Bowling champ had childhood cancer
National bowler Charlene Lim overcame childhood leukaemia and has sights set on winning bowling gold medals
This National Day, we celebrate with 16 stories of people who overcame adversity to give back to society. Read their stories and watch the videos at tnp.sg/ndp2016
She was only three when life dealt her a hook ball.
National bowler Charlene Lim, now 17, was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukaemia, an acute form of cancer of the white blood cells.
"When I saw the expression on my mother's face and her red, teary eyes, I knew there was something wrong," she said.
"I had been feeling listless and fatigued. I suffered a loss of appetite and all I did was drink milk," she said.
Her family physician referred her to KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), where she spent the next three weeks warded and undergoing chemotherapy.
"After I was discharged, I was still going in and out of hospital for treatment. I didn't take too well to it. Sometimes, my nose would bleed non-stop. I lost my hair and was quite sick, vomiting frequently," said the petite Miss Lim.
Throughout the ordeal of chemotherapy, she said she never once cried.
"My parents were the ones panicking," she said.
Looking back, Miss Lim said she felt particularly sorry for her mother.
"She was only 29 then and had to cope with a child undergoing chemotherapy and a newborn baby with pneumonia," she said.
Her mother gave up her job as a secretary to take care of her and her sister Rachel. She has since returned to work when both girls enrolled in the Singapore Sports School (SSS). Her father is an operations manager.
It took about four years before Miss Lim was cured of her cancer and was able to enrol in Sembawang Primary School.
It was when she was in Primary 3 that she went to the SSS to train in four different sports under the Junior Sports Academy Programme.
"As I had been ill, my parents became very protective. Also my immune system hasn't been strong since that bout of cancer so I had to be careful," she said.
Miss Lim had picked track and field, swimming, table tennis and bowling.
"The environment under which track and field is conducted was too hot and swimming (pool) was too cold. I also found that I didn't have the stamina or strength for table tennis, so I picked bowling," she said.
Miss Lim showed she had potential of becoming a champion and it was when she turned 11 that she won the Youth Girls Under-15 Masters finals with 1,420 pinfalls.
"I knew I had to win. I needed a scholarship to study at the sports school because my parents could not afford the fees. That was certainly my motivation," she said.
She went on to snag the Singapore Pools Sports Excellence Scholarship, funded by Tote Board.
After that win, there was no turning away from her love affair with the lanes.
Miss Lim went on to win medals in the 2012 Singapore Open U15 Masters; and the Asian Youth Bowling championships. Last year, she also won medals at the Malaysian Open Youth Open Masters and the Singapore National Youth Championships.
"The most memorable was the 18th Asian Youth Tenpin Bowling Championships in March 2015. The boys got gold and we won the bronze. That was the time when Mr Lee (Kuan Yew) died and we dedicated our medals to him," she said.
This year, Miss Lim had wanted badly to beat powerhouses South Korea during the Women's Open Masters Finals at the 48th Singapore International Open in June.
"It would have been great to win gold on home ground. Getting a bronze was good too," she said.
Miss Lim's bowling idol is National Bowling Team captain Jazreel Tan and she hopes to follow closely in Miss Tan's footsteps.
Miss Tan, 26, said her younger teammate is a talented bowler and, despite her small stature, is not a weak player.
"Unlike the perception of women players being very 'nuah' (Hokkien for weak), Charlene has worked her way up, despite some injuries along the way. I'm excited to see where she goes to next," she said.
"I knew I had to win. I needed a scholarship to study at the sports school because my parents could not afford the fees. That was certainly my motivation." - National bowler Charlene Lim
TNP SPIRIT OF 16 GIVINGBACK
The beneficiary is Children’s Cancer Foundation