Ms K.E. Koh, as she prefers to be known was trained at Kirby Liverpool as a teacher but has since also given up on tuition in English and English Literature due to her health challenge. Her cancer journey began in 2000 at Stage 1 but had a remission after 13 long years. Koh experienced discomfort and slight pain. As there were lack of facilities in Ipoh, an x-ray at a private clinic showed negative. Her intuition signalled to her something is wrong.
“Do you smoke?” was a commonly asked question that she would be confronted with. A CT Scan followed by a biopsy and PET Scan at Sime Darby, finally led her to Dato’ Dr Mohamed Ibrahim, a Medical Director and Consultant Clinical Oncologist based at Beacon Hospital in Petaling Jaya.
Further tests were made and Koh waited 12 long days and were told that the result showed stage 4 lung cancer. She was eligible for oral chemotherapy but it was hard to tolerate.
“The side effects were terrible which resulted in very dry skin and eyes. I had diarrhoea, but the worst thing was that I had ingrown nails. My tongues, my fingers, and my toes just bleed often but I had to tolerate. After 4 years on that, my tumour marker started to go up. I was becoming resistant to the drug. Luckily, the doctor told me about immunotherapy. At that time, there were no medicine yet and. I have to wait for it to come. After about 3-4 months. I started my first dose in November last year. At the moment with an interval of every 3 weeks done in the chemo unit. It’s a painless process. Initially, I start with half an hour immunotherapy followed by saline, after that I can go home. It is very good. The only side effect I have was I was sweating, that’s all. I can’t attribute entirely to that because of my travel. I leave at 6 o’clock in the morning to the hospital from Ipoh to be on time for my appointment. I’ve to stay and by the time my appointment is over, I reached home about half past four, if I’m lucky. It’s partly travelling, you see. I’ve a sister in KL, but I can’t sleep in somebody else’s bed. Other than that, I have no side effect. It’s very good. It’s very good,” reiterated Koh.
When asked about her age, Koh shared, “ I’m 79! Every day is a happy day for me. I can do my housework. I can mop the floor myself and have fun. As long as I’m always active. I can’t go for a long walk. I cannot go jogging. My husband passed away 3 ½ years ago. I’ve a daughter who lives in Australia who visits me at least twice a year to see me. “
Koh is currently on the Roche’s patient assisted programme.for the treatment of metastatic non-small cell lung cancer who have disease progression during or following platinum-containing chemotherapy.
When asked concerning the treatment she’s on, Koh replied, “After this treatment, my stamina is getting better. I can climb up steps, I take my time. I can still manage it. When I mop the floor, I don’t feel breathless. Last time, honestly, government actually arrange for me to get my medication. Somehow, I feel tired. I can’t sleep at all. But now. It’s getting good, sort of a new lease of life. I could see the result after 3 to 4 times treatment. After 1 treatment, there will be break for a 3 weeks cycle before the next treatment and it depends on the progress. My sense of taste is no different. Appetite is still ok.”
CM: What would be your advice to the cancer patients?
Koh: “The most important is to have strong will power. We must have the will to tell yourself that I will get better. Secondly, we believe the oncologists with full faith and trust. Thirdly, we must be confident with our treatment plan. As a patient, we have to be in it with all our heart. Try the best, follow up, and follow the doctor’s instruction. Eat whatever we want but eat it in moderation. I live with a day by day. I don’t think of tomorrow. Everybody can bare the burden with just one day. If you add the burdens on tomorrow, you can’t sustain. Then, you will break down with loss of balance. I believe strongly with that saying: I believe that if I do my part, God will grant me. I hope that we can encourage cancer patients continuously and acknowledge them.”