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Mr William Woo's Story - IPCA 2023

"We miss her terribly, especially our grandchildren. My wife was my soulmate and I wish I had more time with her."


Retired business owner, Husband of patient 

My wife, Chwee Gim, was diagnosed with end-stage lung cancer in May 2020, after a persistent cough that lasted for more than six months. It was a challenging time as she became ill at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Medical appointments had to be deferred as healthcare professionals were mobilised to cope with the pandemic.

When it was clear she did not have COVID-19, she was seen at the respiratory clinic of National University Hospital, where she had been treated for tuberculosis about 20 years ago. 

The X-rays did not reveal she had cancer then. But when she started losing weight rapidly, from 48kg in February to 42kg to April, I knew something was wrong. In the middle of 2020, we received the devastating news that she had lung cancer, which had since spread to her bones.

My wife is an incredibly strong person, yet the diagnosis was a blow to her. She was shocked. She did not smoke or drink, yet she was struck with such a terrible illness. Scans revealed the cancer had spread to her hips. To improve her mobility, doctors inserted a femoral shaft to support her thigh and hip. She told me she was depressed, and wondered how long she could survive.

After her diagnosis and initial treatment, she was warded at Outram Community Hospital (OCH) from the middle of 2020, but I was unable to visit her in-person due to pandemic restrictions. To ease her loneliness and depression during this period, I cooked or bought food for her and brought them to OCH, and we would have long phone calls every day along with messages of encouragement throughout the day. I remember how she insisted on being discharged so that she could celebrate my birthday at home. That was how loving she was, and I am very touched and grateful to have had a wife like her.

s part of her treatment, she was prescribed a daily oral medication for her cancer. When Chwee Gim realised how costly the oral medication was – about $7,000 a month before subsidy – she told me she was not keen to spend my hard-earned money on the drugs. Doctors said she had about three months to live if she did not take the medication, but two to three years if she did. Over the next two weeks, I tirelessly persuaded her to continue with treatment and assured her that money could be earned again. I wanted us to spend as much time as possible together as a family.

In early 2022, Chwee Gim's condition started deteriorating after a fall at home, and by Mar 2022, she did not have enough strength to walk on her own. She was hospitalized in SGH for further diagnosis, but was soon transferred to OCH's pallative ward. With COVID-19 restrictions gradually easing, I would visit her twice a day. During her stay there, she told me she did not have much appetite and craved the food she used to love, so I made it a point to plan and prepare different meals for her each day to keep her motivated. I would also massage her, clean her, and feed her medicine whenever I visited. Often, I was the last visitor to leave the ward.  While I tried my best to always be there for her, I could not have done it without the support of both our sons. 

Around June 2022, I noticed that the vision in her left eye was failing, and her eyes started to take on a grey tint, which gradually got worse from then on.  Around this time, scans also started showing evidence of cancer cells progression. The oncologist shared that this meant Chwee Gim was no longer responding to the oral medication that she had been on for about two years. She stoically accepted it, and the whole family made the commitment to spend as much time as we could to keep her company. A few months later, Chwee Gim passed on.

We miss her terribly, especially our grandchildren. My wife was my soulmate and I wish I had more time with her. 

"William devoted himself to ensure his wife's well-being in the ward and to make the most out of their remaining time together. Our team is inspired and touched by his love for her."

Sandy Koh, Principal Medical Social Worker
Medical Social Services, OCH

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