Teenage cancer patient charts her fight with disease on Instagram
Student post photos, videos on Instagram detailing her fight with rare bone cancer
This "cancer warrior" has an Instagram account detailing her ongoing fight with the disease.
Secondary school student Chong Hui Min was only 15 when she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma last year.
The rare form of bone disease took her left knee and part of her left femur (thigh bone). Surgeons replaced them with implants.
Not wanting to give in to despair, the chirpy girl decided to document her fight, without glossing over the hard truths of her condition.
Hui Min, now 16, who uses the moniker "cancer warrior" on her Instagram account, even posts photos and videos of her peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) line through which chemotherapy is administered, her "new leg" and her physiotherapy sessions.
"By recording my journey to recovery, I was hoping to share the experience with other teens. Also, I want those who suffer the same form of cancer to know that they are not alone," she told The New Paper.
Osteosarcoma is rare, with only about 10 cases in Singapore a year.
It tends to affect young people and can be life-threatening if not treated early and the cancer is, at any stage, dangerous, said orthopaedic surgeon Tan Ken Jin from Mount Elizabeth Novena Medical Centre.
Hui Min has more than 800 followers on Instagram and even made two friends, who were also diagnosed with osteosarcoma.
"One of them is Shu Ting (below). She shares the same doctor as me. The other girl lives in the United States. Both went through amputation of the affected limb. We exchanged experiences we went through on Instagram and encouraged each other," she said.
Hui Min was diagnosed with cancer last April.
"I remember the day. It was on April 28 when my parents and I were first told," she said.
The tumour, about 7.5cm long, was at her left knee.
"Six months before I was diagnosed, I felt a pain in my left knee, as if the joints were inflamed and sore. It worsened at night. I remembered limping to school and having increasing difficulty dealing with flights of stairs," she said.
Thinking it was a meniscus tear, the doctor ordered an MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging) scan and that was when the cancer was discovered.
"The first thought that went through my mind was, 'What about my studies?' I felt really horrible," Hui Min said.
"Before and after the surgery, I had to go through numerous sessions of chemotherapy.
"It was tough. I was losing my hair so I shaved my head. My father also shaved his and so did all the boys in my class. I was so touched," she said.
She was operated on in August to remove the cancer and salvage her leg.
She even celebrated her "sweet 16" in August in the Singapore General Hospital with her "beloved doctors and nurses".
"Chemotherapy was tough, but the surgery to replace my left leg with a 34cm-long implant was tougher. It was emotionally and physically draining," she said.
Now that the cancer is in remission, Hui Min is looking forward to returning to school today.
"I'd be able to resume to studies and work towards my goal to be a doctor," she said.
Follow Chong Hui Min's journey back to health on Instagram @Chong_Huimin
A TOUCHING MOMENT
TNP PHOTO: Dalene Low
Hui Min's mother, Madam Lee Soon Eng, 53, quit her job to take care of her daughter.
She said: "Hui Min tries to be brave. She is taking her illness in her stride and has matured a lot."
When she was asked to give her daughter a peck on the cheek for the photo shoot, Madam Lee's tears flowed. She said it was the first time since the diagnosis that she was kissing her daughter and that made her emotional.
After the photoshoot, an embarrassed Hui Min, turned round, her own eyes brimming, and said: "Aiyoh, mummy!"
And then she wiped her own tears away.