Winning Against Cancer

January 20, 2007

It's a fact: 1 out of every 3 people will get cancer at some point in their life. That’s enough to strike fear in almost anyone. The good news is, new treatments, medical breakthroughs, and a deeper understanding of the disease have combined to make surviving cancer much more likely.

Mr. Tweesackdi Sesaweech

Prostate Cancer Survivor

Nine years ago I noticed some blood in my urine and went for a check-up. The news was quite alarming: I had prostate cancer, and it had already reached stage four, the most advanced stage.

I quickly realized that my life was in the hands of my doctor. He made me feel confident in him and in my own ability to follow his instructions.

During that time, I could feel myself getting mentally stronger. I began studying Dhamma, which teaches that a strong mind and consciousness can be more important than a strong body. It also made me realize that sickness was a normal thing that happens in life. Sickness doesn’t have to be thought of as a crisis; your mind is much more important. Half the battle is getting to the point where you don’t fear the cancer. For me, practicing meditation built up my mental toughness, and I could actually feel how great the results were.


It wasn’t one specific thing that made the difference for me in beating cancer; it was a combination, including having a doctor with great expertise and enough experience to know what the best treatment would be for my own situation. I promised my doctor that I would dig deep within myself for the self-discipline needed to make the many adjustments in my daily life to give the treatment every opportunity to succeed.

I discovered an extra ‘benefit’ from the health and lifestyle changes I made during my cancer treatment. Not only did I beat the cancer, but my overall health improved in many ways; my cholesterol improved, and so did my blood pressure and blood sugar. I no longer take any medication. It’s hard to imagine that you can go through all these struggles and actually end up feeling better and being healthier. I guess there’s some truth to the old saying ‘what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.’


On one of my visits to the hospital to see my doctor, I noticed a sign that said Horizon Cancer Treatment Center. Suddenly my struggle made sense.

I was going through so much turmoil at the time trying to beat my cancer, but thanks to what I learned from Dhamma, I had begun to see the light ahead on the horizon. Instead of feeling fear, I felt hope. Later, when I launched a new business, I decided to name it Horizon the perfect word to remind me of the hope I felt, to make it through alive and to make things better.” Mr. Tweesackdi, now 70 and cancer-free for two years, splits his time between his two passions his family and his business. He has turned his life-long love of nature and healthy living into a vast 280-rai botanical garden that surrounds his Lanna-style Horizon Village health resort in Chiang Mai.

Mr. Seng Sae-Tang

Lung Cancer Survivor

Five years ago, I woke up with swollen glands in my neck. I knew something was wrong, and my doctor gave me the frightening news: I had third-stage lung cancer which had already spread outside my lungs. I’ll never forget that instant feeling of shock. But once the shock wore off, I resolved to place my faith in the treatment. I had always had an interest in science and knew a lot about cancer. I felt quite confident in how much better cancer treatments had become.


Cancer is like rusting steel you need to rub off the rust until the steel becomes thinner. So of course your body will weaken as you go through the chemotherapy and radiation treatments. But eventually it will begin to recover and strengthen. I want other cancer patients to know the importance of staying strong and optimistic. If you don’t have a strong will, you hurt your chances of beating this disease. The day my doctor told me I had cancer, I went straight back to my office, attended a long business meeting, and just kept on living my normal life. My chemotherapy treatment wasn’t nearly as traumatic as I had feared; my weight remained stable, and I could even drive myself to the hospital on my treatment days.


There have been dramatic improvements in treating cancer in the past five or ten years. Someone diagnosed with cancer now can place their trust and confidence in the treatment because it has improved so much. My cancer was nearly gone after five months of treatment. My doctor said I was lucky. But I told him that I didn’t believe in luck, and that I chose him because of his reputation for knowing what the best course of treatment would be for each patient’s own situation.

My experience taught me that mental attitude and strength are so important to winning the fight. I think having support groups for cancer patients would really help people while they are going through the battle. Patients could support and encourage each other so they wouldn’t feel like they were all alone during such a difficult time. I’ve met several patients who said that having cancer actually made them happier because they got to spend more time with close friends and family. I hope the support group concept becomes a reality in Thailand, too.”

Mr. Seng, now 74, enjoys spending time with his large and extended family while still overseeing his company. He hopes he can offer support and encouragement to help other cancer patients come out winners just like he did.

