Thursday, Nov 23rd

Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Sunday, 26 March 2017 00:00

With You, No Pain Is Unbearable

Written by  Tan Kim Hion, KL & Selangor / Translated by Chai Soo Ai

Soh Yee Siang (left) was diagnosed with bone cancer and had completed his surgery, chemotherapy and electrotherapy. He expressed his gratitude towards his mother, Chin Loi Tai (centre) for her company; and volunteer Ong Saw Tin for her encouragement and care. [Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]

Love is an indescribable language; love is abstract. For Soh Yee Siang, he has never thought that love could be so warm and important. Having been diagnosed with bone cancer has caused him physical pain but it has also made him realize that love plays a positive role in his life.


“Without mum’s company and care; without Tzu Chi volunteers’ love and encouragement; and without family’s support, I was afraid I would not make it through. Mum supported me throughout my treatment. Tzu Chi volunteers gave me great strength. Thus, I had the courage to go on...”

Looking back at his nine-month-long cancer treatment, Soh Yee Siang had endured pain beyond words, but it was not in vain. He received love and encouragement, giving him the strength to overcome the pain of his treatment. It also taught him that love can overcome all difficulties.

Life’s obstacles

Yee Siang grew up in Kampung Tengah, Segamat, Johor. He pursued his tertiary education with the Technique Training Class for Overseas Youth in Hsin Chu, Taiwan, at the age of 20, majoring in culinary and baking, and had hoped to graduate in two years. He had wanted to return to Malaysia and pursue his dreams of starting his own bakery. Unfortunately, misfortune fell upon him during the last six months of his studies.

He related, “One day, I fell down while playing basketball with my friends. I thought it was not serious and didn’t seek further treatments. From that day, I often had pain in my left knee. The pain was sometimes so unbearable that I would wake up in the middle of the night.”

Yee Siang thought it was the after effect of the fall which caused the pain in his left knee. He continued seeking treatments from both Chinese traditional medicine, as well as, Western medicine, with no improvement. Continuous unbearable pain caused him to be referred to an orthopaedic surgeon who suspected that Yee Siang may have a tumour in his knee. He was sent for an X-ray and later diagnosed with Osteoma requiring him to undergo surgery.

Upon being diagnosed, Yee Siang did not convey his illness to his family as he was afraid that they would be worried for him. However, considering that he had to return to Malaysia for further treatment and surgery, he broke the news to his family as he needed their unconditional love and unwavering support.  

Taking advantage of the summer holidays, Yee Siang returned to Malaysia to seek further treatment from an orthopaedic surgeon in Malacca. Biopsy results confirmed that he had bone cancer and the cancer cells had spread to his entire knee requiring immediate amputation of his lower left leg. Yee Siang never thought that he would be diagnosed with cancer. He was emotional and was unable to accept the fact, and so was his mother. With some hope, they sought advice from specialists in Singapore but were given the same diagnosis.

“It seemed that there were no other options except amputation. Coincidently, a friend’s father recommended that I seek a second opinion from the Orthopaedic Specialist at Hospital Kuala Lumpur.”

With a glimmer of hope, Yee Siang and his mother travelled from their hometown in Segamat to Hospital Kuala Lumpur to seek treatment. After a detailed examination, the Orthopaedic Specialist suggested that Yee Siang undergo chemotherapy and surgery without the need to amputate.

Surrounded by love

Yee Siang first session of chemotherapy was in July 2016 at Hospital Kuala Lumpur. After the first four days of chemotherapy, he was sent home to recuperate. About 30 volunteers from Malacca, Segamat and Muar paid him a visit to cheer him up and to give him encouragement.

For the first time in his life there were so many visitors at his home that some had to stand outside. These were the volunteers who had come to cheer him up. At that moment, Yee Siang was overcome with emotion because since the news of his cancer spread, volunteers had been constantly by his side, visiting him at the hospital, showing concern and love, and even providing cancer-friendly recipes and so on. This did not end at the hospital, it extended to his home as well. Initially, the chemotherapy sessions terrified him, but with the selfless support from volunteers, he was filled with positive energy.

