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Stories of Inner Strength

Stories of
Inner Strength

Jeffrey's Story

Fighting Spirit: Tapping Into The Power Within

Jeffrey Leong has always been a fighter. As a self-employed and self-made businessman, the 59-year-old is no stranger to overcoming challenges and obstacles. Hence, when he was diagnosed in 2016 with Stage 4 Lung Cancer, the proud father of two refused to give in and fought hard to regain his health. Backed by inner strength and determined resilience, Jeffrey now lives a happier, healthier life.

Jeffrey Leong
1. How long have you been in remission?

2 years and 8 months! I have completed my cancer treatment, but to be on the safe side, I go for a check-up every 6 months - one with a PET scan and one with a chest X-ray.

2. How did you react when you received your diagnosis?

My initial reaction to my diagnosis was disbelief and dismay – after all I didn’t have severe symptoms, just a persistent cough that I dismissed as a “smoker’s cough”. For the first couple of days, I kept thinking “Why me?”

3. How did you prepare for treatment?

I actually knew what I was in for. This is because I had unfortunately lost my mother-in-law to cancer just a few years prior.

I had been with her throughout the journey, saw how she recovered from the first one and how she didn’t survive the relapse. So when it was my turn, I was somewhat psychologically prepared for the long, enduring journey. After all, I had already witnessed all the do’s & don’ts, the side effects and the pain first-hand.

Quote Don't treat cancer as a deadly sickness because there is always hope. Quote
4. What was your treatment journey like? When I was diagnosed in July/August 2016, I started with chemotherapy. Unfortunately, the treatment was not effective for me. By November 2016, I was so close to death. I would wake up most mornings feeling unsure if I was even alive at all. That’s how dire my situation was.

The big turnaround came later that month, when my oncologist talked to me about immunotherapy. I immediately started a combined treatment of immunotherapy along with chemotherapy.

The introduction of immunotherapy gave me genuine hope that I could triumph over cancer. By January 2017, all three of my tumours had reduced in size by half. I could finally resume doing most of the things I used to do – I could once again eat, exercise and rest like a normal person, so I really had no excuse to stop fighting.

Jeffrey Leong
Jeffrey Leong
5. Strength and resilience were key to your recovery. How did you find the strength within to keep fighting?

I have been a fighter all my life and I’ve always been a very positive person. And I knew my family needed me, which made me even more determined to give my all to fight the cancer.

I’ve never liked to give up on things -- I’ve always believed that if you give up once, no matter how big or small, you will start to lose that drive. It’s why even on days when the cancer markers were super high, I would keep telling myself and my family members, “The next scan will improve!”

With that positive attitude and strength, I kept pushing forward, with a constant hope that it can and it will get better. This positive attitude rubbed off on those around me, which in turn helped me through the recovery process.

6. Did you have anyone supporting you on your cancer journey?

Definitely my immediate family members, especially my wife. She was with me throughout the whole journey -- from the diagnosis, that moment of “truth”, till today. She still follows me to my semi-annual doctor visits.

Another person who gave me strength was actually my oncologist! You really do need someone you can trust to give you all the right advice, and they were that person and more for me.

Jeffrey Leong
7. What is your current lifestyle while living with cancer?

I honestly try to live like a normal, healthy person. I spend a lot more time with my family compared to before. I try to eat healthily too - more fresh foods while cutting down on salt and fat. I exercise 3 times per week now with each session being about 3 hours long.

As for mentally and emotionally, I now try to take on less stress. I’m still working and keeping my brain active, but with more balance. I also try to lend my hand in cancer support outreach when I can. At one point, I was making home visits to other cancer patients who were seeking advice and emotional support.

8. What advice would you give to caregivers and patients going through lung cancer?

Fighting cancer is always a long process. You must have the will to fight & overcome.

Don’t give up. Ever. With the new drugs and technologies available now, the chances of survival are better than ever. Don't treat cancer as a deadly sickness because there is always hope.

For the caregivers, keep up your research. You never know when you may find something that could help your loved one, that could give them the strength to keep fighting.

9. Any other advice to add?

It is important to be prepared financially for whatever that comes. I was fortunate enough to have insurance coverage to cover all the treatment costs. You’ll never know when you will need it so start to plan early for your family and yourself.

Share your ‘I Can’ story

Have you been diagnosed with cancer and chose to forge ahead on your own terms? Do you have a loved one who turned to face cancer head-on? As a caregiver, do you have tips and stories of encouragement for other caregivers?

Share your story to help empower others living with cancer.

Remember that there is power in the community, others with a cancer diagnosis could feel supported and inspired by understanding how you are taking on cancer.

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