Monday, November 10, 2008

Practically Positive

A blog reader wrote:

"There will be a cure. Shin, you will benefit from the best cancer drugs and survive... Your tumours will melt away and you'll still be here... Your tumours WILL MELT away, they will, don't worry."

My first reaction was, "Hey, isn't that denial, the first of Kubler-Ross's Five Stages of Grief?"

I have cancer in my brain, liver, lungs, bones, soft tissue, lymph nodes... practically everywhere but my toes and eyelashes. My doctors say they've never seen a cancer so aggressive. I'm on the tenth chemo combination so far this year because they either don't work or are too toxic for me to stay on them. Under these circumstances, thinking that my tumors will suddenly disappear and I'll survive to see a cure qualifies as denial, doesn't it?

But I don't think I'm in denial. (Hey, is that denial?) Given the progression of my disease and the current developments in cancer research (fast, but not as fast as my cancer), I'm pretty sure I won't live to see the cure.

Let's say I have five months to live and I divide that time up into the Five Stages of Grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. What a waste of four months that would be. If I just skip the first four stages and go straight to acceptance, then I can have five good months instead of just one.

Some people would consider acceptance the same as giving up. Those would be people who've never actually faced terminal illness or death. I can accept that I'm going to die of cancer. I would be unreasonable, nay, in denial, not to. Once I accept the reality, I can move on to enjoying the time I have left. If by some miracle I don't die of cancer, that would be an extra bonus. And I will not have lost anything by accepting the possibility and enjoying my remaining time.

So just because I'm not spending my time following Kubler-Ross's Five Stages and getting angry and depressed (Stages 2 and 4) about my situation doesn't mean I'm in denial. It just means I'm being realistic and smart about the time I have left, whether it's five months or five years.


zorop said...

you're still alive.

writerinresidence said...

There is merit in realistic acceptance. And there is equal merit in hope. I think you have a great balance of both.

ANGEL said...

Most people do go through the 5 stages but not all people. ; )

I don't feel that accepting it means giving up the fight. What you fight, you usually attract... so you could say the harder you fight it, the more you BECOME it. If you accept it and choose to be different instead, things could be different. ; )

Shin said...


I don't understand your comment.

"What you fight, you usually attract." Are you saying that if I fight cancer, I actually attract cancer?

Or that if I fight the reality that I will die of cancer, I will make that happen?

But if I accept the reality that I will die of cancer, things could be different and I will NOT die of cancer?

I'm confused.

Kathie said...

Dear Shin,

Do visit the links below, mainly on how to help children who experience trauma and loss.

As they are more focused and short, you will find reading less tiring.

The National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children.

Grieving Children: Helping Your Child Deal With Loss

Helping Children Cope with Death

Post Trauma Resources

Take good care,


Shin said...


Thanks for taking the time to send me those links. I will definitely have a look!

Angie Ng said...

Hi Shin.

I admire your courage in facing death. Just like you, I have accepted my fate. When you feel down, think of me - I have to battle with problems in my marriage as well as cancer. All my physical pain can't beat the pain of emotional betrayal from my ultimate supporter, my husband of 11 years. I hope to update my blog more regularly. Heads up!

Shin said...


I DO think I'm very lucky to have the support and love of my husband. Of course, it's possible he's just being a good guy because he figures I won't last much longer and he only has to keep this up for a short time. Just kidding, of course. I think I'm the luckiest girl in the world because I have him, cancer or no cancer.

As for accepting my fate... that didn't sound quite right when I read it like that. I accept the fact that cancer is likely to kill me, barring any natural or man-made disasters coming my way soon.

But FATE? I don't really believe in fate. I can still fight this thing. I can still hold out for a miracle.

And so can you.

Shin said...

Hi Shin.

Five stages of grief:
1) Denial
2) Anger
3) Bargaining
4) Depression
5) Acceptance

Given your personality, you would have stayed in Denial for a split sec at most way back when you first came to know about your cancer.

Anger - A lot, I am sure. But you are too level-headed to let Anger consume you that you turn this emotion into your driving force.

Bargaining - Too proud to bargain, and bargain with who, by the way, since you don't believe in God? How about to the Higher Power as some psychologists would suggest?

Depressed - No time for Depression, you are racing with the vicuous cancer cells that are eating you up.

Acceptance - This is maturity and wisdom really. Practically positive is strength, courage, peace. Resilience is the word for you.


Shin said...


Interesting take on my Five Stages, but I'd make some changes:

1) Denial. Didn't even spend a second here. I learned I had cancer and went straight to figuring out how to deal with it.

2) Anger. Didn't spend any time here either. Wasn't even angry with the doctor who initially misdiagnosed me. I got frustrated with the lack of communication skills of health care professionals here in Singapore, but I've always complained about communication problems, so that wasn't specifically cancer-related.

3) Bargaining. Not even sure what that means, but as you said, I had nobody to bargain with, since I don't believe in God.

4) Depression. I have no idea why I haven't felt depressed, but I haven't. Too busy being happy to be alive to be depressed, I guess. Something must be wrong with me.

5) Acceptance. I accept that cancer will likely kill me, unless I get hit by a meteorite or something. But I don't believe in fate, so I wouldn't say I'm accepting my fate. I'm still fighting and still holding out for a miracle.

