Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Stage Four

Dad has cancer.

We had known about it over a year ago - shortly after celebrating Chinese New Year - a result of yet another intense bed-ridden malady which led to the discovery of his Prostate Cancer. By the time it was identified, the prognosis was that he was at Stage Four, because the cells had already touched the bone. No, it is not a benign tumor.

There is no cure. There is no sunshine after the rain. All we can do now, is to ensure a decent "Quality of Life" for him, and that everything goes smooth and as painless as possible.

Before diagnosis and confirmation of his cancer, there were no specific symptoms to warn us, until his bladder problems, which had him hospitalized and warded in ICU, and us seeing our dad at his weakest. But as soon the operation to resolve his bladder problems was completed, other maladies began manifesting.

Things turned drastic when the cells affected his back, and he could literally not stand nor sleep for a long duration of time, without being in severe pain, for which we underwent radiology first, which 'solved' his back issues.

At that point he was on a wheelchair, and i remember that was then when i forgo using my own walking cane, as it would have been ridiculous trying to push dad on a wheelchair, and hold unto a stick at the same time LOL

Time came when a new doctor checked dad's blood out and saw an incredulous spike in his PSA readings, which then prompted the need for chemotherapy sessions.

("PSA" = Prostate-specific antigen, also known as gamma-seminoprotein)

After his 4th session, dad fell sick in a hard way, a reaction to the chemo had left him in severe discomfort and unable to move, and had intense diarrhea, and yet again hospitalized. Primary diagnosis was water had entered his lungs.

After 9 days of being warded, dad came back home, and it was the first time i had seen dad with uncontrollable tears of anguish. Those were dark times.

"Funnily", all these "milestones" ran parallel to when friends from overseas visited Singapore (Aaron and Jess from AOS), with the above being a snap of dad and the guys, at their show "Fang to Fur" in June, and immediately after that, things went downhill speedily. I had since missed all their activities when they were in Singapore, as i had been with dad.

Dad has just finished his 6th session of chemotherapy about 2 weeks ago, currently "taking a break" before starting on his 7th thru to 10th chemo session (Dad's session is once every 3 weeks), since his last two PSA index readings showed a "plateau" in results. A "standard" length of chemo is 10 cycles, apparently, with the person's health an indication of whether he or she is able to withstand the procedure.

Side effects ranged from diminishing of palate and taste-sensation, and loss of strength in limbs and is constantly tired. But dad has not puked, unlike other patients we have seen (first time we had chemo, the young dude by our side was hurling painfully, and loud, scared me to hell tho!), but perhaps it is still the early stages of chemo - which ironically when we first discovered his cancer condition, the doctor then had explained to us that dad was "too old" to undergo chemo.

But for a while, things were under control. Dad even had even bought himself a snazzy hat, to combat the fear of hair-loss due to chemo (which he is less concerned about these days, actually). Dad had been going out to meet friends for coffee and chats, of course not for too long a time out. I had also accompanied dad to visit the TCM Doctor (Traditional Chinese Medicine), and was generally living a decent semblance of a 'life', besides his constant tiredness, and extremely disturbing bloated stomach and legs.

"Water Retention" is an extremely dangerous thing to be had, and can pretty much screw up your body in more severe ways you might not have imagined.

Only on weekends, when the rest of the family was at home, dare I venture out of the house, for example; to visit the Sunday Flea Market at CSC - as long as there's someone else at home, who could cater to dad's needs.

Things took a dire turn, when dad slipped down from the bed Saturday morning August 31st, just hours before the start of the annual Singapore Toy, Games and Comic Convention, barely hours ago when i was still preparing for. We spent the next morning-til-after lunch convincing dad to go for a check up at the Accident and Emergency clinic of the Singapore General Hospital, to which it took a pretty long time before dad was warded, for further "observation".

In between that time, I made a quick dash to STGCC, and subsequently hitched a ride with a friend back to SGH after STGCC closed for the evening. I had before then cancelled all my scheduled interviews with artists (i could not be there physically and neither had I the right frame of mind to ask any enriching questions, truth be told). On hindsight, my desire to cover the annual event and meeting up with friends, seemed to pale in comparison with being by my dad's side.

On Sunday, our suspicions that dad might have had a Stroke (besides breaking bones while he fell) led to a brain CT-scan, which had shown something far more dire than expected.

The doctors had discovered multiple dots in his brain, "suspected" to be the existence of cancer cells. Perhaps that was what had lend to him loosing his balance and falling off the bed. And now with talking to dad more, seems his reactions have been stunted for a week prior to the fall. His mind might be telling him to throw away something, but instead he is holding that item in his hand for some time, standing there unable to actually execute the act … or that his memory sometimes instantaneously drops, in the middle of conversation.

