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Andrew Hui: I’m 32 and I’m Dying

Editor’s Note: Andrew passed away peacefully at 11:25 p.m. (Singapore time) on 31 August 2019. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.

 

Images By Andrew Hui
Written By Janice Tai, Singapore 

At 32, Andrew Hui now has an estimated two to three months left to live.

His latest treatment option of radiation was ceased a month ago after it was deemed no longer effective in controlling the spread of the cancer cells in his body. Since then, the tumor has been growing rapidly, and the lymphoma has spread to almost every critical organ and is pressing against important blood vessels.

Despite having just a month or so left where he would still be conscious and lucid, Andrew enthusiastically made time for this interview  at the hospital before being discharged back home to be made comfortable on palliative care as death looms.

“I want to encourage people to trust in God during the darkest points of their lives,” he said.

 

A Shocking Discovery

Andrew hadn’t always viewed his condition this way. It took months of wrestling before he was able to reach this stage of peace and acceptance towards his prognosis—which came as a bolt from the blue last June.

Doctors had found out about the cancer in his body during a visit Andrew had made to the hospital’s emergency department one night because he was running a high fever. X-ray tests showed signs of a tumor growth in the upper part of his chest. Further biopsy tests identified it as Stage 1 Aggressive Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Yet, doctors were confident that his was not a complicated case and had even told him that 90 per cent of people who had this cancer at this stage have been cured.

So Andrew put his hope in probability and medical science, presuming that his treatment would be like a few months of “holiday”, and confident that he would recover soon enough.

But he was in the 10 per cent.

Undergoing six rounds of R-EPOCH therapy, a form of chemotherapy, did not help him.

So doctors gunned for a stronger form of chemo—RICE therapy. This time, they said, some 70 to 80 per cent would successfully have their cancer treated by it.

Again, he went for four rounds of treatment but was found to be in the 20 to 30 per cent of people for whom this treatment did not work.

He was next put on immunotherapy which was deemed to be suitable for 99 per cent of patients.

Andrew, however, once again found himself in the one per cent deemed unsuitable for the treatment due to the severe side effects that emerged.

“This is as straightforward a message you could get from God, don’t you think so?” Andrew said matter-of-factly, with a laugh and a glint in his eye.

“I had placed my faith in medical science and when that failed, He has shown me I need to drastically change my perspective and fall back on Him totally,” he added.

 

A Time of Questioning

Despite being a believer from young and one who actively served in church as a musician and leader, Andrew wrestled with God over his sickness earlier this year.

Why me? 

Andrew was not one who was careless with his diet or lifestyle.

The young banker did not drink or smoke. Instead, he would have salads for lunch five days a week and frequently head to the gym after work.

Why now?

His questions to God piled up thick and fast. “I have barely fulfilled 10 per cent of my dreams and I thought You would be able to use me to a greater extent. I have been serving in church for 20 years and this is the way I am to go? This is how You tell the world that you care for Your servant?”

In his anger and disappointment with God, Andrew also lashed out at other Christians.

“They proclaimed or declared healing on me as they believed that by His stripes, God has carried our pain and bore it all (Isaiah 53:5). But I can’t reconcile it with the fact that I am not only not healed but also getting worse. It gave me false hope. So I scolded them and shut them out,” said Andrew.

“The way I see it, if He chooses to heal me, then his task for me on earth is not done. If I am not healed, then it is time for me to go home, so either way it is a win-win situation.”

Part of Andrew’s struggle and despair also stemmed from the fact that he was in a lot of pain.

He had to deal with nausea, lethargy, and hair loss, and many a time he would throw up so violently that his stomach contents would hit the wall.

Bad coughing fits would leave him curling up into a ball on his bed and his heart would shatter whenever he saw his mother crying by his bedside.

 

Andrew with his mum in Jeju in December 2018. This was his last overseas holiday. 

Andrew with his family members, including his niece Naomi, in April 2019.

 

A Turning Point

However, a profound sense of peace and acceptance of death came when Andrew’s view  of God shifted.

“I have always viewed His sovereignty over my life as something that can’t be questioned. He can do as He likes and pleases, and we have no right to ask for, say favor, unless He gives it. I saw His sovereignty as judicious and high and mighty,” said Andrew.

“But later I realized that the way He expresses His sovereignty is through love. What is happening to me may not be good but He is good and His sovereignty is seen in how He carries me through the storms in life,” he added.

One of the verses that has helped Andrew arrive at this understanding is Ephesians 3:17-18, which says, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”

His trust in God’s love and sovereignty has cast out any fear he used to have in facing his mortality.

