Yin Ping says, "Don't waste time feeling sad. Be optimistic about the future."

"I always thought that cancer was an old person's disease. Certainly not something I would experience at my age."

This assumption, that many other people make, prevented Ching Yin Ping from discovering that she had been living with bowel cancer for almost a year.

Diagnosed in 2006, Yin Ping was 49 when she was told she had bowel cancer. As Ying Ping relayed to us, her bowel movements were less than regular, requiring the use of mild laxatives to help her frequents bouts of constipation. When she was suffering from stomach aches and blood in her stools, she dismissed it as part of her constipation problems, and did not see a doctor.

"I thought I was experiencing hemorrhoids due to constipation," said Ping. "It was only when the bleeding became worse and my friends told me that I appeared more pale and thin that I went to see my doctor," said Ping. "My GP recommended that I undergo a colonoscopy at a private hospital, but I considered it to be too expensive and troublesome. So I was referred to a public hospital where I waited another three months for an appointment to undergo a colonoscopy." "By the time I had taken the test, it was more than half a year since I first discovered blood during my bowel movements."

Results from the colonoscopy confirmed that Yin Ping was living with stage 2 bowel cancer. A reality she could not accept.

"I am still young, so how could this happen?. Even the Department of Health says you have to be 50 before you qualify as a high risk individual, so how on earth am I suddenly diagnosed with stage 2 bowel cancer at the age of 49?"

Following the initial shock and anger, Ping underwent various checkups before her surgery took place so that doctors could determine the extent of her cancer and whether or not her tumour had spread. For Ping, this was an incredibly stressful and anxious period.

Fortunately, tests indicated that Ping's cancer hadn't spread, and Ping's initial treatment only required the removal of the tumour in her bowel. On the flip side, the tumour was as big as 7cm, and she had only 0.5mm of the colon left untouched. "I couldn't even eat before the operation and needed to be extra careful even with sipping a mouthful of water in order to protect the fragile state of my colon," said Yin Ping.

According to Ping, the operation was a great success and there was no need for further or extensive treatment.

"All I could think about was my 10-year old daughter. What if my cancer comes back? It was my biggest worry. As a precautionary measure, I decided to undergo chemotherapy in the private hospital to insure myself against the risk of relapse, although it was an expensive thing to do." In total, Yin Ping completed 8 courses of oral chemotherapy drugs following her operation.

Looking back, Yin Ping recognizes how naive she was with respect to her health. "I don't think I wanted to face the reality. It was silly of me to ignore all the warning bells my body was sending me to tell me something was wrong. In retrospect, I wish I had gone for a checkup earlier and made an effort to undergo regular health screenings."

Aside from Ping's previous apathy towards regular checkups, Yin Ping also thinks that her poor diet was attributable to her condition. "My diet before was far from healthy, lots of meat, canned and deep-fried foods. The lack of fibre surely contributed to my constipation problems. I didn't like vegetables and would eat fruit sporadically, I really was not fuelling my body with the right food." Ping's new diet is a complete overhaul from her past eating habits. "I apply the 2+3 rule íK.at least 2 portions of veggie and 3 fruits a day. Less meat, more veggies and little oil. That's my eating plan!" She also likes to exchange her healthy recipes with fellow peers.

Throughout her cancer journey, Yin Ping also got to make a lot of new friends through Hong Kong Cancer Fund's CancerLink Support Centre. "It was a funny story how I came to learn about CancerLink. I took a taxi to the hospital one day and the driver told me that he's a nasopharyngeal cancer survivor. He highly recommended the free services at CancerLink, where he said I could benefit from free information and support which could help me throughout my treatment.

At CancerLink, Yin Ping made friends with a lot of people who shared similar experiences. It helped me so much to meet with other cancer survivors, and I wanted to give something back, so I became one of the volunteers at CancerLink."

Yin Ping is now a member of Cheung Hong Club's caring ambassadors programme (a self-help group specifically for bowel cancer patients and survivors), and helps to visit and care for new patients as part of her role. "I certainly feel that my life is much more enriched than before. I gave up part of my colon, but in exchange, I have received some really wonderful friends and a new outlook on life, "smiled Yin Ping. She said she can now fully understand the meaning of "treasure", and has chosen not to waste time feeling sad or complaining about her brush with cancer.

So for those family members and friends who have cared for Ping throughout her cancer journey, what would she like to tell them? "Remember to go for regular checkups. And never, ever ignore symptoms. Early detection is definitely the key to treating cancer successfully."