At 15, Jameen had cancer, then a blood clot in her brain left her immobile, but her family stays strong
It is the third year her youngest daughter is unable to attend school, but Ms Cecilia Ng is still dutifully paying the school fees.
The 45-year-old hopes to keep her daughter's place in school until she can return to complete her O levels.
Her youngest daughter, Jameen Chong, who turns 18 today, is in a "persistent vegetative state".
A blood clot in the teenager's brain had stripped her of her mobility, motor control and central function overnight.
"I was stunned. I was thinking, 'Why my daughter?' I was worried and didn't know what was going to happen or what I was going to do," said Ms Ng, who has two older daughters aged 21 and 23.
The family's nightmare began with Jameen's acute lymphoblastic leukaemia diagnosis in September 2014.
A month later, a blood clot formed in her brain. It took a few hours before doctors operated on Jameen. Her blood count had been too low for surgery, Ms Ng explained.
"Those few hours, my mind was a blank. I didn't know what to do. I could only keep crying and praying," she said.
By the time doctors operated on Jameen, part of her brain stem had already been damaged.
That Jameen was a sporty girl - she loved dancing, basketball and cycling - made the news even harder to stomach for the family.
Watching videos of the teen happily dancing or singing will bring about mixed feelings for Ms Ng.
"Sometimes, I tell myself I would rather not watch those videos so I won't miss her so much," she said quietly.
Jameen was referred to Make-A-Wish Foundation (Singapore) by the Children's Cancer Foundation's branch at KK Women's and Children's Hospital last November.
When volunteers from Make-A-Wish visited Jameen and her family, they learnt that her dream had always been to become a journalist, visiting developing countries, reporting on war-related issues and getting her reports published.
In her journals, she documented her treatment journey and even wrote that she wanted "to be a 'hero' to defeat cancer and end the suffering for everyone suffering from cancer".
To make her wish come true on her birthday, which is today, The New Paper has put her words into a column. (See report at right.)
The family has seen some bright spots in the situation. Ms Ng told TNP that Jameen's leukaemia count has gone down despite not going through chemotherapy after she developed the blood clot.
Said Ms Ng: "Even the doctors were surprised. The only thing they could say was, 'Your prayers worked'. That gave me some confidence. I couldn't do anything, so the only thing I could do was pray."
Hiring a helper to look after Jameen gave Ms Ng the peace of mind to return to her real estate job six months later.
"I could throw everything aside and cry all day if I wanted to. But I didn't, the whole family was depending on me.
"If I did that, things would have been worse," said the single mother.
At her second daughter Janice's encouragement, Ms Ng started planning leisure activities, such as badminton and other sports, in her life again.
Looking at Jameen fondly, Ms Ng said in a mock-serious voice: "Unless you can tell me, 'I want to eat this, I want to eat that' and make me busy, I will just ignore you and go out."
Jameen merely stirred a little in bed.
Said Ms Ng: "I believe Jameen can hear us talking."
The doctors, too, cannot give any answers.
Despite the uncertainty, Ms Ng is not giving up. To her, every little bit of improvement is a step towards recovery.
She said: "At her worst, she was very pale and always vomiting. Now, at least she has rosy cheeks. To me, it is improvement."
She is now looking for other medical opinions for Jameen.
"I can only do what I can and leave the rest to Him... Maybe there is a reason she has stayed on instead of passing away.
"Maybe she can share photos of her journey to recovery and help others who suffer through her experience," said Ms Ng.
Why I want to be a journalist
Many people toy with different ambitions as they grow up.
But I've known I wanted to be a journalist since I was in primary school. I can't quite explain why I have this conviction.
Perhaps I was unwittingly influenced by my grandparents, who had a voracious appetite for news and current affairs.
As a child, I would sit beside them in the living room to watch the news on television every day.
My mother praised me for taking a keen interest in current affairs at such a young age. She even told my older sisters to learn from me. But they probably thought I was weird and didn't have better ways to spend my time.
As I got older, I grew to enjoy outdoor activities such as cycling and basketball.
I love dancing too.
But contrary to my family's expectation, I never grew out of my dream to be a journalist.
They should have known. Once I set my mind on something, I stick to it.
I love reading and writing.
I am not the sort to share my thoughts openly, so scribbling in my journal is a great way for me to reflect on my daily life.
When I saw the news on how Japan was hit by a massive earthquake and tsunami, I found myself wondering what it would be like to travel to disaster-torn cities and give a voice to those who are suffering. Or perhaps a developing country like Africa, where I could give a voice to the less fortunate.
I've got it all worked out. My next step will be to complete a mass communication course at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
Meanwhile, having my first byline in The New Paper will have to suffice.
As Jameen is unable to pen these thoughts herself, we have taken the liberty of putting a column together based on interviews with her family members.
This article was first published on Jan 25, 2017.
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