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Sunday, 29 October 2017 00:00

Live in the Moment

Written by  Tan Kim Hion, KL & Selangor / Translated by Lee Hui Yieng

Volunteer Soo Kim Mooi (right) presented a framed photo to Dr Ivan Shew Yee Siang to thank him for treating her cancer. [Photograph by Tee Kim Wooi]

“Today, I want to present a small gift to Dr Ivan Shew,” said Soo Kim Mooi, as she held a framed picture of her and Dr Ivan Shew Yee Siang in her hands. Dr Shew accepted the photo, praised her for being a brave patient and hugged her lightly as a show of encouragement and blessing. The heart-warming sight won a big round of applause from the audience.


At the Cancer Forum held at KL Tzu-Chi Jing Si Hall on October 29, 2017, the audience members were moved to tears as they listened to the sharing by cancer patient, Soo Kim Mooi, on her cancer battling experience. She expressed her inner feelings when diagnosed with cancer, and thanked Dr Shew for the support throughout her therapies. Besides stabilizing her condition, he also introduced her to Tzu Chi Cancer Support Group (CSG), thereby adding depth to her life.

Distraught over having cancer

Fifty-four-year-old Kim Mooi did not look like a cancer patient to the doctors and volunteers even though she was in her final stage of cancer. This is because she has always carried a smile on her face instead of looking worried or sad. She was named “a very great and brave patient” by the doctors and “a diligent living bodhisattva” by fellow volunteers.

However, she was remorseful for wasting too much of her time when she was healthy. Knowing that she could never turn back time, she keeps looking and working forward to make her life more meaningful.

She revealed, “Actually my husband and I were already Tzu Chi volunteers back in 1995. However, as we were busy with our hawker stall and had to take care of our son, we thought we should wait until the right time to contribute. Twenty-plus years passed in the blink of an eye, and I deeply regretted for there is not much time left for me.”

Kim Mooi used to lead a peaceful life with her husband and son in Seremban, and was content making a living as a hawker selling pastries and cookies. Just when she felt relieved that her son had graduated from university and working in Kuala Lumpur, impermanence struck unexpectedly.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2014 and underwent a surgery immediately. The whole of the following year, she was battling with cancer, going through chemotherapy, radiotherapy and targeted therapy, hoping to kill the cancer cells before they grew further. Those were the days she wished to forget. She remembered that she felt neither fear nor grief when she discovered the cancer, but was overwhelmed with anger. She kept asking herself, “Why is it me? None of my family members had cancer. I live a routine life with a plain diet, and I do not smoke, so why me?”

Despite being distraught, she accepted the fact eventually. She was very grateful to the doctor who recommended her to look for Dr Shew, a Consultant Clinical Oncologist at Nilai Medical Centre. During the first visit, her husband, Sim Yen Wai, told Dr Shew, “That’s great, I will leave my wife to you,” after confirming that the latter was a Tzu Chi member. Later, when Dr Shew was transferred to a hospital in Kuala Lumpur, Kim Mooi continued to make the 1.5-hour’s drive from Seremban to see him, until today.

A blessing in life

Dr Shew was not only Kim Mooi’s attending doctor, but also one who has brought positive changes to her life. She remembered after her first chemotherapy, she experienced intolerable side effects of throwing up, pain in the legs and hands, and so on. With no related information at hand and no one to share her feelings, she suffered emotional instability from bearing the pain alone. Hence, during her second chemotherapy treatment, she told Dr Shew, “I may commit suicide. Is there anyone who can counsel and help me?” Dr. Shew replied immediately, “Yes! Tzu Chi Cancer Support Group can help you.”

Through Dr Shew, Kim Mooi came into contact with volunteer, Kuan Mun Jen from the CSG. During her first get-together session organized by the CSG, she was dazzled listening to the experience sharing by a brain cancer patient in a wheelchair, because despite having a slurred speech, the latter still faced life with strength and optimism. At that moment, Kim Mooi realized that she was not the least fortunate person.

The CSG provides a platform for cancer patients to express their feelings and sorrows, as well as, receive support and care from one another. It also inspired Kim Mooi to have a positive outlook and to do kind deeds. She discussed with her husband about returning to volunteer with Tzu Chi, to fully utilize life’s potential while they could still walk and move. The husband immediately conveyed their intention to the person-in-charge of Tzu Chi Seremban, and they re-joined Tzu Chi’s big family and continued to attend volunteer training again.

At the time when Kim Mooi was undergoing radio/chemotherapies, she still earnestly gave of herself in Tzu Chi’s voluntary work, such as, home visits to Tzu Chi care recipients, caring for patients at the hospital, charity sale of vegetarian food on every first and fifteenth day of the Lunar month, as well as, promoting Master Cheng Yen’s books and Jing-Si products. With those activities, life became busy and she did not have time to think about her illness.

The more activities she participated in, the more she felt the need to continue on. She felt sorry each time she visited care recipients with diabetes, who could only leave their wounds bleeding because they could not afford a ride to see the doctor. She would immediately help them to apply for monetary aid to resolve their problems. As a hospital volunteer, she helped paralysed and stroke patients to change their diapers and feed them. It made her feel deeply grateful that she was able to help these people and create good affinities with them despite being a cancer patient herself.

