Even with her busy work schedule, former banker Ms Chan Sik Mun made it a point to exercise at least four times a week, focusing on cardio and resistance training. In early 2014, her workouts became difficult as she started to get breathless very easily. In the months that followed, Ms Chan underwent a number of medical tests and in November 2014 learnt that she had Stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
NSCLC is the most common type of lung cancer and while cigarette smoking is the main cause of lung cancer, more than a quarter of lung cancer cases in Singapore occur in people who have never smoked or had prior smoke exposure1.
“My dad passed away from pancreatic cancer so a cancer diagnosis wasn’t a shock for me” said Ms Chan. “But as a non-smoker who lives a relatively healthy lifestyle, a lung cancer diagnosis was quite unexpected.”
Ms Chan sought treatment at the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) and shared that she was a highly involved patient. She would do her own research on the efficacy of drugs and ask her oncologist, Dr Ng Quan Sing, questions about her treatment plans. Along with chemotherapy, she started on targeted therapy as well and has been maintained on it since.
Despite the difficulties of adjusting to her condition and treatment, Ms Chan found comfort and confidence in her healthcare team. “At my first encounter, Dr Ng was factual and honest, and he delivered the information in a way that comforted me as a patient. I felt that this was a doctor who really cares about his patients’ well-being.”
She had equal praise for the NCCS staff. “The nurse who manned the helpline in Triage was superb. She answered all my questions in the most professional and caring manner. And how can I not mention Rossnani, the Senior Patient Relations Associate Executive, at Clinic C? She is forever cheerful, helpful and even with the number of patients whom she meets, she can remember my name!”
Through her journey, Ms Chan realised the importance of continuous research to deepen the understanding of various cancers. Motivated by this realisation, she asked about making a legacy gift in support of lung cancer research at NCCS.
“Once diagnosed with a terminal illness, a will had to be written” said Ms Chan. A self-described pragmatist, she believes in spending time with the people she loves and creating happy memories with them, rather than leaving them money in her will. “Giving to research, on the other hand, made perfect sense, as advances in cures and treatments can become a global common good,” she added.
Development Officers at NCCS worked with Ms Chan to identify an area of research that best fit her gift intent and advised her on the details to be included in her will. For Ms Chan, making this legacy gift was a way to plan ahead and leave a powerful and lasting philanthropic impact on a cause that is closest to her heart.
Six years on from her lung cancer diagnosis, Ms Chan says she lives an almost normal life. After completing her chemotherapy in 2015, she made it her mission to travel the world and live life to the fullest, whether it is braving the cold to see the Northern lights or putting her lung power to the test by visiting Mount Fuji. With the current travel restrictions, the spritely, resilient and ever-positive retiree now spends her days cooking, gardening and exercising on her treadmill.
She still visits Dr Ng, “her favourite oncologist”, for regular check-ups, and has now, through her gift, contributed to the advancements that are being made to cure, relieve and comfort generations of patients suffering from lung cancer.
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