To embrace sunshine is to embrace happiness and health. The Tzu Chi Cancer Support Group held a morning walk event for cancer patients and their families, to mark the 6th Anniversary of its establishment. Some of the patients commented that compared to the fight against cancer, the 2.6 km walk round the lake was not that difficult, while some others were amazed that they made it to the end.
The sun cast a shade of gold onto earth; green trees all over the park gave cool sheds to the paths; and there were people in the park, in small groups or alone. The Tzu Chi group added colours to the scene, with cancer patients in red t-shirts, and volunteers in their usual blue top and white bottom.
It was November 24, 2019. Over 200 people participated in the walk for sunshine, happiness and health. Besides the patients, there were family members and their friends, ex-cancer patients and TIMA members. Such gathering was indeed a symbol of support from all sides for the patients in their fight against cancer.
Formed on October 13, 2013, the Support Group has since held regular programmes designed and carried out to support the patient members in all possible ways. Medical talks, comprehensive care and relevant medical information are disseminated to patients; and volunteers are ever ready to help patients through the physical pain accompanying the disease, to boost up their will to fight on. The event at the park on this day was held for the first time to mark the 6th Anniversary since the Support Group’s inception, and it was a break-away from the usual sit-in sessions of activities.
A breakthrough in six years
Kuan Mun Jen, a Tzu Chi volunteer, knew best how to care for the patients. As a former cancer patient, she plays her part as a listener, reassuring and encouraging these suffering ones under her care to brave the odds. Throughout all these years, she had had the keen intention to take them outdoor to embrace the sun, so as to gather the collective strength to fight cancer.
As it was not within the ability of the patients to run or to walk for long distances, the 2.6 km walk round the lake was the most suitable choice for the event. “The walk involves up and down slopes, twists and turns. Such ups and downs are similar to the course they take in their fight against cancer. They should be able to feel so,” remarked Mun Jen.
The weather on that day was unexpectedly good. Participants came one after another to report their presence. Early birds were given a special gift of a windmill made out of PET bottles, to signify a smooth journey ahead.
Not a difficult walk
An arch was cleverly created out of PET bottles at the starting point, welcoming participants with warmth and encouragement. Unlike normal walking competition, the 200-plus participants walked at a slow pace. Along the way, participants took part in a “treasure hunt”, designed specially to boost up their spirit. Obviously, they found the walk very interesting.
In a joyful and relaxed mood, with their faces glowing due to the exercise, the participants were really enjoying the scenery as they walked along. They did not look like someone with illness at all, and did not back out, although the walk was actually physically and mentally challenging for them.
Thirty-year-old Tan Jia Chee was a good example. She suffered from nasopharyngeal carcinoma in 2014. This year, there was a recurrence, and it became lymphoma. Her doctor suggested surgery, with 50% risk of paralysis to one of her arms. She chose not to undergo the operation. At the scene, she was seen smiling and said that it was not a difficult walk, as she persevered as best as she could.
She cited the case of another cancer sufferer, Soo Yee Siang, and shared her view that whatever had happened to one, he/she would have to face it bravely. She shared that joining the Support Group and fighting on with all others in the group gave her a good feeling. Her mother and close relatives were with her in the walk, and she reached the finishing point steadily. Likewise, she would brave cancer with positive energy.
Joining the walk on a wheelchair
Wheelchair-bound Nelson Tang, who had metastasized cancer of the bones from the skin, depended on others to go out, and it would take time for him to get ready whenever he needed to go out. Thus, he was undecided whether to come for the event. In the end, he appeared. He said, “I’m here on wheelchair, and in a way, this could be encouraging others who are physically restricted in their movements. I just let go of all negative thoughts and take in as much positive energy as heaven grants me.” The positive energy at the event swept away all his negative feelings, and he became light-hearted.
Yee Siang left Segamat, Johor, as early as 5 am just to join others at the event. He also brought with him egg tarts which he made to share with fellow participants. Twenty-four-year-old Yee Siang lost his left leg to bone cancer, and is wheelchair-bound. He hardly went out of the house in the past. To travel so far from Segamat was, in fact, an experience worth remembering. Walking along with him were his mother, friends and Tzu Chi volunteers. This was his dream came true, and he said with pride, “I’ve finally taken the first step, and I made it!”
Not a lonely journey
Yong Sau Mui is a Tzu Chi volunteer. She had just completed six rounds of chemotherapy less than a month ago. Accompanied by six other volunteers, she finished the 2.6 km walk. In June 2019, she was diagnosed with third stage ovarian cancer. The walk did make her feel tired due to undulating ground, but she made it however slow she was.
The walk was similar to her fight against the disease, steady and not lonely. When the unexpected appeared, she boldly faced it, and was full of thanks for the support coming from her mother and other family members. “Let the doctors take care of my physical wellness, and let the Buddha take charge of my spiritual strength,” was her belief that kept her going with determination.
She shared, “To have cancer is not as terrible, just that I feel myself not as normal as others. I do feel the unspoken feelings of others when they look at me.” She knew a long journey to recovery was ahead, but she felt fortunate that she would not be alone on the way.
Another Tzu Chi volunteer who suffers from cancer is Tong Wai Leng. She was accompanied by her husband and her mother at this event. She said the event was superb in that it allowed the patients to get lots of fresh air and sunshine – something that they might have missed for quite some time. “The company of so many fellow patients and others was indeed a healing power,” she said.
Forty-year-old Wai Leng was diagnosed with second stage ovarian cancer in March 2019. By September, she had completed six rounds of chemotherapy, and is on the road to recovery. “Look, my hair is growing again!” she said with laughter.
Upon seeing that, someone praised, “Wow, you are very sunny in mood!”
“Well, I’ve got to be so, to be positive, in order to overcome the physical and mental pain during the course of treatment. I choose to be up and about, and not to lie in bed; I don’t want my family members to worry over me….” Her voice trembled, and she tried to fight back her tears, although she thought she was strong enough not to cry.
To her, the disease was just a manifestation of karma; it would be a new life after the completion of chemotherapy. She said, “I’ll walk the next phase of life with firmer steps.”
Through the Support Group, she came to know other patients whose suffering was relatively much greater. Knowing this had given her the courage to go on. Thus, she started to exercise in the morning.
Every participant made it to the finishing point; and every one of them won a medal – a mark of non-compromising spirit and perseverance.
Teo Huey Yee, a breast cancer patient, had a rather healthy complexion. She went onto the stage to share her view that the participants were able to complete the walk thanks to the mutual support and positive energy surrounding them. She urged the patients to stay calm and look for the right people and organizations, and ensure that they get the correct medical information and treatment methods in the face of cancer.
As the closing part of the event, all participants went through a session of muscle relaxing exercise.
Dr Ho Gwo Fuang of TIMA and clinical oncologist/radiotherapist at Universiti Malaya Medical Centre, shared with the patients ways to maintain their health. He also showed his great concern for the wheelchair-bound.
The theme song of the Cancer Support Group, “My Name is Bravery”, was sung as a finale of the event, and everyone looked forward to seeing each other again at the Support Group’s monthly get-together session.