Diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, this retiree made a decision that would also affect her husband
Gabriel Choo // February 22, 2021, 11:30 am
Chu Khee Chuang was enjoying her retirement until cancer struck. Doctors are unable to give her a prognosis. She felt such an "unexplainable peace" when she received the news that she made a decision that she had resisted for years. All photos courtesy of Chu Khee Chuang.
Every morning at six, Chu Khee Chuang would head to the Botanic Gardens to exercise before hanging out with a group of retirees over coffee or lunch.
Happily married and enjoying her golden years, Chu, now 66, had little to worry about. She had been living the “perfect retirement life” since 2011, after spending 30 or so years working in the IT industry.
Her three children were all grown up and had families of their own. Her husband was running a successful business in the building industry.
But her life was about to change.
After returning from a trip to Qingdao, China, in October 2018, Chu started feeling sharp but inconsistent pains on her right thigh. Initially, she brushed it off as bad sitting posture.
Nonetheless, she went to see an orthopaedic doctor who gave her some medication. But when there was no improvement after two weeks, Chu returned to do a CT scan.
The scan showed alarming little white spots on various parts of her body.
“I was very healthy, and I hardly fell sick – not even with the flu.”
There was also a 2cm tumour near her kidney.
Chu was referred to a cancer doctor who advised her to start chemotherapy immediately. She also underwent cryotherapy, a process which uses extreme cold to freeze cancer cells and tumours.
“I exercise daily, so this came as a huge shock,” Chu told Salt&Light. “I was very healthy, and I hardly fell sick – not even with the flu.”
As she seemed relatively healthy for her age, she was given a higher dosage of medication.
But the medication made her feel drowsier and weaker. It affected her day-to-day living. So she made the decision to ask for a lower dose.
“I didn’t want to suffer too much from the side effects from a higher dosage of medication. I just want to spend my remaining years with the best quality of life,” said Chu.
“If I were in my forties, I would have banged the table,” she said of her anger at needing to take medication. “But now that I am in my sixties, I’ve learnt to accept life as it is.”
Still the cancer and chemotherapy took a toll on Chu’s body. Her hair dropped out, her toes felt numb and she suffered from diarrhoea.
When the results from her biopsy sample came back from the US where they were sent for testing, she was diagnosed with carcinoma of unknown primary – a rare disease in which malignant cancer cells are found in the body but the place where the cancer began is not known.
The doctors were unable to give her a prognosis.
“If I were in my forties, I would have banged the table.”
There were a few days where she would sit on her bed, feel sad and cry.
But in place of fear or worry about the unknown, Chu felt enveloped with a peace so “unexplainable”, her first thought on hearing the news was that she wanted to be a Christian.
Although she grew up a free-thinker, Chu was no stranger to Christianity. She had heard bits and pieces of the gospel from her three children; they had either attended Christian schools as students or had married into Christian families.
Chu had always been open to the idea of religion, but never really wanted to commit to one and gave a lot of excuses because she was “lazy”. Until she was touched by this peace in the midst of her weakness and sickness.
Chu attributes it to God’s hand at work and the promise of Philippians 4:7: “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Chu, who had previously only attended church events a couple of times, said: “I’ve heard about how God is a sovereign and mighty God. I believe that God has the power to heal me.”
Dream of a man and a bird
After her first chemotherapy session, Chu was warded in the hospital after feeling extremely weak from the side effects.
That night, she had a dream about a kind-looking man who was simply dressed. On his outstretched hand was a bird on it.
“God has truly been working in my mother’s heart.”
Chu shared the dream with her daughter Xiaohui, 39, who visited her the next day. Xiaohui immediately knew that the man in Chu’s dream was Jesus, and shared what God was impressing upon her heart.
She told her mother of God’s promise: That if even the birds of the sky were under His care, He would all the more take care of His children (Matthew 6:25-26). She also shared how a dove descended down from heaven after Jesus was baptised (Matthew 3:16-17).
Xiaohui encouraged her mother not to worry and to submit everything to God. Chu felt even more at peace on hearing that and decided that she wanted to be baptised.
Xiaohui shared: “It was my desire, it was an answered prayer, and most importantly it was God’s plan. God has truly been working in my mother’s heart.”
Chu soon started attending services with her daughter at All Saints’ Church (English) where she subsequently also joined a cell group.
“Cancer is the best thing that happened to me, because through this, both my husband and I accepted Jesus.”
Less than two months later in January 2019, Chu – on a hospital bed – and her husband were baptised together. She had been warded after another round of chemotherapy.
Her husband had decided to commit his life to Jesus too after seeing how his wife’s life was transformed from carefree to committed: From someone who could not give herself to a religion to suddenly having so much hope and peace despite cancer.
A few months later, when she had recovered sufficiently, the couple were confirmed together in church.
“Cancer is the best thing that happened to me, because through this, both my husband and I accepted Jesus,” Chu said.
“I wouldn’t trade this for anything else.”
Her newfound faith has given her a positive mindset when dealing with the emotions that came along with cancer.
She focuses on gratitude and often thanks God for the simple blessings – such as having a good nights’ sleep.
“If I keep worrying every day, my condition may not get better. But if I put my faith and belief in God, I know that He is control of everything,” said Chu.
Referencing Exodus 14:15, Chu added: “The goal is to go forward and get the cancer cured. There is no point worrying over things we can’t control.
“Sometimes, it is better not to know (the source of my cancer). And I don’t think I would want to find out; I would rather leave it to God.”
Brand new paper
As a new Christian well into her sixties, Chu found it challenging to keep up with her younger peers who may have had decades of experience journeying with God.
Chu and her husband pray together every night. Not for the cancer to be in remission. But for God’s will to be done.
“I was like a brand-new piece of paper,” Chu shared. “I didn’t know how to pray or read the Bible at first. So thankfully I had supportive and encouraging family and friends who helped me.”
Chu and her husband also cultivated a new habit of praying together every night. Not for the cancer to be in remission. Not for good health. But for God’s will to be done.
“We believe that the Father will take care of everything for us. We will leave everything into His hands.”
Together with her cell group – all ladies above age 40 – Chu has been studying biblical female characters like Sarah and Ruth. She has also started reading books by evangelist David Pawson.
It has been an arduous journey but the battle is not over.
Chu currently goes for immunotherapy at least once a month. Scans also showed white spots in her right eye – confirmed to be a virus related to the cancer.
Moving forward, Chu has decided to hold on to what is written in Jeremiah 29:11.
“I am not worried, and I choose to be calm. If I were to have another relapse or any complication suddenly, I believe that it is part of God’s plan and that everything is perfect in God.”
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