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From a Great Escape to a New Awakening: My Journey Through Cancer

From a Great Escape to a New Awakening: My Journey Through Cancer

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From a Great Escape to a New Awakening: My Journey Through Cancer

Lunghezza:
503 pagine
6 ore
Editore:
Pubblicato:
Jan 16, 2013
ISBN:
9781300621065
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

This is an autobiography of a cancer survivor, a veteran network news journalist. For 38 years since 1971, the author, as Asia video editor for ABC News, chased news stories round the clock, often without sleep. With early retirement in sight, the sudden diagnosis of cancer one day radically changed his lifestyle overnight. By an unusual coincidence, his links to golf were also linked to his discovery of cancer. Here’s a man who led an incredible life even before he overcame his battle with cancer. It took more than the conventional means of treatment. His treatment and road to recovery is a revelation. Today, as a cancer survivor and a retiree who now enjoys a healthier and more fulfilling life, the author tells a compelling story of how he entered into the darkest tunnel and emerged, a more vigilant and environmentally aware individual. Eddy Li shares his painful experience, what he has learned about an increasingly hazardous environment and how you can protect yourself from its toxicity.
Editore:
Pubblicato:
Jan 16, 2013
ISBN:
9781300621065
Formato:
Libro

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From a Great Escape to a New Awakening - Eddy Li

From a Great Escape to a New Awakening: My Journey Through Cancer

From A Great Escape to A New Awakening – My Journey Through Cancer

Eddy Li

Copyright

Copyright © 2012 by Eddy Li. All rights reserved. No part of this book should be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author and the publisher. Unauthorized reproduction of any part of this work is illegal and is punishable by law.

This book is written as a personal account of the author’s story of surviving cancer. The ideas, suggestions, procedures, and information contained in this book should by no means be considered as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians. The reader should consult a physician in matters related to his or her health, especially with respect to any recommendations or practices that may be described in this book.

The author and the publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects arising from the use or application of the information contained herein.

The author has tried to provide accurate information from updated websites at the time of publication. Neither the author, nor the publisher, assumes responsibility for errors or changes that may occur after publication.

ISBN 978-1-300-62106-5

2nd Edition December 2013

Contact Information:

E-mail: ekyl@netvigator.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/eddy.li.370

Twitter: http://twitter.com/eddyLi1

Dedication

This book is dedicated to Annie

I could never have survived cancer without her. Never have I met someone with such a selfless heart to treat people with love, care, and consideration. Her sheer presence lights up a dark tunnel, enlivens a distressed atmosphere, and calms a turbulent environment. I always call myself the luckiest guy just to be her husband. And I owe her my life.

And to my son Edmond

Do not walk in my shoes. Take good care of your health and life can really be good.

Foreword

From a Great Escape to A New Awakening—My Journey Through Cancer is a deeply personal account of one man's journey through a troubling time in his life. But Eddy Li fought through it with grace and dignity, two character traits that I witnessed time after time serving as his ABC boss for so many years. Eddy, counting on his doctors, family, and friends to get him through his illness, reminded me of the countless times ABC News relied on him to get terrific stories on its broadcasts. Our viewers became knowledgeable about the world through Eddy’s TV work, and now readers can count on him for advice on how to survive and prevent a terrible disease.

—Chuck Lustig, Former Director of Foreign News Coverage, ABC News

The management of cancer in the head and neck region has been a challenging task. Many patients come to the head and neck surgeon at the disease’s advanced stage. For some cancers radiation and chemotherapy is the primary treatment modality, for others, surgical resection followed by chemo-radiation gives better results.

Hypo-pharyngeal cancer is related to smoking and consumption of alcohol, and its incidence has remained static over the years. As the early symptoms of this cancer seem trivial, patients and even general physicians often neglect them. Patients with this cancer frequently appear during the late-stage of the disease. For advanced hypo-pharyngeal cancer, surgical resection will remove the larynx and pharynx and effect a cure. Despite the advances in reconstruction in recent years, the patient will lose the ability to speak and to swallow normally.

Development in recent years showed that concomitant chemotherapy and radiation, with surgery reserved as a salvage procedure, would be able to effect a cure while at the same time preserving the swallowing and speech functions in about two-thirds of patients. These two concurrent therapies over a two month period however are associated with tremendous morbidities: mucositis, leading to pain in swallowing and difficulties in breathing; reduced white blood cell counts, leading to ease of infection; and malnutrition, leading to weight loss and cachexia. This is in addition to the apprehension of having an advanced malignant disease. Many patients are unable to complete the whole course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy and, thus, have suboptimal outcomes.

