My Fight with Cancer: Chronic Myeloid Leukemia patient shares his experience on beating disease

When aspiring singer-songwriter Tony was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) in 2007, he wasn’t sure how to process the news.

He had received a prophecy about him scaling a mountain when he was in his teens - a symbolically ardent task - years before, and he felt that it had come true.

Said Tony:

“My initial response wasn’t as bad as it could have been, because it was miraculous in a way.

“Somehow it reminded me of this prophecy I heard when I was climbing Mount Kinabalu years before.

“When I first heard the prophecy, I couldn’t make sense of it, but suddenly everything made sense, after the doctor broke the news to me and my mother.”

Miraculously, Tony had initially gone for a checkup upon returning to Kuala Lumpur after realising that something was off during his trek up the mountain. 

He had felt lethargic and out of breath:

“CML is a slow and silent killer so people don’t usually know they have it and lead a normal daily life till they go for a full medical examination. 

“The medications I took also affected me in a way; Sometimes I get muscular cramps that last for no longer than 15 seconds. 

Although the cramps are bothersome to Tony, he is nevertheless grateful that the complications are not severe. 

Tony is currently taking a tablet a day (400mg Imatinib) before bed every day to manage his conditions.

“The pills are also a form of chemotherapy,” confirmed Tony.

Although the condition wasn’t fatal, CML has nonetheless impacted Tony’s life, and Tony himself admits that he is a changed man.

Said Tony:

“I have become a happier person and I always look at the silver linings even in the most pessimistic situations.

“I even learn to laugh when I’m in pain like when I accidentally hurt my knee after knocking against the corner of a table accidentally.

In his fight against the disease, Tony also picked up some valuable lessons — 

  1. His family’s unwavering support and love for him is irreplaceable
  2. Some things seem more important than they really are, while things that may seem trivial can be really important
  3. Life is actually full of colourful surprises and adventures

To others out there who are fighting against CML, Tony shared his advices:

“Take it in your stride and give it your best fight!

“People will say things that hurt you, be it knowingly or unknowingly, but look beyond that and know that they mean well even if they didn’t know to present their points.”

The Max Foundation, started by Pat Garcia who lost her step-son Maximiliano Rivarola (Max) to CML and provides support to CML patients, has been invaluable to Tony in his fight against CML. 

Tony said:

“Thanks to The Max Foundation, I can get free medication through the organisation’s collaborations with Novartis and the government of Malaysia.“

The journey has also inspired Tony to compose a song. 

Titled ‘You’, Tony said the song speaks about his experience and how Max has inspired him to keep the fight going. 

Listen to the song below. 

This story is part of Stomp's campaign to raise awareness of cancer to mark World Cancer Day on Feb 4. Read more stories about other survivors' fights with cancer and find out how you can inspire others with a story of your own here.