Tired

SHE WAS ALSO CON­FUSED AS TO WHY HER WAIST­LINE WAS EX­PAND­ING WHEN SHE WAS FOL­LOW­ING A RIG­OR­OUS EX­ER­CISE REGIME. ON THE DAY BE­FORE HER SON’S FOURTH BIRTH­DAY, SHE HAD SOME TESTS CAR­RIED OUT TO FIND OUT IF HER DIET WAS TO BLAME. TEN HOURS LATER HER WORLD WAS

Hong Kong Tatler - - Features -

“It’s the stuff of night­mares,” Ross-tse says of that day in June 2010. “One day you’re hap­pily plan­ning your child’s birth­day party and the next you’re look­ing death in the face. Can­cer re­ally is the si­lent killer. I had no inkling as to what was go­ing on in­side me. I as­sumed I was tired be­cause of all the ex­er­cise I was do­ing, and it was mainly van­ity at my chang­ing body shape that drove me to the doc­tor. But I’ll never for­get the look on the ra­di­ol­o­gist’s face when she was per­form­ing a stan­dard ul­tra­sound on my tummy—she stopped still and said she needed to call the head of ra­di­ol­ogy im­me­di­ately. That was when I knew some­thing was wrong.”

The head of ra­di­ol­ogy iden­ti­fied a large mass on Ross-tse’s liver—hence her ex­pand­ing waist­line—and sent her for MRI and CT scans as well as nu­mer­ous blood tests, at which point Ross-tse’s hus­band, Nis­sim, ar­rived to sup­port his wife. She had been at the hos­pi­tal since 7am but it wasn’t un­til 5pm that her doc­tor fi­nally ut­tered the word they had dreaded hear­ing all day. “As soon as I heard him say ‘can­cer’, I felt my knees buckle and my whole body go cold,” says Ross-tse. “And then I turned to Nis­sim and saw his face was wet with tears.”

Ross-tse went back into hos­pi­tal the next day for an eight-hour op­er­a­tion, dur­ing which two-thirds of her liver was re­moved. With her chil­dren Zara and Zach just six and four at the time, Ross-tse was determined to keep the at­mos­phere as calm as pos­si­ble. So de­spite their own fears, she asked her par­ents and close friends, in­clud­ing Su Lee Chen, to cel­e­brate Zach’s birth­day with him and 20 of his kinder­garten friends. “My chil­dren were very young and there wasn’t enough time to ex­plain the sever­ity of the sit­u­a­tion to them,” says Ross-tse. “I’m so grate­ful to my fam­ily and friends for putting their own wor­ries aside and help­ing my kids get through that dif­fi­cult day. As I was wheeled into the op­er­at­ing theatre I kept say­ing to my­self, ‘It’s my son’s birth­day. I can’t die to­day and leave him with that le­gacy’.”

The post-op­er­a­tive pe­riod was a tense time for Ross-tse and her fam­ily and friends as they waited to hear if the sur­geons had man­aged to re­move all the can­cer­ous cells from her liver and, more im­por­tantly, whether the can­cer had spread to other parts of her body. As with many liver can­cer pa­tients, Ross-tse was un­able to have chemo­ther­apy be­cause her liver was too weak to process the pow­er­ful drugs that would flood her body. This meant that if the can­cer had spread, her chances of sur­vival would be slim to none.

“About three days af­ter the op­er­a­tion, I was ly­ing on my hos­pi­tal bed with my hus­band and par­ents around me, and the doc­tor came in to tell us the can­cer was still stage one, mean­ing it hadn’t spread any­where else in my body. Our nurse ac­tu­ally burst into tears, quickly fol­lowed by my mother and me. Other than the births of my chil­dren, I think it was prob­a­bly the hap­pi­est mo­ment of my life.”

A re­lieved Ross-tse then turned her fo­cus to the re­cov­ery process so her dam­aged liver could re­gen­er­ate it­self. The first few months were hard. She was con­stantly ex­hausted and needed to mon­i­tor her diet very closely to en­sure she was only eat­ing chem­i­cal-free, fat-

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