Cancer patients bond over qigong

KUALA LUMPUR - Cancer is not a death sentence. Those afflicted by the disease can find solace and advice in cancer support groups, as Peter Tan, 70, has discovered.

When Tan's weight began dropping and his trousers started slipping from his frame two years ago, he immediately sought medical advice and learnt that he had colon cancer.

The cancer was nearing its fourth stage, the lump was about six inches (15.2cm) wide and he had to be operated within the week.

His initial reaction was fear and shock.

However, his fear subsided after he was introduced to the Malaysian Guolin Qigong Association by a friend.

The association's members consisted mostly of cancer patients and survivors who practise the art of Guolin Qigong in 45 parks nationwide every morning.

"I joined the group for exercises at Lake Gardens after my second cycle of chemotherapy.

"The chemotherapy was really tough as there were so many side effects, such as cracked lips, dry mouth, numbness in the limbs and bouts of itchiness."

However, being part of a support group really benefited Tan.

"I enjoyed better health after the qigong, but my favourite part is the fellowship," he said, adding that the group often travelled on holidays together and celebrated each other's birthday.

"Being part of this group is like being part of a huge family. It helps cancer patients overcome the fear of cancer."

His wife, Magdalene Oon agreed and said she had learnt many tips and picked up good dietary advice from the group during the trying period of caring for her sick husband.

Cindy Yap Chop Yin, 62, is another member who has been exercising with the group for 15 years now.

She had undergone three operations to remove cancer lumps from her stomach, womb and ovaries.

Her testimony is similar to Tan's -- feeling fresh after qigong, a return of appetite and quality sleep.

"As a group, we counsel new cancer patients. They are not so lost after our counselling."

Guolin Qigong instructor Chan Lan Fong, 63, shows up at the Lake Gardens every morning and teaches cancer patients the exercise for free.

She explained that this style of qigong was created by Guolin of China, who also suffered from cancer.

The effects of qigong, she believed, were significant.

"It enhances one's physical fitness, regulates blood flow, improve functions of the body's immune system, boosts morale, alleviates the illness, relieves pain, prolongs life and improves the chances of survival."

Chan, who is a breast cancer survivor, had had both her breasts removed when she was 40 years old.

"Many women are ashamed to have their breasts removed.

"But I believe that as long as you are alive, you have everything to live for.

"People used to laugh at us when we first started qigong in the park, but our main focus is our health."

Chan said the beauty of the group was that those who had recovered from cancer could provide the emotional support and advice to the new patients and alleviate their worries.

Rain or shine, the optimistic and happy group meets at the Tun Abdul Razak Memorial at the Lake Gardens every morning.

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