A 46-year-old Singaporean mother is fighting stage four ovarian cancer called ‘Ovarian Clear Cell Carcinoma’, that occurs in only 5 percent of ovarian cancer sufferers.
Tam Chek Ming is a single mother of a five-year-old son and the sole breadwinner. After years of suffering and as a last resort, she published her ordeal on a Generosity.com.
Tam underwent major surgery on 6 April 2015 to remove a huge 12.5 cm ovarian cyst, when ultrasound scans and CA125 cancer marker blood tests indicated high possibility of ovarian cancer. The diagnosis confirmed of ovarian cancer subsequently.
She underwent chemotherapy, with debilitating side effects such as low immunity, nausea, dizziness, extreme fatigue, low blood count, persistent diarrhea, weight loss, numbness in the hands, pains, and shingles twice. There was also fear of severe complications of infections from a weakened immune system.
All these eventually passed after she completed the six cycles in September 2015.
The single mother thought her ordeal would be over when treatment ceased and she could play again with her son, who is now only five years old.
Tam had hoped that she would be able to survive to raise her son. She wrote, “I will do anything for him. Being 3-year-old at the time, he did not know much. But, he saw me lose my hair, vomit, lying in bed unwell for hours and could not play with him – he could not comprehend or understand the reasons.”
However, in September 2015, her stage 1C ovarian clear cell cancer grew aggressively to stage four. The doctor told her it is now impossible to either operate or cure since the cancer has resurged aggressively to stage four in such a short amount of time.
The cancer was very aggressive, and has been resistant to the strongest of chemotherapy treatments. It has spread to her heart, lungs, liver, spine, and caused multiple growths in her abdomen, compressing a nerve which caused permanent numbness in her left thigh.
Tam lives in a small, 45-sqm, (one bedroom, one hall) HDB flat. She had sold off everything that she could sell, in order to survive month-to-month.
She wrote, “Oftentimes, I skip meals in order to save up enough money to feed my son proper meals, as he was born prematurely and underweight.”
“I have met many kind people but the amount of help that I need is more than what my normal acquaintances can help.”
Tam has made an appeal for public donations on GIVE.asia to fund her expensive treatments.
She wrote, “I hope that your donation would be able to help me to pay for my family’s medical bills; basic necessities; household bills; taxi journeys to/from hospital (because I am unsteady on my feet nowadays due to neuropathy and blood pressure is low); some nutritious fresh foods, and daily living expenses.”
Tam also wrote that she is burdened by bank debts left in her her name by an abusive estranged spouse, who had left the country several years ago.
She said that she longs to reserve fund for her mother to sustain herself and enable her to care for her young son when she passes on. She wrote, “They will be in urgent need in the many years to come. Thank you in advance for all donations.”
Tam have no private health insurance and is not covered under the CPF Dependent Protection Scheme.
She is a subsidised patient under the MediShield Life scheme, NUH medical assistance fund (for Avastin) and the medical bill subsidy by Medifund, which does not cover all bills.
She wrote, “I am grateful to the Singapore Government and the National University Hospital (NUH) of Singapore. I am thankful to all the NUH Doctors, Nurses, Radiologists, Therapists, Counter Staff, Support Staff and Medical Social Workers for their kindness and support.“
The cost for immunotherapy treatment amounts to about $139,000 a year. The medicine is administered every 3 weeks. The medicine costs between $6,500 and $8,000 per dose, and there are usually pre-medications that need to be administered too, prior to each dose of the immunotherapy medicine.
“I need to survive this fight for my life, for at least another few more years in order to stay with my son. He is just too young to lose his mom. Please help me,” she wrote.
“Any help, no matter how big or small, will make a big difference.”
Between bouts of tears at the end of her video she said, “I want to live or at least to bring him up … until he’s at least 21. Because he can’t defend himself if anybody hurts him, he can’t speak up for himself.”
“If I’m single I won’t bother, I will just say forget it, I’ll just settle over, I’ll prefer to just go you know…”
Four months ago, Tam gave an update about her condition on Generosity.com. She said that newer, more effective cancer treatments such as immunotherapy are now available, “but only the wealthy can afford it” as it is currently not subsidised here due to a lack of sufficient data, although it has passed clinical trials and it is an approved treatment.
“The treatment is apparently subsidised elsewhere. I need to raise funds to try to gain access to immunotherapy, before it is too late for any intervention as I fight to stay alive in order to raise my child safely. I was told that patients have to pay for 2 sessions’ worth of treatments in advance each time because the necessary medicines have to be ordered beforehand. The treatment duration is at least a year, to gather necessary data and to meaningfully track the disease’s response to treatment,” she continued.
She also expressed her gratitude to all her supporters and people who donated for their care, concern and advocacy. She said, “I wish to thank everyone who donated to my cause, for extending this lifeline to me and my little boy. I am very moved by your awesome kindness – from those who know me and from many total strangers too!”
Tam has achieved $68,857 USD out of the target $36,000 USD, but will still continue to require support for her medical expenses.