“I have zero fear of death now. When I close my eyes for the last time, I am more certain about being with Him than I can have in boarding a plane and being assured of reaching my destination,” said Andrew, who worships at St. Matthew’s church.

“That is the certainty I cling on to. Without that, if God or Jesus didn’t exist, I would have committed suicide because then all my hope is gone and there is no point or meaning to life,” he added.

He is also immensely grateful for having a church family who fasted, prayed, and cried with him throughout his period of illness. Many volunteered to buy food for him or to drive him to and from his home and the hospital.

 

Andrew with his accapella group, reaching out to grassroots organizations during one of their carolling sessions.

 

A Dying to Self

Though Andrew was born into a Christian family and grew up in church, he only truly “came to faith” or owned his faith when he was 16.

He was in a Boys’ Brigade service in chapel one day and the lyrics of the song “So You Would Come” touched him immensely:

Nothing you can do
Could make Him love you more
And nothing that you’ve done
Could make Him close the door

These words pierced Andrew’s heart as he used to throw himself into doing good works or serving in church to try to atone for his sins.

The lyrics of the song gave Andrew a sense of freedom as he began to realize that God loves him and that he did not need to do anything to earn it. It also gave him the hope that despite his sins, God will never close the door on him.

But the journey since then hadn’t always been smooth-sailing.

Though he majored in communications and media studies, he joined the banking sector after graduation as it was more financially lucrative.

The number-crunching did not interest or excite him, but he had put money above fulfilment then as he loved to travel to experience different cultures and food. He also wanted to support the church by funding its missions work.

So Andrew worked long hours to climb up the corporate ladder and 12-hour workdays were the norm. His last position was as a manager in private banking.

But what he learned at the age of 16 never completely left him. The peace that comes with being convicted of God’s full acceptance and love for him, said Andrew, is the same peace that guards his heart now that he faces a larger battle of faith in confronting death.

Andrew and friends helping to plant a children’s shelter in Banchang, Thailand.

 

A Blessing Through Faith

Besides having the assurance of peace and knowing that he will meet Jesus in heaven after he dies, Andrew said his faith also makes a difference in mitigating his present pain.

“When I call out to him for help at night because of the pain, I find that the pain lessens when I focus on God and I will fall into deep sleep after that,” said Andrew.

Andrew’s faith has also enabled him to see the blessings that have arisen out of his illness, such as being able to know when he is going to die, and to be able to die without pain.

“This is so that I can prepare for death and say what I need to say and do what I need to do.

The pain medication and palliative care also enables me to be comfortable and die with a smile on my face,” he said.

Lately he has been able to talk to his parents about topics such as what they would be doing when he is gone and what they would use his room for.

“It is a blessing to be able to have such conversations because then there will be closure for them as well,” said Andrew, who is preparing a “death box” that contains all his farewell messages to his loved ones and friends.

“I don’t believe in having sad funerals. I want mine to be happy and I also want to have a gathering now when I am around to thank and affirm people who are important to me and enjoy good food together,” said Andrew, who enjoys cooking, and used to cook anything from kaya to sambal to mooncakes for church fundraisers.

These days, he finds himself not really thinking about death, but about “short-term” things such as his craving for tulang, or bone marrow soup.

One unrealized dream he has is to set up a soup kitchen with his two close friends for migrant workers or anyone who needs a meal.

“If I were to live my life again, I think the only part I would change is perhaps going into social service because that may bring more of a difference to the lives of others. But then again, I don’t know. I am who I am today because of all the moments in the past that shaped me,” said Andrew, who has a father with polio.

 

A Final Wish

His greatest wish now is to reconnect with people in his life, such as his primary and secondary school friends whom he has lost touch with.

When asked why he prioritizes his precious time with people he is not close to, Andrew said his heart is for them to come to know the peace that they can have through Christ.

“Whether they are busy working adults or battling their own problems, I want to share this peace that I have with them. So that when they come to the end of their lives, which may happen any time, they would know of a peace that money or toil or relationships or health or wealth cannot bring,” said Andrew.

“I want them to not hear of me as just someone who died, but a person who is waiting to welcome them in heaven and who desires to see them again in heaven.”

 

Screenshot of Andrew’s Facebook status on 16 August 2019

Want to let Andrew’s family know how his story has impacted you? Leave a comment below with a prayer or word of encouragement!

Christchurch Shootings: Hope Amidst Tragedy

Screenshot taken from Guardian News Video

 

I spent most of the weekend in a gloomy stupor as I recalled the horrific incident that had fallen on Christchurch.

