March is ending. That notes the end of the first quarter of the year, and the beginning of another new quarter. Such times are apt for personal reflections and gratitude sessions. For some, you might be thankful for your new found love. Career advancement. Food to eat. Great relationships. Etc.
For Mei Sze, as expressed in her video, she’s thankful that she is alive.
With the aim to educate young people and those who are going through or recovering from, she shares with HealthWorks on important lessons in regards to colon cancer, health and life.
Being Aware & Observant of Cancer Symptoms
1. Age Is Not A Factor
“We shouldn’t take our youth for granted. I do eat healthy, I don’t drink and I don’t smoke. I really do eat healthy. But, quoting Datuk Yunus, ‘Cancer does not pick the person’, I completely agree with it. It can happen to anyone. An oncologist can also die of cancer.”
2. Early Detection is Key
“I encourage young people to do your yearly check ups. Ultrasounds, mammograms, pap smears etc. If in doubt, do check.”
3. Do Not Underestimate Soft Stools
“Soft stools can be misleading. I had soft stools but I didn’t notice it. Until it worsen and I decided to give it a check.”
[Related: Learn to Check Your Poop Colour and Texture]
What’s It Like During Post-Surgery Recovery
4. You Will Need to Undergo An Extreme Diet Change
“Post-surgery, I relied on easily digestible food. I had soft diet like porridge for about two months! Now (half year after surgery), I don’t take in gassy food. I consume a lot of avacado, pumpkin and sweet potato.”
5. You Need to Fart to Activate Your Bowels
“Once you start farting, the nurse will start giving you water. Liquids will start coming out into the colostomy bag. Your bowel starts to activate.”
6. You Might Be In the 5% of Living With A Colostomy Bag
“What are the odds! I was part of the 5%. Due to my sensitive skin, I kept getting skin rashes where the colostomy bag was. It was a difficult moment for me. At times, poop might be leaking out. I might wake up with faeces over the bed. It stinks. But the colostomy nurse was very kind. She taught me how to cleanse the wound, the skin, gave me products and taught me how to put it on. My boyfriend was also very patient in helping me.”
7. You Look Out For The Next Small Improvement
“Everyday, I aimed for something small. In my mind it was, ‘when can I walk again?’, ‘when can I drink?’, ‘when can I sit?’, ‘when can I eat?’. I plan my goals around these questions and began my recovery journey.”
8. You Need to Retrain Your Body
“Because I had ⅓ of rectum left, I will need to go to the toilet 10 – 15 times a day. I need to retrain my bowel system to adapt to a shorter rectum. Along the way I got Irritable Bowel Symptom. I learned that stress could be a factor as the mind is sending wrong signals to your gut in a different manner. I made a conscious decision to not eat medication and reduce my stress to control my own gut. I manage to do it and didn’t need to take my medication. So I feel that when it comes to your health, your mind can be very powerful. Especially if you have to battle cancer.”
9. Meditate. The Mind is Powerful
“For any form of cancer, the mind is a powerful tool. If you have no will to live, no will to fight it or you are very depressed, chances of surviving might be low. You might think your cancer is cured, but if you still feel depressed, you might get it back. Meditation is important for the mind and body. I meditate everyday when I was in hospital, and now.”
How to Manage Hospital Choice & Insurance
10. Always Get Second (Even Third) Opinion
“I was blessed to know a gastroenterologist through a family friend. If you are facing the same situation, it is best to clear the confusion by getting a second or even third opinion.”
11. Ask Which Particular Hospital Have Better Surgeons For Specific Cancer
“Don’t be afraid if you can’t receive treatment at private hospitals. There are a lot of good surgeons in government hospitals and some might have more expertise and also a lot of compassion. Do not think that only private hospitals are the best. You have to do your research, ask which particular hospital have better surgeons that can provide better options. One thing with government hospitals is – you have to wait, depending on how major is your surgery”
12. Be Mindful of Your Insurance Policies
“For some of us, we might have purchased a policy long time ago. Or our parents purchased for us. It will be wise to re-look at your policies to check whether your coverage includes annual checkups, and your medical card’s coverage.”
“As young people, we tend to sign without thoroughly reading. Before we sign any insurance it is important to read the policy well. Find trusted agents by knowing how long do they plan to stay in this industry, whether are they full time or part-time. That can give you a good gauge whether are they serious in serving you or not. And pay to the company directly instead of relying on an agent.”
“I will advise everyone to really appreciate life, and the people around us. To truly enjoy what you’re doing. We should improve ourselves, take a step back and evaluate ourselves on certain behaviours. Is this good for us? If it’s not, should we just eliminate it? Let it not lead to cancer to really teach us about life.”
Mei Sze, a multi-faceted young adult battled through this journey with a strong supportive family, loved ones and true real friends. She joked, “I did not even touch my phone. You won’t be thinking of social media. And still, your true friends will be there.”.
Now, she and her family are very conscious about how they live healthily. She currently shares her knowledge and experience on her official website. She wants you to know that you are not alone.