by Dr Timothy Cheng
On the eve of Merdeka Day, 20 people representing MAKNA (Majlis Kanser Nasional/National Cancer Council) began the climb up Mt Kinabalu, South East Asia’s tallest mountain. This annual activity aims to create awareness regarding cancer and raise funds for cancer patients in Malaysia.
I had the privilege of joining the team and did not put much thought to it as it was my third time. The short sharing/team time we had the night before the climb however gave me lots of food for thought. Chan Chee Kun, one of our team members who is currently battling lung cancer said this, “We all will die sooner or later. I do not know how long I have left, but I am just doing what I can for now.”
Being a doctor, encounters with pain, suffering and death are not uncommon and unfortunately can make one numb to it. But his words hit home hard and I realized how I have taken health and life for granted, that being able to climb and up that mountain is something to be grateful for.
The next day dawned and I started with an unusually slow pace, enjoying the trek while chit chatting with team members. Throughout the climb, a dear uncle came to mind – Soo Ewe Jin. He battled with cancer for nearly 20 years but remained jovial and chatty right to the end. I loved reading his articles and remember his sincerity and passion in correcting and inspiring many of my own writings. As I made the slow plod up the last kilometer to the summit, brushing away the altitude induced headache and cold wind, I remembered his struggle, his life and said a silent thank you to him.
On the way down, I took a picture with Chee Kun, who had a wide grin across his face. He talked about how he felt like giving up towards the end but just kept pushing on. Tears welled up in my eyes as I said congrats and gave him a hug.
To Chee Kun, Uncle Ewe Jin, and those battling cancer out there, this climb was for all of you. May you continue to inspire and encourage us with your lives. May we continue to pray and support you through your struggle, and may you never give up.