The joy of helping others often erased the discomfort after chemotherapy sessions, bringing endless stream of positive energy to Kim Mooi, and supporting her through one treatment after another. Realizing the natural law of life and death, she understood that life is full of uncertainties and there could be a day she would be a bedridden patient requiring care from others. So, she always tells her husband, “We must continue on Tzu Chi path and never stop because we are more blessed than others who are less fortunate.”

Tomorrow is a mystery

After a year of treatment, Kim Mooi thought that the cancer was under control and she could take a break. Unexpectedly, it relapsed two months later and spread to her lymph nodes. She immediately underwent a surgery, yet four months later, it spread to her liver and neck. Thus, she had been going though treatments in 2016. Past mid-2017, the cancer cells have spread to her bones, spine, pelvis and cerebellum.

She shared, “I am a terminal-stage cancer patient. Dr Shew said that my cancer cells are very active. But I was not afraid when I learnt about that. Instead, I felt grateful that the cancer cells were at the surface of the cerebellum, which made it easier to treat than in the brain. I am also grateful that the cancer cells in the spine did not affect my nervous system.”

Kim Mooi appeared relaxed speaking about her illness. She does not think that she should just lie on the bed and do nothing because the cancer cells have spread to her whole body. She still actively participates in the CSG get-together sessions, carries out Tzu Chi’s voluntary work, and lives a normal life. Sometimes, she would hurry off to home visits or to Tzu Chi Seremban Liaison Office for matters relating to vegetarian food charity sale right after receiving her chemotherapy or radiotherapy in Kuala Lumpur.

Her perseverance impressed fellow volunteers. To them, she appears more like a diligent living bodhisattva than a patient under treatment, as she would be there whenever and wherever she is needed.

As Kim Mooi learnt about the volunteers’ comments, she responded smilingly, “I don’t know if I could live to see tomorrow, but I can be sure that I am still here today. So I must give of myself to help others today, when I am still alive.” Because of her illness, she fully understood what the Master meant when she said “time is running out”. The Master’s words that, “Let us not ask for good health, only clarity of mind,” dawned on her that one is living in vain if one does not make good use of one’s healthy body and contribute to mankind.

Kim Mooi’s spirit of seizing every moment and living in the present has made her a role model for other cancer patients. Volunteers would also invite her to join them for home visits for cases that involved cancer patients. Seeing how depressed other cancer patients were, and how the families were lost and affected, even neglecting the need to seek proper treatment and leaving it to fate, had really pained her. So, she tried to share her own experience to encourage them to walk out of the misery, seek proper treatment and have a positive outlook in life.

Never shed a tear

Kim Mooi shared, “I have never shed a tear since I was diagnosed with cancer and during the course of treatment. Instead, I found spiritual joy from volunteering with Tzu Chi. I always feel happy and life has been enriching and wonderful because having the ability to help others is the greatest blessing in my life.”

It does not matter to Kim Mooi anymore where the cancer cells have spread to or what survival rate she is having. She is racing against every second, going for check-up as per schedule and treating her illness accordingly. Her biggest concerns now are how many more applicants of Happy Schooling Scheme she is left to visit, how many more home visit reports are pending for completion, and how much more she needs to work on after attending the group study on the Sutra of the Medicine Buddha. She is grateful for each day that she could still move and carry out Tzu Chi work.

Her husband is relieved to see her getting happier when she is involved in Tzu Chi activities. Kim Mooi has also decided to donate her cadaver for medical research, hoping that the students could come out with medication for cancer control and save other patients. Her husband, who was reluctant at the idea initially, not only agreed to it upon her persuasion, but is also willing to donate his own body for the same purpose.

When Kim Mooi, with all sincerity and a grateful heart, urged everyone to be brave in facing the challenges of illnesses and life, and to give of themselves to help others, the audience gave a thunderous applause. Kim Mooi could feel the blessings and support from the floor, and that would energize her to persevere and stride bravely in the battle with cancer and on the Tzu Chi path.

 

 

Soo Kim Mooi and her husband, Sim Yen Wai, purposely drove from Seremban to KL Tzu-Chi Jing Si Hall to participate in the Cancer Forum. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]   Soo Kim Mooi (left) honestly shared her cancer battling experience with the audience and encouraged the cancer patients to face their illness bravely and to accept treatments. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]

Soo Kim Mooi and her husband, Sim Yen Wai, purposely drove from Seremban to KL Tzu-Chi Jing Si Hall to participate in the Cancer Forum. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]
 
Soo Kim Mooi (left) honestly shared her cancer battling experience with the audience and encouraged the cancer patients to face their illness bravely and to accept treatments. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]
 
Dr Ivan Shew Yee Siang (left) praised Soo Kim Mooi for being a brave patient and embraced her to offer his encouragement and blessings. The Cancer Support Group’s care team leader, Kuan Mun Jen, (right), was deeply moved to witness the warm interaction between them. [Photograph by Tee Kim Wooi]  

Dr Ivan Shew Yee Siang (left) praised Soo Kim Mooi for being a brave patient and embraced her to offer his encouragement and blessings. The Cancer Support Group’s care team leader, Kuan Mun Jen, (right), was deeply moved to witness the warm interaction between them. [Photograph by Tee Kim Wooi]