Every Voice Counts

‘I couldn’t believe that it was me,’ said Rofinus. For a guy who doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink and lead a rather healthy lifestyle, Rofinus is sharing the same sentiment that most of the cancer patients have. Rofinus is a head and neck cancer patient from Indonesia. As we began the conversation, I could already tell how keen Rofinus was in sharing his story.

Due to frequent bouts of radiotherapy, Rofinus’s vocal cord was temporarily affected. The inflammation caused his speech to become slurred. I could notice the frequent little gasps that he took and yet he still tried to tell us every single detail of his cancer fighting journey.

Seeing her husband struggled with his speech, Sitohang finished off his half-spoken sentence. A knowing glance seemed to be sufficient for Sitohang to know what her husband wanted to say. Throughout the interview, Sitohang did most of the talking, prompted by her husband while Rofinus lovingly watched on.

Rofinus told us that it started off with a mouth ulcer. It persisted for a year. In between, they had been actively seeking for treatment.  However, the efforts were all in vain. It had never crossed his mind that he would have cancer so the sense of urgency of seeking treatment was that strong until the condition got worse. He began to lose his appetite. It took them long enough before they decided to consult a mouth specialist. He was then told to take antibiotics to see if the ulcer would be healed in two weeks.

Two weeks past, they finally got a confirmation that the ulcer was malignant. Rofinus was arranged for a biopsy. He was asked to undergo a surgery to remove the entire tongue. That piece of information overwhelmed him especially when no other alternatives for treatment were given. That idea of not being able to speak again was terrifying. “Being a chatty person myself, there’s no way that I will be fine with idea of not being able to speak again,” he said, admitting that that was the reason why he started to look for alternative. That period was hard.

Eventually he was introduced to Mount Miriam Cancer Hospital by his friend who was a cancer survivor. 3 days after getting in touch with the personnel from Mount Miriam. Rofinus was arranged to see Dr Ho. ‘The consultation has never been more detailed. I know what options I have, and the pros and cons that come along with every single option. I feel that, to a certain degree, I have a say of how I want to be treated,’ claimed Rofinus. Despite having been told that he would stand a better chance – by 20 percent more, to fight cancer with surgery, Rofinus made up his to just go for radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

Until now, he still could not know for sure what caused the cancer. While many cancer have symptoms, some forms are more discreet. Some unexplained body changes could be symptoms of cancer. We need to keep a watchful eye for it. Should the symptoms persist, it is time to seek for medical advice.

written by Priscillia Yuen, Community Relations