Winning over Cancer

In early 1962, I discovered a lump in my right chest. I was a little worried because it might be cancerous. I did not ask Shu Pui about this until very near the end of the year, when Shu Pui somehow noticed that my lump had become hard and immovable. He said this had to be cancer, and it meant I had to have an operation.

At that time I felt so bad, because that lump had been in existence for so long, and it might be a little too late. A second lump appeared while we were discussing the option of operation. It started to grow like an itchy, sore mosquito bite, and at that time both Shu Pui and Yin Kai thought I should have the operation.

I refused to have my operation in the United Kingdom for I wanted to stay in Hong Kong to be near my family. If I died that would be the way I wanted to go. Shu Pui arranged for Professor Francis Stock to do the surgery, and I told him I would enter the hospital on the third day after Chinese New Year because I wanted to see my relatives and to pay my respects.

On the day after entering hospital, I had the operation. The next morning I woke up and I felt fine. I sat up in bed and I started reading. I checked out of the hospital after ten days. Physically, my recovery was very satisfactory. Although I had a draining tube attached to the wound, I was feeling fine. There was no pain and no suffering. Later I went for X-ray treatment, and I suffered no nausea or erosion of the skin common to most people undergoing the treatment. I was in perfect health again after two weeks of radiotherapy and my life went back to normal. My first activity was to attend the official opening of the City Hall.

I went for physiotherapy after the X-ray treatment. I had to keep massaging my arm to prevent it from swelling for months, and now I have to wear long-sleeved dresses to cover the fat right arm for the last twenty years. The swollen arm does not hurt, it is just that it would become tight and uncomfortable if I carry heavy things or wash my laundry.

Before the operation, I was fifty five years old. I have been thinking of retiring from social service because thirty years was quite enough. After this was all over, I thought that if I retired I would keep wondering how long I would survive. If I sat home and brooded, I would probably die sooner. I decided to work ten years more. There was still the marriage law to tackle, the inheritance law, equal pay for women, and free education. I started to keep myself busy on these projects.

The ten years between 1964 and 1974 were the busiest and most fruitful years of my life. I served on twelve government appointed committees, including the Council of Chinese University and the Court of Hong Kong University, the Urban Council, and the Legislative Council.

I was kept so busy that I did not have time to brood over my illness at all. Shu Pui told me that I was one in many thousands to escape death from cancer. During all these years, I was so absorbed in my work that I never gave my health a thought. I was sure God was with me. He gave me back my life, and it must have been for a good reason. My fight for womens rights and free education was what He wanted me to do, and I succeeded it within the 10 year period.

--Extracted from Lifes JourneyXAn Autobiography by Ellen Li