‘Sik zyu faa saang dang tai hei’ is what we did as Dr Lam entered the room.
Not that we were eating peanuts or sat in the local cinema.
We were in the The Rosemere Centre at the Royal Preston Hospital.
Waiting to see the reaction, (that’s what the idiom means by the way) of a consultant Oncologist who was about to see his new department and meet colleagues for the first time.
That’s right, for the very first time ever!
I had met Dr Lam earlier and had asked the inevitable question
What was going through his mind as he waited to enter the Cancer Centre as a new employee, not ever having set foot in the hospital before?
“I won’t underestimate the difficulty. Saam1 m4 sik1 cat1”
That translates as “Three does not know seven”
He looks quizzically at me and realises that he needs to further explain the Cantonese idiom
“I don’t really know anyone here yet, but I know I can deal with the situation”
He laughs in an engaging way, like a cat that has got the cream.
“I am ready to contribute to the department and to the hospital”
Music to the ears of the business manager sat with us. Tracey smiled knowingly.
“Let’s go through” she says quietly, and he literally jumps for the door.
Dr Tai Chung Lam, the new consultant locum oncologist was like a kid in a sweet shop as he entered the department.
“Ooh Ooh Ooh” is all we can hear and his broad smile says it all.
“I am so excited to be finally here. I have come a long way and am so looking forward to starting here at the Rosemere centre”
Indeed he really has come a long way, 9633 kilometres in fact with his young family, leaving friends and family behind in the incredible metropolis known as Hong Kong
“My whole family and indeed all my friends said where is Lancashire, where is Preston” said Tai Chung as we walked around the department that will be his new home.
It’s been quite a few months for him as Covid hampered all stages of his relocation to the United Kingdom.
“Everything was done from my armchair in Hong Kong” he says in heavily accented but perfect English.
“I rented a house, found great schools for my children and even did the job interviews over the internet”
It wasn’t like laai1 ngau4 soeng5 syu6 or pulling a cow up a tree” He pauses again smiling and translates
“It was not an impossible task because I am here”
Born in Mainland China and having moved with his parents to Hong Kong he has an aura of quiet confidence as he realises that the department has 7 linear accelerators.
“In Hong Kong we only had 5 you know. The hospital where I worked though is identical to the NHS in terms of structure and staffing. The clinical oncology framework is also exactly the same”
He turns back and adds proudly “I have even sat and passed the exam to become a Fellow of the Royal College of Radiologists”.
So why I wonder has he moved around the World to come to Preston?
“My parents have mixed feelings about my appointment and although sad to see myself and my family leave, they know that I have to grasp this opportunity with both hands. Rosemere is a centre for clinical excellence. They welcome talent from all over the world”.
Mixed feelings? He must see my thought process and adds,
“Everyone knows the issues surrounding Hong Kong; they are well documented in the press.
“Life in Hong Kong transcends cultural and culinary borders, such that nothing is truly foreign and nothing doesn’t belong” I say quoting a well-known saying trying to illicit more from him.
Oh, I agree you can leave Hong Kong, but it will never leave you” he quickly replies, “Hong Kong is exceptional, but the landscape here is just as impressive, there is so much blue sky”
Whilst I wonder if he will think the same in the winter, he goes on
“My sister is staying in Hong Kong to look after our parents, which is lovely. I am so pleased that they are safe particularly with the current pandemic situation
The team has already been so flexible and supportive you know, albeit virtually until now. They have given me a very good opportunity to continue my career and my passion here.
I believe for patients and myself, it is important to have a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, I can achieve that here.
Oncology is my life, treating patients and helping them cope with the illness is what makes me whole”
Mm where have I heard that passion before I wonder, looking at Dr Alison Birtle who is accompanying us around?
She smiles back knowingly, already having introduced the new colleague and kindred spirit to her tight circle of friends. She is in a way already like a mother hen to him.
Rosemere has found another passionate oncologist to swell its ranks
As we leave him to his tour and to meeting many mask obscured new faces, the cancer bell rings and applause breaks out.
Another success for one patient battling with the disease.
Another success for the Cancer Unit.
He’s right, Preston and Hong Kong may be geographically miles apart, but in in the worldwide fight to beat cancer, they are closer now than ever before.