So I guess Kubler-Ross and I have nothing in common!

Anonymous said...

Hi Shin.

I agree with you - if there is a cure, then it will be an extra bonus.

There are many people with different views and opinions on others' feelings, opinions, etc., and there is no right or wrong. We just put our own perceptions, interpretations, judgements on others while forgetting we may have the same response when we meet with similar situations.

We get different views, responses regardless of what we say or do. No matter what I/we say and do, those who understand and know us will stand by and support us and those who are not understanding enough will just scold or pass irresponsible or hurtful remarks, right? : )

I wanted to tell you that with today's advancements in science, there may be a cure, but I decided not to because I am sure you are even more aware of the technology than any of us who are not cancer patients. BUT I KNOW YOU WON'T GIVE UP AND YOU ARE IN ALL, STILL A COURAGEOUS FIGHTER BECAUSE OF YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS! : )

Even in our day-to-day lives, when we try to accept, some will say it is giving up, pessimistic, denial, avoidance, cowardly, etc., which may not be the case.

P.S. I am the one who left you the comment about feeling sorry when reading those hurtful and cruel comments.

Anonymous said...

By the way, I am sure most of us are concerned for you NOT out of pity but sincerely wish for your recovery. At least for me, I don't see my concern as a result of pity for you but out of admiration for your courage (certainly not seeing you as 100% perfect. : P )

Ping said...

Way to go, girl!

Love your attitude, your insight into this whole episode in your life. Honestly, if it were me, I would have withered and gotten depressed.

I admire your strength and I hope that should I one day need to face the same circumstances, I will be able to fight it with courage, just like you.

Thank you for showing us that you only need to die when your body does.


Wendy said...

Glad to see another blog of yours... I'll be expecting everyday...

Shin said...


I'm hoping to post a new entry every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but it won't be every day.

However, I WILL be going through comments received and posting and responding to those every day.

If you've sent in a comment on older posts, please go back to that post after a few days to see your comment and my response.


FL said...

Dear Shin.

The problem with scientific data and statistics is that they generate more fear than hope. Who can say you have five months? Who can confirm that?

Sometimes too much knowledge is not a good thing.

Shin, as long as you can talk and blog, there will always be hope, always be a chance of a remission. The power of the mind is indeed a wonderful thing. Don't look at the pessimistic side of it. Today is today and tomorrow is tomorrow. As for how long a person is going to live or when he or she will die, nobody can tell, and don't you ever believe a word of these cold hard statistics that will sap your energy.

You will be well and you will be happy. You've come so far, you have fought so hard, I refuse to believe you have five months because I know as long as the sun rises tomorrow, hope reigns supreme. Your body will respond to that positive hope to strengthen and heal you.

Human projections are just projections. The human spirit is bigger and stronger than that !



Shin said...


Oh my. I think I've given you the wrong idea entirely.

When I wrote, "Let's say I have five months to live", it was merely to create a HYPOTHETICAL situation so that I could apply the Kubler-Ross model. I could just as well have used five weeks or five decades.

Sorry about the misunderstanding.

Linda said...

"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It is about learning to dance in the rain."

You have reinforced this statement in me. Cheers.

lisacc said...

You probably already saw it, but New Scientist last week had a special edition with a big focus on cancer. It was interesting and encouraging material, though of course many of the promised miracles are decades away.

One article particularly struck me because it was about the notion of cancer treatment becoming like HIV treatment: accepting that the cancer cannot be got rid of, but developing treatments to make it liveable with. In the same way people can now live for decades with HIV, more people will live longer with cancer, though they'll never be rid of it. I suppose you are already testament to that Shin, given you have outlasted all expectations from what I understand from you.

The problem of course as you and many of your readers know, and I know vicariously, is that for some patients, life on cancer treatment can be almost unbearable. In fact it can be unbearable, which is why some people choose to accept death rather than yet another treatment.

But until that point, we cannot ever really give up hope. Medical miracles can and do happen. People may respond amazingly, surprisingly, unpredictably well to a new drug. So this is why even though you're in acceptance, Shin, many of us are still in some kind of denial.

Anyway one thing all the articles did point to was the importance of patient and people power - whether donating or fund raising, volunteering for clinical trials, submitting ones medical history to databases and studies, and so on. There was also an unrelated article on the Personal Genome Project which hopes to further understanding of disease and genetics. I signed up, though I don't know if they're accepting non-US based people yet.

Andrea said...

Hi Shin.

I wanted to wish you a happy birthday for tomorrow! I hope you have a fantastic day with Tony and the kids. Your blog has taken on a life of its own over the past week or so and I've really enjoyed reading it plus all the comments (and your feisty responses).
You mentioned that you're feeling increasingly tired and weak lately. But you actually seem more feisty and go-get-em in your blog!
Have a wonderful birthday!
Andrea x

Anonymous said...

Shin, what have you tried out so far? May I know?

Shin said...


What do you mean? What alternative treatments have I tried?

I've written posts regarding alternative treatments such as natural cancer cures, diet, nutrition, faith-healing, reiki, psychic healing, and other non-medical ways to fight cancer.

You can do a search on my blog - go to the SEARCH field at the top of the page and type in whatever topics you're interested in knowing about.

I hope that answers your question. If not, please come back and ask more.

ET said...

Hi Shin.