On Friday afternoon, 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant had opened fire in two Christchurch mosques, resulting in the deaths of 50 people, and injuring another 40. The youngest victim, Mucad Ibrahim, was just three years old. Tarrant has since been charged with murder, and is held in custody until April.

While I was not personally affected by the shootings, as I live in Auckland, I was stunned that my beautiful country, New Zealand, would be the target of such a hate crime.

I had first learned of the shooting while scrolling my Facebook feed, and the opening line of a post by a New Zealand Christian radio station, Life FM, caught my eye.

“Absolutely devastated to hear about the mass shootings in Christchurch today,” the post read. My brain grinded to a halt at the words “mass shooting” and “Christchurch”. I refreshed my news feed twice to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. Part of me felt like I was living in a bad dream, yet another part of me knew that what I was reading was very real.

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden called the attacks “New Zealand’s darkest day”. And in the wake of this tragedy, the entire nation has come together to mourn. Radio stations were in a sombre mood, with DJs expressing their outrage at Friday afternoon’s event. Callers to the radio station texted their messages of sympathy to the victims and their families, with many saying they “did not know what to do” with themselves in the aftermath of such a tragedy.

Vigils were held across the country, while public performances and concerts were cancelled. A donation page on Give A Little has been set up for the victims, and $5.5 million has been collected to date. Auckland’s St Matthew’s church lit 50 candles and rung the bells 50 times for the victims of the mosque attacks.

Yet amid the darkness, stories of hope and courage have emerged over the last 48 hours. It warmed my heart to hear that messages of condolences and support for New Zealand were pouring in from around the globe, and that churches all over the world also took time to pray for the victims and their families.

One story that stood out to me was the one about Andrew Graystone from Manchester, who stood outside his local mosque during their Friday prayers in solidarity with the Christchurch victims. He held a plaque that read, “You are my friends, I will keep watch while you pray”.

Stories such as these remind us both of the horrifying reality of the world we live in—and the goodness that still abounds in the hearts of men. They remind us how much we all need that glimmer of hope to light up the darkness we see around us.

Even as news of the rising death tolls have been trickling in, I’ve also seen my friends find hope in the self-sacrificial acts of those who attempted to do all they could to save others. The New Zealand Herald tells of 48-year-old Abdul Aziz, who ran after the gunman with a credit card machine (it was the first thing he could find) while screaming “Come here!” at the offender.

Survivor of the attack, Ali Adeeba, told the BBC how his dad had taken a bullet for him: “A [bullet] went past my face and it burned my face. It didn’t even touch me, but it burned, so I could only feel for the people that got shot by them.” His dad is now in an induced coma.

Sadly, some of them died while trying to save others. According to the BBC, Daoud Nabi, 71, was the first of the victims to be identified, and he was believed to have thrown himself in front of other people in the mosque to protect them when the gunman burst in.

These stories inspire and give us hope because we feel defenseless and rattled in the face of such horrors—and there’s comfort in knowing that we’re not fighting this alone. As Christians, we also know of someone who sacrificed His life so that none of us will have to fear death—Jesus Christ. Because of His death and resurrection, we now bear the hope that regardless of what happens in the world around us, He is our “refuge and strength” (Psalm 46:1). And one day He will “wipe every tear”, and there will be “no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:4).

How then can we comfort others with the hope that we have during this time of grief, heartache, and uncertainty? A verse that is close to my heart is Psalm 34:18, which says that God is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

As a fellow immigrant, I cannot imagine what it must be like to move to a new country in hopes of a better life, only to have it snatched away in one senseless act of cruelty. I can only imagine that it must be a terrifying time for these victims and their families.

It is incredibly hard to make sense of this cold-blooded act, and while not all of us may be in a position to help out physically or financially, we can mourn with those who mourn, and pray for God’s peace and strength to be upon the victims and their families.

Don’t Let Depression Define You

Editor’s Note: This article contains details of the author’s struggle with depression and self-harm.

The first few years, it was simply a sudden and unexpected heaviness of heart and mind. The feeling of being stuck in thick darkness and finding no safety. But it was overwhelming.

Losing control of my mind, seeing fear take over. Despair settling in. Hopelessness filling my heart.

I felt empty. I could see, but without understanding or emotion.

I was walking in a haze, just mindlessly going with the flow.

What I could feel was only confusion.

I passed each day confined to my mind. Depression suffocating my thoughts. It pulled the shades down on any window I encountered that might offer me a view of hope or a future. Sometimes it felt like there was no escape from the emptiness of my mind. I carried the heaviness of absence everywhere I went. But, I still wanted to have a normal, happy life.

Deep, deep down I knew there are wonders to be discovered, there is a future to behold, a purpose to fulfill. I wanted to be there to experience it all.

