Every one in three people within his or her lifetime, in a developed society such as Singapore, will develop cancer. Almost 30% of Singaporeans will die of cancer. Cancer is a clear and present danger. A head-in-the-sand attitude of trying to avoid the dreaded subject will no longer do.
And yet, the task of gaining a better understanding of cancer is formidable. Intensive research into cancer over the years has built up a wealth of knowledge. Obtaining a good understanding of the subject requires one to peel through layer upon layer of complexity.
Any book written to present the story of cancer to readers outside the trained medical profession has to walk the tightrope between over-indulgence and over-simplification. Over-indulgence in details and complexities risks making an already complex topic more befuddling to readers. Over-simplification leads to misunderstanding and trivialises a subject worthy of more serious treatment.
This book is a sincere attempt at such a daunting task. It is the culmination of the experience I gained over a period of more than two decades, explaining the subject of cancer to patients and their families in day-to-day clinic sessions, to the general public in public lectures and seminars, as well as to the general readership of my columns in newspapers.
It was my repeated attempts to explain the complexities of cancer that led me to realise the power of analogies and metaphors.
Analogies and metaphors cast illumination on difficult to grasp concepts in cancer like no others. Readers will see the topic in new light with undoubtedly many oh-my moments.
Analogies and metaphors also have the uncanny ability to make the new understanding and information stick to the memory, again, like no others.
Apart from the generous use of analogies and metaphors in the chapters to follow, I have peppered the book with personal anecdotes and stories of patients who have fought cancer, to put a human face to the subject. After all, our interest in the topic of cancer stems, not from the academic aspects, but from the fact that we ourselves are individuals at risk. Even if we need not face cancer ourselves, we would invariably have had a loved one or acquaintance who had to confront such a catastrophe.
Finally, I would like to dedicate this book to all my patients and their families, whose courage in their battle against cancer never cease to be an inspiration in everything that I do, everyday.
Dr. Wong Seng Weng