Eddy unfortunately suffered from advanced hypo-pharyngeal cancer. After deciding on the therapeutic pathway, he took it up with courage and determination. Throughout the treatment, Eddy managed to handle the morbidities of therapy successfully. Even in the recovery period, there were worries of the late side effects and the endless anxiety that the cancer might come back. He did a lot of research on the cause and the course of cancer and how he could manage it in a holistic manner. His knowledge in this aspect has contributed significantly toward his victory over the cancer.

Now Eddy is a cancer survivor, and he has the empathy to publish this book to share with others his personal experience in cancer management of cancer’s pathway. The book and all its information, is invaluable for those who wish to know more about how to combat cancer successfully from a patient's perspective.

In recent years, research on the management of head and neck cancer has resulted in the development of better anti-cancer drugs with improved efficacy and fewer side effects. For radiation, the radiation beam is focused more on the tumor, which reduces the energy delivered to the nearby vital structures, thus minimizing late sequelae. Surgical development has resulted in the use of more precise equipment to remove the cancer with less trauma thus diminishing morbidity. Secondly, doctors can now perform a more effective reconstruction after tumor ablation to achieve optimal functional and aesthetic results.

Through a close collaboration between surgeons and oncologists, a multidisciplinary approach to head and neck cancers can be achieved now, and this will improve the cancer control rate to benefit all patients.

—Dr. William Ignace Wei

MS FRCS FRCSE FRACS (Hon) FHKAM(ORL)(SURG)

Specialist in Otorhinolaryngology

Head, Department of Surgery

Director, Li Shu Pui ENT Head & Neck Surgery Centre

Prologue

Writing a book is not an easy job. Writing an English book as a Chinese man is even more difficult. I tried, as long as I can to send out a message.

I survived cancer, fortuitously. The discovery of the dreadful disease was circumstantial. It could have gone the other way. Call it destiny. My whole ordeal was like a movie script, as if written by God. I was led into a dark tunnel and led out, to a new awakening. What had happened prompted me to put it into words. I felt the urge to do so. I wanted to find out what got me into trouble so that it wouldn’t happen to me again, or to the loved ones and friends around me. I wanted to share with the world what it takes to overcome cancer, and more importantly, how to prevent it.

Thirty-eight years in the stressful network news business—globetrotting on a frequent basis, chasing after news stories, telling the world what happened—had earned me a profoundly enriched life experience. That was not enough. I also was awarded with something nobody wants to hear: cancer. Here was a news story that broke one day, and it turned out to be the biggest news ever to unfold. I was diagnosed with throat cancer. August 31, 2006, was indeed the darkest day of my life. And it was only the beginning of a painful experience.

In 2012, close to six years since my last chemo-radiation therapy, I find myself a retiree, healthier, and happier. My life is more fulfilled. I have learned how to differentiate what is good for my health and what is bad. I have also learned that we are living dangerously on the edge of a cancer strike in an ever-increasing hazardous environment. It does not matter who I am or where I come from—Hong Kong, New York, London, or Tokyo. The situation is not going to change any time soon.

Let’s be honest, we are losing the cancer war despite advanced medical treatments. With the lifestyle we keep in urban cities, it is hard to see a reverse trend. But we can look into the measures to minimize cancer risks, only if we care to know and act accordingly. It is not a pessimistic attitude. Unfortunately, that seems to be the reality.

There are many books written by cancer survivors. Some were even penned by doctors. They are compelling and informative, authoritative, good stories. While I have a compelling story of my own, as a journalist with a different cultural background, I tried to put it into a new perspective. Ever since my cancer experience, I was awakened to the realization that we are all susceptible to cancer. At the same time, I have also come to know that there are things we could do to lower the chances of getting cancer, if only we are willing to act.

Never mind the network news business that I elaborate on. Never mind the good or bad feng shui as you turn the pages. And never mind what treatments and practices I chose to bring back a normal life. The aim is the same as many a story being told with a good cause: to help people understand more about cancer and learn how to protect themselves—before it’s too late.

Introduction

Every day I walk in the streets here in the dynamic city of Hong Kong, where I live. I look around at people who remind me of myself, running like crazy to make a living, seemingly with only one goal: to make money and get wealthy quickly. That was how I felt four decades ago when I finished school.

