Issue 17 – I Am Hope

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55 year old Amy Yeo, living with Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer

55 year old Amy Yeo calls herself the “poster girl” for chemotherapy. Fresh-faced and radiating a natural glow, Amy exudes an aura of confidence and cheerfulness that one would least expect from a person afflicted with cancer, much less someone suffering from Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer, and who has undergone continuous chemotherapy treatment over a period of three years. But Amy is living proof that there is life with cancer, and this is her story.

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Issue 16 – Master of His Fate

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52 year old Stephen Giam, diagnosed with terminal Pancreatic Cancer

What is it like to be at the prime of your life and told you only have one year to live?
52 year old Stephen Giam knows the answer to that question, and this is his story.

Most of us are familiar with that cliché television drama series plot that sets its backdrop against a single-parent child who goes astray while growing up, drops out of school, before reaching a turning point that snaps him out of his delinquency and changes him into a better man who later leads the life he once thought he could only dream of, eventually living happily ever after.

Cliché as it may sound, this is no television drama. This is Stephen’s life story and this is how it starts. Growing up in a single-parent family with only his mother to care for him, Stephen’s path strayed and he ended up dropping out of school at age 15, a year before completing his ‘O’ Levels. To earn his own keep, Stephen started working at a fast food restaurant where he excelled at his job, earning himself the title of the youngest crew trainer who quickly climbed to the ranks of Supervisor.

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Issue 15 – Voice of Hope

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63 year old Sylvia Khoh, who was diagnosed with Stage 1 Nasopharyngeal Cancer (NPC) in 2010

In the flesh, Sylvia is immaculately dressed, her hair unfurling in soft coils, her face radiating a rosy glow. Looking a little over 50 years of age, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that Sylvia turns 63 this year, as she chuckled and said that she gets this response from strangers all the time. Her secret to looking young? A positive mindset, and always remembering to smile.

Sylvia’s positive energy is infectious indeed. While most people her age look forward to enjoying their retirement, Sylvia proudly tells us that she loves her job; the empowerment it gives and the satisfaction it brings. A financial manager, Sylvia is presently into her sixteenth year at her job and has no plans of retirement in the near future.

As Sylvia goes about her five-day work week, she also juggles her time between her hobby – singing, a passion she has had since she was young, and which she continued to grow after her friend encouraged her to pick-up pop music back in 2010. After enrolling into the class, her vocal coach discovered the unique tonality in her voice and propelled her towards opera instead. A Teochew, Sylvia had to learn the Cantonese dialect from scratch in order to master the trade. It was a challenge, but Sylvia dedicated herself to perfecting the enunciation of the dialect.

Sylvia’s hard work and effort paid off and seven months into classes, she gave her first stage performance. Today, she is a seasoned opera singer who regularly performs at the China Cultural Centre, NAFA, Lee Foundation, Kreta Ayer People’s Theatre and community centres.

It would seem that Sylvia has it all – good looks, an established career, a raw talent and a close-knitted family. But there was a time when Sylvia thought she would lose her soprano and no longer be able to perform opera, and this is her story.

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Issue 14 – Love Never Dies (A Caregiver’s Special)

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In Loving Memory of Phelane – Beautiful Wife, Caring Mother, Loving Daughter and Courageous Cancer Warrior

“How did you cope with your loss?”
“It’s not easy…especially when you’ve been married to someone for 28 years; they’re already a part of you. I’ve heard this saying that when someone gets cancer, the whole family does too. And that is so true.”

William met Phelane in the most unconventional manner. Call it fate or chance, but it was meant to be. It was 1987. William had gone for a facial session to pamper himself, but little did he know, he was about to find the one who would pamper him and be pampered by him for life.

Her name was Phelane. She was a beautician who enjoyed helping others look their best. She had been in this line for as long as she could remember, and unaware to her, she too, was about to meet the man of her life.

This is the story of William and Phelane. Their love story.

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Issue 13 – Three Times A Fighter

“It doesn’t matter how much time you have left, it’s about what you do with your time that matters.”

