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A Cancer patient’s second chance

With the advancement of medicine today, in many instances, cancer is no longer a death sentence. However, Mr N.V.L, a 54 years old man from Ho Chi Minh City, was very close to facing death as for many long years, he could not find the specialized help he needed.

BATTLING WITH DEATH – THREE ABDOMINAL SURGICAL PROCEDURES

As a long-distance driver, Mr N.V.L. regularly skips meals, and due to not having a healthy, balanced diet, has led to him to suffer from chronic constipation. In 2008, during a time when he accidentally carried objects which were too heavy for him, he discovered a strange lump in his abdomen, when he inspected it closely he found that it was as big as an egg. Mr N.V.L.’s thought the problem would just go away, but his family were very concerned and rushed him to a hospital to have a medical examination. Doctors deemed the lump to be serious and they diagnosed Mr N.V.L. with late-stage colon cancer with severe inflammation. This was a life-threatening condition and required urgent surgery to treat the tumour. Mr N.V.L. then received the subsequent bad news that such a surgical procedure had a 50% chance of success, yet he and his whole family decided to take the risk. After the operation, the tumour was removed from the site of infection, however Mr N.V.L.’s abdomen generated a lot of bloating. So much so that doctors decided that a second surgery on the side of the abdomen was required. This time to solve the issue, an artificial anus for the functioning excretory system was fitted. Following that procedure, Mr N.F.L. despite the difficulties he had gone through, considered it a blessing as he was still able to keep his life.

Unfortunately, though, this was not the end of Mr N.F.L.’s dreadful saga. The incision made during the second operation was not healing properly and was infected, which led to Mr N.V.L. continuously suffering from pain and fever. Consequently, he was transferred to another hospital by his family to check this infection. Mr N.V.L’s worst fears were then realised, as there was no other choice, he had to agree to give surgeons a third session of surgery to clean the infection. As the incision was not healing, Mr N.F.L. was in a terminal condition and chemotherapy was needed to treat the colon cancer. According to the doctor’s requirements, Mr N.V.L and his family would have to carry all the necessary items to the hospital at 4am in the morning to just wait to see if they had the chance for the examination, hospitalization, blood test, and dose of chemotherapy. If the hospital lacks medicine, the patient must sleep and wait until it becomes available. Mr N.V.L. recalled; “Many times I see my wife taking care of me and raising my children, I want to give up, but I love my wife and children, so I have to try”. With this motivation, Mr N.V.L. kept coming regularly to the hospital to get chemotherapy. However, for the 3rd chemotherapy dose, the hospital announced that they had no more drugs. Although knowing that the lack of chemotherapy would affect the effectiveness of the treatment plan, the hospital indicated that Mr N.V.L. would need to go home. “People should remember to stay healthy, they should take up exercise after work. The disease was too painful”, Mr N.V.L. shared while remembering the treatment process that was too hard to endure.

ENJOY THE SECOND CHANCE AT LIFE

Having gone through such a terrible, life-threating ordeal, Mr. N.V.L. decided to go to the Hy Vong Cancer Care Centre with his last wish for chemotherapy. Here, a council of the head of doctors from the surgical department, gastrointestinal, imaging diagnosis and oncologist was held to determine an effective treatment plan to best support Mr N.V.L. The result: Mr N.V.L. still has a chance to cure colon cancer, and moreover, doctors can help him not to have a prosthesis for the rest of his life.

Mr N.V.L. listened intently to the treatment regimen given to him by Dr Vo Kim Dien. The doctor also meticulously explained the steps of treatment, while advising more unwanted side effects that he might encounter. Finally, the treatment regimen that combined radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery was given by doctors to completely remove the cancer cells and reconnect the previously cut large intestine, to help him stop using the artificial anus. Before starting chemotherapy, doctors examined his kidney function and found he was suffering from acute renal failure. A dangerous situation which was unknown to the doctors who had administered the previous treatments – it was clear he had not been thoroughly examined in those cases. Immediately, he was given a catheter to stabilize the urinary system before receiving 12 chemotherapy and 24 radiotherapy doses respectively. By the 6th chemotherapy, the bitter tongue and dry mouth made him lose his taste. However, thanks to the doctor’s advice and the care of the nursing staff, his psychology and health every day improve. After completing the chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment, Mr N.V.L. was operated on by doctors to connect the intestines. After nearly five hours of persistent efforts in the operating room, Mr N.V.L. was amazed to wake up and find he was still alive. Bringing his hands across his stomach, he was also extremely overwhelmed as he also no longer had to wear the artificial anus. About 10 days later, Mr N.V.L. was able to go home from the hospital.

Now, after more than 11 years of treatment at Hy Vong Cancer Care Centre, Mr N.V.L.’s life has been healthy and back to normal. He and his family are happy and thanks to the quality of treatment Mr N.V.L. was able to return back to his favourite hobby, gardening. There are many people who have gone through the battle with cancer, but many people don’t know where to find the best treatment. Not everyone is lucky as Mr N.V.L. was as he had the opportunity to “be reborn” after 3 times of major surgery. Now he can live optimistically and enjoy his life better than before. “I am living a second chance at life so I have to enjoy it” – he happily shared as he talked about his cancer-winning journey. Everyone has only one life and when things go wrong, it’s important to remember to never give up. As N.V.L.’s story shows, with a little help in the right direction, everything can change!