My parents, like most others, fled mainland China in the 1930s and 1940s, away from the raging civil war, the Japanese invasion, and the Communists’ takeover that followed. From my hometown near Guangzhou City, Guangdong province, they walked hundreds of miles across the border and settled south on a small island situated at the estuary where the Pearl River runs out to the Pacific Ocean. That place later was branded as the Pearl of the Orient under the British colonial rule.

Impoverished by the legacies of war, our previous generation began a formidable task of rebuilding homes, literally out of nothing. Instilled by a resilient spirit, they labored hard to make ends meet, to raise a family and children. With their collective and unwavering effort, they bulldozed aside the atrocities imposed and helped lay the foundation of modern Hong Kong, one that eventually led to the miraculous thriving economy of today.

Since we were young, the baby boom generation, which I’m a part of, has felt the urge to do well in all aspects, to improve our living standards, to follow in the footsteps of our guardians, overcoming adversity and hardships by sheer hard work and dedication. We primarily focused on how to procure the best education in order to increase the chances of making our dreams come true. There was no shortage of enthusiasm. We stuck to our faith and our guns, believing we would be rewarded with a comfortable life soon enough, and we would share it with our rightfully deserving elders. That would be enough. So we thought.

Obsessed by the pursuit of money and fame, something more important was sidelined: health matters. Our vision was narrowed into only one goal: to get rich. For many of us, by the time we had reached our forties, with or without success attained, our body was burned out. To name a few problems, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, and heart disease were common place. At middle age, my body was like my golf swing: there was always something to be fixed.

But there is one disease that has been consistently on the rise and cannot be fixed easily: cancer. Sadly, few would want to hear about it, let alone want to know anything related to it. Who would know ignorance can be penalized at a great cost, like mine was?

From age nineteen, I spent all my life chasing after news stories, working at ABC News, making deadlines, indeed, working like crazy when there was a deadline to meet. At age fifty-four, after decades of hard labor, when I was about to reap the fruits of success and with retirement in sight, a doctor told me I had cancer. I then asked the question: what is the meaning of life? The wheel of fortune had turned in an untimely manner to something I had never contemplated—I was suffering from something generally believed as incurable.

Indeed, I was very fortunate. From the road of discovery to recovery, every step of its way, it seemed I was destined to go through hell only to be led out of the dark tunnel by a guiding light. From the doctors I met on day one to the people telling me what to do, to the important information pertaining to cancer healing and prevention that I gathered—it all helped me land back on my feet.

The last job I had was as the video editor for news coverage in Asia for ABC News. For someone who covered news stories on a broad perspective—traveling extensively, working as a team member, holding high responsibilities—someone who would decide what the audience should see, I must admit that when I fell ill, I made some irrational decisions, defying Western conventional treatment guidelines.

Today, I have passed the five-year benchmark of relapse, now it’s generally safe to say I am clear. It was fixed, so it was said. But I didn’t get carried away by the results and take my health for granted. The danger of a recurrence is always there.

This book was not written to glorify my survival. I am not a doctor or nutritionist offering advice or suggestions. What I have written does not represent medical guidance. At best, I am sharing what I have done to stay alive and what I have found to prevent cancer.

My Great Escape reflects upon a common phenomenon. All too often, we commit ourselves fully in accomplishing our ambitions, so much so that we might go beyond our body’s limits in doing so.

Cancer can strike anyone, anytime, anywhere, regardless of age or gender. Once you hear the diagnosis, the days of a quality life suddenly can be numbered. The treatment process is painful, very painful. Even when it is cured, cancer can return easily. And if you get cancer, you are not the only one who suffers. Your spouse and close family members are affected, too.

It seems there was no such thing called cancer in ancient times, probably not before the Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth century. Based on studies performed in the United Kingdom, cancer is a man-made disease, a by-product of industrialization caused by polluted environments, unhealthy lifestyles, and unregulated diets of modern days.

The World Health Organization (WHO) report published in 2012 announced that cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide. And deaths from cancer are projected to rise in the coming years. Tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of cancer. The message is clear.

Even cancer rates for children are on the rise in mainland China. Health experts have warned that pollution and environmental deterioration are the main reason behind the rising cancer rates among Chinese children aged fourteen and under.

Early detection of cancer is made possible by means of modern medical facilities, which in turn brings a higher survival rate. Still, the number of cancer deaths keeps rising, with younger victims continuing to register each year.

The good news is that according to WHO cancer Fact Sheet No. 297 (published in February 2006), 40 percent of global cancer cases can be prevented by a healthy diet and physical exercise.[1] But how can we prevent it if we remain ignorant?