I am a Stage 4 breast cancer patient also.

So far, I have responed well to the treatment of Avastin, Gemzar & Paclitaxel, with 75% shrinkage of my liver tumor after the 3rd cycle. I completed the 6th cycle last Monday.

I will be doing the scan and marker test on 17 November and crossing my fingers for good results. I am also clinging to hope that the next maintenance drug that the doctor prescribes will be as effective as the chemo treatment.

Two months ago, I experienced persistent headaches (throbbing pain). I had an MRI three weeks ago showing I had an "empty brain" - no growth. The pain has subsided to a very mild level since last week. Of course, I do worry about micrometastasis which cannot be detected by MRI. If the pain increases after 17 Nov, my doctor will conduct another test for micrometastasis. (It’s good to continue with an “empty brain”)

People around me viewed me as a positive lady as I continue to lead an active life with smiles and laughter. The reason is that I am very blessed with good support from my husband, children, siblings, parents, friends and even strangers.

I just want to share the truth with you that I am not as strong and positive a lady as people think I am. Deep inside me, I fear the day when the cells grow resistant to each new regimen of drugs. Will I have the patience and courage like you to fight the journey?

Shin, indeed you are a brave Woman, Mother, Wife, Daughter , Sister, Friend to everyone who reads your blog….

P.S. Here's some humor to share regarding my bald head. My elder daughter (11 years old) and I compete on the speed of bathing. Though she starts five minutes before me, I am the winner, the reason being that I have no hair to wash. Now she refuses to compete with me.

From ET

Shin said...


Thanks for sharing your story with me. I have a few questions...

1) What do you mean by "maintenance drug"? Which ones have you tried before?

2) Are you ER, PR, HER2 positive or negative?

3) You say that if the pain in your head increases after 17 Nov, your doctor will conduct another test for micrometastasis. What test will that be?

4) What "scan" will you have on Nov. 17? Head? Chest? Some other area? What parts of your body has the breast cancer spread to so far?

I hope you get good results on Nov. 17. I'd love to hear from you again and learn how you're doing.

Justin said...

Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression or even Acceptance, we do not have time for them. There are still so many beautiful/meaningful things to be done.


Cyn Puan said...

Hi Shin.

My aunty recently also got lung and colon cancer. I wish I could tell her how brave you are and she can be as brave as you.

Please be strong for your hubby and kids.

I hope to still be able to read your blog as long as possible.

Wish you a happy advance birthday.

Cyn Puan

ET said...

Hi Shin.

Thanks for your interest in my story. Here are replies to your questions:

1) I have yet to be on any maintenance treatment (drug). If I get a good result on 17 Nov, I do not have to continue with the chemo treatment. Other than being on Zometa monthly and Zoladex every 3 months, doctor will decide on the maintenance treatment to control the cells from spreading or growing. I am hoping that whatever maintenance treatment being recommended will be as effective as the chemo treatment that I have been through.

2)ER 3+ > 90% positive
PR 1+ to 2+ 15-20% Positive
HER2 negative

3) I will be under anesthesia and fluid will be thrown [drawn?] from the area near the spinal cord and sent for biopsy. This procedure will be done in the hospital. I have forgotten the medical term. Will check and update again.

4) I will have throat, abdomen & pelvis CT scans. Cancer has spread to bones, including some parts of the spine and left hip bone & the liver.

Will keep you updated soon on the medical term on point 3 and also the result after 17 Nov.

Happy Birthday, Shin.

Cheers and Smile,


Shin said...


Thanks for your answers. The procedure you describe in number 3 sounds like a lumbar puncture, or spinal tap.

Let me know how your scans go on the 17th.

Wishing you luck!

Alice Teo said...


I just want to update you that my CT scan is clear.

Thanks for your concern.

You take care, ok. I really hope that there will be miracles for everyone. Even for myself.

Jia You...

Shin said...

Alice Teo,

That's great news!

Kathie said...

Hi Shin,

You said:
"Depression. I have no idea why I haven't felt depressed, but I haven't. Too busy being happy to be alive to be depressed, I guess. Something must be wrong with me."

Clinical definition of depression: One will experience at least five of the following symptoms for 2 weeks to be diagnosed as depressed:

Feeling sad or blue
Crying spells
Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
Significant increase or decrease in appetite
Significant weight loss or weight gain
Inability to sleep or excessive sleeping
Agitation or irritability
Fatigue or loss of energy
Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
Thoughts of death or suicide

Well, you may have some of these symptoms as a result of cancer, but may not due to depression though.

Factors links to depression
- Biochemical causes abnormality in the levels of neurotransmitters
- Heredity:
a) Genetic: biological predisposition,
b) Personality traits: low self esteem, codependent
- Environment

Your genes, your loving environment and your physical conditions are keys factors why you are not feeling depression. In other words, while it may seem that it was your response to your situation that keeps you positive, yet these factors are reasons you ought to be thankful for because they are not within your control.

In comparison, if another cancer patient who inherited genetically depressive genes, dysfunctioning family conditions and imbalance in hormones, they are definitely more susceptible to depression.

Personality traits (not within your control) + environment (not within your control) + your response (within your control? Will power, positive thinking are learnable ability, yet ability to learn is very much hereditary. So, the part within your control is small...)

