Former DJ Dongfang Billy changed blood type from A to O after battling leukaemia twice
After many years, he's still an auntie killer.
Billy Wang, better known as Dongfang Billy, may be a familiar name to avid listeners of local radio station Love 97.2 FM.
The former DJ was known for being health-conscious, and would share healthy recipes with his fans.
Once, lemons were apparently sold out in many supermarkets after he shared his signature lemonade recipe on air.
And since Wang was usually behind the radio waves, some people (like myself) may not recognise him in real life.
Which was why I was surprised when I realised the man who was helping to cut the ingredients and moving the trolley full of flowers in preparation of “An Afternoon Tea Rhapsody with Billy” was, well, Wang himself.
For someone sporting cornrows and a tan, and with little to no wrinkles on his face, Wang looked nothing like a 56-year-old man.
In fact, you probably wouldn’t believe that he has fought leukaemia twice if that wasn’t a rather known fact.
He was first diagnosed with leukaemia in end-1992, when he was only 29 years old.
Youth made it difficult for Wang to accept the diagnosis.
“It wasn’t something that I could accept at first, I was very scared. I kept asking, ‘Why would this happen to me?'”
Wang started going for chemotherapy in 1993 while juggling his radio career.
It was only in 1996 that he finally come to terms with his leukaemia, and left his radio career to travel to the U.S., U.K., and Australia for a change of pace.
There, he picked up several skills including painting and flower arrangement.
Upon returning to Singapore, he did community work at several hospitals including KK Hospital, Singapore General Hospital, and National University Hospital.
Wang also made a recovery from leukaemia that very year after a bone marrow transplant in the U.S..
“I was a little confused when I recovered. At the same time, I was really thankful to be healthy again.”
Wang subsequently returned to his radio career.
But it wasn’t all happily ever after.
In 2007, the cancer came back.
This time round, however, he simply accepted his fate.
In a 2008 interview with a Lianhe Wanbao, he said:
“I’ve accepted the fact. How long can one live with cancer? We all know the answer to that.”
After the news of his relapse broke, he left radio for good and closed down all of his social media pages to focus on his recovery.
One could imagine how difficult of a decision it would have been for Wang to leave everything after building his radio career and achieving celebrity status in Singapore.
But the decision to do all that came pretty easily for him.
“It’s fated, I had to focus on my health first. When facing such a tough situation, I think only I could help myself. I was determined to just calm down and think of what to do next.”
With his relapse, Wang began treatment immediately.
Like most cancer patients, the most difficult part towards recovery had to be the chemotherapy sessions.
Wang suffered from side effects including hair loss, vomiting, and aches all over his body.
Reminiscing the tough times, he winced and said: “It’s the pain in the body that you cannot take away. I couldn’t sleep or eat well. It was miserable and I just felt very weak and lousy.”
The cancer didn’t just take a toll on him physically, but mentally too.
With every passing day, it got more difficult for him to stay strong for himself.
Wang would also break down whenever he started to pray:
“I know I have to stay strong but I can’t help but to feel weak. I would ask God why did I get sick and how can I get better. I asked Him to guide me through this journey and at least I know now that God is listening.”
When his doctors told him that they weren’t sure if he could make a full recovery, he decided to make a DVD hosting his own funeral, just in case he succumbed to his illness.
He recorded the DVD to give himself a happy ending in a world that is “already bleak”.
“When the doctor told me that I can’t recover anymore, I felt like the world was already so bleak. I did so I could have a happy ending for myself to brace through the tough times.”
But the world got brighter for Wang because fate, once again, was on his side after a second successful bone marrow transplant in 2010.
Change of blood type
A lot has changed since he last battled leukaemia.
For one, his blood type changed from Type A Type O after his second bone marrow transplant.
He was surprised to know that it happened, but a change of blood type is possible, although rare.
Wang noted some personality changes that apparently came with the change.
“When I was still type A, I was more indecisive. But after the transplant my family and friends noticed that I now know what I want right away.”
Wang, who has always known to be a health-conscious person, also stopped subjecting himself to extreme diets.
And he really meant it when he said it was extreme:
“10 or 20 years ago, I would go for extreme diets. For example, I would go on a vegetarian diet and not have any carbohydrates.”
Now, however, he realises that he just has to have a balanced diet.
But it’s not as easy as it sounds, apparently.
According to him, he tested different forms of “balanced” diets for seven years before he found the right one.
Wang has been based in China since 2012 to give his support to the cancer society as well as share and counsel other bone marrow patients.
Part of the decision to move to China was to also fulfil his 95-year-old mother’s wish to spread his exercise and health tips to his parents’ hometowns in Hunan and Zhejiang.
To the filial son, family always comes first.
Which is why he regards his entire family, especially his older brother and mother as his rock in life.
“My older brother, he has leukaemia as well so he knows what it feels like. My mother is visually-impaired but when she holds me, she told me that I am stronger now. They keep me strong.”
Still an auntie killer
Even though he is currently based in China, Wang has not forgotten his loyal fanbase in Singapore.
He visits Singapore frequently, since he has monthly cooking lessons at Taste Butchery & Seafood Factory Outlet.
In fact, he’s such an auntie killer that his first six sessions of “An Afternoon Tea Rhapsody with Billy” that recently concluded on Oct. 10 sold out almost immediately.
Part of the S$19,420.50 raised through ticket sales will go to charity.
After all these years, Wang is thankful for his fans and just feels grateful to be able to give back and do better for the people who have supported him all this while.
“I’m very touched for my fans who have been waiting for me here. I’m so thankful that they want to hear from me so I want to share with them how to stay healthy. The more people I help, the more lives I save.”
Top image by Fasiha Nazren