Some of my biggest insecurities while growing up stem from the uncertainties that lay ahead in life. Life seemed so unpredictable; I never knew if I'd graduate from high school, let alone college, if my friends would continue to like me, if I'd find a wife, or even if I'd live past the age of 30.
Being raised in a Catholic family, going to Mass every Sunday, even faithfully saying my prayers every night before bedtime, I was well aware that the uncertainties of life were part and parcel of God's handiwork. I just didn't know if I could trust that He had my best in mind.
I attended Catholic elementary and high schools in Malaysia, where I grew up. I moved to Adelaide, Australia, in 1982 to attend my final two years of high school, also in a Catholic school. The uncertainty of a new environment took its toll on my spirits. Through friendships with Christian international students, I started reading the Bible on my own and attending weekly fellowship meetings.Though I had often prayed to God ever since I was a child, I did not have an intimate relationship with Him, nor did I know much of what was written in the Bible.
But through learning I realized the possibility of a personal and intimate relationship with God through Christ. I yearned for this relationship, committing my life and future to Him with the knowledge of His faithfulness that I came to know through the Bible.
All through my years of college and graduate school, I continued to grow in my spiritual walk with Christ, deepening my personal relationship with Him, and trusting Him for everything. I served actively in several Christian leadership and ministry roles. I married Yat-Yee in 1988. (We now have two grown children.)
I received my Ph.D. from Princeton in 1991, and joined Purdue University as a professor. The uncertainties of life no longer seemed like such a big deal. I knew that God always has my best in mind.
In early 1994, I woke up one morning to find a lump in my right leg. Due to various circumstances, it was not until May 1994 that I was diagnosed with a sarcoma, a relatively rare form of cancer. The published prognosis for my particular type and stage of tumor was not bright: less than a 25% five-year survivorship. I was 28 years old.
My cancer treatment that followed lasted more than seven intensive months, with several surgical procedures, including an operation to remove one of my right quadriceps, physical therapy to help me use my leg again, followed by radiation therapy, and finally chemotherapy.
This ordeal was arguably more difficult to endure for my wife, Yat-Yee, and my family than it was for me. During my treatments, a complication with a catheter that was used to deliver chemotherapy drugs into my heart developed into a condition known as septic shock. I spent several days in the intensive care unit, where doctors monitored my internal organs for possible permanent damage.
While I have no direct memory of the incident (except my stay at the intensive care unit), I was later told that my chance of survival through that event was only 50%, with a risk, even if I survived, of permanent damage to the heart, lung, liver, kidney, and brain. (My colleagues think that the brain damage is most apparent; don't believe them!)
For 15 years after my cancer diagnosis, I was free of cancer, at least practically. But in 2009, the cancer returned. This time the surgical invervention led to removing my knee and over half of my femur. In its place, an endoprosthetic device was implanted, so my functionality was adversely affected. The chemotherapy was also more toxic. In the years that followed, the endoprosthesis was chronically infected. To address this unsustainable condition, in 2018 my right leg was amputatedat at the thigh. I now function using a prosthetic leg with a sophisticated computer-controlled knee. Very cool but very expensive.
It seems strange that through all my trial and tribulations I never thought to ask "why." Indeed, "why not" seemed a more appropriate response. I don't have a rigorous explanation for this, but I think it helped me to maintain my faith.
Life is unpredictable, and I can live with that because of the person of Jesus Christ. He has my best in mind; only God knows what that truly means. All I know is that I trust Him with my life, a life that is eternal, a gift from Him.
If you want to know more about me, feel free to see my personal webpage at CSU: