Survivor: Blessed to detect cancer early

When Mr Simon Tan found out he had stage one prostate cancer in 1999, he thought his life was over.

"My mind went haywire. I called my family. My wife and daughter were crying. I was so badly affected I didn't know what to do next," he said.

But his doctor, Professor Christopher Cheng, reassured him that his condition could be treated with surgery to remove the affected prostate gland.

The only downside was that Mr Tan, then 47, would not be able to have any more children. "By then I didn't want any more children so I went for the surgery," he said.

Today, Mr Tan, 63, who has two children and two grandchildren, is a proud survivor of cancer.

The director of a shipping company is also a member of the Walnut Warriors, a support group for those affected by prostate cancer.

Following news of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong being diagnosed with prostate cancer and set to undergo surgery today, Mr Tan recounted to The New Paper his own journey.

He said he first suspected something was wrong in late 1999 when he had constant sharp pains in his lower back.

"I would have very uncomfortable backaches that would disappear after a while. Then they would come back again," he said.

It prompted him to go for medical screenings. Even so, doctors did not detect anything wrong and prescribed him antibiotics.

"But when my prostate gland got bigger, I knew something was wrong. So I went for a biopsy and they found that I had an early stage of prostate cancer.

"In a way, I was blessed to have been able to detect the cancer early. Many people only see the symptoms at the third stage, which may be very late."


He said Prof Cheng, who is the doctor set to perform a similar operation on PM Lee, was very professional in handling his case.

"He told me the various treatments that I could undergo to take care of prostate cancer such as surgery and radiotherapy."

Mr Tan said his surgery went smoothly and he was out of the operating theatre in four hours.

"I wasn't in pain after the operation. There was no discomfort and I didn't suffer from incontinence."

He was discharged within a week and was back at work the following week.

He said he was one of the last few patients who underwent open surgery. "Those in my support group who underwent keyhole surgery were discharged even sooner than I was. They told me they recovered even faster."

Mr Tan has become more conscious about his fitness and diet.

"Now, I make sure I exercise regularly. I am also careful about what I eat. I don't want to harm my body," he said.

He also wished PM Lee a smooth and successful operation. "I wish him well and for a quick recovery. He should be able to recover fast."