Teen who battled brain cancer never complained

PHOTO: Teen who battled brain cancer never complained

SHE never once complained, said Mr Tan Bien Kiat of his 18-year-old daughter, Isabelle, who died after 10 months of battling brain cancer.

A lively student from St Joseph's Institution International School, she pursued sports like soccer and netball and was also the lead singer of a rock band called Tofu Fighters.

Recounting the series of events leading up to her death on Sunday, Mr Tan, who is in his mid-50s, told my paper: "It was a very difficult fight for the last 10 months and she was very courageous."

He was speaking at his family's Pasir Panjang bungalow yesterday, where Isabelle's wake was held.

Mr Tan is an executive director of an investment company, reported Chinese evening newspaper Lianhe Wanbao.

Isabelle was in the pink of health - except for a persistent headache she had at least once every two months since 2004.

MRI scans in 2008 revealed a white oval patch in her brain, but doctors she consulted were not overly worried as the abnormality showed no telltale signs of being a malignant tumour.

Her headaches increased in both intensity and frequency last year, to a point when she would experience discomfort almost every day.

One evening in May last year, a severe headache caused Isabelle to be overcome by a wave of nausea. She was home at the time.

Her parents later found her passed out on the bathroom floor and took her to Singapore General Hospital (SGH).

Tumour grew by 30 per cent

There, doctors confirmed that the growth in her brain was a tumour. It had grown by 30 per cent since it was discovered. An operation was performed to remove most of the tumour, followed by radiotherapy sessions and medication.

Last September, her family took her to Burzynski Clinic, a cancer centre in Houston, Texas, in the United States, to seek further treatment.

Isabelle returned to Singapore in January and was admitted to the intensive-care unit at SGH, where she remained until her death. She has five siblings - four sisters and a brother - who are aged between 15 and 26.

Her last hours were spent with her housewife- mother, Mrs Agnes Tulio Tan, 53, who played the guitar and sang hymns to her.

Mrs Tan told my paper that her daughter was unable to speak in her final moments but she was "incredibly awake".

She said: "She never complained or questioned why she had to go through this, despite the terrible pain she felt on a daily basis."

Doctors that my paper spoke to said that Isabelle's tumour, which began in the brain, is very rare, as such tumours are usually spread from other parts of the body.

Dr Wong Seng Weng, medical director of Singapore Medical Group's The Cancer Centre, said there are 100 new cases of "true brain tumour", where the tumour starts forming in the brain itself, every year.

"With other forms of cancer, such as breast cancer, you can sacrifice most of the affected tissue. Generous surgery on the brain can cause the patient to become a vegetable," said Dr Wong.

Isabelle will be cremated at Mandai Crematorium tomorrow, following a funeral mass at the Church of St Ignatius in King's Road.


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