When cancer keeps striking

GOMBAK: Mohamad Nor Imran Mat Shah was only 18 years old when the doctors diagnosed him with second stage lymphoma.

“Too soon,” he thought.

That was five years ago. After receiving his diagnosis, Imran began seeking treatment although he told no one of his illness.

“I was not that close to my family. I didn’t want them to know, and I wanted to do everything by myself.

“I lost weight drastically and fainted a lot,” he told FMT in a recent interview.

At the time of diagnosis, he was still studying at university. He took on many part-time jobs in order to earn enough money for his treatment, although there were times when he had to be “thick-skinned” and ask for sponsors as well.

He decided to forgo chemotherapy and depended only on medication.

Not long after that, though, he was diagnosed with liver cancer as well.

It was a blow, but instead of mourning, he turned his efforts to physical training and staying fit.

“I decided to do more humanitarian projects and volunteer work, which made me feel good,” he said.

“They say if we make others happy, we will be happy too. That’s why I do it.”

In 2018, he was given a clean bill of health. He was relieved as everything seemed to be going well.

Six months later, though, he began experiencing a constant pain in his stomach. He also discovered blood when he used the toilet.

A visit to the doctor confirmed his worst fears: he had yet another kind of cancer – third stage cancer of the colon.

An endoscopy showed that the tumours had metastasised, with some as large as a 50 sen coin.

“I was not expecting it,” Imran said.

He had several big things going on at the moment, including an offer to visit Japan under a programme by the education ministry.

His doctors advised him to undergo chemotherapy, but he decided to postpone the treatment as it would interfere with his trip.

“It was one of my dreams,” he said. “How could I let it slip away so easily?”

He intended to begin chemotherapy in January 2019. But even as he struggled to come to terms with his third cancer diagnosis, another tragedy struck.

In late April, doctors told him his liver cancer had returned.

“I was so stressed that I cried. I had to take study leave in order to undergo chemotherapy.”

Why, he kept asking himself. Why did it have to come back?

At that point, he decided to tell his parents about his condition.

“Of course they were mad at me for not telling them before,” he said. “It was not easy.”

Imran began chemotherapy in April, after returning from his trip to Japan.

“It was tiring,” he told FMT. “My hair started to fall out. I threw up often and I would get tired easily.”

His memory was also affected, and he became forgetful and unorganised.

“I was not myself,” he added.

His treatment cost nearly RM200,000, a sum which required financial assistance from his parents although his father was by then retired.

He also underwent surgery for his colon cancer.

“I am hoping for a piece of good news,” he said. “I took a test to ensure that I am cancer-free.”

It has been a long and challenging journey for the 23-year-old, but he remains cheerful and optimistic.

“I am grateful to have been granted a positive mindset to pull through the hurdles,” he said.