In November 1999, when she was
70-years-old, Margaret Wong's doctor removed a malignant tumour from her breast. Today, she is paddling on a
dragon boat team and winning races.
Wong, who was born in Canada of
Chinese parents, has raced at least nine times in the last two years. Last year,
her team won second place by 4/10ths of a second in New York City's Liberty
International Dragon Boat Festival. It was competing in the Breast Cancer Challenge Cup.
That achievement was only one of
several personal victories that probably wouldn't have happened if she hadn't
had one of the most frightening of ill-
nesses. "After surviving cancer," she
says, "I am no longer afraid." She now
grabs opportunities compulsively to do things she never had the nerve to do
before. "I don't know when my body will stop functioning. I want to do it all now."
Wong's worse experience was when
her doctor informed her about the
cancer. She was devastated and didn't believe him since she ate well and didn't drink or smoke. After getting a
second medical opinion, she wondered if she had done something to bring it
on herself. She thought she was the only person with it.
At first she was afraid to tell anyone.
"Chinese people are like that," she
explains. "They don't want anyone
else to know about a dreadful disease in a private part of the body."
It was when she needed help to
get treatment that she had to tell
her husband who reacted calmly and
was extremely supportive. She later
admitted she was wrong not to let
him know from the outset of all the
anxieties she went through alone.
After spending time with other
cancer patients, her attitude towards
her illness changed. "It was so liberat-
ing," she insists. "Talking about it was
Once a shy, quiet, self-effacing
woman, Wong doesn't seem to realize
what an inspiration she is for other
seniors. She started taking piano and
skiing lessons and is aching for more.
She used a walker when she started
ice skating but can now zip across
the ice on her own.
She's also now more aware other
world. "I notice things I never did
before, like birds chirping and the
beauty of a sunset. People tell me I
look wonderful. Other dragon boaters
ask how old I am. They never did
that before. Life has continued in
fuller force than before cancer."
Ruth Lor Malloy is a freelance writer and photographer based in Toronto,
Ms. Malloy is author of "China Guide" a regularly updated travel
guidebook on China.