But it was Sunday, and we had needed to wait for the prognosis of the specialists on Monday, when they came in to work, and assess my father's condition.

And so I headed off to STGCC again, trying to relieve my fear and anguish, by putting on a face, a smile, and buying up a storm. Amidst the frenzy of the event, sight and sounds, I went about dazed and in perpetual dream, and knew instantly I should not have been there … The notion of this online journal had suddenly become a top priority for me, the 'timeline' was instantenously shortened.

Monday came, and prognosis was in, and yes the cancer cells in the brain was real.

I spent the rest of the day with dad at the hospital and taking to doctors and signing consent forms that relieve the doctors of any responsibilities. Dad's friends turned up to see him as well, and he was looking pretty fresh and animated too! Never under-estimate the power of having "friends" who show support and encouragement by simply turning up, IMHO. i know first hand from when i was lying in bed for Stroke, back in 2010.

Radiology-wise, a treatment named "German Helmet" was mentioned (although not directly to us, just overheard on the phone). Side effects mentioned would be memory loss, from happening within months, to years in the future. I had mentioned "dementia", to which there were no specific answers, so we are not deluded to expect otherwise.

Throughout all these consultations and disclaimers, dad has been, and is continually being kept directly in the loop. We do not attempt to keep secrets, not for the fear of knowing and affecting moral (as most people might be wary of, especially in a hospital environment, where medical practicioners will doubt my father's desire to know the truth), which i allude to being the lesser evil versus "not knowing". That is the way with both my dad and i, i guess.

Tomorrow Thursday, we have an afternoon appointment to visit the Radiology department, to have a brace outfitted for dad (to ensure his head does not move about when the laser beams hit him), for treatment to begin next Monday. 10 sessions in total, back-to-back, then subsequently soon, his 7th chemo session might begin, in-between the need to remove a surgical piece left inside his body, to combat his bladder problem.

Now dad needs the aid of the four-legged walker to slowly shuffle forward, as his strength has diminished rapidly. Ironically, this walker belonged to me, when i used it in the early stages me coming home from being hospitalized for my Stroke, and has since been used a s a clothes rack hahahaha

I had struggled to share all these to the public since we found out about dad's cancer, with only a select few folks being told about it. Not because we had wanted specifically to keep it a "secret" per se, but rather not something we want to burden people with the knowledge of it's existence, nor the need to answer each and every query about his condition - to which we are extremely grateful to the folks who cared enough to ask - but perhaps this would be yet another way to address these questions, without it being a soundbyte on instagram / facebook / twitter.

And it is with dad's consent and wish, that we want to share his experience, for folks to know further about what he has, is and will be gong through, beyond medical and fact based information, from a man's point of view, much like my Stroke-blog, which shared my personal experience surviving and recovering from Stroke. And perhaps what he have experienced and learnt, would benefit others going thru similar circumstances, but have no idea the journey would be ahead, and even how to navigate the situation.

This specific blog will be about my dad's journey, and I will dedicate myself to chronicle his life from henceforth - as I have since dedicated most of my physical time with him since - something i should have done much earlier, instead worrying about what people might think of my decision and "intentions", it is my dad's life after all.

Thank you for reading,
Andy Heng

P/S: This blog is named '' because "Chiang Kheng" is his given Teochew / dialect name.


  1. Bro, I gotta say you put on such a brave front I didn't know things were this bad at home. Do let your friends help, or at least let us attempt to. I can't say I can help a lot, but a little bit from everyone can make a lot of difference. And you have a lot of 'everyone' around you.

  2. Well, I understand your feelings, my mother passed away 7 years ago because she had cancer. I see her as a wonderful woman who has a hard battle, at the end she didn't lose, she only wanted to feel freedom.
    Your father is an awesome warrior I really admire him.
    It's very important he feel all your support and love.

    I only can say that all my support and respect for your and your family.

    A big hug from Mexico.

  3. Thanks for your kindness Jerry, i guess it's more of a "less of a need to share my troubles and home issues", and somewhat of a chinese asian thing maybe? but decided to keep this blog, instead, to share with everyone, so folks don;t need to feel going at it alone, like we have been for a while now ... my tears are not drying up anytime soon, but i don't need to have ti suck it up whenever too hahaha

  4. so sorry to hear about your mum, Kuuki Studio ... hoped that it was a peaceful passing, and that you are keeping yourself well. much thanks for your hug, truly.