KUALA LUMPUR: “It was the toughest battle of my life,” says Datuk Lee Chong Wei.
Joy and relief were written all over the country’s top shuttler’s face as he declared victory in his fight against early stage nose cancer in front of a packed press conference.
It was held at the Academy Badminton Malaysia yesterday.
Clad in a Yonex tracksuit, the 36-year-old national sport icon was in high spirits, jovial and even goofed around as he faced the media for the first time since he was diagnosed in early July.
Lee recounted the two-and-a-half-month ordeal in Taiwan that he had to overcome in order to be cancer-free.
“I was devastated at first. For one week, I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat and had no direction in life.
“I asked God why it has to be me. I eventually accepted it. I know I have to be strong for my family.
“The treatment was very tough. I had to undergo proton therapy 33 times. The first week five times, second week six times ... until I completed the sessions.
“One day, it was around 25 minutes in the hospital.
“You can see my neck – it was all black because after the treatment it looks like it’s been burnt.
“I’m not so handsome now,” he added as the crowd burst into laughter.
But Lee shared that the treatment was no joke but a nightmare that he never wanted to endure again.
Due to the side effects, Lee said he could hardly speak, swallow or eat.
“I could only drink milk because if you don’t, you won’t have the energy and cannot withstand the treatment.
“I had to battle through the pain every time. I’m just so relieved that the worst is over now. I have gone through many ups and downs in my career but this is the toughest,” he added.
Through all these, Lee was not alone. He got the strength and motivation to keep at it because of support from his family and friends.
His wife, Datin Wong Mew Choo and his children – Kingston and Terrance – were by his side, and so were his parents and relatives.
“Datuk Ng (Chin Chai, BAM secretary-general) also came to visit me in Taiwan, and close friends texted me.
“There were seven doctors there who treated me.”
Lee added that BAM president Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria and other close friends also visited him at home to give him moral support to keep on fighting.
Lee also broke the good news to his fans – he does not intend to hang up his racquet – ending speculation that he might retire.
“I have not thought about retirement yet. I still have the desire to represent Malaysia. I still love badminton.”