She has ALS
The acronym ALS became a buzzword last month after many people, including celebrities, poured ice water over themselves in the Ice Bucket Challenge.
But after you have laughed at the YouTube video, gasped at that Instagram upload and smiled at that Facebook post, do not forget that ALS spells out a grim reality.
ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, and rapidly leads to total paralysis.
So behind every shivering drenched figure is a person that the act is meant to help, like Madam Foo Yip Mun, 67, who was diagnosed 10 years ago after a fall.
The woman, whose active lifestyle included helping out at her husband's industrial paint company and going for dancing classes in her free time, started to change after the fall.
Her speech was slurred, and this became worse over time.
"It became quite frustrating for her to communicate with us," said Madam Foo's daughter, who wants to be known only as Jasmine.
Madam Foo had to use a wheelchair, after relying on a walking stick for a year.
She also experienced severe mood swings, typical of ALS sufferers. When she was upset, she would not stop crying.
"We prayed a lot as a family, but sometimes you just have to let her cry it out," said Ms Jasmine, 28, a lawyer.
Taking her mother to the doctor for regular check-ups was also difficult.
"It's quite hard because every time she goes, it's to warn her of what's to come. You never receive good news from the doctor," Ms Jasmine said.
But Madam Foo is a determined person. She was getting breathless five years into her illness, but opted for invasive ventilation so she could live on.
Dr Ang Kexin, an associate consultant at the National Neuroscience Institute, said this is usually the last resort for ALS patients.
After losing her ability to speak, Madam Foo learnt to communicate through other methods.
For simpler messages, a helper will point to each and every letter printed on a piece of paper.
Madam Foo would then tap a plate, placed on the wheelchair's armrest, with her fingers. One tap means yes, two mean no.
She also "types" e-mails with a computer that tracks iris movement, even writing out new recipes for her helpers to try out.
In an e-mail, Madam Foo told The New Paper: "This illness is the most difficult thing that has happened to me and my family."
Faced with an incurable disease, and "out of desperation", she even went overseas for stem cell therapy.
The sessions cost her US$60,000 (S$76,000), but did not help.
"With hindsight, I would have focused my energy on coming to terms with the disease and working with my caregivers on how best to manage the symptoms of the disease (and my palliative needs)," she wrote.
To make sure Madam Foo was well cared for, the family hired two helpers for her.
In 2008, they moved from an apartment to a landed property so there would be enough space to manoeuvre her wheelchair.
They also bought another car that could fit her wheelchair when the family travels together.
Ms Jasmine conceded that all this would not have been possible if they were not well-off.
"We are fortunate. My mum wouldn't be as comfortable, or even be here after 10 years, if my dad couldn't afford this.
"It will be quite pointless to insist on having her to stay on and fight if it's going to be a low quality of life," she said.
Madam Foo attends the quarterly ALS support group meetings to inspire other ALS patients.
"It is possible to live with ALS," she wrote.
"We prayed a lot as a family, but sometimes you just have to let her cry it out."
- Madam Foo Yip Mun's daughter Jasmine on her mother's mood swings
What is ALS Ice Bucket Challenge?
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a publicity campaign to raise awareness and money for the non-profit ALS Association in the US.
The campaign, which has gone viral in the last few months, challenges participants to dump buckets of ice and/or water over their heads, post the pictures on social media and nominate others to do the same or donate money to the association. Many do the stunt and donate.
In Singapore, even MPs like Teo Ser Luck and celebrities like actress Rebecca Lim have taken part in the challenge.
The ALS Association said it received more than US$100 million (S$128 million) in donations from the challenge.
How the money raised would be used, however, remains a bit of a controversy.
The donations were supposed to fund research into a cure for ALS, but the ALS Association's website shows that research accounts for just 28 per cent of the group's annual expenses ending on Jan 31 this year.
The other funds went into, among other things, public education, and patient and community services.