‘Don’t blame, don’t ask why… just move on’

Ezzy Wang competes at the OCBC Cycle Singapore race in 2010. (Ezzy Wang photo)
Ezzy Wang competes at the OCBC Cycle Singapore race in 2010. (Ezzy Wang photo)

Under our new "Inspiring People" monthly column, we highlight the incredible journey of one person who has overcome tremendous odds to achieve personal success. This column celebrates the triumph of the human spirit and we hope it will inspire you to reach for your dreams too. This month, meet 44-year-old Ezzy Wang, a high-spirited cancer survivor who's not letting the loss of his right leg dampen his active lifestyle.

He swims, dives, jogs and drives. He's taken part in the Aviva Ironman and OCBC Cycle Singapore. But here's the twist -- he does it with just one leg.

Meet American International Assurance's (AIA) training and competence manager Wang Peng Han, 44, who used to be one of AIA's top sales agents.

Last year, the amputee was one of Singapore's 24 para-athletes competing at the first Asian Para Games for disabled athletes held in Guangzhou, China. He took part in the handcycling competition.

In an interview with Yahoo! Singapore, the cheerful, chatty cancer-survivor said he learnt how to overcome the loss of a limb due to cancer to find new purpose in life.

In 1995, Wang, who was in his late 20s, was diagnosed with synovial chondromatasis, a
mass disorder of the pelvis due to leakage of bone calcium.

The condition mutated into a rare bone cancer so a year later, he went for his first major surgery where the surgeons removed his right pelvis before fusing his leg back to the top of his hip.

It resulted in his right leg becoming 15 centimetres shorter than his left. Wang accepted this, believing this would be the end of the "saga" and life could go back to normal.

However, three years later, the cancer cells came back. This time, the surgeons had no choice but to remove his right hip and amputate his leg fully.

"The first time, I was lost," recalled Wang, referring to the first surgery. Questions of "Why me?" and "Should I end my life?" flooded his mind, he said.

But thoughts of his loved ones, who worried about him and showered love over him, encouraged him to stay strong.

He told himself, "All these negative thoughts have to be deleted permanently, no more asking, no more thinking, walk out of that saga permanently and back to life."

The next time he found out he had to undergo another major operation and lose his leg, there was a sea-change in his attitude.

"I was happy," said Wang. "I thought, wow, I can put on prosthetic leg, I can look normal. That was my thought. I advised my doctor to remove it immediately. Never think twice, crazy isn't it?"

Unfortunately, he found the prosthetic leg too heavy. It would hurt his spine over time and it also took him too long to move around with it.

"I decided to use my crutches," he said. And with his crutches, he used to jog for 11 km at MacRitchie Reservoir after he had recovered from the surgery.

"It was awesome," he said.

Wang learnt how to walk with his crutches in just two hours. (Yahoo! photo)
Wang learnt how to walk with his crutches in just two hours. (Yahoo! photo)

'Nothing that cannot be done'

"There's nothing that cannot be done. When you have the will, you can do it," said Wang.

He learnt to drive his automatic Honda CRV with his left foot before the full amputation. He also picked up scuba diving a year after the amputation and has done about 50 dives.

Now, his passion is handcycling. After work, he heads over to Mount Faber to train.

Wang first got involved in hand cycling in 2009, after his friend invited him to join the OCBC Cycle Singapore race in 2010.

He contacted fellow amputee Dr William Tan, whom he met at a talk once, and asked Dr Tan to help him obtain a bicycle. It cost Wang USD$9,000.

He then joined the Handcycling Association of Singapore (HAS), and last year, was elected to represent Singapore in the Asian Para Games. The only other handcyclist from Singapore was HAS president Foo Fung Liang.

While he did not win a medal, the experience at the Games was "invaluable", said Wang.

"It was so enticing, so eye-opening to see so many thousands of classifications of handicap," he said, citing paralysed swimmers and blind bowlers.

"They were all very positive people. When I compare myself to (some of) them, I say "I'm so fortunate"," said Wang.

Fellow handcyclist Michael Ngu, who has known Wang for about two years, described him as "very gentle, warm, jovial", with a drive in his pursuits.

He recalled first meeting Wang at a bike shop at Big Splash one evening, when Wang called out his name. "To my wildest surprise we immediately clicked and thereafter we have been building on our biking relationship," he said.

Despite his outgoing personality, Wang used to be embarrassed when people stared at him.

Now, he simply asks them if they would like to know what happened to his leg. "Telling people what happened, how I fought and overcame, it's recovery by sharing," explained Wang.

Wang met his wife after his amputation. She was his client when he was financial service consultant. (Ezzy Wang photo)
Wang met his wife after his amputation. She was his client when he was financial service consultant. (Ezzy Wang photo)

His openness is one of his most endearing qualities, says Fifi, his wife. They met in 2000, when he was a financial services consultant and she was his client, and married in 2007.

"Ezzy is as capable as a normal able-bodied person," she said, using the nickname which most friends know her husband by.

One of Fifi's most memorable experiences with her husband was when she telephoned him for help after a car accident, one year after the couple -- who were still dating at the time -- broke up.

"He sounded just like the same Ezzy that I have known although we parted and (had) no contact for one year," she shared. "He came to my "rescue" immediately and we realised that we still care for each other deeply."

In true fairy tale style, the couple started dating again and tied the knot two years later. Although they have no children, Peng Han said he would love to have kids one day.

His wife Fifi even describes how Wang would playfully tease curious children he meets by asking them to count how many legs he has. (The answer is three -- two crutches and his leg.)

Wang's experiences and positive thinking has encouraged other people to pursue their dreams, believes Fifi.

"Many times, people take things for granted... Ezzy helps to remind me to be grateful for what we have now," she said.

In turn, Wang credits his wife as a constant source of support.

"She's a very positive person," said Wang. "We can share, we can learn together, that (emotional connection) keeps me going."

"Everybody may encounter different disabilities … You've got to accept that you are like that. Don't blame, don't ask why, move forward to live life to your fullest," said Wang. "That is more meaningful than asking questions that don't have answers."

Other Inspiring People stories:

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