Oops, little credits to you! So, when your blog readers praise you, they are counting your blessings. No wonder you didn't feel right to take credit for the praises. :)

Good night


Shin said...


Interesting, but I still don't buy into a lot of this psychological manipulation.

I DO believe there are chemical reasons that predispose people to depression, but I think it's far, far less a percentage of the people who are actually diagnosed with clinical depression.

I think people who know my past and my family's past could argue that I should have a hereditary, chemical, medical predisposition to depression. They could easily argue that I had a dysfunctional family and unhappy childhood. I could easily have let it go that way, using family history and circumstances as an explanation for everything that's gone wrong in my life. But I didn't.

And I think a lot of others out there are like me and could be like me, if not for all the hype and attention given to these psychological theories, manipulating people into thinking they can't solve their own problems without therapists or drugs.

I'll probably offend some people, especially therapists, with this view, but as I said, I think there are people with legitimate causes for depression beyond their control. But from my own experience, many are simply manipulated into thinking they are depressed due to causes beyond their control. They're manipulated into thinking they have no control.

If you say that personality traits, environment are out of our control, and that will power, positive thinking are learnable abilities, but the ability to learn is very much hereditary, so that's out of our control as well... what do you leave within a person's control? You've pretty much taken all power, all accountability, all responsibility away from the individual. I think that's extremely dangerous - on a personal as well as a societal level.

Fayth said...

Denial? Well, in a way it is a form of positive thinking. Accepting and hoping for the best.

BTW, I love your name. I used to know a girl called Shin. She sings really well.

Shin said...


I had a look at your blog.

I can see what your friend Lishan means when she sees our circle of cancer combatants get smaller and smaller as we lose our fellow patients to the disease.

But let's look at it this way: every time a fellow cancer-fighter leaves the battlefield, she passes on her torch to somebody else who will add it to her fire and make it burn brighter, stronger, longer.

Josh said...

Hi Shin,

Positive thinking alone is not enough to cure any illness. But negative thinking only can result in detrimental effects such as severely impairing our immune system.

Food for thought.


Passerby said...

Please stay strong towards everything. Your loved ones must be very proud of you for holding on till this stage. Be strong, for the sake of yourself and your loved ones. No matter what the outcome may be, you've lived your life to the fullest. And no regrets. Your readers are supporting you too. Hope you'll be fine.

Ronnie Ng said...

I believe in the power of compound interest, & it doesn't apply to just money.

If you invest just 15% more happiness today than the day before, I guarantee you will be an extremely happy person before you pass on, & you'll leave a huge wealth of fond memories for your loved ones : )

Shin said...


That's a fun way to look at it! Must tell my finance-guy husband!

Mylinh said...

Acceptance usually brings inner peace. Do you think you have reached this stage yet Shin? How do you know when you have?
Happy birthday for the 12th babe. It was so good to see you briefly last week. I treasure every moment we get to see you.

Lots of love,

Shin said...


That's a good question. Have I reached inner peace? I've thought about that and still haven't come to an answer. Maybe that's a sign that I haven't yet reached it. I'll have to ponder some more. I think this is worth a longer answer so I'll write about this in a post soon.

Thanks for asking such an interesting and provocative question.

And it was great seeing you and your bored gorgeous face, too. You DO have a fab smile!

Angel said...

Dear Shin,

Well, not so literally :) I learnt this from my psychology teacher..

I am not talking about what you do.. but rather the attitude you have towards your cancer and the emotions that you feel.

If you were to be fighting cancer without acceptance, you are merely 'pushing' it away.

And the only reason people "Fight" things and try to push them away is because while they consciously do not want this thing.. that particular thing holds some dark glamour that attracts them either sub consciously or unconsciously...

The irony is that the harder you fight something is actually just a reflection of how much hold it has over you. So the harder you FIGHT it, the more difficult it is to get out of this situation.

It is of course still important to go for your treatments and stuff like that. But to do all these because you choose a different ending point or a different life or to do this because you want to fight what you cannot accept about yourself are two very different things which will give you diff results :)

The easy way out is not to fight it. Rather to accept that we are like that. And if you do not like this, just say, "oops, my bad.. I make a mistake.. this is not what I want... I CHOOSE instead to be like that..."

My teacher always says RESULTS EQUAL INTENT. Everything we have in our life right now is a result of our intent.

It is of course not logical and acceptable to your conscious mind that you want to have cancer.. no one would consciously want that.

But our subconscious mind and unconcsious mind makes up 96% of our mind and our conscious mind only 4%. That means only 4% of you dun want cancer... but 96% of you has a hidden agenda for wanting to have this experience...

I do not know if this 'theory' is acceptable to you but if you remain open and curious and willing to increase your awareness.. you will find that you may have many reasons why you want to go through such an experience in life.

As long as you are aware of them, you are able to choose differently and thus able to have a different result..

I hope this makes it clearer?:)

A good way is to use intuition to draw out your unconsious thinking. You ask yourself aloud the following questions and just answer the first answer that pops to your mind through intuition.. do not analyze with your brain..

If I were to know why I want to have this experience in life, it would be because...

If I were to know, this is related to an incident that happened to me when I was at the age of...

If I were to know, who was involved in the incident, it would be...

Am I willing to forgive the incident, the persons involved and forgive myself?

