Photo credit: Singapore Health Inspirational Patient & Caregiver Awards

When Mdm Ge Zheng Chun was told she had a brain tumour seven years ago, the diagnosis nearly crushed her spirit. But Mdm Ge fought back and her courage and determination has earnt her a Singapore Health Inspirational Patient & Caregiver Award (IPCA) 2024. 

When Mdm Ge Zhen Chun told her husband, Mr Yew, that she wanted to buy a carrot from the supermarket when she actually wanted a banana, he was puzzled but he did not think much of it, until she started mixing up the names of items on multiple occasions.

After a fainting episode in November 2017, Mr Yew brought his wife to the Accident and Emergency department at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), where their lives took an unexpected turn.

Mdm Ge was diagnosed with malignant brain tumour, at the age of 48.

“Why me? Why us?” were the lingering questions in the heads of the couple, who will be married for 25 years this year.

They did not smoke nor drink, and went for their yearly medical check-ups, so it was a shock to learn that Mdm Ge had a brain tumour.

The tumour was spreading, so her doctor from the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) did not recommend surgery to remove the tumour. Instead, the couple decided for Mdm Ge to go for chemotherapy where she would take oral medications at home.

Mdm Ge went through approximately 10 cycles of chemotherapy over the next 5 years.

During the course of chemotherapy, Mdm Ge did not have many physical side effects, but her outlook on life was affected. Initially, she found it hard to accept her diagnosis and once she did, Mr Yew noticed how his wife’s expectations had changed. Previously she had always put others’ needs first but now she wanted her family members to put her first since she felt that she was ‘dying’.

But after seeing people living in more challenging situations than hers, Mdm Ge’s mindset started to shift.

“I used to ask for a wheelchair and be wheeled to the clinic at NNI but I don’t need one and now I walk,” says Mdm Ge.

Mdm Ge’s tumour was stable until a day came in March 2023, when suddenly, she could neither move her right hand nor speak. She was rushed to the Accident and Emergency department and to her family’s dismay horror , a scan showed that Mdm Ge’s tumour had grown significantly and needed to be removed.

Mdm Ge underwent surgery and was hospitalised for 15 days, before starting on both radiation and chemotherapy at the same time. For one month, Mdm Ge came to TTSH every weekday for radiotherapy and also took her oral chemotherapy at home. It was a gruelling period for Mdm Ge and her family, but Mr Yew would constantly remind his wife that there is a “light at the end of the tunnel”, and that this period would pass.

Today, Mdm Ge’s condition is stable, and she tries to live life as per normal as much as possible, despite not being able to move her right hand nor speak like she used to. She spends her days at home with her family and contributes to the household by folding clothes and washing the dishes. These acts, although small, give her a sense of independence that she thought she had lost after her diagnosis.

Mdm Ge brings her positive outlook with her when she attends her appointments at NNI.

“Mdm Ge will tell other patients ‘Enjoy and be happy today, do not worry about tomorrow’. That is the kind of woman Mdm Ge is – positive and encouraging, despite everything that she has gone through,” says Ms Zhou Lifeng, Nurse Clinician, NNI, who nominated Mdm Ge for the SingHealth IPCA 2024 Inspirational Patient Award.

The family hopes Mdm Ge will recover and they are planning a trip to Shanghai this year to visit her parents, but for now, they wish to inspire other patients and caregivers who are going through a similar journey and encourage them not to give up.

Click here to view the SingHealth IPCA 2024 Award Booklet and read the stories of the other award winners.