“But who am I? What am I even worth?” I could no longer see purpose and direction, my vision had been blurred by the fog.

I reached the climax this year, in 2018.

Clenching my head with both hands, I yelled for it to stop, to leave me alone. But the darkness became even more unbearable, circling and enclosing me tighter and tighter. I craved for escape and relief, but felt bound to fear. Unable to even cry out.

Only one solution floated through my mind, sly and intoxicating. A voice repeating over and over, “Hurt yourself, hurt yourself.”

I didn’t recognize this voice, but it taunted me and would not desist until it was obeyed. As my mind slowly gave in, it became enraptured with an obsessive urge to hurt myself. To end my life. Now there was only the desire of freedom from the ties of this pressing darkness.

25 cuts.

The pain was terrifying, but I could not stop , I needed to escape from what had become a mental prison.

25 glides.

The blade ran across my skin, one long etch after another. “This isn’t truly what I want, it can’t be.” I’m someone who has wanted to live life to the fullest, embracing all that’s grand and extraordinary.

25 slashes.

“This can’t be the answer. Where is God?” I knew I needed help, and I desperately wanted it from Him. I knew He could help. But would He still listen?

Countless tears.

I look up, unable to call out, unable to see clearly, unable to feel much in my heart.

Then all of the sudden, a picture of a rope came into my mind. A hope to latch onto—Calling on His Name.

His holy, almighty Name.

The truest, most sincere cry arose from my heart. I couldn’t speak, my crying had turned to convulsions. But surely, even then He could hear me.

I felt a presence near me.

A presence greater than any other I’d felt. The room no longer seemed as if it were closing in. A breath of fresh air began flowing through me.

“Jesus, Jesus,” whispered my heart, “save me.”

And then, I saw again. I could feel again. Freedom. Release. Renewal. Peace. Purpose. The words came rushing in. Not from the voice before that was speaking harm, but a voice of truth and salvation. A voice of power and authority over all darkness and fear.

A voice that made the darkness flee and light burst in. All at the mere mention of its name. A voice my soul recognized as the only one worth listening to.

The voice of my King, my Lord, my Father.

 

…do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior… (Isaiah 43:1-3)

 

Worth lies in Him (Luke 12:7). Purpose comes from Him (1 Peter 2:9). Strength is found in Him (Psalm 46:1). Peace flows from Him (Philippians 4:7). I am first and foremost His (1 John 3:1). I belong, for I am loved (Jeremiah 31:1).

I am loved. Deeply and passionately. His own scars prove it. His own marks show my value (1 Peter 2:24).

My gaze need not be on my self-inflicted scars, but rather resting on the illustrious glory of my Savior and the wounds He already bore in my place to give me life.

The depths of His love far surpass any darkness or fear.

How deep, how wide, how high is His love for us (Ephesians 3:18). For me. For you.

What beautiful, never-ending, unfailing, infinite love.

This is my story. It’s not an ending, but rather a beginning of renewed hope and joy. God restores and God redeems. Take courage.

As Christmas draws near, allow the word “hope” to resound in your mind. Allow it to manifest itself all the way into your heart and your soul. That is what Christ was born for, to bring hope. You have hope in Him as your powerful Savior and loving Father.

 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (1 Peter 1:3-6)

 

*In 2014, I started battling depression. In 2015, anxiety entered the picture. But it wasn’t until the end of 2017 that I finally got professional help and in 2018, was diagnosed with clinical depression and social anxiety. With the help of a wonderful Christian counselor as well as a Christian psychiatrist, I hopped on the road to recovery through medication and a renewed understanding of God’s love for me.

I recognize the need to fight depression both on the spiritual and biological front. This is so important for anyone struggling with mental illness to understand .

This doesn’t mean I’ll never experience hardship again. And taking medication is not the permanent solution, I could struggle with mental illness the rest of my life. Or not. I don’t know.

But even in the darkest moments, God never leaves me. And He will never leave you.

It’s okay to reach out and ask for help, both from Him and from people you trust. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting help to live a better, healthier life.

At the end of the day though, remember and hold on to the fact that God is your hope. He will always make a way forward.

I Just Wanted A Restart

Editor’s Note: This article includes details about the author’s suicidal attempts. 

Written By Shu Huan, Malaysia, Originally In Simplified Chinese

It was not the first time I tried to end my own life.

It was as if I had sunk into a sea of emptiness. In despair, all I could do was curl up in a ball, hold my breath, and hope that life—and my pain—would end quickly. But my willpower could not overcome my body’s survival instincts. I held my breath until the most unbearable moment, but then my tightened muscles loosened, and breath returned.

