Sai Ping says, "Keep pushing for answers when you know something is wrong "

""Keep pushing to find answers when you know something is wrong. Don't be afraid to get second or even third opinion," says So Sai Ping, who was misdiagnosed on two occasions before being accurately diagnosed with stage II colorectal cancer last year at age 57.

Like numerous other colorectal cancer patients, So's earliest symptoms involved blood in her stools. "I was having these gut wrenching stomach aches all the time, especially around my left lower abdomen. I went to see a Chinese doctor, who suggested I consult a gynecologist as the pain appeared close to my uterus."

"The report from the gynecologist came back clear, but the fecal occult blood test I did on my stools came back positive. So I was then referred to a gastroenterologist. Unfortunately, the doctor believed I was suffering from hemorrhoids, and sent me away with pain killers."

Not satisfied with her diagnosis, So still felt uneasy. "The report was normal, but my pain didn't go away. In fact, it was becoming progressively worse. Even the painkillers didn't work. Something must be wrong with me," I thought. At her own accord, So went to the emergency room of a public hospital. As the doctor was not able to locate or feel the presence of a tumour through a touch examination, he told her it could just be an infection of the bowel.

Sent away again with a handful of painkillers, it was only when the painkillers failed to alleviate her pain and she returned once again that she was admitted to receive a colonoscopy. The colonoscopy - a procedure which examines the insides of the bowel using a small camera - located a 4cm tumour, residing in a hidden spot on her colon. The location of the tumour was so hidden that it had not shown up on previous tests, yet a needle biopsy later confirmed it was in fact cancer.

"I suppose a lot of people would feel shocked about receiving this news, but to me, it was a giant relief. At last, I knew what I was dealing with, and the cause of my unbearable stomach pains," said So.

Within a week, So's cancerous tumour was surgically removed, and fortunately, she was not required to undergo chemotherapy as part of her treatment.

Congratulating herself for not procrastinating and actively seeking further consultations, So felt relieved. "The fact that my cancer was detected relatively early saved me from the stress, cost and discomfort of chemotherapy and radiotherapy."

"Following my ordeal, I've come to truly appreciate the importance of good health. I always remind friends and family not to use the "lazy" or "busy" excuse when something is physically wrong. I've also persuaded my family to undergo annual checkups. Being in the hospital for treatment, I've witnessed first hand the benefits of early detection in saving lives. Prevention truly is the best protection."

So's tips for people living with cancer
"When you are sick, do remember to keep smiling and think positively; complaining can only make your situation worse. But most of all, don't give up. Be sure to explore every possibility with your doctor and focus your attention on getting well."