Lee recalls moment he was told he had cancer

Former world No. 1 shuttler Lee Chong Wei speaking about his recovery from nose cancer during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur last month. He is targeting a return to training next month.
Former world No. 1 shuttler Lee Chong Wei speaking about his recovery from nose cancer during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur last month. He is targeting a return to training next month.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR • Lee Chong Wei yesterday admitted he was left distraught after learning of his nose cancer diagnosis, detailing the "nightmare" treatment that rendered him unable to speak or eat.

The Malaysian badminton great, who is eyeing a return to action next year, told The Star he was about to leave for training when his wife broke the news after receiving a call from his doctor.

"She came towards me, hugged me and cried. I knew it was bad news. It's nose cancer," said the 36-year-old.

"My bag slipped from my grasp and I started to cry too. I slumped on the sofa crying and asked why it had to be me."

The three-time Olympic silver medallist revealed the cancer was detected following a check-up in July following a bout of illness.

But it was not until September that Malaysian badminton officials revealed he had cancer and was having treatment in Taiwan.

Lee opted to travel there rather than China, where he feared the news could be leaked, or to Japan or South Korea because of the language barrier.

 
 
 

He also told reporters he went through 33 sessions of proton therapy treatment, which took a toll on his throat.

"By the third week, I could not speak or eat," he said. "I'm just so glad that the worst is over now."

He has not given up on his Olympic gold medal dream and remains hopeful of making a fifth Games appearance at Tokyo 2020, having finished runner-up in 2008, 2012 and 2016.

Added Lee, the former world No. 1 who is now No. 15: "I really want to go for one more Olympics to make it my fifth consecutive appearance. No athlete from Malaysia has ever competed five times at the Olympics and I want to create history.

"It's not an easy feat to make it to five Olympics, that's equivalent to 20 years."

He is expected to return to training next month once he receives the all-clear signal from his doctors in Taiwan.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2018, with the headline 'Lee recalls moment he was told he had cancer'. Print Edition | Subscribe