Posted on 08.5.2020 | 12:00 AM
Cancer. The one disease that we’ve all heard of, or know someone who has a personal story to share. Mdm Kamsiah, 64, is one of them, having lost her son to cancer, and having had to support her husband through chemotherapy. She herself had her womb removed due to endometrial cancer in 2016.
But it was the year 2013 that brought the most painful memories for Mdm Kamsiah. Still grieving over the loss of her son in February, life dealt another cruel hand in June, when she was told by her doctor that she needed to start dialysis as her kidneys had failed. At that time, Mdm Kamsiah was almost blind due to severe cataracts and was heavily dependent on her husband, Sulaiman, for daily tasks.
“I was very depressed because of my life. I had kidney problems, I cannot see… it was really, really hard at that time,” shared Mdm Kamsiah.
“Only after I did the eye operation and regained my sight that I started to become happier. I began talking to other patients, asking them how dialysis goes, how to take care and so on. It was during that time that I met a Chinese lady who had been on dialysis for 30 years,” she elaborated.
“My first reaction when she told me was ‘Huh? 30 years?’ I got a shock. But then she shared that she took great care of her nutrition and was strict on her fluid control, so I listened and kept it in mind. It gave me strength and more importantly, it gave me hope.”
With guidance from the dietician, sharing from fellow patients and much self-discipline, Mdm Kamsiah made drastic changes to her diet and started paying more attention to the changes in her body.
“My belief is that we as a patient must take care of ourselves properly. We cannot always be blur, (we) must learn and don’t always depend on the nurses. I am targeting to be like the Auntie, to be here for 30 years,” Mdm Kamsiah shared with a chuckle.
Having finally found her bearings, Mdm Kamsiah’s life tumbled into abyss once again in 2016, when she and her husband were struck with cancer. Just fourteen days after a surgery to remove her womb, her husband was diagnosed with lymphoma and had to be started on chemotherapy.
While Mdm Kamsiah’s husband – Uncle Sulaiman – was undergoing chemotherapy, the hospital social worker had to arrange for an ambulance to send her to and fro dialysis, as she is wheelchair-bound and Uncle Sulaiman was her primary caregiver; she had no means of getting to dialysis without assistance.
Despite being a patient herself, Mdm Kamsiah had to double up as Uncle Sulaiman’s caregiver, cooking and caring for him through the tormenting side effects of chemotherapy. “He then became the one to sit in this chair,” she recounted, pointing to her wheelchair, “it was a very bad time”, she added.
It was their unyielding love for each other and their fervent hope to see more of their children and grandchildren that helped them pull through the difficult period and overcome cancer.
In her words, “My thinking is like this, I want him to be here because I want him to take care of me, that’s why I have to be strong for him. He always worries about me, thinking who will take care of me if he is not here, so I talked to him. I told him, if you want somebody to take care of me, (it is) you la, so you have to be stronger. You look after me, I look after you.”
Perhaps born from the regret of losing her child to cancer – Mdm Kamsiah’s son gave up after just two treatments – another reason for her strength and proactive attitude towards treatment was to demonstrate to her children the way forward in adversity, so that they know to do the same in the future.
Today, both Mdm Kamsiah and Uncle Sulaiman no longer have to undergo aggressive treatment for their cancers but are still under close observation by their oncologists. With her experience fighting cancer, Mdm Kamsiah now volunteers for the cancer support group at AIN society, extending support to fellow patients.
“When they have problems, they come to me. They respect me so they ask me what to do. What they have, I have too. So when we talk, I share from my experience and encourage them. I share and give support, and that’s what makes people strong,” she explained.
Having been on the receiving end of charity from various social organisations like KDF, Mdm Kamsiah is not afraid to share resources and connect those who approach her with the relevant organisations that have helped her before. “I don’t have money, but I can share. They help me, I help others,” she shared earnestly.
It is this sense of selflessness and remarkably sincere attitude in offering advice and help that won her the ‘Mother of the Year’ award by AIN society – an accomplishment she is extremely proud of.
Before we parted, I asked her what would be the one life lesson she hoped to impart to her children and the younger generation.
She left me with this message, “Live to be strong. If you want to live a good life, you have to push yourself to be strong. So whatever problem you have, whether you are sick or down, you have to fight it. Find it in yourself. Ask yourself, what do you want the most – if you want to live and to see your loved ones, then you must be strong. It needs to come from you.”
In spite of all that life has thrown onto her, Mdm Kamsiah’s spirit remains strong and she is determined to live a full, meaningful life. And it is with your support and generosity that has enabled her and her family to worry less about the recurring costs for dialysis and focus on what matters most – family and friends.