Almost nothing fazes HCA patient Mdm Sum Wai Kum – not even death. Her story is a tale of resilience and grit in the face of adversity, a valuable lesson in finding light in darkness.
The feisty former accounts clerk has endured a multitude of health challenges over the past decade, but still approaches each day with enthusiasm. Mdm Sum vividly recalls her first encounter with cancer in 2009, after a routine mammogram. “The doctor at the polyclinic referred me to the hospital, and that’s when I knew,” she says. “I braced myself mentally for the bad news and asked my husband [who has since passed on] not to go for the follow-up appointment with me.”
Mdm Sum recovered from her first cancer after treatment, but suffered a relapse in 2018. “At that time, I was having really severe pain in my back,” she said. “After running some tests, the doctors diagnosed me with metastatic cancer.”
“The radiotherapy was excruciating; it felt like my throat was on fire and I couldn’t swallow water.”
Despite the pain and discomfort from the cancer and accompanying treatment, nothing was as devastating as losing her husband to lymphoma. “I kept him company for the whole day whenever he was hospitalised,” she says. “On that fateful day, he had internal bleeding and the doctors could not resuscitate him.”
“I didn’t get to see him for the last time.”
On mornings when she’s not experiencing breathlessness, Mdm Sum loves savouring a cup of tea at the local coffeeshop over conversation with longtime neighbours from the Tanglin Halt community.
After her fortnightly palliative chemotherapy sessions, Mdm Sum looks forward to tucking into her favourite food in Chinatown, a stone’s throw away from the hospital. “Sometimes, I’ll do a bit of shopping as well,” she says with a smile.
These chemotherapy treatments are complemented by regular home visits made by HCA’s clinical team, to ensure Mdm Sum – who lives alone – receives medical and emotional support in the comfort of her own home. “My doctor at the hospital referred me to HCA, as I was very weak then and he was concerned that I couldn’t manage on my own at home,” she shares.
Mdm Sum recalls how her primary care nurse from HCA, Liu Yan, rushed to her home after she had called, when she was experiencing a fainting spell. “My red blood cell count was very low then, and I nearly died,” she shares.
From Strangers to Friends
Over the course of the past few months since Mdm Sum was referred to HCA at the start of the year, Liu Yan and our medical social worker, Ching Sian, have established great trust and rapport with her. When Mdm Sum mentioned she was looking for a portable rack to house her snacks for easy access while watching the TV, Liu Yan immediately set out to look for something suitable, eventually procuring a lightweight rack with multiple tiers for her.
A fiercely independent woman who started working at the tender age of 14 to earn her own keep, Mdm Sum is determined to enjoy each day, engaging in cherished hobbies and catching up with loved ones. “I see myself as a normal person, just living happily and eating whatever I want,” she says simply.
Give the gift of light today. The bleak economic climate and dwindling donations are one of HCA’s most pressing concerns. To date, we have only reached 40% of our fundraising target for this financial year. Together, we can continue to provide professional care to more patients like Mdm Sum, at no charge.
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