We can certainly break the taboo by keeping an open mind and by stepping into the world of cancer information. Don’t feel afraid just to know more about it, especially since it tops the list as the deadliest disease in the world. The truth is, the more you know about cancer, the greater chance you have of preventing it.

We are what we eat. We are what we drink. We are what we breathe. In urban cities, we live in the fast lane of life. We are exposed to polluted air and often eat foods likely contaminated with toxic chemicals. We drink impure water. We, knowingly or unwittingly, do not spend enough time addressing health issues or monitoring our bodies. We are either too busy making a living, or just don’t pay attention. The time bomb is ticking. Inaction often leads to disease that we could have prevented.

In a developed society, every profession has its own demands and challenges, at times hazardous. Mine was no exception. A tough job tends to take away the time needed to mind the well-being of the body. Ever since I was a teenager, I have behaved as if I was physically immune from all diseases. I seldom drank water, and I ate few fruits or vegetables. I rarely exercised once I left school. I only ate what I liked. That kind of eagle-minded behavior shaped my unhealthy diet pattern for too many years. Looking back, it was truly reckless behavior.

I am not a smoker or alcoholic. But for a brief period in my twenties, I smoked for a few months. The nature of the news business dictated my lifestyle, always stressful and tense. I was obsessed with doing my job right and with making money. Given my behavior, I could have received a cancer diagnosis a long time ago. If only I could go back in time and do things differently, the course of my life might not have been the same.

Still, I wonder had it not happened, how long would I have survived? I might have continued to take health risks until it was too late. Now I will live the rest of my life with great remorse.

Hopefully this book will awaken you to the fact that cancer can strike quietly, without you knowing it. By the time you feel something out of the ordinary, it may be too late.

I am blessed in a lot of ways: I discovered my cancer by pure accident, just in time, before it went out of control; I possess a strong family bond that drives me to fight the battle; I have a lot of good friends and colleagues whose unequivocal support meant a lifeline when I was losing my bearings; I had the luxury of choosing private, prodigious doctors who provided me with the latest technological know-how to fight the disease; I had decent insurance coverage to pay the enormous bills; and I live in Hong Kong, a place where I have easy access to the best Western medical facilities and traditional Chinese medicine. Most importantly, I am blessed that I have a lovely wife, Annie, who stood behind me all along, giving me strength and hope. Had it not been for her, and her sphere of influence, I would have died in due course.

Imagine if cancer happens to you now, or if it happens to the people close to you; how are you going to handle it? Are you prepared? What do you know about cancer? Or for that matter, how much do you want to know about it?

When you fall seriously ill, you lose the command of doing the things you want. Your freedom will be limited or lost, probably overnight. Someone else will likely take over, telling you what to do. There is no point in arguing or asking why, especially when your life is at stake. Whether you are an ordinary citizen or a prominent political figure or the boss of a company or a billionaire with all the fortune you can spend, it does not really matter. Just sit still and follow your doctor’s advice, like it or not, if you want to live. That is the difference between being in good health or in bad health. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I felt like a fallen eagle, stripped of its wings. There was anger, denial, and distress. But in the end, I hunkered down and accepted the unacceptable.

How many times in your life have you felt scared or that your life was threatened? What is the definition for being scared? I interpret feeling scared as facing a time when your survival is out of your hands, and even when doing your best, with or without money and name, is not enough to save yourself.

It could be said I was lucky to live. But it was the luck I pushed too far over the years that will hold me captive for as long as I live. Now, even though I am condemned to live under the shadow of cancer relapse, I am no longer afraid to deal with it, as I believe I am armed with adequate knowledge and willpower to prevent it and beat it. Life, in another sense, is better.

I have set one foot at heaven’s gate and turned back. I was led to believe in destiny. If it recurs, God might be trying to test my will and strength—yet again. Never say die. But thank God, I had cancer. My suffering had completely changed the way I valued things. It has completely changed the way I used to live. A good life cannot be defined without good health. And good health cannot be bought by good wealth. Life, as it turned out, is not only about money and stature.


[1] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheeets/fs297/en/index/html

Chapter 1

From Rags to Recognition

A Life Spared

In the wee hours of a hot and humid summer night in 1952 in colonial Hong Kong, a Chinese man in his thirties raced an infant down four flights of concrete stairs to Queen’s Road East in Wanchai district, looking for a rickshaw to take them to see a Chinese doctor. The six-month-old baby’s face had turned purple, with the eyes semi-open, nonresponsive, the body lethargic. The symptoms looked worrying. Although his Chinese name meant longevity, the reality did not quite match it. The father was dead certain that the fragile baby would die if something weren’t done quickly. He didn’t need to be reminded of the high infant mortality rate in those days. Too much was at stake. The baby was the only son in the family.

