Learning to truly appreciate life

Thursday, 1 June 2017


Amiruddin chatting with his son Romi Erawan, 27, at Penang Hospital.

I RECEIVED a very special pre-77th birthday gift in May this year. Astonishingly, I managed to walk out from ‘the bed of death’ unscathed.

All equipment was on standby for me at Penang Hospital’s ICU should there be a ‘high drama’ incident.

Whisked out from the operating theatre, I was wheeled back straight to the regular ward.

I was still under the effect of anaesthesia for colon cancer surgery.

It was a major and high-risk operation due to my age, hypertension and cholesterol level.

But I was still able to crawl out from the “coffin”. I was given a second life to live. On borrowed time, of course.

All indemnity documents had been signed prior to the surgery.

With the grace of God and the competence of the surgeons, I came out against all odds. With my resistance and endurance, I was able to withstand the onslaught.

It was a miracle of sorts. The odds were stacked against my fragile anatomy as a grandfather of four.

As a septuagenarian, I was free from any chronic illness since my childhood days.

Being an intrepid adventurer even in my twilight years, the diagnosis of colon cancer was a heavy bombshell that dropped on me.

This was an acid test I had to face, more so in the post-operation period. I was “imprisoned” in my own domain.

The pain and the suffering are bitter pills to swallow. Yet my spirit could not be fragmented.

Prayers from family members and friends were balm to soothe my weak condition. They comprised those of different social status.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, his strategic advisor Datuk Saifuddin Nasution and the media paid me a surprise visit at the ward.

To me, every misfortune is a blessing in disguise. I blame nobody. The Supreme Being knows better.

This surgery has taught me a priceless lesson – to see the acute pain and complications of others compared to mine.

Pain and suffering are an eye opener. This makes us more compassionate and sympathetic about the plights faced by others.

Those who live in their comfort zone seldom pass through the ‘narrow passage of life’. Hardship is unknown to them. They become hard-core personalities. They lack love.

Suicide is the choice for those weak in spirit. However, suffering does not end in death. Trusting in Him is the positive step when overcome with obstacles.

About seven different groups of final year medical students from Penang Medical College, majoring in colon cancer, interviewed and conducted body checks on me on the week-long admission at the hospital.

One group was led by the hospital’s former surgery chief Datuk Dr Manjit Singh. He is now working part-time at the college.

I was honoured to have met Dr Manjit as he is a very jovial and down-to-earth person. His students are at ease with him.

Dr Manjit was likewise happy to have met me as we could communicate well. All questions were satisfactorily answered for the benefit of his students.

Dr Manjit’s group spent more than an hour to conduct a ‘live autopsy’ on this writer. It was a small contribution on my part.

Being a visitor to a hospital and being a stay-in patient are two different scenarios. The essence is to get the real feel of the environment.

I have seen the death of the patient next to me. It struck my mind that to be rich in money but poverty-stricken in health is to be poor indeed.

I was down with cancer. But I have a special zest for life. It is the heart that makes me a rich person. This is the joy of true living.

I learned a very valuable lesson. Idleness is a destroyer. We must dare to be ourselves.

For the majority, we need to come out of our self-centred shells. Care for others.

We need to share with our fellow man that death is within us. Be part of their family. This brings happiness.

Life is not all roses. Even roses have thorns.

I was down but not out. I consider myself the winner. I can still smile in the face of adversity.

Yes. Time, like life, can never be recalled. Value life. It is fragile and precious.

The greatest asset in life is happiness and good health – not money. Share them with others. That is the greatest gift.

> A.R. Amiruddin is a former journalist with The Star for 19 years and the defunct National Echo for 10 years. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

This article was published in the Star: http://www.thestar.com.my/metro/views/2017/06/01/learning-to-truly-appreciate-life-it-takes-a-potentially-fatal-illness-to-teach-some-valuable-lesson/#VFKmt3OqWJK7Gkz8.99