When Bobby Rosales found out that he has lung cancer, he saw it as a death sentence. But he realized that he was not ready to die yet. So he fought back.
A trim man with salt and pepper hair and laugh lines at the corner of his eyes, Rosales turned 60 in 2015 and celebrated it with a big bash attended by family and friends. This party was especially meaningful to him because, once, he had thought he would never reach 60.
It happened in 2007 when Rosales coughed out blood. A former smoker, he went for medical tests but did not reveal his suspicions to his wife. On Valentine’s Day, however, he received the diagnosis: It was lung cancer, and it was at an advanced stage.
“There was no cure for cancer, so the news felt like a death sentence to me,” he recalled. “So I decided that I would not seek treatment as there would be no point. Perhaps I would just get pain management. But I reflected on my life. Is there a reason for me to live longer? And the answer was ‘Yes.’ The first thing that came to my mind was my family—my wife, children and grandchildren. I had just become a grandfather that year.”
Friends in the Philippines recommended that he sought treatment in Singapore. Now that Rosales had made the decision that he would fight for his life, he flew to Singapore the very next day and consulted Parkway Cancer Center’s Medical Director, Dr. Ang Peng Tiam.
He asked Ang bluntly: “How much time do I have left?”
Ang was honest with his reply: “If you don’t respond positively to the treatment—perhaps, two to three years. If you respond positively, you can live as long as the next man!”
Although Rosales was fit and therefore eligible for immediate surgery, Ang recommended that he should undergo chemotherapy first, to shrink the tumor and to prevent cancer cells from metastasising to other parts of the body.
Rosales made a critical decision to fight for his life despite the fact that his lung cancer was at an advanced stage. The second decision he made was to submit himself totally to his doctor. “I told myself that, since I have committed to go through with treatment, I must place total confidence in my doctor, otherwise I don’t think I can win the psychological battle to get well.”
For Ang, Rosales’ trust in him and the medical team was important. He explained: “I find that what is lacking today is trust. A doctor must do his or her best for the patient; but to a big extent, we need the patient to trust that his doctor has his best interests at heart.”
Ang proposed his treatment plan—three rounds of chemotherapy, each lasting three weeks at a time.
Rosales shook his head as he recalled the chemotherapy effects. “I couldn’t sleep, I had panic attacks, it would be really bad for the first two weeks, then, lighten up the third week, but that’s when I had to face the new round of chemo in the fourth week!” He decided to take control of his health by reading up on his illness, not just the physical aspect but the psychological element as well. One interesting comment caught his eye: “Cancer patients equate the disease to retirement. When planning retirement, the person must know that he is moving on to; he must have a clear purpose.”
He said: “So I kept my goal and purpose firmly in mind—I am doing this so I can have more time with my family and it helped me to persevere.”
At the next review, Ang was heartened that the large tumor had responded well and had decreased in size dramatically. It was time for surgery. After the operation, it was found that the tumor had shrunk to 0.8 cm in size and there was no spread to regional lymph nodes. Showing the post-treatment X-rays to his patient, Dr. Ang triumphantly exclaimed: “Clear! Nothing at all!”
Bobby intends to keep his health a high priority. He conscientiously monitors his diet and fitness level. He eats moderately and exercises. Mrs. Rosales is all smiles as she says: “My husband accepted that he had the disease, he did not deny it. But, because he loved his family, he fought it very determinedly. He knew he could not leave us.”
*Step Forward. Stay Healthy.
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