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Lely (second row, fifth from right) at her book launch ceremony. Lely wrote her first book, “When Life Gives Me Lemons” to document her battle with Uterine Cancer.

  • >100 hospital trips
  • Up to 50 days’ worth of hospital stays
  • 3 major surgeries
  • >100 stitches
  • 25 times of radiation therapy
  • 6 sessions of chemotherapy
  • 7 PET scans
  • 4 CT scans
  • 1 MRI scan
  • 1 bone scan
  • 10 chest X-rays
  • Consulted at least 11 Doctors
  • 18 weeks of being bald
  • Infinite amount of tears shed

53 year old Lely Simatupang is three times a fighter. Why? Because she has fought and beaten cancer not once, not twice, but thrice and this is her story.

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Issue 12 – Soaring Above Cancer

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Deshi (pictured), a flight stewardess who was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) at 32 years old and now on the road to recovery

“During a flight to Yangon, one of the passengers told me I have the most amazing smile. This comment imprinted on me deeply and it’s the reason why I smile more these days.”

32 year old Deshi’s life was just taking flight. After five years, she had risen to the ranks of a leading stewardess at one of the top global Asian airlines and wedding plans were underway to the love of her life.

At 1.69m tall, Deshi is a head-turner. Slim, slender, sporting a pixie crop with Bambi doe-eyes, Deshi is strikingly beautiful. Unlike most girls who are drawn to the allure of a stewardess’ job, Deshi’s love for flying stems from her love of wanderlust, a passion she found instilled in her since she was a young girl.

It did not take long for Deshi to satisfy her hunger to travel the world. While studying for her Diploma, she took up a job as a travel agent familiarising herself with the traits of the travel industry before joining Qatar Airways as a stewardess after her graduation. During her tenure at Qatar Airways, Deshi fell in love and immersed herself in the rich and diverse culture of the Middle East, even picking up the Arabic language.

Two years later, in hopes of globetrotting other parts of the world, Deshi left to join a leading Asian airline and her eyes sparkled as she proudly exclaimed that she had already turned her wish into reality and  covered pretty much every destination on the globe.

But life as a stewardess is not all that glamourous, and as with any other job, Deshi shared that there were peaks and troughs, but her love for travel and meeting new people spurred her on. But alas, in an unfortunate twist of fate, Deshi plummeted to the lowest trough of her life last January, and this is her story.

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Editor’s Note: Carnival of Hope

SPARK Cancer Warriors (from left to right) Mr Seow, Nita, Yvonne & Li Leng

SPARK Cancer Warriors (from left to right) Mr Seow, Nita, Yvonne & Li Leng

Hello SPARK readers!

The year is once again coming to an end and we hope that it has been a fruitful one for you. We birthed SPARK in November last year and now, SPARK is finally a year old and we celebrate it with the eleven courageous cancer warriors who have shared their cancer journeys with us and all of you out there, to let everyone know that the battle with cancer can be fought and won, and that hope is all around.

Everyone’s journey with cancer is different, but one thing’s the same – it isn’t an easy one. With each unique individual we feature, we hope at least one of them will be able to touch your heart, and make your journey an easier one, knowing that someone else has treaded the same path and conquered it.

Just last month, we held our annual NCIS Celebrates Life Survivorship Party which was themed “Carnival of Hope”. This event is organised specially for our patients, survivors and their caregivers, to gather everyone from all our support groups for an afternoon of bonding and fun, and to celebrate lives that cannot be diminished by cancer.

This year’s celebrations were made even more special, as four of our SPARK cancer warriors – Mr Seow Tiang Keng from Issue 1, Yvonne from Issue 4, Nita from Issue 5 and Li Leng from Issue 6, were down to lend their support by sharing their individual experience with cancer on stage.

Panels of our SPARK Cancer Warriors displayed at the NCIS Celebrates Life Survivorship Party 2015

Panels of our SPARK Cancer Warriors displayed at the NCIS Celebrates Life Survivorship Party 2015. From left to right, Li Leng, Mr Seow, Nita & Yvonne

To have our SPARK cancer warriors who were each diagnosed with a different type of cancer come forward to encourage our patients really struck a chord and tugged at heartstrings, and their sharing was received with overwhelming applause.