Yee Siang’s mother, Chin Loi Tai is a Tzu Chi volunteer. When he was in secondary school, he would accompany his mother to the recycling centre. He was no stranger to the volunteers there, although at that time, he did not feel that positivity. This time around, he was overwhelmed with the support, love and blessings he received from the volunteers. He felt that he belonged to a huge family embraced in love.

In October that same year, Yee Siang had a difficult surgery. He did not know how long he was in the operation theatre; he only remembered waking up with a different feeling on his left leg. It felt soft and empty, he later learnt that the bone had been removed and a long piece of steel had been placed from his knee down.

He informed, “The doctor told me to rest in bed for the next two weeks. It was hard and painful because it felt like the foot did not belong to me. Moreover, the hot weather had caused me to develop bed sores.”

What was most unbearable was the feeling of numbness and pain at the same time. It caused him to think that perhaps amputation would not have been such a bad idea.

During that period, Yee Siang was very grateful to his mother for being by his side throughout the entire process. He was equally grateful to the volunteers in Kuala Lumpur, who came to visit him daily, giving him blessings and positive encouragements. He was even more grateful when volunteer, Ong Saw Tin cooked vegetarian meals for him daily.

During his stay at the hospital, Yee Siang was surrounded by patients with all types of sicknesses. That, coupled with the physical pain, had caused him to feel unhappy and lose his appetite. Saw Tin was very caring and would ask what he wanted to eat for that day. Rice, porridge or fried noodles was prepared to suit his appetite.

Another volunteer, Yong Mun Fei, also visited Yee Siang often to accompany and to chat with him. Before leaving, Mun Fei would say to Yee Siang’s leg, “Get well soon! Do not give up!” Each blessing and encouragement given to Yee Siang gradually helped him to overcome his negative feelings.

As Yee Siang returned home after his surgery, he had to learn to walk all over again; and this was another new challenge for him. His left leg felt light and empty, he was worried that he might lose control and fall, breaking his leg. In his moments of fear, he would remember the volunteers who gave him support, encouragement and blessings. Moreover, his 70-plus grandmother would often visit him on a motorcycle. His father and his two younger brothers would also give him their undying encouragement. Love from all around gave him the strength to overcome his fear and not to give up. He continued to learn to walk with a walking stick...

Much needed companionship and love

Where there is love, there is hope. For Yee Siang’ mother, Loi Tai, she understood the real meaning of this phase due to Yee Siang’s illness. She recalled the painful moments she went through when she first got to know about Yee Siang’s illness. She cried a lot when conveying the news to her younger sister. However, she told herself to be strong as crying would not help.

At that moment, Loi Tai was very grateful to Tzu Chi’s Da Ai TV Channel where she could listen to Master Cheng Yen’s Dharma talks and learn that we must accept the impermanence of life, and that she should give encouragement and accompany Yee Siang throughout his treatments.

In fact, Loi Tai had her hysterectomy surgery in April last year. Even though it was not a major surgery, she understood the nervousness of going through a surgery. Thus, she understood Yee Siang’s feeling before he underwent his surgery and had endlessly accompanied and cared for him.

Throughout that period, Loi Tai felt the warmth of Tzu Chi volunteers and family members. When Yee Siang had to travel to Hospital Kuala Lumpur for his chemotherapy treatment, his uncle, Soh Teck Hing, also a Tzu Chi volunteer in Klang, would drive down to Segamat to fetch Yee Siang and Loi Tai to Hospital Kuala Lumpur. He did this until Loi Tai was familiar with the route. Even though a single trip took up to three hours, Teck Hing did not fret.

