Illness can’t hold Jane back

For Jane Leong, the months leading up to this year's National Inter- School Track and Field Championships in April were hell.

Last August, the Tampines Junior College (TPJC) sprinter (right) tried to donate blood but was turned away when it was found she had a low red blood cell count, less than half of that found in a healthy person.

It was only in November that Jane was diagnosed with excessive menstrual bleeding, or menorrhagia, and required three pints of blood transfusions at KK Women's and Children's Hospital.

However, the 18-year-old started to develop more painful symptoms.

"I had swollen joints, which really hindered my training because I couldn't train at all," said the bubbly JC2 student.

"I couldn't even lift my arm and it was so bad that it could wake me up at 4am and kept me awake until 6am, so I had to wait until 9am for the clinic to open to see a doctor."

After being referred to Singapore General Hospital's department of rheumatology and autoimmunity, Jane was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and given a two-month exemption from physical education from January.

On top of that, her general practitioner advised her to take a three-week break from all forms of exercise.

That was a tough time for the normally active Jane She said: "Even with the PE MC, I could train on my own, but my GP said no physical activities at all. Not even swimming.

"That two months were like hell. I couldn't train at all and my fitness got very bad because I was on some medicine which had side-effects and I gained around 8kg."

To complicate matters, Jane was left with just over a month to get back in shape and train for the national championships.

Despite the limitations, the former Bedok Green Secondary School student knuckled down and trained hard.

"When Jane came back, she wanted to run all the events at the nationals," said TPJC track and field teacher Ian Kwok, who coaches the sprinters.

"In the end, we decided that she would only run in the 200m and 400m, because we didn't want her to overstretch herself after the illness and we weren't sure if she had fully recovered.

Last chance

"But considering this was her last year and that she really wanted to make it her swansong, we tried our best to give her as much coaching help as possible and we supported her in all areas."

During the heats in her pet 200m event, Jane came in 15th out of 32 runners to qualify for the semi-finals with a time of 29.98 seconds, just under a second from her personal best.

Even though she could not progress further, it was a remarkable comeback for the petite teen who had just five sessions of training under her belt.

"I've been running for five years now and this was the first time I'm qualifying based on my own efforts," said Jane.

"I didn't expect it and now that I've crossed the semis mark, I can aim further after I graduate, since this is my last year running in JC.

"I'll continue running if my body allows me to."


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