Bonding over a crafts workshop

Bonding over a crafts workshop

Apart from this, participants also got to register for a myriad of workshops ranging from craft, to mindfulness therapy and yin yoga sessions, all of which contribute to life’s pleasures, something which cancer cannot rob anyone of.

Cancer cannot rob you of your spirit

Cancer cannot rob you of your spirit

It truly was a Carnival of Hope as all our patients, survivors and their caregivers laughed together, had fun together and bonded together, and everyone had smiles on their faces.

Life is truly worth celebrating and every breath counts. For the coming year, we wish all our patients, survivors, their caregivers and our readers a very happy and healthy new year and may you live everyday of your life with zeal and conviction, and appreciate everything life has to offer.

Every day is a celebration of life

Every day is a celebration of life

We look forward to bringing you more inspirational stories of our SPARK cancer warriors in the coming year and if you are our patient, survivor or caregiver and would like to come forward to share your story to inspire and ignite a spark of hope to others around the world, do email ncis_comms@nuhs.edu.sg as we would love to share your story!

With that, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Wishing you lots of good tidings
NCIS Corporate Communications Team

Issue 11 – Unbreakable

Joan snorkeling in Pulau Tengah

51 year old Joan Ng leads an active life. Her skin a shade of sun-kissed golden tan, Joan is an avid lover of the outdoors, especially diving, a sport that holds a special place in her heart, since it was where love blossomed between her and her husband. Besides diving, Joan also enjoys swimming, trekking, ballroom dancing and waltz, of all which keep her busy when she’s not working.

Joan, who is currently in the sales line, has been in the same company for close to 15 years. The nature of her job fuels her passion, her bosses and colleagues are supportive and caring and the best part? She gets to travel on the job, another perk for her.

Not only is Joan active, she is also health-conscious. Despite being a foodie who loves going around Singapore and documenting her favourite eats in pictures, Joan makes a conscious effort to eat healthy for her weekday lunches by preparing nutritious salads in the office, only indulging in good food over the weekends as a treat to herself.

Having lost her mother to Cervical Cancer and her father to Leukaemia, Joan always had a subconscious fear and paranoia that she would fall prey to the disease too. Thus, she made a point to conduct regular breast self-examinations on herself in the shower to keep abreast of any changes in her body. This went on for the most part of her life, and Joan was finally starting to have some peace of mind until one self-examination changed her life.

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Issue 10 – Look Good Feel Better

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49 year old June Chai, Cervical Cancer Survivor

“You look good”, these three words have been generously showered on Madam Chai far too often by friends and strangers alike. In the flesh, Madam Chai strikes a sprightly sassy figure. Sporting a chic short crop trendily dyed a bright hue of brown complemented with hot pink lipstick a la K-pop style, Madam Chai’s presence immediately lifted our spirits as she cheerfully greeted us with the twist sign. It is no wonder compliments come to her aplenty as her outlook and her demeanour immediately take years off her 49 years of age.

“Call me June”, she says, as she shares with us her story of independence, courage and strength.

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Issue 9 – Setia Cinta (“Loyal Love”)

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Erma Maulood, popular local singing sensation who was diagnosed with Lymphoma at the peak of her career

31 year old Erma Maulood has it all. At the tender age of 17, Erma already established herself as a household name within the Singapore entertainment scene with a solo record under her name. At age 20, Erma married fellow celebrity singer Idi Hakim and the power duo went on to scale their careers to new heights by joining forces to top the local charts with their power ballad duets.  Today, Erma and Idi remain happily married after 11 years, are proud parents to three young ones, and recently released their latest hit ballad “Setia Cinta”, another chart topper, last May.

To the outside world, it looks like Erma has it easy. However, what people don’t know is that Erma has been a fighter all her life – fighting for her career, fighting for her children, fighting for her life; and this is her story.

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