When Melvin Lee’s wife died at the age of 36, he made a donation to support research into rare and genetic cancers to help others facing similar diseases. But he wanted to do more to honour his wife’s memory and keep alive her kind and giving spirit.
“Yan and I met while studying in Melbourne. We were both in our early twenties, became close friends then fell in love. We planned our future together and got married in 2006. Things weren’t always easy but it didn’t really matter because we had each other to rejoice in the good and commiserate in the bad.
We tried for a long time to get pregnant but without success. When we were moving towards the idea of intrauterine insemination, we discovered that Yan had an aggressive form of uterine cancer and that the odds were greatly against her recovery. She was just 31 years old. We hoped and prayed that she would get better but the chemotherapy didn’t work; in fact, it seemed to make her condition worse.
Yan was referred to the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) where doctors discovered her cancer was caused by a rare underlying genetic disorder called Fanconi Anaemia (FA) that made her extremely susceptible to cancer. To make things worse, her FA made her pancytopenic, causing her white blood, red blood and platelet cell counts to all drop to critical levels.
Unfortunately, this meant that the most effective chemotherapy options for her particular type of cancer would not work for her. Yet she always remained hopeful and did a lot of her own research into other possible treatments as well, constantly asking her oncologist if a particular type of medication or therapy might help.
It was hard to see my wife suffer during her treatment but her grace and faith were truly inspiring. She never once complained nor lashed out at me or those around her. Instead, she crafted handmade cards and boxes to encourage other patients who were battling cancer and made sure that I ate properly even when she could no longer eat. That was Yan’s nature, always thinking of others in spite of her own suffering. She trusted in God completely and was still able to participate in praise and worship even until the very end.
Witnessing her four-year battle with cancer made me appreciate how precious life is and the importance of making a difference in the world. I made a donation to the NCCS Cancer Genetics Service to support research into rare and genetic cancers to help others who are battling similar diseases. But I want to do more to honour my wife’s memory and keep alive her kind and generous spirit. So I’m now volunteering with NCCS’ Fundraising Committee, to raise funds for patient care initiatives and critical cancer research. I know that this is something that Yan would want me to do as well.”
- Melvin Lee, husband of the late Ms Keok Yanhui
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