Surviving colorectal cancer
There is much that Lim Siew Eng is thankful for and shares not to take good health for granted.
BY: Eleanor Yap
Lim Siew Eng, 57, a preacher for a Christian organisation, has much to be thankful for. Without her sister collecting an FOBT (Faecal Occult Blood Test) kit (shown on the left) for her last year and discovering she had colorectal cancer, she probably would have a much different story to tell today. Lim, who does not want to be photographed, shares her story of discovery and her advice for others with Agelessonline:
Can you share how you discovered you had colorectal cancer? What stage of cancer was it?
I was diagnosed last year when I was 56 years old. First, I received a call from the Singapore Cancer Society (SCS) that blood was found in my stools. They arranged for me to see a doctor after which I had a colonoscopy and a CT scan done. I was very shocked as I have not encountered a situation like this before.
I was diagnosed with Stage II/III colorectal cancer. I had 10cm of my colon removed and as one lymph node was affected, I had to undergo eight cycles of chemotherapy.
Were you going for your regular screenings every year? Was this part of SCS?
Actually it was my sister who read about the free FOBT kits from SCS during the colorectal cancer awareness month last year. She was collecting the kit for herself and took one for me too. It was the first time I did the FOBT test.
Did you know much about colorectal cancer then? Were you surprised being a woman that you got it as this disease is the number 1 cancer in men and number 2 in women?
I did not know very much about colorectal cancer. I have heard about people with polyps in their intestines but have not paid very much attention to it. I also do not know of anyone who has this disease.
What do you think could have attributed to your cancer? Do you have a family history?
My father passed away from stomach cancer and my sister from pancreatic cancer but there is no one in the immediate family who suffers from colorectal cancer.
I cannot say for sure what could have caused my cancer. However, I have a suspicion that my diet and hectic lifestyle may have played a part. For the past few years, I was very busy with my overseas mission work. As a Christian preacher, I travelled quite a fair bit to less developed places like China and Myanmar, where the food is very oily and the water is not too clean.
Do you have other health conditions?
I also suffer from high cholesterol and thyroid problems, and I have a cyst in my womb.
Do you exercise regularly and eat healthily?
I did not exercise much prior to falling ill. But since then, I try to exercise twice a week and I normally go for brisk walks.
I am also more careful about my diet now.
What was your treatment? Did you have to take medication?
After my eight cycles of chemotherapy, I did not need to take any medication.
I don’t recall the doctors telling about the risk of re-occurrence. I now see my oncologist and surgeon regularly.
What advice would you like to give other seniors, including women?
Be careful about your diet and do not take your good health for granted. I also encourage senior citizens to take the SCS FOBT kits and do the test. After all it’s free.
** WRITER’S NOTE: Collect your free FOBT kit at 71 Guardian Pharmacy stores + at SCS office.