This is an e-mail I received in late November 2010.
Dear Dr. Teo,
My mom is 68 years old. She got breast cancer stage 3 B in June 2008, after a checkup done in Bandung, Indonesia and confirmed by the National Cancer Centre, Singapore.Due to my working place in Singapore, she was willing to come here to do the treatment (2 times surgery and 18 times chemotherapy) where I can take care and accompany her through this painful treatment. But after 2 years with 18 times chemotherapy, the cancer was not cured.
Last week the chemo doctor mentioned that there is no need for her to take the chemotherapy again because there is “NO HOPE TO CURE and CAN ONLY PROLONG HER LIFE A BIT.” The cancer now spreads to the skin and made her left arm swollen. She felt very uncomfortable due to hardness, redness, hot and pain at her skin.Last 2 weeks, my Indonesia’s friend introduced me to keladi tikus (founded by you). She felt better and the wet skin was getting dry without bad smell under her left arm.I am very sad and keep praying that she has the strength to go through this. I believe that God will cure my mom if I have faith and trust HIM. I really hope to receive your help and great support for my mom treatment.On 7 November 2010, Intan (not real name) and her daughter came to see us in Penang. It was indeed a sad and depressing night for me to see Intan struggling to walk into our centre. In this age of science and technology, we are made to believe that we have all the answers to our problem. But the case of Intan, that I saw tonight, testified to the reality of the present situation. The words of Amy Cohen Soscia, a breast cancer patient from the US, came to mind: “There is no cure for metastatic breast cancer. It never goes away. You just move from treatment to treatment.”
Medical History: Sometime in 2008, Intan fell and felt pain in her left breast. An USG and mammography in Bandung indicated a lump in her breast. She subsequently went to Singapore and underwent a mastectomy. The histopathology report confirmed the 5.5 cm tumour was an invasive carcinoma, grade 3. Twelve out of the 15 lymph nodes were infected with cancer. The doctor told Intan she has only three months to live. Since modern medicine could not offer her much hope, her daughter turned to a Chinese sinseh for help. She was started on herbs. Intan pulled through for nine months after which she became breathless. She was admitted into the Changi General Hospital. The doctors tapped 3.5 litres of fluid from her lungs. She was then sent to the Singapore General Hospital for follow up treatment.
In June 2009, she was started on oral chemotherapy – using Xeloda for 2 months. This treatment was not effective. The doctor switched her to intravenous chemo using Vinorelbine. After 2 cycles, this treatment was deemed not effective. Intan underwent another 4 cycles of chemo with Vinorelbine + Gemcitabine. This combination was also not effective. The doctor switched drug to only Doxorubicin. Intan received 7 cycles of this mono-drug therapy. This too was not effective. The doctor switched to Taxol and Intan received 2 cycles of this treatment. Again the result was not good. Intan was put on Xeloda again for a month and after that she was switched to another hormonal therapy (which the daughter forgot the name). The cancer still spread. Intan was again put on Taxol for another 2 cycles. After Taxol, the doctor suggested Herceptin. Intan declined further medical treatment.
All said, it was a bitter and frustrating experience for Intan.