Not with the siren sounds of an ambulance, but with the rickshaw man making the best use of his legs, the passengers arrived on Des Voeux Road West, at the home of Chinese Doctor Kin-sau Leung.

Though Western medications and practices were generally based on scientific research and supported by clinical experiments, during those days, most of the local Chinese relied a lot on traditional Chinese medicines (TCM) whenever they fell ill, serious or not. They were familiar with it. A centuries’ old tradition couldn’t be wrong. They felt comfortable taking it despite its bitterness and time needed for preparation. Their trust and faith in TCM was close to a religious belief.

Dr. Leung noticed the urgency and wasted no time with formalities. He palpated the baby’s wrist, felt the pulse for a good few minutes, checked the color in the eyes and of the tongue, and even the fingernails. It was a routine procedure of a TCM treatment. The simple tests helped the doctor reach a diagnosis—the deadly meningitis disease.

With the strokes of a Chinese calligraphy brush, he wrote the prescription in black ink, instructing exactly what kind of Chinese herbs were needed and in what proportions. The herbs were then hastily assembled at a shop nearby, again with the father banging on its doors, waking up the shopkeeper. Afterwards, the rickshaw man, who was on standby, took the passengers home where the herbs were boiled with the prescribed amount of water, creating a bowl of darkened, bitter soup.

The effects of Chinese herbs might not be as quick as an injection of Western drugs, but after just one dose, in a matter of a few hours, the grim looks turned to grinning faces. The wonders of Traditional Chinese Medicine instantly saved my life.

That was the story my father kept telling me in later years—that my life was saved by a great Chinese tradition, a tradition of noble pedigree, TCM. Its history dates back a few thousand years. So I was given a chance to live, and I began a life marred by illnesses, mishaps, and setbacks in the years to come. Soon afterward, Dr. Leung, our family doctor, became my godfather.

I grew up in a poor family. My father worked in a trading company, the hongs they called them in those days, which were mostly clustered in the back alleys of the Western District. He made approximately HK$60 a month, less than US$10. The rent of our one-room residence burned 30 percent off his income. My mother, well-educated, was a tailor, sewing fashion apparel for a few extra bucks. She used to sew my shirts and pants, too. She died on December 8, 1963, of tuberculosis, a common disease in those days, one my godfather couldn’t cure. I was only eleven. Her premature departure meant I had to go on with my elder sister, Alice, my grandmother, and my father. My grandfather had died before I was born. And my grandmother left us, too, on the second day of the Chinese New Year in 1968. Growing up in a single-parent family in those days was tough.

Rewinding back to life sixty years ago, the environment surrounding us was very different from the twenty-first century of today. The population in Hong Kong then was about 2.5 million. Motor vehicles were scarce. Telephone and television sets were luxury items. We made meals by burning kerosene canisters and wooden sticks. We ate simple foods. There was no such thing as an eating disorder. Traditional festivals were the only times when we could expect big meals, probably four to five times a year. We could not be picky, as we simply did not have a choice.

I, probably like you, ate what my elders told me to when I was young, without knowing or asking why. I would not dare to challenge them, believing they knew best. Knowledge on health then was minimal. Information on health care was rare. We had no idea of optimal nutrition values. We were lucky if we had enough to eat.

But back then, the meat and poultry we ate were not fed growth hormones. Chickens ate vegetable composts or leftover food and roamed around the neighborhood, without borders. We ate vegetables and fruits that did not have layers of pesticides. We ate fresh seafood, which was in abundant supply. When we had blackouts, which were common, we burned candles or used kerosene lamps.

We used paper bags and glass holders and porcelain containers before plastic utensils were introduced in the 1960s. We did not need water-filtering devices. We did not need air purifiers either. We only had fans, electric or paper, to cool off the summer heat. We never heard of global warming.

To kids of the current generation, it might sound like we lived on another planet. We certainly didn’t have video games. But as children, we did not feel bored, as we always had great fun with whatever we had to play with. The word autism was unheard of.

We flew kites high and far away. We played with comic cards. We played Scrabble. We collected stamps and wrote letters in fine handwriting. Every day we enjoyed tuning in to the radio, drowning our ears in rock music and love songs of the ’60s and ’70s that played on the American Top Forty program. The lyrics were mostly about love. And love was always somewhere around the corner.