It never came to Loi Tai’s mind that she would have the courage to drive to and from Segamat to Kuala Lumpur for more than half a year for Yee Siang’s treatment. Loi Tai did not feel the hardship even though she had to sleep on a hospital chair to accompany Yee Siang.

She shared, “I have three children and Yee Siang is the eldest. When he was a child, he stayed with his grandmother as both my husband and I were busy at work. He grew up as an independent child. He was very independent when he pursued his studies in Taiwan. When he was diagnosed with cancer, I did not know how to comfort him and did not know how he felt. Thankfully, we grew closer as we were together day and night during his treatment.”

Loi Tai was very thankful to the volunteers for their company and support. She had to be there for Yee Siang because her husband, who was working in Singapore, could not return home very often. She also recalled how she had to take care of her own mother when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and cerebellar atrophy ten years ago. Seeing the daily deterioration in her mother’s condition, she blamed herself for not doing more for her.

With Yee Siang’s illness, she no longer has negative thoughts as she believes that this is karmic retribution as frequently mentioned by the Master. With companionship from Saw Tin, Mun Fei and other volunteers, there was never a day that she felt lonely or helpless.

Saw Tin knew well that meals provided by Hospital Kuala Lumpur were unsuitable for both Yee Siang and Loi Tai’s taste. Thus, she would personally prepare vegetarian meals for them daily. She even prepared boiled jujube drink for Yee Siang when the doctor advised that he needed to increase his red blood cells. Besides all these, she also prepared watercress soup for him daily during his chemotherapy treatment as advised by the doctor.

Loi Tai and Yee Siang anticipated Saw Tin’s meal and Mun Fei’s visit to the hospital every day. When Loi Tai or Mun Fei could not visit them, they would ensure other volunteers were there for them. They would share the Master’s Dharma teachings and encourage each other. With their companionship and support, hard times were easier to bear.

There is always love in this world

In February 2017, the doctor confirmed that the cancer cells in Yee Siang’s leg did not completely disappear and hence recommended that he undergo electrotherapy. His electrotherapy sessions commenced on February 6, 2017, and ended March 24, 2017. Altogether, he had undergone a total of 33 sessions (5 times a week with additional 3 physiotherapy sessions). Loi Tai was unable to travel to and fro daily for his treatment and Teck Hing’s house was also far from the hospital. Thus, Loi Tai decided to look for a nearby homestay but none was available.

Saw Tin and her husband, Kow Yew Boon, decided to make space for Loi Tai and Yee Siang at their home. They offered them a room to stay throughout Yee Siang’s treatment. At first, Loi Tai was afraid that they would inconvenience the couple but eventually they felt like they were at home. Yee Siang jokingly said that the most comfortable treatment throughout his illness was the electrotherapy. He felt very comfortable staying in Saw Tin’s home.

Yee Siang had a favourite pastime during his stay in Saw Tin’s house. Everyday upon completing his electrotherapy treatment, he would often spend time in the mini garden of their house, watering plants and enjoying the fresh air. They would also enjoy dinner together with Saw Tin’s family. He felt like he belonged in their family.

Loi Tai was very grateful and touched by Saw Tin’s kindness towards them despite her busy schedule. Loi Tai initially thought that Saw Tin was a housewife but she later learnt that she also ferried school children to and from school and baby-sat her four-year-old granddaughter. Other than that, Saw Tin is also responsible for Tzu Chi care recipients’ cases.

Despite the short 15-minute distance from Saw Tin’s house to Hospital Kuala Lumpur, it often took up to an hour to arrive at the hospital due to traffic congestion during the morning peak hours. Through the traffic jams, Loi Tai has come to realize the hardship of Saw Tin and Mun Fei during their daily visits to the hospital. She was deeply touched when she learnt that these two volunteers would always come to the hospital by motorcycle to avoid the traffic congestion, thereby ensuring that both the mother and son could enjoy their food while it was still hot. For this reason, she has often reminded Yee Siang to contribute back to society when he gets well and never to forget the kindness and warmth of the Tzu Chi volunteers.

