Malaysian cancer survivor Zaki bin Yahya said he feels grateful that Allah the Almighty blessed him with cancer. He acknowledged that this might be strange to most people, who are afraid to be diagnosed with the disease. But Zaki saw it as a call from Allah the Almigthy to meet cancer survivors and patients to show his support in the fight against cancer.
Zaki, who is currently on a mission to cycle thousands of kilometres from peninsular Malaysia to Brunei Darussalam and Sabah to give support to cancer patients and survivors under his campaign ‘Jelajah Ziarah Sahabat Kanser 1 Borneo’, recently arrived at Pantai Jerudong Specialist Centre (PJSC) for a meet and greet session with cancer survivors and patients in Brunei.
High Commissioner of Malaysia to Brunei Darussalam Dato’ Raja Reza bin Raja Zaib Shah and spouse Datin Roslina binti Ismail, along with PJSC Executive Director Dr Haji Mazrul Adimin bin Haji Awang Besar welcomed him.
Zaki recalled his battle against cancer when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 nasopharyngeal cancer in 2017. Doctors gave him two years to live without treatment.
He chose to receive treatment, which included 35 chemotherapy and 35 radiotherapy sessions. He lost 48 kilogrammes from losing his appetite and became paralysed.
He lost the ability to take care of himself for almost a year, without a job and source of income.
However, he said, “I am grateful that Allah the Almighty has blessed me with this disease. Why am I thankful?
“Because even though I thought I lost everything, I didn’t lose my family. I became more grateful because Allah the Almighty has blessed me with rezeki (sustenance).”
Zaki was quick to remind the audience that rezeki can come in different forms. “When I say rezeki, someone must think, ‘Wow, Zaki must be rich now.’ Why is this? When you say rezeki, people immediately think of money and property,” he said.
“No, the rezeki that Allah the Almighty gave me is to meet friends who share the same fate and support my efforts like today.”
He said meeting and getting to know fellow cancer patients was what motivated him.
“What gave me strength for my battle? Am I superhuman? No, I am not Superman – I don’t want to wear Superman’s clothes.
“I am just a normal person who has been through what other cancer patients have gone through.
“Maybe I have experienced more than some, but maybe other patients have also gone through worse than me.”
Zaki also reiterated the importance of accepting the cancer diagnosis rather than being in denial or giving up. “Cancer has been a turning point in my life. I have accepted it. Acceptance doesn’t mean giving up – when we accept what has happened, we feel at peace.
“After acceptance, we need strength. Strength comes from our family, friends, medical personnel and the community at large.”
But Zaki’s cycling campaign has not all been easy riding.
“Whatever we want to do, even if our spirit is as high as Mount Everest, we must measure our own abilities,” he said.
He recalled an episode two days before arriving in Brunei, while climbing the Carey Island bridge to Kampung Sawah in Selangor, “I felt tired and a pain in my chest like never before. I wanted to give up.
“But I didn’t. I felt strength in wanting to unite cancer patients and survivors. Perhaps I am stubborn.”
Fortunately it was not a serious incident and after a few minutes of rest, he could continue cycling at a slow pace.
He added, “The reason I want to cycle thousands of kilometres from peninsular Malaysia to Borneo is for one cause – I want to share with people that cancer is not the end in life but a start to a better and meaningful one.
“I cycle and travel with one purpose – to support to all cancer patients and survivors. I’m not simply chasing achievements of how many thousands of kilometres or how many countries I can cycle through.”
He reminded patients and survivors that they do not need to exactly follow his method to campaign for cancer support.
“I do not ask people to follow what I am doing. I cycle because this is my therapy. I can release my pain when I cycle. It gives me motivation and I can support my friends who share the same fate.
He added, “I live by the motto ‘Cancer is without border’. It does not discriminate between race, religion, age and position. Cancer patients need support from everyone.
“Perhaps today may be my last ride, but not my final journey.
“Even if your support only saves one life, you can make one entire family happy.”