Our doors were either open or unlocked. We lived in a harmonious neighborhood, with convenient companionship, instead of being confined behind the iron gates of small apartments in a concrete jungle, living in cyberspace like today. We gathered together whenever possible, talking face-to-face.

The tempo of life was slow but peaceful, without many arguments or much violence. There was always a sense of harmony and compromise. There was always more giving than taking.

We obtained news from newspapers and radios. There were no weird stories about odd things falling from the skies, like live fish.[2] We often had pristine skies and a distinct four seasons.

We were content with what we had and didn’t complain much. Our hearts were big and our minds were pure. We were not saints, but that’s how we lived. We grew up happily in the absence of fancy material items and gadgets.

I might be nostalgic, but that is the lifestyle I miss sometimes. Slowly but surely, our standard of living did improve. We moved forward with the times and tried to grab every opportunity to make money. We suited ourselves to keep pace with a changing world. And change we did accordingly, for better or worse. So did our dietary habits, too, and the habits of the following generations.

Network News

I graduated in 1971. In October of the same year, at a time when there were two major wars raging in Indochina and the Indian subcontinent, I began my career at ABC News in Hong Kong as an office assistant. Network news—a glamorous business, so they said. Wasn’t I lucky? Most of my classmates went into banking and finance or became civil servants. Working in a large international media corporation was a challenge for a nineteen-year-old local Chinese boy. I was entirely focused on securing a good job and making good money. Health matters did not exist in my world.

US television networks had a big presence on the Pacific Rim because of the Cold War and because American troops were fighting in Vietnam at the time. Bureaus in Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, were fully staffed with reporting teams, including correspondents, producers, cameramen, and sound technicians. Freelance crews were handily available.

Network news was inaugurated in the late 1940s by NBC and CBS. ABC started its news program in 1953 with a fifteen-minute show. It was not until the 1960s that the evening newscasts were expanded to thirty-minute programs. Compared to what an audience can get with the click of a fingertip today, it was a humble beginning.

The US military involvement in Vietnam in the early ’60s had attracted a lot of attention. The networks provided same-day television news reports, if not instantaneous, via satellite transmissions. Evening news was aired every day at 6:30 p.m., presented by highly respected and trusted anchormen.

With thanks to the soccer ball-shaped Telstar satellite rocketed into the Earth’s orbit by the United States on July 10, 1962, a worldwide audience was able to see live pictures transmitted across borders.

Back in the ’60s, newsreels were shot in the field on 16 mm color film, which had to be processed at a laboratory before it could be edited into a package for air. During the production process, the margin of error was small. There was no computer software to correct mistakes or to jazz up the look. A cameraman was required to obtain the right picture composition, light exposure, and white balance before he pushed the button.

To cover a press conference, for example, camera crews would set up the proper lighting on stage before the speaker came to the podium. A representative from the camera crews would normally measure the right exposure with a meter and yell out the reading. Everyone would follow. That reading would change if a latecomer crew fired up its lights outside of the expectations. Complaints would be heard, naturally.

Once the film was shot, the laboratory could not correct mistakes, except for pictures shot under exposure. And once a magnetic pen wiped the unwanted audio strip, it was gone forever. There was no undo option or possibility of making a duplicate as a backup. From raw footage shot in the field to a final-cut piece, it took hours to complete. Already, the news divisions of each network were uniquely structured to produce stories with the finest quality whenever possible. The level of professionalism and responsibility was high.

Network news organizations operated with worldwide offices manned by a multinational professional staff and freelancers, from correspondents to camera crews to editors, from engineers to local fixers to drivers. It was run like a global village of communications, staying on top of the global events developing by the minute. That was in the 1970s.

With China pretty much closed to the Western world, in Hong Kong the bureau was designed as a center of production in Asia, handling mainly news materials gathered in various battlegrounds of Vietnam. A large-sized office in Saigon was maintained, primarily to assign correspondents and camera crews to the front lines, supported by scores of coordinators, drivers, and interpreters.

During the height of the Vietnam War, almost on a daily basis, newsreels were sent back from the South Vietnam battlefields to the Saigon bureau in time to be put on the last flight to Hong Kong for the production process. The edited piece(s) would be transmitted via satellite to New York headquarters for same-day air.

One of my duties was to pick up these shipments, which would normally arrive after eight in the evenings. My dinner was constantly spoiled. Late meals were common. If efforts to make the last flight failed, and if the story of the day was important, the networks would consider chartering a commercial plane just to fly in the precious cargo of film bags.

Upon customs clearance, I would rush the film to

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