You could repeatedly do the exercise as often as you like until your cancer says goodbye ;) You may find that everytime you do it, the answer may be the same or that it may be different.


Shin said...


With all due respect to your psychology teacher... I think this is all a bunch of psycho-babble.

Thanks for trying, but no, it's no clearer to me than before.

Kathie said...

Hi Shin,

I love your argument. In fact, while I may have said what I said. I am very much a fighter like you.

Read in a psychology text, psychologists are attributing our responses to as high as 44% and that genes and environment would account up to 56%.

Back to what I rhetorically shared, on the contrary, I encourage accountablity and responsibility. Yes, response ability. Often when I look at people who work for me, from driver, clerical assist to highly qualified consultants, I often wonder why those in the lower band of society chose to stay where they are. While I like to think that my achievement is very much as a result of my choice, my thinking, I often wonder what it says of the less abled? When I hold depressive cases, I recognise their limitations, but never let them be absorbed into that paradigm of beyond one's control.

No, a one page discussion cannot summarise all our thoughts and experiences.

Let's continue to push for accountability and response-ability.


Shin said...


Thanks for continuing this discussion. This is fun! We may not agree on things, but that's what makes this fun, and that's why I'm learning a thing or two.

You said, "psychologists are attributing our responses to as high as 44% and that genes and environment would account up to 56%." I think that's hilarious. How, exactly, do they come up with numbers like that? They can actually DIVIDE UP a person's reaction to a life event into percentages? Wow. I'd like to see the mathematical formula for THAT.

From a layman's perspective (although I took some psychology classes in college), I'd have to say I find psychological explanations for behavior more dangerous than helpful in our society.

If we don't teach our children that there are limits, they won't even look out for them. So let's not tell them they've been disadvantaged by genes, family history, etc. Let's give them our love and support and let them fly, without clipping their wings with limitations and excuses before they even get to launch.

And, of course, the same for adults. Let's not look around for reasons for our failures or weaknesses. Let's just live as if they're not there.

Forget the self-help section in the bookshops. Don't let some book tell you who you are and what you can and can't do.

Jing said...

Hi Shin.

I'm sorry to hear that you are sick.

Everyone dies, sooner or later. More important to make best use of your time, as you mentioned. It's just that when we die, we hope that we have lead a good life, enjoyed ourselves, people have enjoyed us, etc.

Although I doubt I will be so calm and accepting when my turn comes.

In any case, my best wishes for you and your wonderful family.

Take care.

Jayden & Shannen said...

Hi Shin.

I admire your spirit, I really do. Miracles may not happen, or maybe they do. Regardless, I want so badly for you to live on, for your loved ones. Not living on in their hearts alone, but physically be with them.

Mother of 3

Shin said...

Jayden, Shannen, Jonaven's mom,

I just had a look at your blog.

Wow. You have some ADORABLE kids. Those smiles are amazing.

If anybody out there has had a bad day and needs a reason to smile, go to this blog. and have a look at these kids. Fantastic therapy!

Lisacc said...

"My teacher always says RESULTS EQUAL INTENT. Everything we have in our life right now is a result of our intent

But our subconscious mind and unconcsious mind makes up 96% of our mind and our conscious mind only 4%. That means only 4% of you dun want cancer... but 96% of you has a hidden agenda for wanting to have this experience... "

Absolutely atrocious, rubbish, insulting, offensive stuff.

Shin said...

Lisacc and Angel,

I agree. Suggesting that there's any part of me that WANTED this cancer IS insulting, although I'm sure Angel didn't mean it to be so. I think your psychology teacher should choose a new profession where she can do less damage.

By the way... How do you even come up with a formula like that for how much of our thinking process is the subconscious versus the conscious? 96% and 4% are pretty precise figures, no?

Little Tricia said...

Shin, you are a great mum in many ways.

SarahAlisha said...

Hello Shin.

I just started reading your blog about 4 days ago and have gained vast knowledge, not just about the much dreaded cancer but also about parenting. I thank you for that.

I am 35 years old and have a little gal who is now 2 years old. So far in my life I have lost 2 very close people to breast cancer. One was my mother-in-law and the other was my best friend's sis-in-law who was also a good friend of mine.

Like you, she was cleared of cancer for the first year or so and then later diagnosed with lung cancer. She left behind her daughter (4 years). But she really didn't have the time or energy like you to leave a journal or letters to her daughter. Her fight with lung cancer lasted only half a year.

Her attitude towards cancer was just like yours, always smiling and humoring the people around her. I rarely saw her with mood swings up till her last day. What I really admired about her was, till her very last day, she was very steadfast in her religion. She was a Muslim.

I respect your decision about God, so I am not going to start on that. Rather, I would like to share how her daughter handled her mom's departure.

I realised that very strong family ties are very important between the immediate family and in-laws. When my friend passed on, my best friend immediately assumed the role as a "stand-in" mom for her sis-in-law. Although the child was initially withdrawn and quiet, she wasn't in trauma. It was easier for the child since my best friend also had 2 daughters almost the same age.

So I believe that support from the immediate families and in-laws are just as important. I hope that helps. Anyway, I cheer you for the way you look at life : )

Shin said...


Yes, that DOES help. Thanks so much for sharing your story with me.

Kathie said...

Oh my, Shin...

If you were cancerless, I can't imagine how much sharper you'd be! You would make a good debater for sure.

