Music

Cancer survivors meet Taylor Swift backstage at Singapore concert

Cancer survivors meet pop star backstage before her concert here last night

She had written an open letter on Facebook last Wednesday to ask Taylor Swift to visit cancer-stricken children at the National University Hospital (NUH).

As a cancer survivor, Miss Dominique Schell, 19, hoped the US pop singer could cheer up the children and create awareness for those suffering from sarcoma, a rare childhood cancer.

Swift was unable to fit a visit to NUH into her tight schedule, but Miss Schell not only got to see the superstar perform up close but also got to meet her backstage.

Miss Schell, who went with another sarcoma survivor to the second of Swift's sold-out 1989 World Tour concerts at the Singapore Indoor Stadium last night, said a publicist found them before the concert and took her and Michelle Liew, 15, to meet Swift and her mother.

HAPPY: Miss Dominique Schell (right) and Miss Michelle Liew met Taylor Swift backstage before her concert yesterday. They were offered tickets by Swift's publicist after she read Miss Schell's letter inviting Swift to visit cancer-stricken children in the hospital.

"They hugged us. Taylor was first taken aback by what was on my leg, which is the reaction that pretty much everyone gives me," said Miss Schell, who uses a walking stick and has metal rods holding her bones together on her leg, the result of her battle with cancer.

"She spoke to us a bit, more than five minutes. She was talking about how she had tendonitis, then she said, 'Oh, I was making such a big deal but look at you guys'. We took a picture as well."

Cancer is something that's on Swift's mind a lot because her mother, Ms Andrea Swift, was diagnosed with the disease earlier this year.

In a post on her Tumbr page, she wrote: "For Christmas this year, I asked my mom that one of her gifts to me be her going to the doctor to get screened for any health issues, just to ease some worries of mine...

"The results came in, and I'm saddened to tell you that my mom has been diagnosed with cancer."

She also mentioned her mother's cancer when replying to a fan who shared her grief over her mother's death in an open letter: "I love you so much and can't imagine what you must be feeling today. You've lived through my worst fear."

Miss Schell said of their meeting: "We spoke to her mum a lot. Her mum talked about cancer and chemo. Her mum had read my letter and I was like, wow she has actually read it.

"She said that after reading that letter, she had to meet us so they made this whole thing happen with the tickets and meeting them.

"We got recognition, that was my main aim. Taylor and her mum have heard of sarcoma now. It was nice seeing her mum. We are all cancer survivors so If we can do it, others can do it too."

As for the concert, she said she was surprised to get front-row tickets and described the experience as amazing.

Miss Schell said she received an e-mail at 11pm on Saturday from Swift's publicist who apologised that Swift was too busy to accommodate her request to visit the hospital,

When the publicist offered Miss Schell two tickets for last night's gig, it sparked a hectic search as she tried to find a sarcoma patient to join her at the concert.

Her original idea was to take one of the children from the NUH cancer ward but none of them was fit enough.

One girl recommended to her was too weak. She then contacted another sarcoma patient, a seven-year-old girl, and offered her both tickets so her mother could accompany her but she, too, was unable to go.

"It just shows how sarcoma kids can't just do what everybody else can. Physically and mentally, it's too much for them," she said.

"Which was why I had asked Taylor to visit the hospital. It makes sense because the kids are not well enough to party like the rest of us.

HECTIC

"It was so hectic. At 4pm, I thought it's not going to happen. There were no sarcoma patients who could go and I was really losing hope."

Then she remembered Michelle, whom she had met at a Sarah-Grace Sarcoma Foundation (Kick Sarcoma) event last week, and thought, "Why not bring a sarcoma survivor instead to represent the rest who are still suffering?"

Michelle initially told her that she could not make it because of dinner plans with family friends. But when she asked her father, he told her to go to the concert instead.

Miss Schell screamed with joy as her search was finally over. She insisted that attending the concert was not for her own enjoyment but to represent sarcoma sufferers.

POPULAR: US pop star Taylor Swift performs first of her two sold-out shows on Saturday at the Indoor Stadium.

Michelle's  father, Mr Dennis Liew, 46, who dropped her and Miss Schell at the concert, said: "I didn't want to disappoint Michelle. She's a big fan and loves to watch concerts. It's a rare opportunity.

"We can have dinner with family friends any week but it's not every week Taylor Swift is in town. I love to see her excited and I'm happy she's happy."

Michelle said: "I was very excited. I love Taylor's songs. When I read Dominique's letter, I thought to myself how much I wanted to meet Taylor but I didn't expect to get the chance to come for her concert."

Miss Schell said that since TNP reported on her open letter to Swift last Friday, the likes and shares on the post have doubled to about 8,500 and 2,000, respectively.

"People I didn't know started sending me messages. Quite a few people said. 'My daughter had sarcoma or my brother had sarcoma and passed away, so thank you for representing them' and all that.

"They thanked me and told me I was inspiring and what I was doing was really helping sarcoma kids."


People I didn't know started sending me messages.

- Cancer survivor Dominique Schell on the reaction to her open letter to Taylor Swift, inviting her to visit cancer-stricken children in the hospital

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