Recipient grateful to bone marrow donor

She is in Taiwan, more than 3,000km from Singapore.He has never met her, but her bone marrow saved his life four years back.

Mr Ng Yi Yong, 31, who was diagnosed with lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes) six years ago, hopes to meet his guardian angel through the group that helped matched them.

When he does so, he says that he would bow to her in gratitude.

Bone marrow recipients like Mr Ng owe their lives to the thousands of anonymous donors who register themselves with the Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP), a group that matches bone marrow donors to patients.

The BMDP held a charity dinner in March at Mandarin Orchard Hotel that raised more than $500,000.

The money will help pay for the DNA testing for those who sign up to be donors.

It is aiming for 5,000 new sign-ups this month.

With more sign-ups, those who suffer from such diseases may get a second chance at life, like Mr Ng.

Fever for half a year

He was a few months into the job when he was diagnosed.

Mr Ng said: “I had fever for half a year, went for many check-ups at hospitals and there was pain in my pelvic region.”

When he received the news that he had lymphoma, his mind went blank.

There is a possibility of death with the condition, and he knew it.

He said: “I underwent chemotherapy for half a year, but the cancer cells did not shrink, so I had to undergo a transplant.”

When his elder sister proved to be an unsuitable match, he was referred to the BMDP, which tried getting him a suitable donor.

The BMDP is the only bone marrow donor registry in Singapore.

“This kind of things – I can’t just put it on Facebook to ask people to donate, right?” joked Mr Ng.

In two months, BMDP found four donors who matched him.

“I guess I was lucky. I actually laughed when they told me they found four.”

Despite the luxury of having so many donors, Mr Ng was still apprehensive about going ahead with the operation, which was scheduled to take place in Singapore.

“I was scared of the pain. I was also uncertain about the loneliness, as I would have to be in the isolation ward for very long.”

Depending on the patients’ post-op condition, they will be hospitalised for 20 to 30 days.

Two years after his diagnosis, he underwent the transplant.

“Staying in that room, cut off from everyone, was an experience no words can describe. Plus, I was very weak due to my low immune system,” recalled Mr Ng.

“There was emotional pain, psychological pain, and physical pain, all in one.”

In the four years he was undergoing treatment, Mr Ng had to stop working.

“I’m very thankful that my company took me back after my treatment,” he said.

He is especially grateful to his donor, although he still does not know who she is.

This is due to the anonymity clause, which states that it is only after two years that a donor and recipient can meet.

“I only know she is a Taiwanese, roughly two years older than me.”

He wishes to meet her and thank her personally for saving his life, as he feels it is the least that he can do to express his gratitude.

In 2009, a year after his transplant, he needed a further donation of white blood cells.

That same donor willingly donated to him again.

“There’s not much tangible benefits for the donor, and if anything, it’s even an inconvenience. So I’m really very thankful.”

He hopes BMDP can help him get in touch with her.

BMDP is helping him fulfil his wish by making inquiries with the donor’s side.

If both parties are willing, contact details will be exchanged and a meeting can be planned.

“I think if I see her, I will really bow to her… It’s a gift of life that she gave to me.”

This article was first published in The New Paper

She touched others with her strength

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and doctors gave her only months to live.Three times she proved them wrong, tackling the disease head-on with a grace that proved inspirational to everyone around her, including her three young daughters.

On Thursday morning, five years after she was first diagnosed, Ms Evelyn Teo Swee Lin’s battle with the disease finally ended.

The 39-year-old died in Assissi Hospice, with husband Alan Yong and daughters Sarah, 12, Nicole, 10, and Vera, seven, by her side.

On Friday, at her wake at Eastwood Terrace, Mr Yong, 41, told The New Paper how his wife’s blog ( had inspired many.

Readers would comment that they were touched by her strength and faith, and that they learnt to cherish what they had in life.

The regional IT director for a UK company said: “They became her close personal friends. Some were cancer patients too, and she would visit them.”


Ms Teo, an ex-IT project manager, spoke openly about her illness through her blog, as a presenter with the Catholic marriage enrichment programme and as an ambassador of a National Healthcare Group (NHG) health awareness campaign.

Even while she was touching other people’s lives, Ms Teo didn’t forget about her loved ones.

Mr Yong spoke fondly about how he and his wife started writing love notes to each other in 2008, when they joined the Catholic programme Marriage Encounter.

The couple later became presenters for the programme.

