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Monday, 20 November 2017 | MYT 12:00 AM

Life with lung cancer

 After being diagnosed with lung cancer, Toh Tai Ewe threw out his pack of cigarettes and has not smoked since. 

THE minute Toh Tai Ewe found out he had lung cancer, he threw away his cigarettes.

The year was 2013, and a CT scan meant to check Toh’s heart instead revealed that he had tumours on the left side of his lung.

“There were no symptoms, nothing. As I’ve been a smoker for so many years, it was quite normal for me to be coughing.

“It was only when I went for my annual medical check-up that I found out I had lung cancer,” said Toh.

After consulting other oncologists, he was advised to do chemoradiotherapy. Three months after that, his health seemed to improve until he experienced a relapse sometime in the third quarter of 2014.

Not giving up, he journeyed to Dalian in China to undergo photodynamic therapy once a month for four months.

However, the treatment didn’t work. Having exhausted all other options, Toh was recommended immunotherapy, which has since worked effectively for him.

Toh, who has a trading business in the metal tools industry, is now 66 years old.

During the interview with The Star, the lean man looked healthy and lively. One wouldn’t have suspected that he was suffering from lung cancer.

When asked whether he regretted smoking, he said that he would have told his younger self not to smoke.

He was about 21 years old when he first started, and having just begun his first job as a salesperson, was influenced to smoke by the people he met at work.

Although he has since quit, his younger son has taken up the habit.

“I keep telling him, ‘You can see from my example that at the end of the day, you would suffer’.

“I asked him to stop, but I know I don’t really have the right to do so as I was a smoker myself. So I told him to ‘try and reduce it until the day you can quit it totally’,” he said.

When asked whether it was challenging for him to quit smoking, he confidently said no.

“Humans always try to give excuses for themselves not to do something. But it comes down to your willpower, whether you want to do it or not.

“My wife was afraid that I would have withdrawal syndrome, but I didn’t experience it,” he said.

According to Toh, lung cancer patients generally survive for another one or two years before passing on. So he feels fortunate that his lifespan has been prolonged for another four years.

“The short life expectancy doesn’t scare me.

“The way I look at it, sooner or later I will have to go. I can’t complain,” he said.

Toh lives his life as normally as he can, but lung cancer symptoms such as breathlessness does affect him.

“My office has four storeys, and I have to take the stairs as it’s an old building and there are no lifts.

“I have to sit down and rest a lot, but I still try to walk up,” he said, adding that he spends around 30-45 minutes a day walking around his neighbourhood as a form of exercise.

Toh’s family members don’t treat him as a person with a terminal illness, as they have learnt to accept his condition.

He appreciates any time he gets to spend with them, and looks forward to the birth of his second grandchild due next month.

“At this moment, my children have grown up and my business has been passed over to them,” he said.

“So I’m trying to enjoy myself. If I can live longer, I will try to do so – that’s it.”