Singapore

Cancer survivor turns ambassador to give back to patients

Part of a series featuring six ordinary heroes who have made a difference to other strangers’ lives. Their heartwarming deeds are celebrated in the ongoing Good Man Good Deeds Good Rice campaign collaboration between Chinese evening daily LIanhe Wanbao and Tong Seng Produce’s rice brand SongHe. In their name, Tong Seng will donate 500kg of SongHe rice and 60 litres of canola oil to their charity of choice.

Former businessman Thomas Lee, 67, once walked the corridors of Singapore General Hospital (SGH) as a patient.

The colorectal cancer survivor is now back - but as a patient ambassador.

Since 2011, he has been visiting the cancer wing to encourage colorectal cancer patients.

Mr Lee discovered his colorectal cancer in 2008. He underwent surgery soon after and kept the disease under control.

Unfortunately, he experienced a relapse two years later. He was greatly motivated by the words of the patient ambassador who visited him then.

After he recovered, he decided to give back and become a patient ambassador himself.

As part of his duties, he visits SGH twice a week with a fellow ambassador to share his experiences and answer any questions that patients might have.

He even set up a group chat in a messaging application so that patients can ask him questions any time of the day.

He said: "Some people are too shy to ask sensitive questions or forget to ask doctors something, so we step in to help."

He added that patients are also more willing to listen to him as he is a cancer survivor.

"Nurses try and talk them into going for surgery but they can be stubborn and refuse. But they are more willing to listen to us because we are survivors. Sometimes, they agree to the surgery after we talk to them."

The outgoing Mr Lee, who also visits Ng Teng Fong General Hospital and Singapore Cancer Society, said he will chat and joke with patients who look gloomyto cheer them up.

"Fighting cancer is tough and I know not everyone is optimistic like me, but I want to do my part to encourage them."

Mr Lee takes patients on weekly walks and has even organised trips to Malaysia and Batam Island.

Miss Ong Choo Eng, a senior nurse clinician at SGH, is impressed by how Mr Lee is always thinking of new ideas to keep patients happy.

"He holds weekly karaoke sessions. Some of them don't speak much usually but get happy when they sing because they temporarily forget the pain."

"I am thankful for how he is proactively thinking of ideas and coming up with plans to help them. He is a delight to be around and is optimistic."

Mr Lee's charity is the local Sree Narayana Mission nursing home, founded in 1948, which cares for the elderly and sick and provides financial assistance to those in need.

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