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ELIZABETH AU ONCOLOGY

Cancer Care and Treatment

Stage Four is not always Terminal

Mr O was a 49 year old businessman when he was diagnosed to have stage 4 rectal cancer that had spread to the liver. He underwent radical surgery to remove the cancer in the rectum and also the cancer that had spread to the liver. He had radiotherapy to prevent the cancer from coming back in the rectum.

When he was 51 years old, the cancer recurred in the liver. He underwent liver surgery again. After he recovered from surgery, he received six months of chemotherapy. He sold his business as it was too stressful for him. He took up exercise, and he changed his diet.

When he was 53 years old, the rectal cancer spread to his lung. He had it removed surgically through keyhole surgery. On the third day after surgery, upon discharge from hospital, he went fishing from Bedok Jetty as it helped him to reduce stress. His surgeon wasn't too happy with him as he was supposed to rest for two weeks! Keyhole surgery does not mean "small" surgery: part of his lung had been removed. Mr O underwent another six months of chemotherapy. During this time, he took up daily exercise. He swam 20 laps, did tai chi, and walked several kilometers, alternating between the exercises.

When the five year mark passed uneventfully at his 58th birthday, we were cautiously optimistic that perhaps his rectal cancer was cured.

In 2010, at the age of 60 years, early stage thyroid cancer was detected during one of his routine check-ups. After thyroid surgery, no further treatment was needed.

Since then, Mr O has remained well. He spends his time looking after triplet grandchildren, meeting friends for coffee, and daily exercises. He still comes every six months for tests. Whenever he is in the clinic, he encourages every other person sitting in the clinic, showing them his scars and telling them not to give up.