Surviving Cancer and Spreading Mindfulness

It’s been more than 16 years since Dennies Tang has been in remission of stage 1 nasopharyngeal cancer, and what keeps him motivated in sharing his story till this day, is the awareness it brings and the support he feels he can offer to other cancer survivors like himself.

Dennies Tang, Stage 1 Nasopharyngeal Cancer Survivor

"I first noticed something odd when I blew my nose one morning and caught sight of unusual streaks of blood in my mucus," Dennies recalled.

Most people would ignore this ordinary occurrence, but something prompted Dennies to make an appointment to see an ENT specialist to get his nose checked. “Dr John Tan who saw me discovered a tumour and after doing the biopsy, he confirmed it was cancer.”

The shock hit Dennies hard as he prided himself on being a person who was healthy—he didn’t smoke, ate mostly home-cooked food and would drink occasionally, mostly for work as he had to entertain clients a lot. However, he did recognize that he lived a very busy and hectic lifestyle, often starting work at 7am in the mornings and ending work at 2am.

“My role involved a lot of client entertaining, so it was common for me to start meeting them at 10pm and entertain them into the wee hours of the morning. Most times I was also exposed to 2nd hand smoke in enclosed areas during these meetings. I don’t know, perhaps this lifestyle led to my diagnosis,” Dennies shared.

Dr Foo Yoke Ching, Consultant Oncologist at Subang Jaya Medical Centre (SJMC)

Following his diagnosis, Dennies was referred to Dr Foo Yoke Ching, consultant oncologist for his chemotherapy & radiotherapy. “Dr Foo was like big sister to me. Each time we met, she would ask me how I was doing and whether there was anything I needed to ask her. She was truly a great source of emotional & moral support throughout my entire treatment process,” Dennies recalled fondly.

“Apart from that, I was also supported by my family & friends, who flew in to care for me. That made me feel less alone." "My boss at the time was also very helpful & understanding, as he allowed me to take all the time I needed to undergo treatment and recovery, I am very grateful for that!”

Since recovering, Dennies has made friends with SJMC’s cancer counsellor and has been actively involved in cancer support group activities whenever time permits.

“I usually share about my lifestyle post cancer-diagnosis because it’s one of the most asked questions among cancer patients. I would tell them that I took a 180 degree turn when it came to my lifestyle as I started to eat clean: no oily foods, no spicy foods; exercise more frequently, sleep early and practice mindfulness!”

As the saying goes, “If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

Dennies shared that most of us let small trivial things affect our moods and emotions. “For example, if someone cuts you when you’re driving, that’s ok. At least an accident didn’t occur and you’re still safe. Don’t let it bother you and don’t get angry!”

“I used to be such a short-tempered person and I was a perfectionist because my job required it. Since my diagnosis and recovery, I learned to let things go. The less you allow things to affect you, the more stable your emotions become, and you realise that you can control what matters to you and what doesn’t.”

When it comes to our health, Dennies encourages everyone to stay alert, go for regular health checks, and to see a doctor when they suspect something is wrong. He also encourages other cancer survivors to share their journey openly as it empowers others while also giving them hope.