Relentless cancer patients, or K fighters as they are popularly labeled in Vietnam, inspire the community with their determination. But their positive outlook was not without its moments of mental collapse.
Perhaps Dr. Pham Truong Giang is among the most courageous cancer patients in Vietnam, known widely for his public speaking about the five cancer recurrences he has endured over the past 16 years.
All hands on deck
Dr. Giang was first diagnosed with colon cancer at age 49, just when he was at the very top of his career.
“I couldn’t bear the idea of cancer,” he said.
“I was literally scared to death. What would happen to my wife and kids?”
But it was the same wife and kids he was so worried about that lifted his spirits.
As the vice-president of a tennis club for doctors, dentists and pharmacists in Ho Chi Minh City, Dr. Giang is well known in the medical field and, upon hearing of his diagnosis, his colleagues quickly rushed to his aid.
“I was lucky to have such peers,” Dr. Giang said.
“An average person would have a hard time trying to find the best surgeon, but I received a lot of offers from my colleagues.
“They even gave me money. They saved my life.”
Dr. Giang’s wife is also an experienced nurse who helps with his daily care.
Not all cancer patients, however, are as fortunate.
Luong Ngoc Van Anh contracted breast cancer a year ago and was devastated when the news was broken.
As an office worker and single mother to a small daughter, Anh was basically alone in the first days after the diagnosis.
At that time, she could only manage to raise VND10 million (US$428), a far cry from the VND50 million ($2,142) she needed for an operation.
“I cried my heart out that night. I had so many plans. How would my little girl cope when I’m gone?” she said.
“But the lust for life resurrected me overnight.”
The following morning, Anh did something she never thought she would try: reaching out to friends for help.
“I couldn’t think about keeping face anymore. I had to live,” she emphasized.
|Patients join hands to fight cancer. Photo: Salt Cancer Initiative|
K fighters are those who refuse to lead a life of darkness and insist on empowering themselves despite their fight with cancer.
During a seminar on cancer delivered by Dr. Pham Nguyen Quy, a 20-year-old Hanoi-based college student stood up and openly discussed her condition.
Her name was Nguyen Anh Hoa and leukemia struck her at age 11.
Her parents resorted to traditional herbal drugs and supplementary pills throughout her childhood.
Now an adult, the ill-fated lady has regained control of her treatment.
“I was overly protected by my parents, but I reckon that compared to the disabled, I am much luckier,” she said. “I do want to have a normal life.”
Currently Hoa is a sophomore at Thuy Loi University in Ho Chi Minh City.
She has a part-time job and regularly goes to cancer talks.
To cancer patients, the term positive treatment is highlighted by experts like Dr. Giang.
It basically means saying no to merely operations and chemotherapy.
Staying positive implies stepping out of the hospital cell.
According to Dr. Giang, he was involved in the Livestrong Foundation, founded by American former professional cyclist Lance Armstrong to assist cancer survivors.
Armstrong is the world-renown cyclist who overcame his testicular cancer.
“It felt more relieved to have so much support from people suffering from the same condition,” the Vietnamese doctor said.
“And I began my positive treatment.”
After surgery or chemotherapy sessions, the doctor rushes to the tennis court rather than collapses himself on the bed.
The sport has been his combat partner for the last 16 years.
He also partakes in social activities where he takes a delight in aiding other cancer patients.
Likewise, Anh also considers the act of sharing a true mental boost.
On a weekly basis, she joins a group called The Loving Flame.
They prepare porridge for the poor and go on daily jogs.
She also likes traveling.
The Salt Cancer Initiative is a non-profit organization that aims to provide knowledge of cancer and host events for the Vietnamese cancer community.
They currently raise funds for the patients and organize seminars where experts, doctors, patients and their family can gather and support one another.