||Lawrence says, "Take it Easy."
|60-year old Lawrence Lo, a senior banking executive is a survivor of colorectal cancer. He talks to Hong Kong Cancer Fund about just how easily colorectal cancer can go undetected, how he overcame the challenges of his cancer journey, and the message he has for other people touched by cancer.
"Several years ago, I was experiencing hemorrhoids. And I noticed blood in my stools. The blood can be a symptom of hemorrhoids, but it can also be a symptom of digestive diseases such as colorectal cancer. As a precaution, my doctor encouraged me to have a colonoscopy (a rectal screening to check for polyps and cancerous cells), Lo recalled.
When the results came back, I was diagnosed with a malicious tumor and stage III cancer, which later increased to stage IV as it had spread to my liver," Lo said.
|"As much of a shock as it was, I was very pragmatic about my diagnosis. Nobody can say for certain what is the direct cause of cancer. Some people smoke two packets of cigarettes a day, never once experience lung cancer and die at the ripe old age of 95. So I was adamant not to blame anyone or anything for getting cancer."
"To be honest, I think I was the happiest cancer patient in the world. I would always go to the hospital with a smile, joking with the doctors and nurses. My attitude was to take everything easy and have a positive attitude. Worry certainly doesn't help the situation. Why not try my best before the worst happens?" recounted Lo.
As upbeat and confident as Lo was, he said chemotherapy was certainly the toughest challenge in overcoming cancer.
"Following three surgeries, I underwent chemotherapy. I lost a third of my weight, dropping from 150 to 100 pounds. When I looked in the mirror, I didn't recognize myself. I lost my appetite. I wanted to give up. Chemotherapy was certainly the worst thing I've ever been through. Yet the thought of my family, friends and all my great colleagues is what kept me going. Without their support, I'm certain I would have given up."
Lo's experience illustrates just how important it is to have a network of family or peer support when living with cancer. Love and encouragement from family and peers is a great source of strength and encouragement.
"I was also very fortunate in that I had the financial means to spend time away from the office. I still worked during chemotherapy, but I cut down my hours in the office and spent time working remotely."
"To help myself relax and overcome the stress of cancer, I would spend a lot of time listening to classical music at home. It really helped me a lot. When I listened to the music, I stopped thinking about cancer, and it gave me some time to escape."
"I also decided to keep a diary and post it on the web so family and friends could keep up-to-date on my progress. Sometimes having to repeat the same story to concerned family and friends became exhausting, so this was a means to keep everyone informed."
"I later published my diary into a bi-lingual book called the "Cancan Diary". I felt it was important for people experiencing cancer to have reference to a personal story, so they could read a first-hand account as to what the cancer journey is like from a patients' perspective. The most important thing for people to know who are diagnosed with cancer is what is going to happen. They need information about what to expect."
From a high-flying executive who used to work 24-hours a day in broking, following the ticker tape of global financial markets, we asked Lo if his work life has since changed.
"My attitude to work has certainly changed after my illness. My number one priority is to have an easier life. I continue to enjoy my weekly games of table tennis, I also have a passion for music, and so I'm thinking of returning to University to perhaps study classical music. I really enjoy playing the piano."
And what about colorectal cancer? Do you have any messages you would like to share with our readers?
"Most certainly. First of all, I encourage all men and women aged 50 or above to be screened/tested for colorectal cancer. As there are often no symptoms or people dismiss minor symptoms as something unimportant, colorectal cancer can often go undetected. So I encourage all men and women of my age group to go for testing."
"Secondly, if you are living with cancer, don't spend your time stressing about how you got it or what was the cause. There is no point trying to allocate blame to a particular person or thing. The real cause of cancer is still an unknown. Work towards getting as much information as you can about your diagnosis and move forward with optimism to overcome your illness."
"And last of all, take it easy. Surround yourself with the love and support of family and friends, and just go for it!" Lo ended.
Editors Note: Lo continues to help others challenged by cancer by making personal visits to patients and families overwhelmed by the stress of cancer. He has made his personal contact details available through his book "Cancan diary" so people can call on him for peer support, advice and encouragement. Lo is also a generous donor to the Hong Kong Cancer Fund and has regained an insatiable appetite, returning to his original weight (if not a few kilos more).