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A Time for You to Act

Pratibha and her husband, Dev, at their wedding celebrations in December 2014. 

Between our twenties and forties, there are many new beginnings - new jobs, responsibilities, and even bigger ambitions for the future.

Like many young adults, Pratibha was no different. The educator and her sweetheart spent almost a year in preparation for their very own 'once-in-a-lifetime' celebration – their wedding.  It was a sweet union witnessed by their closest family and friends in late 2014. 

However, life hit an abrupt pause just two months into their life together when Pratibha received a cancer diagnosis.

Immediately, thoughts of a future with her spouse were replaced with the fear of dying. Honeymoon plans to Iceland were shelved and conversations surrounded chemotherapy treatment schedules instead. The immediate goal was to get better and survive.

Pratibha is one of many adolescent and young (AYA) adults who receive a cancer diagnosis each year. 

Many of these patients are in the prime of their lives - in the final lap of completing their studies, climbing the corporate ladder, or starting to learn the ropes of parenting. Celebratory milestones are overshadowed by a diagnosis, and existing challenges are compounded by the difficulties associated with treatment.

"It was a terrible time after the diagnosis," recalls Pratibha. "Some days the pain was so unbearable, it took every bit of strength in my body to make it through the day. Gearing up and having the mental strength while undergoing treatment really took a toll on me. It took everything in me to stay focused and finish the treatment."

AYA patients refers to patients aged 16 to 39 years old. Common cancers for this age group include lymphomas and leukaemia, sarcomas, germ cell tumours, brain tumours, breast and cervix cancers. Worldwide, there are very limited resources available and only a few centres provide AYA-dedicated services. 

In Singapore and Asia, there are currently no dedicated services to meet these needs. NCCS sees between 450 to 550 new AYA cases each year.

To improve cancer care for patients like Pratibha, Dr Eileen Poon, NCCS consultant medical oncologist, led a team to form the NCCS AYA Oncology Support Group in January 2017. 

The support group provides psychosocial help during and after treatment, and brings some degree of normalcy and control back into the lives of AYA patients, survivors, and their caregivers. Through workshops, educational talks and outings, the group serves as a platform for emotional comfort, moral support and the exchange of practical advices and resources.  

A recent outreach event was held at the OCBC Square in August. Titled 'A time for You to Act', NCCS collaborated with Team Singapore to rally people from all walks of lives to set the first national record in the Singapore Book of Records for the most number of steps achieved on stepper machines. 

Photos by: Chua Kwang Hao and Muhammad Noor Amin

A time for You to Act was held on 4 August 2019. 

Singapore athletes lending their support at the event.

Team NCCS! 
Front row, from right to left: NCCS Medical Director, Professor William Hwang and Consultant Medical Oncologist, Dr Eileen Poon

Members of the public stepping up to raise awareness for adolescents and young adults affected by cancer. 

Lots of supporters at the event!

A total of 344,744 steps were clocked by members of the public, cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, NCCS healthcare professionals and Team Singapore athletes.

Today, Pratibha is a cancer survivor. She has returned to work and travelled to various countries with her loved ones.

"During my cancer treatment, it was my family, friends and community of support that kept me going. I was never alone for my chemotherapy sessions. They stayed in the hospital to cheer me up, and even arranged staycations and surprise brunches because they knew I had to stay indoors."

Speaking about her experience in the AYA support group, Pratibha shared, "Being part of a patient support group like this really changes you. When you meet other survivors who have been through what you've been through, it gives you so much hope. Now, I get to be a living example to people that a cancer diagnosis is not the end."

If you wish to find out more about the NCCS AYA Oncology Support Group, please contact