News

They seek to give hope

FIGHTER: Mr Divesh Singaraju, 21, was diagnosed with cancer of the lymph nodes at 10 and had a relapse at 17. The relapse caused him to delay his polytechnic studies for a year, but he still emerged as one of its top graduates. His cancer is now in remission.

They survived cancer and now want to help others like them fight the disease.

A group of 12 young people, with ages ranging from 13 to 27, formed Youth Comm in 2010.

One of its founders, Mr Divesh Singaraju, 21, said: "It is just 'Youth Comm', plain and simple. It does not stand for any long word. We are just good friends who want to help each other and others."Mr Divesh himself was diagnosed with cancer of the lymph nodes when he was 10 and he suffered a relapse when he was 17.

He had to delay his entry into Singapore Polytechnic's Aeronautical Engineering course for a year as he fought the cancer.

But the delay did not prevent him from doing well in school. He won a Lee Kuan Yew award for being one of the top graduates.

Mr Divesh also did well enough to get a place at the National University of Singapore to read mechanical engineering. He was exempted from national service.

He and his friends first seriously considered this idea of a cancer survivors' support group in 2007, when a social worker from the Children's Cancer Foundation (CCF) suggested it.

The group had met each other at hospital check-ups and CCF camps.

EMPOWERMENT

They were initially apprehensive about setting it up, figuring they were too young then. But in 2010, they felt they were ready and formed the group.

"It really is just a welfare-based movement and we seek to empower fellow cancer patients, especially children. We seek to empower them with hope and strength," said Mr Divesh.

Besides visits to welfare organisations and hospitals, the group also encourages others by putting up dance events.

They have performed in charity fundraising events for organisations such as Make-A-Wish Foundation (Singapore).

Dance, Mr Divesh believes, is a way to show young cancer sufferers that the cancer survivors from Youth Comm have truly overcome their illness.

"We believe that our dance performances can give young cancer sufferers the faith that they can overcome their illness," he said.

At the end of the day, Youth Comm is just a group of friends who understand what the others have gone through.

Mr Divesh explained: "Even if parents of young cancer patients are well-meaning, they sometimes do not understand what their children are going through."

"We know what it is like to be bullied because of rapid weight gain or hair loss. And we sometimes joke about such things.

"It's something you can only do among fellow cancer survivors."