Interview with Mohamad Basri

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When Mohamad Basri was diagnosed with Stage IV Lymphoma Cancer in September 2014, it was his positive attitude that helped save his life. Instead of wallowing in self-pity and dwelling on “why me?” Basri asked a very important question: What should I do next?

Basri heeded the advice from the doctors at JPMC and underwent six cycles of chemotherapy. Against all odds, Basri is recovering from cancer right now. He described the ups and downs of the journey during his treatment; and how his positive attitude and determination to keep himself happy helped him to win the battle against cancer.

Basri mentioned that this triumph was over a battle that “we” didn’t choose. But it was a battle that was won not by himself alone, but with the help, love and support of his wife, family, medical team and the entire community.

“There is no right moment to spend precious time with your family. The only right moment is now.”- Mohamad Basri

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Below is an excerpt of our conversation:

On a scale of 1 to 5, how happy are you now?
5! I have been given a second chance to live, how can I not be happy?

What does happiness mean to you?
Before I was diagnosed with cancer, happiness meant something very different. It was about being able to enjoy life to the max; it was about my work – which I dearly love, and about doing the things I like to do.

After going through this experience, everything changed. Now happiness to me means to appreciate and being able to surround myself with my family and having the strength and ability to care for them.

During your battle with cancer you attributed a large part of your recovery process to your positive mental attitude.

How did you manage to stay positive and happy?
The turning point came, when I surrendered myself to Allah. I said to myself, “Let’s face it once and for all.” I made a simple prayer seeking the blessing from Him and accepted that this was a huge test for me and promised myself to face it positively.

I have been very fortunate to have received wonderful support from my family throughout the journey, without which, I wouldn’t be here today. Throughout my period of chemo, I had visitors daily. Some were people in my close circles; some were colleagues and even clients. To my surprise, many of the visitors were also friends that I had not seen for a long time. It was during this very trying period that I discovered that I had so many people who cared for me. All these people gave me strength, no matter how weak I felt during that time.

As to how did I keep myself happy?

I tried to always have a good sense of humour. Some of my friends would see me in the condition I was in, and would start to weep. I remember telling them that this was not my funeral, so don’t cry. Little things like that helped to lighten up the atmosphere. I have a very outgoing personality. Very quickly, I began to make friends with the medical practitioners and fellow patients. We would frequently share experiences, encourage each other and exchange tips while waiting for our chemo sessions.

It never failed to enlighten me when I witnessed someone’s circumstances change and saw hope in their eyes after our interaction. I felt blessed to have been able to speak to others and to have given them hope and encouragement, and to have done so in a heartfelt way.

What kind of advice did you give to them?
Mentally, I would always encourage them to trust the medical team to know what they are doing; to maintain a positive attitude; and very importantly, to have hope.

One thing that worked well for me during my chemo sessions was eating dates and honey. My mouth and tongue would get really numb during the sessions, as a result, I would lose my appetite. Dates and honey helped me to taste again.

We understand that there was a blood donation plea for you that went viral around the country. Describe this experience.
Yes, my blood type is A+, which, at that time was in short supply at the hospital. At first we sent out a plea for help within our family circle and close friends. Little did we anticipate, that the word would spread on Whatsapp and that there would be lines of friends and perfect strangers from the community all at the hospital to donate blood. We were totally overwhelmed.

There was one incident when I opened my eyes to see an Indian couple standing before me. I didn’t recognize their faces, and asked if I knew them. They introduced themselves saying that they were from the Indian Association of Brunei, and that they’d heard about the blood donation plea. They just wanted to be sure that I was a real patient before donating their blood. I was touched beyond words.

You mentioned that family support played a big part in your recovery process. Can you elaborate?
My immediate family members were my caregivers throughout the treatment. My wife and my mother in particular played a huge part in my care and recovery. My wife researched everything about my condition, kept notes and never let up, even when I couldn’t keep up with all the details. They helped me to stay focused on recovery and to trust in the treatment given.

In a lot of ways, my cancer experience brought my family closer together. When my wife wasn’t there, either my parents, brothers & sisters would come over and hang out. They gave me the emotional support that was so critical to the healing process.

How has surviving cancer changed your perspective of the world?
Surviving cancer is a powerful experience. It’s very difficult to explain, but there’s a newness in life. I’m seeing and hearing things much differently. It’s been an exciting time too to think about the future—our children and our life together.

I also become close to Allah by continuously praying and by being thankful for the second chance given and now I appreciate every single day of my life.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my wife, my parents and my family who took care of me.

I would particularly like to thank the Care team at TBCC: Dato Dr Babu Sukumaran, Dr Ravi Sekhar Patnaik, medical staff Day Care Cancer Ward and the Cancer Ward.

Lastly, I would like to thank the government of His Majesty for providing the Cancer Centre Treatment in Brunei; the Management & Staff of Takaful Brunei; the blood donors who came forward to donate their blood; relatives, friends, clients, doctors & nurses at JPMC, TBCC and Ripas – for their tremendous support and continuous prayers for my continued health and well-being.

In March this year, Mohamad Basri packed his bag and went with the entire family to Lego Land in Malaysia for a retreat. His six year old boy, Bazli and nine year old girl, Bazilah asked curiously, “But aren’t we supposed to be in school?” Basri responded, “There is no right moment to spend precious time with your family. The only right moment is now.” Basri’s wife, Surina described this as one of the happiest moments of her life, even though the entire trip did not involve her favorite activity, which was shopping.

This article was published in the Apr-Jun 2015 issue of Inspire Magazine. Download it here!