“The biggest gift that I had ever received was from my late brother, who passed away when I was 19 years old…”

“He died of cancer within 2 weeks when we all found out he had cancer. It was too sudden. 2 weeks is a very short time.

He underwent chemotherapy but there was a lung infection and died from it. Its like he just disappeared.

I find that if you don’t treasure your loved ones, you will regret it one day. I miss everything about him until today.

It has been 15 years but he was a very loving person and took care of all of us very well.

He got our backs when we were growing up together with our tough situation.

When I was 15 years old, 4 years after my father died in an accident and we moved to a small house, my mother told me if I wanted pocket money, I should go out and work for it.

My mother said “if you want to study any course, you would need to handle it (financially) by yourself.”

And right before my late brother passed away, he spoke to my second eldest brother. 

He said: “Use the insurance funds when I pass away for you (younger siblings) to further your studies”.

And if I could go back in time and tell him something – it would be, “I love you”.

– Humans of Kuala Lumpur

Photostory by Mushamir Mustafa

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(This post was first published on August 6th 2018)

“My dream was to be a psychologist and to open a center and help underprivileged children develop socially and mentally…”

“That’s why I studied developmental psychology all the way until PhD, until 3 years ago when I found out I had cancer. I was 27 years old.

Back then, I was a news anchor for ntv7, and hosted a successful web series and events, but as I was heading for a conference in China, I started getting diarrhea once a month which then became chronic for three weeks straight, whilst at full day events. 

I went to see two doctors, and the medication I took didn’t help me at all. My dad then instructed me to go see a specialist so I went to see a gastroenterologist and he actually told me not to do a colonoscopy, but my dad insisted, and because of that we found a tumor in my colon. 

So I had seven days to get my life together before my surgery – because it might spread and it is fatal. 

When I woke up after the long procedure, I found that I had a colostomy bag, which is when your intestines are hanging out of your body and held in the bag, so your feces and everything has to go through it. Turns out that the tumor was too close to the rectum.

They reversed the colostomy. I didn’t have to do chemo but the experience of the bag was a hard one. I couldn’t believe that it was happening. 

The doctors couldn’t understand why either because I had no genetic history of it. 

At the time I had a boyfriend. He actually cleans up the poo- since I don’t poo the normal way- and sometimes I can’t even control it and it’ll come out while he’s wiping it and he still did it. 

He’s now my husband. He’s really supportive. We’ve been together about six years and when I had cancer it was our fourth year together. 

But now my dream has changed, because I’ve had cancer. I came back to Malaysia to raise awareness. Now I want to help cancer patients and survivors – especially young ones. Young people with cancer are actually occurring more and more, so people need to be more aware of it.

It’s so unexpected for them and I want to help them move on with life.

A lot of young patients feel embarrassed about it, and never tell their friends. But they shouldn’t feel that way. They should take it as an experience, learn from it and move forward positively. I think that’s very important. After a while, I realized why should I be embarrassed about it? And that’s when I came out.

Just because they are young doesn’t mean they don’t face problems, and actually it’s because that they are young that they face more problems, as compared to elderly people who get cancer. It’s tougher for them to get a job, and they can never be covered by insurance ever again, so be prepared. It’s very important to get covered if you’re young financially. Early detection is important.

I know that when you are young, you wanna try and move on, you want to try and live a normal life. But I think you should try and understand and don’t keep it inside. If you wanna share or if you need support, come to our support groups” 

– Humans of Kuala Lumpur went down and spoke with a trio of female cancer survivors from theNational Cancer Society Malaysia. These are their stories.

Check out Mei Sze’s page at www.facebook.com/choomeisze/ and https://meisze.com/

Photostory taken by Mushamir Mustafa, with editorial assistance from Sofia Irfan. — with Choo Mei Sze and Choo Mei Sze.

(This post was first published on November 14th 2017)