Cayden Chang was busy balancing his new business and being a first-time father, when he received a life-changing cancer diagnosis.
In May 2008, 37-year-old Cayden Chang had just become a father to a baby girl, and quit his fulltime job to begin a new business venture, an investment academy, something he spent 12 hours a day working at. Soon after, Singapore was hit by the global financial crisis
To his relief, his business began to stabilise in spite of the lingering effects of the crisis, but in July 2010, he noticed blood in his urine. He visited a general practitioner (GP), who attributed the symptoms to a urinary tract infection (UTI). After undergoing an X-ray his kidneys were certified healthy.
He was sent home with some antibiotics to stop the bleeding, but shortly after, he experienced a debilitating pain in his lower right abdomen. He underwent an ultrasound in the Accident & Emergency Department of Singapore General Hospital (SGH) which indicated the pain could be caused by a kidney stone, so he was advised to refer to a specialist at the SGH Urology Centre for further investigation.
Cayden then received the shocking results of his ultrasound: there was a tumour in his left kidney as well as a stone in the right. He was told that the best treatment option would be to surgically remove his entire left kidney and its surrounding fatty tissue.
From denial to action
At just 39 years old and balancing new work and family responsibilities, cancer was the farthest thing from Cayden’s mind.
“I was in denial at first and threw myself into work to distract myself. But at bedtime, I would be overcome with feelings of dread and anger, and sometimes cried myself to sleep. After about a week, I was finally able to control my emotions and reframed my thoughts to objectively focus on my treatment options,” shares Cayden.
After undergoing the major surgery, Cayden spent four days in the high-dependency ward, during which time he was in constant pain and lost 10kg due to a restricted diet. He spent a few more days in the normal ward before being discharged.
Although his computerized tomography (CT) scan on a follow-up visit showed that he was cancer-free, he was concerned about being misdiagnosed again. He eventually convinced the oncologist at the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) to conduct a blood test for him every six months and a CT scan once a year.
Two more surgeries
Four years later during a routine blood test, Cayden’s oncologist noticed that his markers were elevated, indicating that his cancer may have returned, and immediately ordered a CT scan.
The scan confirmed the presence of two tumours: the first was in the middle of the ureter, which had previously connected the removed kidney to the urinary bladder, and the second was at the base of the ureter and surface of the bladder.
He underwent a second major surgery to remove the ureter and surface of the urinary bladder. Fortunately, his recovery was much faster this time around and he was discharged after only five days in the normal ward.
Cayden was diagnosed with Stage IV renal cancer, as the cancer had metastasised.
“The oncologist told me that I was one in about 50 people around the world with a very rare type of renal cancer, called ‘downward-travelling renal cancer’. Instead of travelling upwards to the lungs, brain, blood or bones, my cancer had travelled downwards along the urinary tract, which had significantly lowered my risk of dying,” he says.
He returned to NCSS and requested for an annual positron emission tomography (PET) scan, which is more sensitive in detecting cancers than a CT scan. He also underwent blood tests once every three months.
Then in 2019, another tumour was detected in his bladder following a PET and ultrasound scan – he now had bladder cancer! Fortunately this time, thanks in part to early detection, the procedure to remove the tumour was less complicated than his previous surgeries, and the recovery significantly quicker and less painful.
Living in the moment
Since being diagnosed with cancer, Cayden’s way of life has changed. He has cut down on red meat, consumes less rice and more greens, and takes better care of his mental health by practising mindfulness.
“I have learned to live in the present moment; savouring simple things like a cup of coffee, or spending time with my children and wife, as I know that my time could be up at any moment. On the other hand, it also pushes me to work harder to secure a future for my family,” he shares.
Cayden continues to go for regular blood tests every six months with NCSS, as well as a PET scan and ultrasound once a year, and has become a strong advocate of regular screening. He advises those above 40, particularly those with a family history of cancer to undergo cancer screening.
He has also written three books about his journey with cancer and investing, and proceeds from the book sales are channelled towards supporting cancer research at NCSS.