Two-time survivor

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01Mar2017_00561
01 Mar 2017 | PEOPLE
Melayu 华文

Two-time survivor

STORY // Koh Eng Beng
PHOTO // Chua Soon Lye & Courtesy of Cayden Chang
English Melayu

It was 10 Aug 2010, a day after National Day. The doctor had assured him that he would be fine after surgery, but he woke up with a searing pain.

"The nurse asked me, 'How bad is it on a scale of one to 10?'

"I said, '15!'"

The surgery to remove his left kidney was part of his treatment for Stage 2 renal cancer, and the painful ordeal spurred Mr Chang to raise funds for cancer research.

The 45-year-old, who suffered a relapse in 2014 and was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, published a book The Book Of Hope last year which documents personal stories of his fight with cancer.

All proceeds go to the National Cancer Centre. The book launch also raised more than $14,000 for the Singapore Cord Blood Bank.

Staying humble

Beads of perspiration trickled down his face when he arrived at the West Coast McDonald's for the interview. Mr Chang had walked over a kilometre from his five-room HDB home in Clementi West.

The father of two daughters, aged nine and six, chose not to buy a car or a condominium.

His reason? "I can take my younger daughter to her school nearby every morning. The short journey is just 10 minutes but it's the most amazing start of each day," he said.

Doctors have told him that there is a high risk of a third relapse. Perhaps that explains why he cherishes time with his family over material things.

He was wearing a checked shirt that cost $45, an ordinary pair of "no brand" jeans, and a Mickey Mouse watch. Everything seemed to fit his humble image, except that the timepiece was an Ingersoll watch that cost $500.

"That's the most luxurious item that I've ever worn," he said. "Otherwise, I am happy with anything that is comfortable. I don't need branded stuff."

Asked about his choice of watch, he explained: "Mickey Mouse reminds me not to forget to dream."

He drew inspiration from a Walt Disney quote: "All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them." Indeed, Mr Chang dreamt big, and had the courage to make them a reality.

The son of a fishmonger and homemaker, he grew up in a one-room rental HDB flat, and failed his A-levels twice before getting a place to study Biology at the National University of Singapore.

In 2008, Mr Chang started his company from the living room of his HDB flat. Today, he is a self-made millionaire with his own training centre in Singapore's central business district.

The founder of Mind Kinesis Management International, an investment coaching and personal development company, he has conducted investment talks and training for more than 40,000 people across Asia.

After two brushes with cancer, Mr Chang's priority in life now is his family - (from left) wife Boon Ling and daughters Chloe and Caylin.

Finding meaning

Mr Chang seems to be able to find meaning in whatever he does. This includes his time during National Service (NS) as a storeman.

He was slated for a combat role, but midway through Basic Military Training, he was found to have scoliosis or crooked spine. Today, he stills walks with a visible hunch.

One of the roles that his unit, the 2nd Forward Combat Service Support Battalion, plays is delivering water supplies and other essential items to combat troops.

"I may not be a Commando or combat soldier But, in wartime, (if there is) no water, we will lose. The infantry have to escort my section, and secure the supply route," said the former 3rd Sergeant, who completed his operationally ready NS cycle in 2011.

Life lessons

His next goal in life? To set up a $1 million cancer research trust fund with his own money within the next 10 years.

"That's why I continue to work so hard I hope to be part of the movement to find a cure for cancer," said Mr Chang.

The trust fund will be personally managed by him, with investment returns to be channelled to cancer research and palliative care.

If there is one lesson that he wants others to take away from his life experiences, it is this: Make the best of your time.

"If you want to do something, like travel or start a business or whatever, do it now. If not now, then when?

"Never assume we will live forever. Treasure your time with yourself and your loved ones. Surround yourself with people who love you."

Mr Chang has trained over 40,000 people across Asia. He aims to set up a $1 million cancer research trust fund from his own pocket within the next 10 years.

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