The 44%, 56% thingy is based on empirical studies; very statistical and trying to be scientific. Let me search out some worthwhile reading, research papers on this for you. Can be dry if Josie and Toby don't mind. : )

Totally agree with you on your cautioning against Self-help books. I only consult books written by clinical psychologists with years of treatment experience. What Angel shared seems too abstract to grasp and too elusive to learn.

Hypotheses with no scientific basis are just philosophy really, and can be limited to isolated experiences and views.

We have to help children establish healthy boundaries and recognise limits and raise awareness about genetical predisposition. This will prepare them better for unforeseen occurences like an unexpected illness.

Yes, and as you put it, "let's give them our love and support and let them fly, without clipping their wings with limitations and excuses before they even get to launch." Let's give them unconditional positive regard so that they soar.

See, our thought process is dynamic and multi-faceted. What I shared was just one dimension and as we exchange views, our minds engage and we all start chipping in missing puzzle pieces of the total wisdom.

Again, I am amazed! What a waste if this mind goes to sleep really. Anyway I am a lateral thinker and you seem analytical or logical minded.

Hear from you...


jeanyeng said...

My mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer early this year but she is reacting well to chemotherapy so far. Right now she is alive and kicking, but in the back of my mind, I often visualize how my life will go on and the arrangements I need to make for my family when my mom has passed on. I would not define it as giving up, but rather, accepting this cruel fact that my mom may die in a year or 5 years' time. At least, when my mom REALLY dies one day, I will not be hit so hard by her passing-away.

kai said...

Fantastic! For the first time in my life I actually enjoy reading blogs. Shin - Your words have inspired me to live a meaningful life and to cherish every single moment with my loved ones. You remind me of Randy Pausch. Kudos to you. All the best!

Shin said...


Wow. That's some compliment. I wrote about Randy Pausch in two earlier posts on my blog. If you'd like to read them, type his name in the SEARCH field at the top of my blog page.

Again, thanks for the incredible compliment.

Daphne said...


I admire your courage, strength and most of all your fighting spirit.

10 years back I was diagnosed with uterine cancer and had a hysterectomy. The surgery and treatment were ok but the emotional part was unbearable.

At that time I was a newlywed and trying for a baby. With that surgery, a baby was out of the question. This really saddens me to this day (after 10 years) whenever I see couples with kids to play with. I know I owe my hubby a lot. Even though we went through a very tough time when I was sick, he never gave up on me. I am glad to know your hubby is very supportive toward you too.

Stay on... and keep fighting. I will keep you in prayer

God bless you and your family,

Matz said...

I COMPLETELY AGREE with you! You're an amazing amazing amazing and beautiful woman Shin! Keep fighting!

Ronnie Ng said...


While it's good to read a lot on psychology, be careful not to start looking at every problem as a psychological one... or else this could lead you into the "man-with-a-hammer" syndrome: to the man with a hammer, every problem tends to look pretty much like a nail.

I like to think we are all just part of this super-big ovarian lottery... some will hit the jackpot for cancer, some get hit by a truck...

The guy who wins the million-dollar jackpot then starts to write a book to explain how he won the lottery through analysis of historical data, persistence, etc... & goes on to explain why the majority are excluded from these prizes...

Then a number of pathetic people begin to emulate him & examine the historical data of these lottery numbers, in search of some repeating pattern.

Sadly enough, they'll be able to "see" the patterns which weren't actually there in the first place...

Shin said...

Ronnie Ng,

That's the smartest thing I've read in a while.


Ronnie Ng said...


I think before someone goes into the stages of "DENIAL/ANGER/GRIEF", it might be helpful if he could ask himself: "If I hadn't gotten cancer, would I, having the disease which I now have, choose to deny it? Would I choose to be angry about it? Would I choose to grieve over it?"

If the answer is no, & now that I've really gotten cancer, my response shouldn't be, "Hey! This isn't true!" or "Why me?"

The reaction must be, "What do I do now?" or "How should I deal with it?"

Shin said...

Ronnie Ng,

I don't understand this sentence that you wrote:

"If I hadn't gotten cancer, would I, having the disease which I now have, choose to deny it?"

If I had NOT gotten cancer, would I choose to deny it now that I DO have cancer? That doesn't make sense to me. Am I missing something here?

Ronnie Ng said...


One more point to add: I think it's not the psychologist's job to reeducate the patient, not to make him conform to what Freud or Jung says, or how psychology books say patients should behave. It is to help enable a particular patient to live his life as a common yet unique individual.

Susan Hayhurst said...

Hi Ms Na. I just spent some time reading some of your thoughts on recent blog entries. I loved your reference to Flannery O'Connor. Takes me back to struggling to write a 5 paragraph paper on "The life you save may be your own" in your 1989 freshman English class. : ) I just tried to email you an album of pictures. I'm not very tech savvy, so I hope it worked. Thanks for sharing all your thoughts and pictures on your blog. - SH

Shin said...


Thanks so much for your comment. I feel like a proud parent.

I'm showing off to all the other readers of this blog that a former student of mine remembers things I taught TWENTY YEARS ago! I am soooooo proud.

ANGEL said...

Hi Shin,

Very sorry if you feel that it is insulting. I just wanted to share what I learnt with you because I thought it might help you.

