Childhood cancer survivors become wish granters to encourage others
When she was a teenager, she suddenly fainted when she was in the middle of her piano lesson.
After going through a series of tests, she was diagnosed with nasal cancer.
With last month being Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Ms Stefanie Loh, now 28, said the news she received more than a decade ago as a Secondary 3 student turned her world upside down.
She told The New Paper: "It happened so suddenly and I was so lost. I never thought that a child could get cancer. There were no symptoms, other than frequent headaches which I attributed to stress."
Just a few days after her diagnosis, Ms Loh was rushed for surgery to remove a tumour, after which she slipped into a coma. When she woke up, she had difficulties eating, speaking and swallowing, because the operation was done through her mouth.
She said: "That period of time was traumatic for me."
Over four months, she had to go through 35 sessions of radiotherapy treatment, which caused her to experience nausea, hair loss and ulcers, and she could eat only mainly soft food.
Hospitalised during this period and feeling down, Ms Loh was visited by volunteers from children's charity organisation Make-A-Wish Singapore (MAWSG).
It organised a party for her with food and games, and she was surprised when she not only received the laptop she wanted, but it was also handed to her by one of her favourite musicians, Singapore Idol runner-up and local singer Sylvester Sim.
Ms Loh then had the opportunity to play the piano while her idol sang along.
She said: "It made me really happy and it also made me realise how much I loved music. It was a magical moment."
Having seen first-hand the power that a wish had on improving a life and outlook, she was driven to spread that hope through the organisation.
Ms Loh became a volunteer, or wish granter, with MAWSG when she turned 21 to help bring joy to children with cancer.
She said: "After my wish party, I told myself that when I come of age, I would want to be a wish granter. Whenever I see the kids we help smile even in the midst of their treatments, I am touched."
Another cancer survivor and wish child, who wanted to be known only as Joanna, 16, was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a common type of cancerous brain tumour in children, when she was 10.
She told TNP: "I could not do the simplest things, such as walking and talking. It was like being a baby but in a bigger body."
Fortunately, the Kranji Secondary School student is not living with any effects now.
Recently, she helped design a limited-edition custom mask to celebrate MAWSG's World Wish Day, which was on April 29 this year.
One of the elements of her design is a dreamcatcher. She was inspired to include it as it guarantees positive dreams, according to a Native American legend.
Joanna said she volunteered as she was grateful for how MAWSG helped her cope with cancer and said that surviving cancer has made her a stronger person mentally.
She added: "During the entire process, I also learnt the importance of family and my close kin. I really appreciated the time and effort they spent to make me happier and become healthier.
"I have learnt many life lessons such as not to give up easily and to persevere during challenging times."