P K Krishnan has gone through stomach cancer and two strokes, and lives to talk about it in hopes of inspiring others.
BY: Eleanor Yap
P K Krishnan, 78, has gone through wars and survived. We are not talking about the Japanese war, but health wars – stomach cancer and two strokes. He shared: “If I can do it, anyone can.”
War number 1
In 2004, he felt discomfort in his stomach but since his threshold for pain was good, he chose to endure it. However, then he noticed a lot of blood when he went to the toilet and he knew it spelled trouble. He went to see a private doctor who said he had an ulcer in the stomach. But he decided not to take her word and seek out a second opinion at the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS).
The doctor there confirmed it was third-stage stomach cancer where the only treatment would be an operation. Forty-five hours later, he was in the operating theatre where they had to remove 80 percent of his stomach. The complex surgery meant he stayed in the hospital for 17 days and then follow up with six months of chemotherapy and radiation.
During that time, Krishnan felt miserably and wanted to give up. “It was tough. I didn’t want to meet anyone and I was literally locked up in my own backroom. Everyone kept saying they will pray for me; I told them I could do that myself.” However, determination and willpower was what kept him going. “I decided I had to fight and not give up.”
After six months from coming out of the hospital, he came out to meet up with friends and slowly tried to regain back the normalcy in his life. In 2008, his doctor gave him the greenlight that his cancer had cleared. Thinking that he had gone through a massive hurdle already, he never thought he would have to go through another one so soon.
War number 2
That same year, the father of two shared that his doctor said to him that blood thinners were not given during his cancer treatment and that he had a blood circulation problem. Krishnan explained, “Basically, the blood wasn’t flowing to the right areas and the doctor was worried I could get a stroke so I had to go on medication.” He took the medication for four years but in March this year he suffered from a stroke, which affected his mobility and he was unable to walk. He started going to physiotherapy in April and he was improving, however, in May, he suffered yet another stroke.
He considers the two strokes as one incident. “One incident I would consider a battle, two (including my cancer) is considered a war!” He continues going to physiotherapy twice a week at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) for one hour and he shared, “I have improved my walking particularly the forward stride but not my side stepping which is for balance.” He gets around with a cane and is aware of his limitations and can’t go far. However, if need be, his doctor has recommended that he be accompanied by someone.
“No point wincing and crying. I am going to fight this. It is willpower and determination that keeps me motivated,” said Krishnan. He also credits his family’s love, especially from his 68-year-old wife for getting him through all the tough times. “We couldn’t afford a helper so my wife was my slave, my mommy, my cook, etc. With such dedication from her, how could I give up?” His children also visited every weekend if they were not travelling for work.
Though he shared he has glaucoma in his left eye, which results in permanent blindness within a few years, Krishnan remains positive about life. He has picked up the ukulele, which he calls “therapeutic and calming”. He plays in an interest group at Bishan Community Centre called Bishan Ukers every Thursday.
He also continues to do his community work which he enjoys. He has been a committee member of the Seletar Hills Estate Residents’ Association since 1970 and helps to distribute the association magazine within the area and checks in with residents on whether they need any help.
Krishnan still holds on to his business that he started in 1978. Like an advertising agency, he helps to create and place advertisements into media. Though he doesn’t work anymore, he makes it a point to go into his office in Ubi and have lunch with two people who work there.
Behind his determination
Asked where he got his sense of determination from, he points to his father. He shared that when he was younger, his family was very poor. “One pot of curry had to be shared by everyone including us 10 children.” His father who was from India had to do odd jobs but was trained as a stenographer, while his Nonya Chinese mother was a full-time housewife.
Krishnan is reminded of the hard times that his family had to endure. “After the Japanese war, my father had to cut wood to use for cooking as we just couldn’t afford to buy charcoal.” However, his father was able to rise through the ranks. They first lived in Serangoon Gardens for five years and bought their first house in Seletar Hills. His father did well as the glass department manager for Borneo Sumatra Trading Co (BORSUMY) that he ended up buying three houses and even sent his children overseas to study. Krishnan went to London to study graphic arts while his brother who also went to London studied electrical engineering and later joined NASA in the US.
He added that his father even helped to pay for his current house in Seletar Hills. “I really salute my father. He was a man who never gave up and worked for the family. If my father can make it, why can’t I rise up too. Determination can move mountains. I encourage seniors to be positive in life and anything can be achieved.”
(** Special thanks to Stella Tan and Rina Ong.)