Mr Yong has about 11 books filled with these notes. Ms Teo even kept a book each for their daughters.

The couple would pen their thoughts at the same time before exchanging books. And they would share excerpts with others at the marriage programme.

“Through her cancer experience, she was able to draw out what our struggles were as acouple,” said Mr Yong.

“There were struggles with chemotherapy, end-of-life issues…”

The couple had been discussing such issues for a long time, Mr Yong said.

“But as the time draws nearer, emotion takes over. Things you talk about while your wife is healthy are different when she’s sick.”

Mr Yong said his wife was a determined person who lived her life in the manner she wanted.

She even planned her wake – for example, on how she would be clad in her favourite Nonya dress.

Mr Yong said he was making good on her request to have a rock band at her wake: the band will play her favourite songs on Sunday, including songs from Snow Patrol and Coldplay.

The band request was just one item on Ms Teo’s bucket list, a catalogue of things to do before you die, drawn up when the couple found out in 2009 that hercancer had returned after a year and had spread to her lungs.

Another item on the list was a trip to Europe: Rome, Venice, Barcelona, Paris and Lourdes.

Said Mr Yong: “Doctors said she had six months to live, so we left the kids with our parents and went for the trip of our lives.”

Since the couple only had a simple ceremony when they were married in 1999, their friends threw them a big church party to fulfil a third item: To be married in church.


Life as a couple aside, Ms Teo kept busy in her last years.

In 2010, she was approached by NHG to be an ambassador for its “Caring It Forward” campaign, in support of people passing on good health practices.

Photos of Ms Teo and her family were put up around MRT stations and she was interviewed on radio and television talk shows.

She also contributed a recipe to the Nanyang Technological University’s “Sharing Plates” cookbook project, which contains anecdotes and recipes for cancer patients.

Mr Yong said that his wife had prepared their daughters well for her death.

Said Mr Yong: “We didn’t hide the truth from them, but said it in a way they would understand.

“As for her projects, Mummy did them as deposits into the memory of her children.”

He added: “To achieve what she did within a short period of time was amazing. For me, I was proud and privileged to have married her.

“All I did was go along for the ride.”

This article was first published in The New Paper

She gives up locks to help stray cats

It was an impulsive decision that she regretted at first.But business journalist Cheryl Cheah, 27, knew that it was for a good cause. And driven by her love for cats, the decision came to fruition.

In front of a crowd of some 15 curious bystanders at pet shop The Pet Safari in nex mall yesterday, Ms Cheah had the first-time experience of getting her head shaved at the hands of a pet groomer.

“I hope to let people know that you can sacrifice a few of your material things and personal appearance to do something for street cats,” she said.

With the buzz cut, she hopes to raise awareness and funds that will to go towards the sterilisation of stray cats in the community, in an event called Spay Day.

Since last month, supporters have donated $2,200 towards her cause through online fund-raising platform

All proceeds will go to the Cat Welfare Society (CWS), the organisers of Spay Day.

The target is to hit $10,000 by the end of this month.

This year, CWS will hold two Spay Days – one on May 25 and another sometime in October.

The events will be held through partnerships with 28 veterinary clinics here and CWS aims to sterilise 600 stray cats over those two days.

Spotting a cleanly shaven pate, Ms Cheah said she is now worried about her two pet cats. “I don’t know if they will recognise me when I get home,” she said.

This article was first published in myPaper

Innoweek Kindness Gallery Tour with the Little Ones


In conjunction with MOE’s Innoweek, Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM) collaborated with Temasek Polytechnic’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences, in particular, the Early Childhood Education course. Year 1 students from this course volunteered at the gallery tour which was held from 26th to 30th March.

That week, SKM was thrilled to welcome a total of 550 children and 36 teachers to be a part of our team to reinforce the importance of kindness in our precious little ones. It is important that we instil in our young children the necessity of being a kind individual so that we can guide them away from the trap of paramount, which may be prevalent in our kindergarten children.

A gallery tour, along with a story-telling session was conducted. The children were also encouraged to design a ‘Thank You’ card for their parents or loved ones in an art and craft session. The children were zealous and eager to learn about Singa and the kindness cubbies  and through the animation series, they were able to identify issues and correct them!

The week may have drawn to an end, but the spirit to spread kindness continues on. Let’s work together to make someone’s day and most importantly, be that ‘hero’ and ‘heroine’ in the eyes of our little ones to model!

This article was first published in Singapore Kindness Movement