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Mdm Chua's Story - IPCA 2023

"My mum led a tough life raising four of us with limited resources, yet she was one of the most gracious and bravest persons I knew.." 

1927 to 2022
My mum was 94 when she was diagnosed in August 2021 with end-stage lung cancer that had spread to her brain and lymph nodes. Before that, she had been coughing for some time. It worsened to a point when she became breathless, and we had to rush her to the emergency department.

She underwent lung surgery, where a tube was inserted through her throat to support her lungs and help her breathe better. After that, she bravely underwent 16 cycles of radiation despite her advanced age. Her dream of visiting her hometown in Hainan Island, China, kept her going.

Following her discharge, my siblings and I took care of her at home. 10 months later, she fell in the bathroom and broke her left hip. Due to her age, she could not undergo surgery for the fracture. Instead, she was warded in Outram Community Hospital (OCH) for rehabilitation where she actively participated in the activities organised by the therapists.

One of such activities was called reminiscence therapy, a weekly session where patients were prompted to share what they remembered about Singapore then and now, based on a deck of photos. I heard from a medical social worker that Mum also provided her honest opinion such as the photos may be overly dated for the group to relate to, and also suggested that the facilitators could provide a few themes for the group to select from to promote a livelier conversation. These feedback in turn benefitted other patients in the group. Despite being ill, she was not one to whine. Instead, she lived everyday with gusto.

My mum led a tough life raising four of us with limited resources, yet she was one of the most gracious and bravest persons I knew. Growing up, I recall our family of six living in a cramped rental room, with Mum working two to three jobs as the main breadwinner of the household. But even in adversity, she remained positive and grateful for whatever little she had.

In the hopes of providing a comfortable home for us, she singlehandedly saved enough to buy a three-room flat in 1983. But it was not always about us – Mum had a heart of gold and was generous with gifts to friends, and family and those in the community. She continued working well into her 80s because that was just how hardworking and independent she was.

We originally booked tickets to travel to Hainan in 2020, but COVID-19 struck and our plans were scuppered. While Mum didn't make it there, she was a trooper until the end when she passed away in October 2022. We know that despite her pain, she did not want us to worry. She even did her own afterlife planning in her last days.

We miss our mum terribly since her passing, nonetheless, she continues to live in our hearts and in those whom she touched.

Recounted by Ms Catherine, daughter of the late Mdm Chua Kim Hwa

"We had the chance to bring my mum on overseas trips in her later years, and realised how adventurous she was. In 2016, she travelled with us all the way to Salt Lake City in Utah, USA, to visit my sister. During the trip, she gamely tried new dishes and had a great time."

Sandy Koh, Principal Medical Social Worker
Medical Social Services, Outram Community Hospital