Update on Medical Condition (17th April)
by Preacher James Tan
Greetings in the name of Christ! I am thankful for the prayers and concern of many throughout these few weeks, and for the gracious support. It has been quite a tiring and sudden shift to be back in Singapore, nonetheless the Lord has been gracious and merciful. I thought that it might be good to give an account and update of the situation, and all the more, to give glory to the Lord in testimony.

Initial Diagnosis
The initial diagnosis was made by Dr Chung, and Dr Lee, both experienced Korean specialist doctors, as they came to BCEA to provide free check-ups. On the ultra-sound screening I was found to have a 1cm nodule in my thyroid. Under the doctors’ advisement, they strongly urged me to go back immediately, as they saw that the nodule seemed to be pushing out into the surrounding tissue, with a high chance of malignancy. The missionaries in BCEA (of which some have gone through thyroid issues before), likewise strongly advised me to go, and not wait till my scheduled return in July.

Medical Consultation
As I informed the church, family and a few close friends, a friend, under advisement from two other doctors from another B-P church, advised that going through the public healthcare system here will take some time, with no real assurance of how soon I can get an appointment with a specialist. It can be weeks or months before the system allows any proper treatment to be done.

Understanding that my time frame is limited to this month-long vacation, I was advised by the doctors to seek private consultation first for a quick and accurate diagnosis, and if the situation is not too serious or urgent, I could always go to the public health care system after that for any follow up treatment. Under their recommendation, I was referred to my current specialist and surgeon.

Confirmed Diagnosis
The first visit was on 4th April, Wednesday. Based on a tiny photo of the portable ultrasound machine’s screen, the specialist was able to quickly assess the situation, with a similar diagnosis as Dr Chung. He was rather direct and mentioned that I have more than a 50% chance of the nodule being malignant. He was honest not to send me for any unnecessary invasive tests. The accurate ultrasound images would be sufficient in preparation for surgery.

I had the ultrasound done by a few radiologist doctors who specialise in the ENT area. The results were reviewed on 5th April, Thursday. They told me that the nature of the nodule, whether benign or malignant, will be confirmed after the surgery. The affected area of the thyroid will be removed and tested on the spot to decide the next course of action.

I was informed that most likely, the entire thyroid will be removed for safety’s sake, especially if it is malignant, due to the risk of it spreading. With that, the surgery was arranged for 10th April, Tuesday.

Doctor’s Fees
When I asked about the cost of surgery, knowing that I am a missionary based in Kenya, the doctor asked rhetorically “You don’t earn much as a missionary right?”. Before I could answer, he decided to waive his own fees entirely, including the consultation fees.

The only fees I had to pay were the hospital fees, of which he will try to secure further discounts from the hospital. He estimated the total cost to be close to $30,000, however, after waiving his own fees, he says the cost should be half of that.

At that point, I believe it would be hard, or near impossible to find such a subsidy in the public system, where a surgeon of his experience and calibre would be able to waive the fees. As such, I believe as God has somehow mysteriously moved him, without even having to ask for a discount, I thought that, it would be good to continue, and allow him to perform the surgery.

The Surgery and Recovery
I was filled very much with nervousness that morning, having only gone through minor surgery on one occasion. The Lord in His own way brought much comfort from His Word and hymns. This especially came from the previous day’s preaching at the FEBC chapel, as I shared from Philippians 4:11-13, on contentment. Dreading the unknown and future afflictions to come, I sought to remove any complaint from my heart.

“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Philippians 4:11

As the Anaesthetist came to the holding bay, it was of some comfort to find that he is a Christian from a Presbyterian church. Entering the operating theatre, he distracted my fleeting mind well, by asking me questions about the mission field, even as he was injecting the anaesthetic. One of the last memories I had before going under, was him asking me what I was thinking about, I just answered “a hymn”. He replied, “Oh, what hymn? Sing it for us!”. I mumbled “Constantly Abiding” and went under before I could finish singing the chorus.

I woke up about 3 hours later. By God’s mercy and grace, all things went well, and the recovery is going on well so far. The nodule was found to be malignant, and my entire thyroid had to be removed for safety’s sake. The surgeon had also cleared out some lymph nodes in the area. I had to be hospitalised for two extra days as they monitored and waited for my body’s calcium levels to stabilise. In the future, I will have to undergo radio-iodine treatment, depending on the specialist’s arrangement.

God’s Providence
Upon discharge, I was surprised to see the fees way below what was projected initially. As I went through the bill, I was shocked to see the Anaesthetist’s charge reduced to a token sum ($1.07!) also. There were also further discounts secured, and the government Medisave policy was able to cover two thirds of the fee. In total, the final cost was below $4000.

Concerning the hospital fees and flight back, I am very thankful for the church’s swift offer to help with the cost. During this time, the Lord has provided more than sufficient for the medical fees. I have received love gifts from my family, the church, friends and the FEBC. As such, with much thanksgiving, I will return the cost of the medical fees ($4000), into the offering bag, understanding that as the Lord gives life, and sustains, such a return is little compared to His providence, mercies and grace.

There can be no measured value in the lessons learnt throughout this period of affliction and trial. I have seen the Lord’s providential hand moving in ways that I cannot comprehend, from the initial diagnosis, to the doctors, and in others around. It is very surreal to undergo this entire process myself, an experience that numerous hospital visitations cannot provide. I am thankful that the prognosis is good, and I am hopeful that the Lord will continue to sustain in His own will. I pray that the Lord will allow me some time to recover and be strengthened to return to the mission field.

I am also very much thankful for those who visited, or wrote, and gave in love. It is also my hope that this testimony in return, will be an encouragement for all towards a life of contentment and trust in the Lord, no matter what state we might be found in. God bless!