The inspirational story of the late Mr James Lau, 85, was one of the highlights at the Singapore Health Inspirational Patient and Caregiver Awards (IPCA) held in May 2023. IPCA honours individuals for their strength, courage and resilience in the face of health challenges. His family's legacy gift, made in his memory, will ensure his journey of resilience and hope continues to inspire and empower patients with liver cancer.

The late Mr James Lau battled liver cancer for 24 years. Since his first diagnosis in 1999, he experienced 12 recurrences of the disease and underwent two major liver surgeries, seven radiofrequency ablations (a treatment that uses radio waves to treat tumours), 11 rounds of immunotherapy, and countless other various procedures.

Yet amidst the multiple treatments and setbacks, Mr Lau embarked on an extraordinary journey that not only transformed his own life but also inspired countless others facing similar battles. He found his calling: to uplift the spirits of those grappling with cancer. 

In 2017, Dr. Peter Mack, Senior Consultant of Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Surgery & Transplant Services, SGH, approached him to help start the Liver and Pancreas Patient Support Group. Drawing on his passion for journaling, the first thing he did for the support group was to put together a book ‘Battling Cancer for 23 Years ’ chronicling his personal journey, providing insights, advice, and a dose of optimism for others treading a similar path.

His book was a beacon of hope for others facing similar challenges, providing inspiration and guidance through his candid experiences. But Mr Lau's contributions extended far beyond the pages of his book. Leveraging the power of social media, he established an Instagram account (@jameslau8888) to share snippets of his life and dietary insights, all while radiating positivity and courage. 

Even during the pandemic, he remained a vital and constant presence within the Liver and Pancreas Patient Support Group, encouraging fellow patients and caregivers through virtual get-togethers. 

Despite his long battle with cancer, the Mr Lau counted himself lucky to have lived a fruitful life with a good career and a supportive family. His son, Mr Marc Lau, shared that the family was deeply grateful for the care their father had received at SGH, and decided to honor his memory in a way that would mirror their father's spirit. 

The family has made a legacy gift towards various causes in SGH and also help SGH launch a Self-Rediscovery Programme fund this year to support this very important part of our patients’ journey with their family and caregivers. This new fund aims to help our patients and care givers with programmes that will educate our support group members, share related disease information and lend emotional strength to each other with activities like creative art, music, dance, gardening, yoga, mindfulness and more. It will enable our nurses, doctors and partners to work closely with patients and their caregivers, to help our patients rediscover themselves and stay strong in their healing journey through programmes and build a community that acts as a bridge between medical and psycho-emotional needs. 

In a world that often demands more than we think we can give, the Lau family's gift reminds us that our actions of bravery and generosity can create ripples of change that touch lives in ways we may never fully realise. With gratitude in our hearts, we honour the memory of Mr. Lau, whose unbreakable spirit continues to remind us that even in the darkest of times, hope, support, and compassion can be the light that guides us forward.