On that cold and lonely night, I cried until my voice was gone. But nobody would ever know. Nobody would ever care.

From a young age, throwing tantrums, yelling loudly, and bullying my brother were staples of my life. I had “second-child syndrome,” and always felt that I was the child with the fewest achievements, so I was the least respected by my parents. My grades were not as good as my younger brother’s, and my extracurricular activities were not as impressive as my older sister’s.

Because of my low self-esteem, I would resort to extreme words and actions to express my displeasure at the smallest things. This wore my parents out. Even if they angrily beat or scolded me, I would do the same things again the next day.

As I entered the rebellious stage of adolescence, I was always ill-tempered at home, often blaming my strict father of few words and my often angry mother. Even though I had many friends around me, I felt like there was a bottomless dark hole in my heart.

The emptiness I felt could not be filled by any amount of laughter or jokes. Everyday I went to school, and after school went to tutoring and extracurricular activities. . . Life looked busy, but it was all so meaningless. All this prompted me to wonder about the meaning of life, and eventually I started thinking about ending my life.

Various plans circled in my mind. I once motioned a razor over my wrist, but could not bring myself to cut down on it. I also tried suffocating myself under the blankets, but ultimately gave up. The furthest I went was when I grabbed some rope and was going to hang myself from a tree right in front my mother, much to her frustration.

Naively, I thought that after death I would be reincarnated, and could start anew with a whole new family and environment.

 

The Truth That Transformed My Life

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

At some point—I forget when—I started receiving a gospel publication for young people every month. Flipping through the fresh designs and rich content of the booklets, I was introduced to Christianity. As I read more about it, I realized that what awaits us after death is judgment, not reincarnation. Everyone will be responsible for their own actions carried out during their life on earth, and must give an account of it before the God who gave us our lives.

Once I started thinking about all the mistakes I made—all the ways I hurt people who loved me— I knew that if I really took my own life, I would face great punishment. I trembled in my heart.

Thankfully, God had mercy on my weakness, and had stopped me each time I tried to carry out my plans of suicide. Not only that,  the knowledge that He even sent His only son Jesus to the world, who willingly sacrificed Himself on the cross to wash away my sins so I may be reconciled with God drew my attention. I was amazed at God’s promise that anyone who believes in and follows Jesus can build a relationship with God and enjoy Him throughout our lives. This was such incredibly wonderful news!

And so, I became interested in getting to know this God better. However, I was worried about my parents’ disapproval, so I didn’t go to church even though I wanted to.

But one day, my older sister committed her life to Christ under the guidance of a friend, and I had the opportunity to follow my sister to church. On that day, I accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord of my life.

I have now been a Christian for many years. The precious truths in the Bible have led me out of a life of self-blame and self-pity. God’s words have refreshed my soul (Psalm 23:1-3), and reshaped my worldview. I realized that my existence was not a mistake, but my life was purposefully knit together by a God who loves me.

Because of the life I now have in Christ, He watches over every step and decision I make. Whenever I start comparing myself with others again, or falling into depression and loneliness, the words of the Bible are like a soft voice by my ear, calming my distressed heart.

 

We Only Have One Chance At Life

In my father’s family, there is a history of systemic lupus erythematosus (also known as lupus). Sadly, my cousin, was also diagnosed with lupus at the age of 19. Her health declined quickly, and she needed to be on dialysis.

Even though she had to quit school because of her health, she still achieved top grades in the Malaysian Certificate of Education exam (an exam Malaysian students take at the end of high school). But her health worsened quicker than anticipated.

While her peers were preparing for college, she was sent to the hospital for major surgery after major surgery. She was so sick she could not eat, and became thinner by the day. In the end, she could not overcome the disease, and breathed her last while in the hospital. So her short and difficult life came to a close.

As we said goodbye to my cousin, my family and friends all felt that it was such a pity that she had such a short life. Her departure once again reminded us of the preciousness of life and how life, once it’s lost, cannot be regained.

Thinking back on how lightly I treated my own life, I feel incredibly ashamed. Even though we can’t control the circumstances and difficulties we face, but we can decide how we choose to respond to them. When I look back at my past, I cannot imagine where I might be today if God had not led me to Himself. Perhaps I would be like a withered leaf, wandering in the vast ocean of life, searching in vain for the meaning of my existence.

My suicidal attempts helped me realize that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” but Jesus came that we may have life, “and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Even when we find it difficult to accept ourselves, God’s Word assures us that He values us and desires to offer us the hope of new life.

If your life feels empty and meaningless, and you’ve been entertaining thoughts of suicide, will you choose to take up His offer today?