He blamed himself for mother’s death

Singapore poly student Julian Sng's mother choose not to undergo chemotherapy when she was pregnant with him. Doctors told her that she only had six months to live, but she lived for seven more years. The biotechnology student hopes to be a researcher one day.

His mother's battle with cancer was why he pursued biotechnology at Singapore Polytechnic (SP).

Mr Julian Sng, 18, was just six when his mother, Madam Judy Ng, died of breast cancer in 2002. She was 41.

It was not only her death that made him pursue the subject, but also the choices she made and the way she lived her life.

When he was nine, his father, Mr Anthony Sng, told him about how Madam Ng was given two choices - undergo chemotherapy and treat the cancer but give birth to a disabled child, or delay treatment and risk her life.

The housewife was determined to pick the latter. Doctors gave her six months to live.

Madam Ng gave birth to a healthy boy and raised him for six years before she succumbed to the disease.

The younger Mr Sng hopes to be a researcher one day, working in the field of stem cell research to treat cancer.

His touching story was posted on SP's Facebook page on Dec 22 to inspire potential students and to encourage them to find out more about the courses available at SP during its open house next month.

The second-year student said that he initially blamed himself for his mother's death.

"When I was a kid and playing next to her while she was sick in bed, I kept telling her that she would be fine.

"When I fell sick, I always got better, so I thought she would get well, too.

"It hit me that I didn't do anything for her."

Madam Ng discovered that she had Stage 4 breast cancer when she was pregnant and started treatment only after she gave birth.

For the next few years, she led a normal life as much as possible, caring for her family.

Mr Sng, 54, a manager, said that his wife was a strong woman. "She never showed that she was in pain. We fought a good battle together, till the end."

More than 12 years on, the memories of Madam Ng's death are still fresh in her son's mind.

One day in September, his mother let out an agonising scream from her bedroom and his father quickly called the ambulance.

Her face was pale and her fingernails blue, and she was gasping for air as she was carried out on a stretcher.

INDEPENDENT CHILD

His father described his son as a mature and independent child. Mr Sng recalled his son's words when he lifted him up so that he could see his mother in the coffin.

"He told me: 'Daddy, I will take care of you now'," said Mr Sng, adding that the decision to delay chemotherapy was his wife's and he did not see the need to hide this from his son.

"I always believe in telling the truth to my son. Besides, he could make something out of it."

The younger Mr Sng was offered a place at a junior college through the direct school admission programme, but he chose to study biotechnology at SP.

Biotechnology is the use of living systems or organisms to manipulate them into useful products. In the field of medicine, biotechnology is used in the development of new drugs and medical treatments.

Mr Sng said he was very touched and proud of his son's dream. "We talk about his mother sometimes, and I would always tell Julian that she would have been very proud of him.

"My advice to him has always been the same: Whatever you become, you should never forget to give back to society."

After many talks with his dad, the teen has also come to terms with his mother's death.

Although his time with his mother was short, he said she left a lasting impression on him.

"I remember her telling me that I should always live for myself, and it has become my mantra," he said.

"I'm studying biotechnology because of her, but I'm not doing it for her but for myself."

Other mums who refused treatment

A TV presenter in China died on Dec 10 after she refused chemotherapy to save her unborn child.

Ms Qiu Yuan Yuan, 26, discovered that she had late-stage womb cancer in March.

Her baby boy, Niannian, was only three months old when she died.

Niannian was delivered via emergency Caesarean section and weighed only 1.49kg at birth, reported South China Morning Post.

Ms Qiu's husband supported his wife's decision.

He told Zhengzhou Evening News: "She chose to save our child - she understood that not everything in life can be perfect. And she said she had never regretted her decision."

Former MediaCorp radio DJ Kate Reyes, 41, died last month after battling cancer for two years.

She initially discovered that her breast cancer had recurred but delayed treatment until she had safely given birth to her baby boy in 2012.

Reyes is survived by her husband and two children aged two and three years old.

She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005. It is not known when she went into remission.


This article was first published on December 30, 2014.
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