During their stay at Saw Tin’s house, the latter not only made them feel at home, she also shared vegetarian recipes with Loi Tai and brought her along during their visits to the care recipients’ houses. Every visit to the different care recipients was full of love and warmth irrespective of their race, religion and condition. She also witnessed how volunteers helped to place a homeless and mentally-challenged girl into a psychiatric nursing ward. Whenever Saw Tin visited her, the girl would embrace and kiss her warmly. Loi Tai learnt that even a mentally-challenged person needs love and knows how to love in return.

Needy families do not regard poverty as a challenge in life as they have love, which in turn, ignites hope. A Myanmarese child with a heart condition could recover and start a new life thanks to love. With her many years as a volunteer in Tzu Chi, Loi Tai thought she had contributed enough by taking part in recycling programmes and visiting care recipients. She never thought that love and care could deeply affect a person’s life and help him/her to endure the hard times. Now, she truly understands that love is very much needed in this world.



From this experience, Loi Tai realizes that she should seize the moment and take up the responsibility of helping and caring for the needy care recipients under Tzu Chi and to spread the message of love. Yee Siang learnt to appreciate life and people around him. He also promised himself to help other patients undergoing chemotherapy once he fully recovers. He wants to give them encouragement, support and most importantly, love.

 

Chin Loi Tai (left) accompanying her son at Hospital Kuala Lumpur for his treatment together with Ong Saw Tin, who sends vegetarian meals to them every day. [Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]   Soh Yee Siang (left) enjoying dinner with volunteers, Ong Saw Tin (1st right) and Kow Yew Boon (2nd right) at their home. It gave Yee Siang the warmth of home during his electrotherapy treatment. [Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]

Chin Loi Tai (left) accompanying her son at Hospital Kuala Lumpur for his treatment together with Ong Saw Tin, who sends vegetarian meals to them every day. [Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]
 
Soh Yee Siang (left) enjoying dinner with volunteers, Ong Saw Tin (1st right) and Kow Yew Boon (2nd right) at their home. It gave Yee Siang the warmth of home during his electrotherapy treatment. [Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]
 
Soh Yee Siang’s favourite past-time during his stay at Saw Tin’s house included spending time in the mini garden, watering plants and enjoying the fresh air. [Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]   Through her visits to needy care recipients, Chin Loi Tai realized that love is very much needed in this world as love ignites hope. [Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]

Soh Yee Siang’s favourite past-time during his stay at Saw Tin’s house included spending time in the mini garden, watering plants and enjoying the fresh air. [Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]
 
 
Through her visits to needy care recipients, Chin Loi Tai realized that love is very much needed in this world as love ignites hope. [Photograph by Yong Mun Fei]
 
Soh Yee Siang (1st left) is very grateful for the support and encouragement from his father (2nd left), brother (2nd right) and mother throughout his cancer treatment. [Photograph by Tan Kim Hion]   Volunteer Yong Mun Fei (1st left) and Ong Saw Tin (2nd left) would occasionally visit Soh Yee Siang at his hometown after he completed his treatment in Hospital Kuala Lumpur. [Photograph by Tan Kim Hion]

Soh Yee Siang (1st left) is very grateful for the support and encouragement from his father (2nd left), brother (2nd right) and mother throughout his cancer treatment. [Photograph by Tan Kim Hion]
 
 
Volunteer Yong Mun Fei (1st left) and Ong Saw Tin (2nd left) would occasionally visit Soh Yee Siang at his hometown after he completed his treatment in Hospital Kuala Lumpur. [Photograph by Tan Kim Hion]
 
Chin Loi Tai (right) dedicates herself to become a caring volunteer to care for the needy and to spread love to all. [Photograph by Tan Kim Hion]  

Chin Loi Tai (right) dedicates herself to become a caring volunteer to care for the needy and to spread love to all. [Photograph by Tan Kim Hion]