Ms. Cha-on Charoensang

Breast Cancer Survivor

It was almost eight years ago, just a year before I had planned to retire. I felt some pain in my right breast, and of course I was worried. I was working in Hat Yai, my hometown, so I went to see a doctor there. I had first-stage breast cancer. Luckily, the tumor was still small, and the doctor was confident that it had been caught early enough to be highly treatable.

After surgery to remove the tumor, I came to Bangkok to begin chemotherapy. I was so worried about all the side-effects you hear about especially the nausea and hair loss. But once the chemotherapy started, it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. I didn’t have any nausea, and even though my hair began to fall out, the new hair grew back softer and healthier!


The chemotherapy treatments were spread out over six months; each treatment lasted a few days twice a month. At first I felt sick and didn’t feel like eating. But gradually my appetite came back. My doctor made sure I took good care of my body and helped prepare me physically and mentally for the next round of treatment.

Looking back, I can honestly say that the whole treatment process wasn’t as difficult as I’d expected. I was able to return to work with the help of a new wig! After finishing chemotherapy, I began radiation treatment. I was actually quite nervous when the doctor explained I would have 25 treatment sessions (five times a week for five weeks). But everything is so new and modern now each treatment lasted only a minute!

Throughout my treatment I never felt like giving up. I was lucky to have a great role model, my high school teacher in Hat Yai. Just before retiring, she found out she had cancer of the uterus. She suffered a lot during chemotherapy but managed to get through it okay. Not long after that, she was diagnosed with rectal cancer. But she fought against it and came out cancer-free again. She’s now 77 years old and very healthy. She walks five kilometers a day!


Now I’m cancer-free, but I still watch my health closely. I see my doctor regularly, especially to monitor my other breast. I exercise every day, get plenty of sleep and eat a healthy diet. I used to think of cancer as something horrible, scary and incurable. But not anymore. Treating cancer is so much more advanced now, and for most people it’s treatable and curable.”

Life after retirement is anything but quiet and lonely for Ms. Cha-on. Besides doing some accounting projects at home, she keeps her social calendar full meeting old colleagues and friends from school.

Mr. Phongthep Pativettham

Nasal Cancer Survivor

My cancer was discovered almost by accident. I went to the doctor to see about my chronic coughing, and he noticed a lump in my throat. A check-up brought the bad news: I had third-stage nasal cancer.

That was ten years ago. Thinking back to the day I was told I had cancer, I didn’t panic. I guess I wasn’t even that surprised. I hadn’t been a big believer in modern medicine, so I decided to try natural treatment first. But it didn’t take long to see that I wasn’t getting better. My aunt told me to see a doctor at Bumrungrad.


The doctor recommended starting treatment right away because there were signs that the cancer had spread to my brain. The doctor talked to me about how the treatment can affect both a patient’s physical and emotional well-being, and he explained how he would monitor me throughout the course of the treatment. It’s fairly common for patients to worry a lot, to feel weaker physically and sometimes have trouble sleeping, all of which can make the emotional burden more difficult. I remember asking myself “Am I strong enough to get through this?” I wasn’t 100% sure that I was, but I made the conscious decision to carry on.

The chemotherapy and radiation treatments weren’t easy, but I could still walk and move around pretty well. I was able to maintain a strong will and still felt confident about the treatment. After all, cancer isn’t a new disease. There have been so many advances, so much more knowledge and many new and more effective ways to treat cancer. Maintaining that confident feeling and being well cared for by the doctor and his team got me through the ordeal.


The treatment worked and my cancer went into remission. I had a check-up with my doctor every month during that first cancer-free year, then every three months for the next three years, and about once a year now. I returned to my normal activities pretty quickly. I rejoined my company’s basketball team, and I even took up playing golf.

For someone who has been diagnosed with cancer and is about to begin treatment, I want to tell them that they shouldn’t be too worried. Yes, you are going to have some side-effects during the treatment. But they are bearable and you can live with them. Doctors have so many resources to treat cancer these days. And being mentally strong is as important as anything. If you worry too much, and maybe even fall into depression, it’s going to affect your body, too. Don’t give up, and never stop believing that everything will turn out okay.”

Mr. Phongthep is still enjoying a round of golf every week. Though he’s been cancer-free for almost ten years, he still sees his doctor every year for a complete check-up.
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