World Cancer Day

Bone cancer survivor was 'happy' to have leg amputated

Mr Wang was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer in 1996 and had his right leg amputated three years later. Today, he is at peace with his condition.
Mr Wang was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer in 1996 and had his right leg amputated three years later. Today, he is at peace with his condition.PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

When faced with the unthinkable prospect of amputation, most people would seek a second opinion or hesitate to go ahead.

Not Mr Ezzy Wang. The training and competency manager at AIA Singapore was 33 when he happily and emphatically told doctors to remove his right leg.

Mr Wang's ordeal began in 1995, when he was diagnosed with synovial chondromatosis, a disease which causes calcium leakage in the bone. Though the extra calcium mass in his pelvis was removed in an operation, it forced Mr Wang, an avid athlete, to stop playing sports.

Tragedy struck again a year later when the illness mutated into a rare form of bone cancer, forcing Mr Wang to undergo surgery.

Surgeons at Alexandra Hospital removed the right side of his pelvis and reattached his leg to the top of his hip. Though the cancer was vanquished then, his right leg ended up 15cm shorter than his left, leaving him with a permanent limp.

That shock, coupled with the lack of cancer support groups, left him in denial. He stopped socialising completely, choosing to coop himself up at home instead.

 

But that was not the end of Mr Wang's woes. In 1999, the bone cancer returned with a vengeance just as he was getting used to walking in his custom orthopaedic shoe.

His only option was to have his entire right leg amputated.

Mr Wang was more sanguine about going under the knife this time. "I was really happy," he said, describing his reattached right leg as heavy and cumbersome.

He realised that he had to beat the illness and get his life back.

"You cannot have the virus in your body any longer, otherwise you will just be waiting to die," said Mr Wang, who has spent more than $150,000 on medical bills.

He asked for his leg to be amputated on the same day a biopsy confirmed the cancer relapse.

Today, the 50-year-old is an optimistic person who has completely accepted his situation.

As a sign of how comfortable he is with his body, Mr Wang often tells curious children that his cancer has ironically left him with three legs.

This usually helps to break the ice. Mr Wang, who is married with no children, also said he sees it as a way to teach parents and children to confront sensitive issues.

In fact, it hurts more when people stare at him silently from the corner of their eye, he added.

Those three "legs", two crutches and his left leg, have helped him achieve sporting excellence.

Mr Wang is a four-time participant in the Swissotel Vertical Marathon and represented Singapore in handcycling at the 2010 Asian Para Games. Referring to a team of blind bowlers whom he met at the Para Games, Mr Wang said: "When I compare myself to them, I ask myself: 'What do you have to complain about?' "

These days, Mr Wang exercises regularly, though he does not intend to compete any more. He handcycles on alternate days after work and swims whenever he can.

"You treasure what you are now and you treasure what you have now," he added.

Raynold Toh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 04, 2017, with the headline 'Survivor was 'happy' to have leg amputated'. Print Edition | Subscribe