Cancer patient's remarkable journey

He went through brain surgery - awake

Auditor Oh Zhi Long at a follow-up consultation at the National Neuroscience Institute to have his staples removed on April 5 last year, after his brain surgery the previous month.
Auditor Oh Zhi Long at a follow-up consultation at the National Neuroscience Institute to have his staples removed on April 5 last year, after his brain surgery the previous month.ST PHOTO: WANG HUI FEN
Associate Professor See asking Mr Oh to raise his right arm to test his movement. Awake brain surgery is done in less than 10 per cent of brain tumour cases at the institute, when surgeons need to operate on an area of the brain that involves or is c
Associate Professor See asking Mr Oh to raise his right arm to test his movement. Awake brain surgery is done in less than 10 per cent of brain tumour cases at the institute, when surgeons need to operate on an area of the brain that involves or is close to regions that control critical body functions, or sensory and language capabilities. ST PHOTOS: WANG HUI FEN
Associate Professor See asking Mr Oh to raise his right arm to test his movement. Awake brain surgery is done in less than 10 per cent of brain tumour cases at the institute, when surgeons need to operate on an area of the brain that involves or is c
Mr Oh undergoing radiotherapy at Tan Tock Seng Hospital on June 15. To make sure the cancer is eradicated, he went through 30 sessions of radiotherapy, as well as eight months of chemotherapy.ST PHOTOS: WANG HUI FEN
Associate Professor See asking Mr Oh to raise his right arm to test his movement. Awake brain surgery is done in less than 10 per cent of brain tumour cases at the institute, when surgeons need to operate on an area of the brain that involves or is c
Mr Oh feeding his prized marine clownfish at home on June 26, almost three months after his surgery. When he was in hospital, he would ask his mother to send videos of the fish to his mobile phone, so that he could monitor them.ST PHOTOS: WANG HUI FEN
Associate Professor See asking Mr Oh to raise his right arm to test his movement. Awake brain surgery is done in less than 10 per cent of brain tumour cases at the institute, when surgeons need to operate on an area of the brain that involves or is c
Mr Oh, who works as an auditor, having lunch with his colleagues at the KPMG clubhouse on May 15, before taking a break to concentrate on radiotherapy, due to start three days later. He returned to work again in July with a zest for life. ST PHOTOS: WANG HUI FEN
Associate Professor See asking Mr Oh to raise his right arm to test his movement. Awake brain surgery is done in less than 10 per cent of brain tumour cases at the institute, when surgeons need to operate on an area of the brain that involves or is c
Mr Oh Zhi Long, 32, putting on a brave front for his mother, Madam Seng Kiah Eng, 57, before getting wheeled into the operating theatre for the awake brain surgery. ST PHOTOS: WANG HUI FEN
Associate Professor See asking Mr Oh to raise his right arm to test his movement. Awake brain surgery is done in less than 10 per cent of brain tumour cases at the institute, when surgeons need to operate on an area of the brain that involves or is c
During the surgery, Mr Oh is asked to name common images, ranging from a car to a dolphin to roti prata. He also asks to see what is in his head, to which Prof Ng replies: "Later we'll show you." ST PHOTOS: WANG HUI FEN
Associate Professor See asking Mr Oh to raise his right arm to test his movement. Awake brain surgery is done in less than 10 per cent of brain tumour cases at the institute, when surgeons need to operate on an area of the brain that involves or is c
The growth is removed about four hours after Mr Oh is first taken into the operating theatre. He can even move himself onto the hospital bed that will be wheeled into the recovery ward. ST PHOTOS: WANG HUI FEN
Associate Professor See asking Mr Oh to raise his right arm to test his movement. Awake brain surgery is done in less than 10 per cent of brain tumour cases at the institute, when surgeons need to operate on an area of the brain that involves or is c
Neurosurgeon Ng Wai Hoe, medical director of the National Neuroscience Institute, shaving Mr Oh's head after asking him how close a shave he wants. Mr Oh replies: "Take it all off, it's only hair, it will grow back. I have no regrets." ST PHOTOS: WANG HUI FEN
Associate Professor See asking Mr Oh to raise his right arm to test his movement. Awake brain surgery is done in less than 10 per cent of brain tumour cases at the institute, when surgeons need to operate on an area of the brain that involves or is c
Anaesthetist See Jee Jian giving Mr Oh a picture-naming test with an iPad to assess the effects of the surgery, while Associate Professor Ng (centre) performs brain surgery at the same time behind the transparent sheet. ST PHOTOS: WANG HUI FEN

Mr Oh Zhi Long, 32, discovered by accident that he had a brain tumour. Less than a week later, he lay awake as surgeons removed the cancerous growth. Mr Oh and the National Neuroscience Institute gave The Straits Times exclusive access to the operation. Science editor Chang Ai-Lien, deputy picture editor Wang Hui Fen, and multimedia journalist Basil Edward Teo documented this remarkable surgery and tracked his journey to recovery.

He lies in the operating theatre, still and seemingly asleep.

Part of his head is behind a transparent curtain. From behind, his skull has been sawn open and neurosurgeon Ng Wai Hoe begins the delicate process of removing a walnut-size tumour from the deep recesses of his brain.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2018, with the headline ' He went through brain surgery - AWAKE'. Print Edition | Subscribe