Yesterday I got a shock when I received an e-mail informing me that Dr Albert Lim Kok Hooi died of cancer. The first thing that struck my mind was: How could this be? Is it a hoax? I wrote back to the one who sent me the email that I could not believe the information. He then sent me this link: http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2013/3/9/nation/12815175&sec=nation
In the article is the photo of Dr. Lim, the oncologist – this is my first time knowing how he looks like. From the article too I learned that his funeral was held at Trinity Methodist Church, Petaling Jaya. If this was in Penang, this is also the church Im and I worship in every Sunday – Trinity Penang.
I must say I do not know the late Dr. Lim at all, but I suspect we have “heard “of each other through our mutual cancer patients – he, an oncologist and I an alternative medicine practitioner (often referred to as quack or snake oil peddler) who is on the other side of the great divide. Our patients went to see him for consultation and his patients came to see us after all those “scientific” treatments have failed them.
I also “know” him through his writing in the Star column. Dr. Lim was a prolific writer. And from his writings I learnt that his was an ardent and staunch supporter of “scientific medicine.” I first learned of Dr. Lim as being the leading oncologist in Malaysia some 16 years ago when patients came to see me after consulting him.
As I surfed the Internet, I also stumbled onto what Dr. V. M. Palaniappan,Ph.D. (I also do not know him as a person) wrote in http://ecohealingsystem.blogspot.com/
I read a sad news today in The Star (Malaysian, p.16, Saturday, 9 March 2013). This reports the death of Dr. Albert Lim Kok Hooi, a great Consultant Oncologist who was just 60, due to CANCER. It seems he was passionate about many issues, including animal and human rights, the rights of underprivileged, unhealthy lifestyles and habits of people, and the like. Reading all about Dr. Lim, it appears he had been a wonderful human being, and has contributed to the society to the fullest. If he lived for another one or two decades, with this caliber and good soul, he could serve a lot more to humanity. I sincerely regret his loss. May God bless his soul, and to rest in peace!
Likewise, I too felt sad to know that Malaysia has lost one of its outstanding sons “too soon”. At age 60 because of cancer. Allow me to extend our sincere belated condolence to his beloved family. As children of God, we believe his soul now finds rest and peace with the Lord.
I spent days surfing the Internet trying to find out more details or hints of what had really happened. Unfortunately, I was NOT fortunate. I could not find any information about his illness, although I had access to the articles that he wrote. The link to the 10-page listing of his articles are in: http://archives.thestar.com.my/search/?q=Dr%20Albert%20Lim%20Kok%20Hooi
Dr. Lim also has his own blog: http://dralbertlim.wordpress.com/page/6/ And his most recent posting was on 13 January 2013. And he died on 9 March 2013 – that is, just about two months after that posting? Sounds like a heart attack rather than cancer.
The questions that strike the mind are: When did he get his cancer? What cancer? What treatment did he undergo? These, I believe, are fair questions to ask. I went through his articles trying to find out if he ever disclose or give any hint that he had cancer in his writing. I do not seem to find any.
Let me say that even though I have never met Dr. Lim, I found some of what he had written interesting, especially coming from an oncologist! I wish many doctors and oncologists have similar views like him. Let me highlight what Dr. Lim wrote over the years in his articles in the Star. In fact, he was spot on regarding the issues below – and I hope cancer patients do take note of his advice seriously. These are good advice!
Cry me a river, 9 December 2012
- The cancer has been growing in your body for decades. It takes 10 to 20 years for the first cancer cell to transform to a mass of detectable and diagnosable cancer.
- Take at least two weeks to a month to work things out. Do not embark on any treatment – surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy – until most of your questions are answered. And until your emotions are no longer on a roller-coaster.
- Never be pushed to see any doctor against your wishes.
- Choose your surgeon wisely. You should also choose your radiologist and your pathologist.
- Needless to say, you choose your oncologist. Change your attending oncologist by all means if you are not satisfied with him/her.
A sickly sweet life, 7 October 2012
- Sugar is as harmful to our health as tobacco and alcohol, and yet, by comparison, so little bad press is given to it. There is much science behind the harm of sugar.
- All the food we take (even if it does not taste sweet) has sugar in it. Fruit and vegetables contain sugar to a varying degree. Eating fruit (whole, not canned or bottled) and consuming a healthy diet (fruits, vegetables, whole grain, blah blah blah) is more than sufficient for our caloric requirement.
- The sugar and the sweetened condensed milk we spoon into our coffee and tea are harmful. And so is the sugar in sodas, rose syrup and other sweet drinks. Not to mention the sugar in candy, sweets, chocolates, doughnuts, cakes, nyonya kuih and biscuits encrusted with sugar.
- All this sugar is refined sugar as opposed to unrefined sugar, which is found naturally in fruit, vegetable and meat. Refined sugar is usually made from cane sugar, but stripped of all its natural goodness.
- The copious amounts of sugar we consume through all the sweet drinks and food make up another approximately 90 pounds (40.8kg) or more of sugar a year. This 90 to 100 pounds of refined sugar (whether sucrose or fructose) is, to use an accurate term, a poison, i.e. a harmful substance that has no benefit.
- For starters, we should avoid all processed meats, including bacon (bak kua in our local context) and most sausages.
Fat chance of cancer, 13 July 2008
- It also advises against eating more than 6 gm of salt per day. I can’t imagine what 6 gm of salt is but I do not add any salt at the table and I would reject all foods that taste perceptibly salty.
- How do you tell the common folk that their 10 favourite foods are a no-no from the scientific health-wise point of view? Nasi lemak, roti canai, curry mee, wanton mee, burger, doughnuts, fries, char kuay teow, chicken rice and mee goreng are out.
