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Tuesday, 10 July 2018 00:00

Prepared for the Unexpected

Written by  Low Hai Loon, Klang / Translated by Lee Hui Yieng

Having practised Buddhism for over 15 years, Tzu Chi volunteer, Kee Pang Hooi was quick to calm herself and face life’s challenges with a settled mind. [Photograph by Lee Wei Kean]

“I still remember when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, the doctor said the tumour was not small and there was an increased risk of metastasis.” Volunteer Kee Pang Hooi recalled how panicked she was with the diagnosis.


“I felt life was so unfair because not only had I been a vegetarian for 20-plus years, but I also exercised and did yoga regularly. So, why me?” Volunteer Kee Pang Hooi was unwilling to accept the fact, and she was frightened. She related, “Having met and accompanied some cancer patients in their battles against cancer, I could not help but thought of how they were affected physically and mentally. It was truly horrifying to be diagnosed with cancer.” Pang Hooi was nervous and sleepless that whole night, back in 2012.

In fact, it was not the first time Pang Hooi was faced with such a predicament. She had an ovarian tumour when she was 27. Although it was successfully removed, it left a strong psychological impact on her. She realized that life was fragile and impermanent. So, she started looking for spiritual support and visited many Buddhist cultivation places, hoping to find one that suited her. In 1993, and at age 30, she finally found one when she came across Tzu Chi’s monthly magazine and was moved by all the stories of human kindness. Then, in a Tzu Chi activity, she was shown a video of disaster relief work in Jiangxi, China, where many elderly people walked through hilly terrains to reach the distribution site. Seeing how the volunteers reached out to those in need, she was determined to join them and walk the Bodhisattva Path.

Change of perspective in one morning

In 2012, Pang Hooi was again diagnosed with an ovarian tumour, and this time, it was malignant. Although frightened, she maintained her daily routine of chanting the “Introduction to the Lotus Sutra” at 4.30 am. Despite feeling tired physically, she found inner calmness as she performed the bowing and prostrations along her chanting, and talked to her inner self. She shared, “As a good thought arises during the chanting, I would remind myself to be strong and go on with my daily routine.” The habit of talking to herself while chanting was developed in 2005, when she suffered from acid reflux, which disrupted her life with insomnia for several months.

She recalled that one day while she was driving and listening to a cassette, she heard Master Cheng Yen mentioned that she had explained the first half of the “Lotus Sutra” to her disciples over the six months of spiritual cultivation at the wooden hut, and the remaining half was for her disciples to study on their own. The following morning, Pang Hooi began to chant the sutra along with Da Ai TV broadcast. She recounted, “It was really tough at first. I felt dizzy. But as time went by, I got used to it and could focus more in the prayers.” As a beautician back then, she lived a hectic and busy life. The daily morning prayers and Dharma learning helped her to become calmer, slow down her pace, relax herself and let go of undue worries. With that, her acid reflux slowly dissipated.

After being diagnosed with cancer, she continued to persistently listen to Master’s Dharma talks. Master’s words: “Let go, but make the wisdom-life everlasting,” made her think over the karmic law of cause and effect in Buddhism. She shared, “Many people could not understand how I got cancer with my healthy lifestyle. I would tell them that one reaps what one sowed. I have no idea what karma I have created in my past lifetime, but it has led to this retribution now.”

With a shift in perspective, Pang Hooi became more accepting of her illness and she went through a 10-day chemotherapy. She said smilingly that despite her illness, she was very lucky because she did not require long-term medications. In the past six years, she had dedicated herself to voluntary work.

She said, “We must all work on nurturing our wisdom. That’s why I never stop chanting the ‘Lotus Sutra’ every morning, and have been listening to Master’s Dharma talk at dawn in the past eight years. I remember Master was expounding ‘Dharma as Water’ when I first started.” Pang Hooi sees Dharma learning as her daily homework, and the two illnesses as her mid-semester examinations, which tested her ability to practise the Dharma she had learnt. She was happy that she passed the “examinations” both times.

Supporting others with her experience

Besides seeking cancer treatment, Pang Hooi also started practising Qigong each morning at the park. There, she met a few friends, who are also cancer patients. They would exercise together and support one another by offering their blessings before one goes for treatment. Pang Hooi would also offer her care and concern whenever any of them feels low in spirit.

In addition, she has willingly volunteered herself at Tzu Chi’s Cancer Support Group. At the Support Group’s monthly get-together held at Tzu Chi Kelana Jaya Community Centre, everyone would exchange greetings and chat happily, much like good old friends. Now, besides involving herself actively in Tzu Chi’s community activities and promotion of Jing-Si Books and Café publications and eco-friendly products, Pang Hooi also spends more time on sharing her own cancer-fighting experience with other cancer patients around the country and providing caring support for members of the Support Group.

In recalling her cancer-fighting journey, Pang Hooi felt relieved and at ease. She said, “In a way, I am actually thankful for the cancer because it has given me more opportunities and time to accompany other cancer patients through their tough times.” She felt that commitment to offer long-term support to the cancer patients is vital because many cancer patients experience emotional instability due to their illness. So, a positive environment is crucial to give them the strength and courage to go on.

“From my experience accompanying the patients, I think what matters most is to maintain good thoughts at all times. This helps cancer patients to cope with unexpected events and changes in their health conditions with a positive mindset,” shared Pang Hooi.

It is inevitable for us to face some challenges at some point in our life. But the difference lies in our attitude and mindset when faced with these unexpected events in life. Some people may fall into the pit of mental havoc, but having practised Buddhism for many years, Pang Hooi was able to calm herself and face the ordeals with a settled mind.

 

The daily morning prayers help Kee Pang Hooi to calm her mind and reflect upon herself. [Photograph provided by Wang Wen Bin]   The daily prayer and Dharma learning helped Kee Pang Hooi to better cope with life’s challenges. She is seen here attending Master’s Dharma talk at dawn (via live tele cast) together with her husband (left) and mother-in-law (middle). [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]

The daily morning prayers help Kee Pang Hooi to calm her mind and reflect upon herself. [Photograph provided by Wang Wen Bin]
 
The daily prayer and Dharma learning helped Kee Pang Hooi to better cope with life’s challenges. She is seen here attending Master’s Dharma talk at dawn (via live tele cast) together with her husband (left) and mother-in-law (middle). [Photograph by Koh Poo Leng]
 
On April 8, 2018, Kee Pang Hooi (2nd left) was appointed as a “Sunshine Ambassador” at the Cancer Support Group’s monthly get-together, held at Tzu Chi Kelana Jaya Community Centre. [Photograph by Lee Wei Kean]   With her personal experience, Kee Pang Hooi has been offering her care and support to members of Tzu Chi Cancer Support Group. [Photograph by Lee Wei Kean]

On April 8, 2018, Kee Pang Hooi (2nd left) was appointed as a “Sunshine Ambassador” at the Cancer Support Group’s monthly get-together, held at Tzu Chi Kelana Jaya Community Centre. [Photograph by Lee Wei Kean]
 
 
With her personal experience, Kee Pang Hooi has been offering her care and support to members of Tzu Chi Cancer Support Group. [Photograph by Lee Wei Kean]