This is the advice to new patients from Teo Thiam Chye, programme leader of the nasopharyngeal cancer support group, otherwise known as the NPC Support Group.

Accept the fact, stay positive and most importantly, have faith.

Elaborating on his philosophy, Mr Teo said: “Patients need to accept the fact that they have cancer. Nothing will change that fact. They must also be aware that cancer does not only affect them but will emotionally impact their loved ones too. So be strong, stay positive and be ready for the battle ahead. Finally, have faith in the medical team and your religion to see you through what could be the darkest moments of your life."

A nasopharyngeal cancer patient himself, Mr Teo Thiam Chye, or TC, as he is affectionately known, commits his time, resources and efforts to ensure that the activities and programmes put together by the committee benefit its members. Some of the programmes for this year include talks by oncologists of the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) on medical issues such as the side effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and lifestyle activities like the sharing of food recipes through demonstrations by fellow members.

Supporting caregivers too

“I remembered when I was first diagnosed with nose cancer in 2003, no one was willing to share their experiences about treatment, ways to cope and post-recovery care. It was tough. So when I took over as programme leader from Peter Tang in 2007, I was determined to do something to help new patients who are possibly as helpless as I was then. I firmly believe that no one should walk their cancer journey alone,” he said. His vision for the NPC Support Group was as a safe haven where survivors and their caregivers could come together to learn and support each other, building on the foundation laid by Mr Tang. Over the years, Mr Teo has successfully steered the group in this direction.

Margaret, his wife and caregiver, is fully supportive of her husband’s work and is a frequent volunteer at the support group activities. “Often, the emotional well-being of the caregiver is neglected. Besides struggling to overcome their own fears of losing their loved ones to cancer, they have to hold back their tears and be strong. That’s where Margaret comes in to share her own experience with a patient’s caregiver,” he said, with a loving gaze at his wife.

When asked about the secret behind the support group’s success, he said, “I’ve got all my dedicated members in the committee and volunteer members to thank! “Unlike me, all of them hold full-time jobs. Yet all of them voluntarily give up their precious time and energy to reach out to other patients. Without them and the strong support of our members, this support group would not have existed and gone so far.”

We hope you benefit from the sharing by the authors. As each of us may respond differently to the experience shared by our survivors, do exercise your discretion. The articles are strictly the personal views of the author. It does not represent the views of the NPC Support Group and its members, nor that of the National Cancer Centre of Singapore​ (NCCS) and SingHealth. They therefore take no liability or responsibility for the content of the articles.

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Read on to find out more about the Nose Cancer (NPC) Support group​.

Ref: N18