Something about Dr C, 6 January 2013
- Dr C also taught me a lesson in healthy eating. Whenever we dine together, I notice he attacks fruit and vegetables before all else. I begin with the canapés, he starts with the fruit. I end with the Coeur a la Crème, he ends with fruit.
- You don’t know how very guilty I feel whenever I dine with Dr C. He tells me that the fruit will fill him up. That would make it difficult for him to consume much else. He drinks water mostly.
Only human, 10 June 21012
- My failing as a doctor is my impatience with the pronouncements of alternative and traditional medicine. I feel bad each time I try to explain science to my patients and know that at times I have hurt their feelings.
- The rights of a patient matter a lot to me. This includes the right of privacy, and the right not to undergo treatment.
- To me, it was her fundamental human right: to be treated, not to be treated, to map the rest of her life, to die at a time and manner of her choosing.
Of course, I must say you cannot expect me to agree with everything that Dr. Lim wrote. That is understandable. We stood at the opposite, extreme ends of the pole. Nevertheless, let not our differences of knowledge, training or upbringing divide us. As human beings we are merely travelers on a journey of learning experience as we walk through life on this earth. Once our job is done, we are called HOME. No one lives forever. Doctors also get sick like any other mortals. And CANCER doctors do get cancer too. And they also can die of cancer. This is the reality or irony of life.
I am not a medical doctor. After teaching and researching in the university for 26 years I got involved with the alternative management of cancer. I used my scientific knowledge trying to find truth through a non-conventional view.
Dr. Lim’s death had brought forth one question I often ask myself. If one day I were to be inflicted with cancer – like those thousands who have come and to seek my help – would I keep this illness a secret? My blunt answer is: NO. This is because I am here on earth for a reason – and I am on a journey to gain experience. I would want to share my trials and tribulations with my fellow travelers. I believe it is important and fair on my part that I share with you not only my successes but also my bitter experiences. I take the view that my experiences would be useful lessons or examples for others to learn from. If I fail I have to tell you and warn you of the pitfalls of my journey. Some of you may not agree with my personal beliefs. That is perfectly okay with me too.
Recently, I interviewed a cancer patient and at the end of our conversation I asked if he would want me to cover his face for our video presentation. He said NO, there is nothing to be ashamed about if you have cancer. I did not commit any crime! I have full respect for this patient and am very impressed and proud of such an attitude. To me, failure to win over cancer is not a failure. I come to this conclusion because I have learned early in my cancer career that there is NO such thing as a (permanent) cure for cancer. You get cancer, you die. You may have a remission but that is not a cure. That seems to be the scenario all over the world today.
President Hugo Chavez died of cancer after four surgeries and lots of chemotherapy. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and she died after much chemotherapy. Ted Kennedy died of brain cancer. In this blog, I have written about Tony Snow who died of colon cancer that had spread to his liver. Then there was a story about Steve Jobs who died of pancreatic cancer. In fact the list goes on.
The world’s most iconic scientist of our time, Nobel laureate James Watson also has (prostate) cancer. And I was told he refused to undergo the standard medical treatment. In his recent talk, Dr. Watson said: There’s now pretty good research that suggests that if you take a baby aspirin a day, you get less cancer … So every morning, I take an anti-inflammatory, to the laughter from the audience. He joined in with his own distinctive, raspy chuckle and shrugged, asking: Why not? Watson also takes Metformin. The drug is normally taken by people who have type-2 diabetes, but research shows that fewer of those taking the drug get cancer. He said: If this is right, this is a bombshell, and all chemotherapy should be done with Metformin.
In his blog, Dr. Palaniappan raised some interesting questions about Dr. Lim’s “secret adventure” with his cancer. This is what he wrote (http://ecohealingsystem.blogspot.com/):
- With all the credentials, Dr. Lim must have been a real … capable radiologist and oncologist…. how can Dr. Lim, a CANCER SPECIALIST, die of CANCER?
- If a heart specialist, a child specialist, a skin specialist … dies of cancer, he/she can be excused … How can a CANCER specialist die of CANCER? How can a cardiologist die of heart attack?
- If such best brains do not have the capacity to guard themselves, how are they going to protect the common people? How can we accept them as guardians of our health? Great and disturbing doubts appear to have risen.
You may wish to ponder what Dr. Palani’s said. You may agree or disagree with him.
To me, Malaysia has lost a good doctor. If Dr. Lim were to leave behind his legacy by writing about his “battle” against cancer it would be a greater help to all of us. If scientific medicine, which he believed in so ardently, has been so effective against cancer, what is it that went wrong that he had to die of cancer? I am sure this is the question that most, if not all, cancer patients want to know.
I am reminded of what happened in France in the 19th century at the time of Louis Pasteur and Claude Bernard – two great scientists of that period. Pasteur was a chemist and microbiologist, who put forward the germ theory. According to him diseases are caused by infectious microbes, that impair the functioning and structures of different organ systems. This paradigm is the basis for the use of antibiotics today.
Pasteur’s contemporary and friend, an equally great scientist, Claude Bernard was a physiologist. He argued the germs are not as important as the body’s internal environment – what he called le milieu intérieur. According to Bernard, The constancy of the interior environment is the condition for a free and independent life. Bernard thought that the body becomes susceptible to infectious agents only if the internal balance – or homeostasis as we now call it – is disturbed. After all, there are billions of microbes and bacteria inhabiting our guts, our blood, our whole body. Why do we sometimes get sick from them and sometimes not? When a bacterial or viral agent is “going around,” as we say, why do some people fall sick while others remain healthy?
History has it that when Pasteur was on his death-bed, he said: Bernard is right. The microbe is nothing. The environment is everything. With that confession, the world is left a bit wiser!