Breast cancer patient to return to Singapore from US this week, thanks to $370,000 raised by public

Ms Lerine Liu will be accompanied by a medical team comprising a doctor and nurse.
PHOTO: Instagram/Lerine Liu

SINGAPORE - A Singaporean woman who was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer while in the United States will soon be able to reunite with her family here, after the public raised more than $300,000 to fund her trip home.

Arrangements have been made to put Ms Lerine Liu, 42, on an air ambulance operated by International SOS (ISOS) on Thursday (May 28) morning United States time.

Ms Liu, whose cancer has spread to her bones, one of her lungs and liver, will be accompanied by a medical team comprising a doctor and nurse.

The flight will depart from Canada to pick Ms Liu from New Jersey, where she is currently hospitalised in the Saint Michael's Medical Centre in Newark. Her bills are being covered by an assistance programme under the New Jersey State Department of Health. 

The plane will make refuelling stops in Russia, South Korea and Taiwan, before arriving here on Saturday, around 4am Singapore time.

Ms Liu's sister Felicia Liew said on Tuesday that she is grateful for the donations and support from the public.

"On behalf of my sister and my family, I would like to sincerely thank everyone that donated, from Singapore and abroad. I will forever be grateful for your kindness in helping bring my sister back home so she can be with us," said Ms Liew, 46, who is one of Ms Liu's three sisters.

The Straits Times had reported on Monday that Ms Liu was diagnosed with the inoperable cancer after arriving in the US in February to start a new life and career there.

She quickly became severely ill, as the cancer had spread.

She wished to return home to her family, but her options were limited by the coronavirus pandemic which saw commercial flights cancelled.

A trip by the family to the US was also ruled out as they would not have been allowed to see her in the hospital.

The only way was to hire an air ambulance to get her home, which would cost about US$235,000 (S$333,530).

Unable to afford the arrangement, her family set up a crowdfunding campaign on the online platform Give.asia last Thursday.

However, the initial fund raising was slow, and her family decided to pump $1,700 into online advertisements to promote the campaign on Facebook.

By Sunday night, the campaign had raised about $95,000, but it was still far off the $330,000 goal.

Then donations peaked on Monday, with more than $330,000 raised by that evening.

Ms Liu's sister Felicia said her family decided to end the campaign on Tuesday, with a total of $373,891 raised.

"A lot of kind-hearted people were still donating so we ended it to allow other people to have a chance to receive donations instead," she said.

She added that the air ambulance from ISOS will cost US$231,000. The remaining amount raised will be used for her sister's hospital bills here.

"Give.asia has been liaising with ISOS and they will transfer the money directly to them. The balance will be held by Give.asia and will go directly to the hospital," said Ms Liew.

She added that her family is appreciative of every donation, regardless of the amount, as she noted that the Covid-19 situation has caused many to lose their jobs.

"A lot of people told me initially that it was going to be very hard to raise money to bring Lerine home. But it felt like the whole world was helping us," she said.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.