”.
** UPDATE: Before Christmas last year, Lim had her one-year checkup and the doctor at NUH discovered that her cancer did spread to other parts of her organs, including her brain. However, the majority are small tumours and her doctors (including an oncologist, urology surgeon and neuro-surgeon) are optimistic that they can be controlled by a new medication. She has since gone for the non-invasive procedure Gamma Knife which took around two hours to radiate the two tumours in her brain. She continues to be remain positive. Lim is Agelessonline’s director/founder/editor’s mother. On top of her tumours, she also has a blot clot near her heart which she is currently taking blood thinners.