Many apologies if it has hurt or upset you in any way. Will you forgive me? : )

My grandfather passed away because of cancer. I don't even know what sort of cancer because we refused to cut him up after his death to do an autopsy.

That is one of my moving forces to learn more about anything - to be able to help people have better health or lead better lives because I was really helpless during that period. It felt bad to watch him die slowly. It felt even worse to pray for him to die quickly so that he could have an early release.

Whenever I learn something new, like a piece of health info or something in the psychology course I was telling you about that seemed to help/cure cancer (I have seen it happen many times), I think to myself, "If I had only known that earlier, maybe my grandfather would not have died!"

Actually, I was also apprehensive when I wanted to press the PUBLISH button because I am also aware that at this stage, all you need is just lots of support, lots of friendship and love. Really you have enough people trying to advise you what to do. : ) I am sure I am not the only one.

I am also aware it is probably hard to stomach that theory at your current stage because I was trying to feed you info I learnt over two years progressively just all within a few paragraphs.

I just kind of wanted to quickly get straight to the point to share what I felt was most helpful to you so I skipped steps.

I guess you could say that I was thinking more about ME and what I wanted to do and achieve than thinking more about YOU and your needs and feelings even though I said I wanted to help you. It is no wonder you got upset.

I am sorry I was a bad friend in this aspect.

I would still like to offer whatever help/friendship or support I can to you ; ) Not because I think you need help but because I admire your guts and your tenacity ; ) I do want to be your friend : )

My teacher has a doctorate in counselling pyschology and has 36 years of counselling and coaching experience. It was through his coaching and counselling over the years that he did his research and came up with the figures of 4% and 96%. How though, I have absolutely no idea because I am not the one who did the research. : )

Using his research, he came up with various theories and models and using these models, I have seen many people get better relationships in life, better careers, recovery from various chronic illnesses, etc.

Shin said...


Please don't feel bad. I wasn't upset at you because I know your intentions were good.

What bothers me is the field of psychology and therapists in particular. I think there is no profession more dangerous than psycho-therapy. Unlike doctors and lawyers who can destroy your body or your finances, a therapist can mess with your head and emotions.

I have seen too many friends driven to low self-esteem, dependency, even suicide, due to bad advice from therapists. I have to admit my distaste for psychologists and therapists is even stronger than that for religious extremists and proselytizers.

But again, this is my issue, not yours. Your intentions were good, and your story about your grandfather helps me better understand where you're coming from. (A reminder to me to read the "bubble" over a person's head. See previous post, "Personal Bubbles".)

Hope you aren't too offended by my bashing of psychology.

ANGEL said...

No problem. I don't feel offended at all about all the bashing... even though I do feel bad because instead of helping my teacher (his name is Chuck Spezzano) spread his good name, I seem to have tarnished his reputation... haha ; )

But you reminded me that this is also your issue, not mine, so I guess it is enough that I gave my best shot at it. ; ) It wasn't a great shot, but it was my best shot at that given time. ; )

I am glad you are not upset. I sincerely wish you well! ;)

Ronnie Ng said...

Ronnie Ng,
I don't understand this sentence that you wrote:

"If I hadn't gotten cancer, would I, having the disease which I now have, choose to deny it?"

If I had NOT gotten cancer, would I choose to deny it now that I DO have cancer? That doesn't make sense to me. Am I missing something here?


by "DENIAL", i meant we have this inherent tendency of not being able to see things the way they really are, of having difficulty in coming to terms with reality... cuz when reality is too painful to bear, we just distort it until it's bearable...

Perhaps i should rephrase that sentence to: "If I had NOT gotten cancer, would I try to FOOL MYSELF now that I DO have cancer?"

Shin said...

Ronnie Ng.

Sorry, chemo brain here. In this sentence, what does the "it" refer to?

"If I hadn't gotten cancer, would I, having the disease which I now have, choose to deny it?"

Anna said...

Happy Birthday To You! Take good care and you will be alright

Ronnie Ng said...


"Deny it" refers to "deny having been told (by the doctor) that I have cancer", "deny the methodology of the medical assessment", "deny that I have cancer, by telling myself that those symptoms are due to trivial/chronic illnesses like indigestion, gastric pain, etc..." , "deny myself proper medication", etc...

Shin said...

Ronnie Ng.

No wonder that didn't make any sense to me. I guess I assumed that a patient would do enough investigation into his own diagnosis (scans, blood work, etc.) as well as outside research to make such denials a moot issue.

Anonymous said...

Dear Shin,

I agree with you about psychology. I am wary of this branch of knowledge and have dropped this course of study after the first year at University. We should distinguish what is reality (truth) as against falsehood. DISCERNMENT AND SOUND JUDGEMENT.....

Do sleep early as I notice that you answer some of the comments even till 12.00 a.m.

Shin said...


Thanks for your concern, but the Dexamethasone I'm taking for my lungs causes insomnia. I tried taking sleeping pills but they didn't work, and I really don't want to put any more pills into my body than I need to. But I will try to go to bed earlier. I keep saying that...

Anonymous said...

