Leukaemia: how a most cancers analysis destroyed the sporting goals of Asian Games beach volleyball duo


Wong Pui-lam and Kelvin Lau Tsz-ho were worried as they stepped onto the sizzling sand of Indonesia’s JSC Beachball Arena on the Asian Games in Palembang ultimate August.

The seaside volleyball duo from Hong Kong had fought against all odds to come this a long way. Success at the Asian Games, which show up every four years, had usually been their final aim – the whole lot they’d worked for.
But something turned into not proper.

Lau had been feeling sick on his manner to Indonesia and now on the sector, he become starting to feel dazed. Wong recommended swapping positions, so Lau ought to take the much less disturbing position of defender inside the backcourt place, even as he played blocker on the internet.


During one point, Wong sent the ball excessive up into the air for his companion to hit. But when he turned round he saw that not only had Lau overlooked the ball however he become bent over, hands on his knees. “That’s after I knew – some thing became sincerely wrong,” Wong says.

They lost to their opponents, the house crew. Afterwards, the Hong Kong crew’s doctor checked Lau and located he had a raging fever. With furrowed brows, he informed them: “It could be an contamination or a coronary heart trouble. There are many opportunities.”

A blood test on the local sanatorium exposed an anomaly in Lau’s white blood cell depend, and surprisingly low ranges of haemoglobin and platelets. The physician could now not deliver a company diagnosis, but advised him to return home for a greater comprehensive check-up.

“My English became now not superb, however I stuck the phrase ‘most cancers’,” says Wong, who nonetheless had not realised how extreme Lau’s circumstance turned into and notion the physician might have made a mistake. Reality only set in when the physician issued an ultimatum: “If he doesn’t go, he would possibly die.”

The assertion weighs so closely on Wong’s coronary heart that even months later the 27-year-old has hassle repeating it, reducing his voice to a whisper as he remembers the moment. Lau, however, stays rather calm. “Well, there’s not anything you can do but to simply accept it besides,” the reticent 24-12 months-vintage explains.

At the time, even though, neither knew the way to react. Wong packed their baggage and that they flew again to Hong Kong, in which a ready ambulance took Lau to Queen Mary Hospital. Lau’s lingering suspicion became showed – he had leukaemia, a circumstance wherein the bone marrow produces too many odd white blood cells, which generally assist to ward off infections.

Both Wong and Lau took up volleyball in excessive college as a hobby. They came across each other at the same time as studying at a vocational school and commenced partnering in 2014, setting their sights at the Asian Games.

As novice athletes, they worked hard to fund their dream. Both coached volleyball at schools and work as online fitness trainers for more money (“He woke up at six to do this!” Wong exclaims approximately his teammate). The pair skilled at night and all through the weekends, spending hours at the seashore enduring punishing warmth in summer time and chilling bloodless in iciness. “Just a couple of minutes at the sand, and your feet could be numb from the cold,” Wong says.

Without extra investment, they stored to a frugal finances for their journeys to extra than a dozen national and nearby competitions every 12 months. They ordered the cheapest food on eating place menus and on occasion spent more than 20 hours on a train to get to a opposition.

“The largest expense was flight tickets. So to get the bottom fare, we might choose the worst instances, arriving late at night and having to spend the night time on the airport,” Wong says.

Those have been a number of the hardest – but in hindsight, also happiest – days in their profession. “We have been just satisfied to be there. And if we received, that’s some thing greater,” Wong says.

Their achievements saw them meet the qualifications to become elite athletes under the Hong Kong Sports Institute’s Sports Scholarship Scheme in March remaining year, letting them educate and compete full time.

However, as they were given closer to their goal, Wong became increasingly more unnerved. “We’d gotten so far, we couldn’t find the money for to lose. I couldn’t believe going lower back.”
Overwhelmed with doubt, Wong became harsher on himself as nicely and his companion. Once, he threw an irritated fit in the course of a competition and acquired a purple card, in addition to a US$500 fine. Another time, he admitted to Lau that he couldn’t see a future in volleyball and didn’t accept as true with they may obtain whatever.
“Even although I stated some thing so hurtful, he instructed me he nonetheless believed in me,” Wong says.