Stage 4 lung cancer but confidently decided to focus on surviving. After 30 rounds of chemotherapy and 32 rounds of radiation, James was declared cancer-free in 2004, two years after his diagnosis. Even his doctor had tears in his eyes when announcing the good news, as out of 100 patients, only a handful came out as survivors.
James’s secret? Not focusing on the negative. “It’s all in the mind,” he said. Even while battling cancer, he continued to volunteer because he did not want to think of the disease. He believes that focusing on other people’s betterment was far more worthy than thinking about himself.
In 2005, after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami tragedy, James found himself on an island called Nias, a two-hour flight away from Medan, Indonesia. Although only fresh out of his cancer scare, he was still determined to help. A Medical Relief Team of 10 people, where James was the only non-doctor, was there for 12 days to distribute half a tonne of medical aid. They were thankful to AirAsia for sponsoring their flight and waiving the baggage fees for their medical aid and food onboard.
As a certified counsellor, James reached out to people who had lost their families. He listened to stories and described this experience as one that “money cannot buy”. The team slept in the open football field and experienced small-scale earthquakes every night. On their last day, at 3 AM, almost a hundred villagers surrounded them to say goodbye. It was a touching gesture to James as he knew it took at least 2 hours for them to walk from their village to the group’s campsite. He left for Malaysia with only the clothes on his back and his passport, donating the rest of his belongings to the villagers. Three weeks later, another deadly earthquake hit the exact place they visited. It was a sign to him that helping others is a never-ending commitment.
James then founded a charity organisation called Yayasan Kebajikan Suria Permas JB. Before that, as an Estate Manager, he collected funds for the purchase of machines for hospitals for ultrasounds, dialysis, and even ventilators. Working closely with other organisations, he has helped people through all kinds of good acts such as counselling, providing meals, spectacles and paying for utility bills.
As a cancer survivor, he returns to the hospital at least twice yearly to motivate cancer patients. He shares the importance of exercising and producing happy hormones to shift their thoughts and energy to what matters instead.
“It’s all in the mind,” he emphasises.