Dear Shin,

I am not religious but I am very spiritual. If you have read Kubler-Ross books, you are probably ready for whatever is to come. With that knowledge, your mind will relax better and subconsciously, you will be at peace to fight your illness. Our mind is a creative and powerful organ. Positive thoughts create positive energy and negative thought creates negative energy that affect our body. Anger, worries, doubts, greed and depression are example of negative energy which are very destructive. Serenity, love, compassion and meekness create positive protective aura around you and your love ones. I know it is difficult for your situation, but if you can bring more laughter and fun at this moment to your family and the surrounding, it will go a long way heal the body and the mind of those you touch as well as yourself.

Anonymous said...

What do you mean by being spiritual and not religious ? This is vague indeed.
I heard messages from a man who preached positive thinking and optimism. After listening to him for some time, I feel a certain emptiness and hollowness. The reason is because this positive thinking apart from truth and relationship to the Creator and His rather dissatisfying. However, we have the choice to think on what is pure, just, right and to reject thoughts that tends towards self-destructive behaviour. Our mind is either a treasure house where we put things that are RIGHT or a garbage dump -fill with trash that enters through the eye-gate.

ET said...

Hi Shin,

How are you today?

I have good news to share for my CT scan
1)No more lump on the left breast
2)Liver marginally smaller again with no new lesion seen.
3)Same finding for Bones on T6 & L2as per previous report.

I am off chemo Gemzar and Paclitaxel.

Maintainence treatment
1)Starting Tamoxifen tomorrow on daily basic.
2)Zometa monthly - starting on 1 Dec 08
3)Avastin monthly (if it is able to maintain good result,avastin will be off after 6 months)

Also, headache is still at very mild level. Will not go for lumbar puncture.

I will keep you update on my progress again.

Wish you a good night sleep...


Shin said...


That is excellent news! I hope this keeps up. Stay strong!

'R' said...

I was too cool for my own good when I was diagnosed with cervical cancer at the age of 24. There were no tears, no anger, no fear... But what happened after that really puzzles me even till today...

Family became especially quiet around me and pretended nothing had happen (or were they actually the ones in denial?) Friends left, one by one, and the last words I heard from them were, "Take care." I don't understand why they did what they did.

For a moment, I felt like a discarded spare part but I was too proud to ask for any kind of attention. I was practically friendless for years but I moved on.

Years have passed and I'm now "cleared". Friends who had vanished suddenly called. How strange is that?

This experience has made me realize that it's harder to accept your loved ones' reactions than the cancer itself.

Wish you well and a happy belated birthday!


Shin said...


I wonder if your family and friends were taking their cues from you. Maybe they didn't talk about it and stayed away from you because they thought you didn't want to talk about it. And because they didn't know how to handle it, they just stayed away?

Leighbee said...


I had similar experiences after my daughter died. I think many people simply don't know what to say so they choose to avoid the situation completely. This, in turn, can leave the sufferer feeling very isolated.

There are, however, those who are misinformed and almost fear you are contagious in some way... that by being with you they can be subjected to the same bad luck. I know that sounds a bit strange to many who haven't been through the same experiences as you and I have, but sadly, it does happen that way sometimes!

My absolute best friend of many years hasn't spoken to me since the day my daughter died - not ONE word! I have since learned through a mutual friend that she didn't understand SIDS and with her own child, "didn't want to risk it"! How's that for friendship!

My advice to anyone fearing a situation either because they don't understand what the sufferer wants/needs or are worried about their own safety is TALK to them. It's ok to not understand but it's better if you try to. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Dear Shin,

I can see that you are always busy at the computer dealing with all the in-coming blog responses. Do take time for sufficient rest and time with the children.

Just want to share a book that I have read: Black Beauty. I hope this book will be an inspiration to your children. A real classic to keep. It describes human flaws such as drunkenness, neglect, and pride but also portrays fine human traits such as kindness and integrity.

Shin said...


That's about the horse, right? When I was a young girl, I read every horse book there was and this was one of my favorites, although I can't even remember now what it was about. But ALL American girls read this book - it's almost a rite of passage.

Anonymous said...

Dear Shin,

I wonder how this blog can contribute to you as you meant it to be for your children.

How useful can this blog be for your children?

Shin said...


I don't quite understand your question.

You'd like to know how much longer I can keep writing this blog before it becomes irrelevant and useless to my kids?

I'd say... until I'm no longer physically or mentally capable of writing my thoughts down on this blog.

Anonymous said...

Dear Shin,

I may not fully appreciate your intention in setting up this blog. This blog has reached many, and various individuals' experiences have also definitely enriched me in seeing how people respond.

Your children will be reading this blog when they grow up. That is your intention, isn't it? You want them to have a particular perspective towards life?

Shin said...


My initial intention when setting up this blog was to keep overseas family and friends up-to-date on my condition.

Since then, it's evolved into a place where I can write down my thoughts so that Toby and Josie can have some insight into who their mother was.

As an unintended side-effect, this blog has become a place for people, particularly those who have been touched by cancer in some way, to share their thoughts.

Do I want my kids to have a particular perspective towards life? That's a big question. Can you be more specific?

Anonymous said...

Dear Shin,

Perspective of life has to do with value system – our perception of what is important.

Some situations can be interpreted as opportunities for learning while others view them as threats or obstacles. Some hoard wealth for selfish reasons while others use it to accomplish useful goals.

I believe what you have written on your blog has thrown light on some of the things you consider important.

Shin said...


Yes, I do.