He was fifteen when his family received the terrible news: his aunt, who was like a "second mother" to him, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She died in 2010.
Now, Mr Prasatt Arumugam is helping people with similar experiences.
"With some time and distance, I realised that I could do something for those suffering from cancer like she did - maybe not in a big way, but in whatever way I could," said Mr Arumugam.
In July, the 25-year-old will be the first Singaporean to attempt to complete the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).
The PCT is a 4,280km long-distance hiking trail that cuts through three states in the US. It was featured in the 2014 film Wild, which starred Reese Witherspoon.
For every mile that he hikes, Mr Arumugam hopes to raise awareness and funds for children with cancer.
In January, he set up Trekinvicta, a social initiative that aims to raise $26,660 for the Children's Cancer Foundation (CCF).
He is not alone in his efforts. Last year, a total of 77 fund-raising events were held for the CCF. Fourteen of these were organised by individuals.
Trekinvicta has raised $20,000 for the CCF so far. These include donations made on Trekinvicta's website and on CCF's donation webpage.
Mr Arumugam, a tutor at an enrichment centre, said: "I felt that a hike like this would parallel the children's own long road to recovery, even though there is no direct connection.
"A trekker would be done with the trail in about five months, but the battles faced by these children continue for much longer," he told The New Paper.
He also volunteers with the CCF at National University Hospital. As a play personnel, he interacts with children undergoing treatment and consultation.
Mr Arumugam is excited about the journey.
His first experience of the PCT was at Yosemite National Park, a landmark along the trail.
A former undergraduate at the National University of Singapore, he visited the park during his 2013 student exchange at Yale University.
To prepare for the trail, Mr Arumugam climbs flights of stairs for at least two hours every day, with trekking poles in hand.
When TNP interviewed him, he had just finished his routine at a block of flats in Tiong Bahru that has 29 flights of stairs.
He has equipment ready for the long journey. These include trekking poles, a tent, one set of hiking clothes and thermal wear, a water filter and simple food such as oatmeal.
He is also taking with him a journal, a camera, a satellite messenger to connect with his loved ones, and a small raccoon plush toy, "AK Junior", which will be his only companion on the trip.
The journey is expected to cost Mr Arumugam $12,000 out from his own pocket.
He has approached several companies for potential sponsorships. However, he is not seeking help from individual sponsors.
"It shouldn't be a case where people are subsidising something that I would probably have done on my own," he said.
"I would be lying if I denied that there is an element of fear. It's important to have that healthy level of fear because nature is a bigger thing than humans often give her credit for. What's more important is how you deal with your fear."
Although Mr Arumugam's family is worried, they support his ambitions, said his mother, Madam Amaravathi Appavoo, 57, a housewife.
"We'll definitely miss him a lot, but it's what he thinks he needs to do," said Madam Appavoo.
"It is inspiring to learn that Prasatt has chosen to conquer one of the longest trails in the world," said Ms Neo Lay Tin, executive director of the CCF.
When he returns, Mr Arumugam hopes to teach English Literature in a secondary school.
Reflecting on his hopes for the journey and the children, he cited a quote from his favourite poem 'Invictus', which inspired the name of Trekinvicta.
He said: "I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul."
Conquering the Pacific Crest Trail
With 4,280km to trek, conquering the Pacific Crest Trail is no mean feat.
The trek is equivalent in distance to that between Singapore and China.
The northern end of the trail is on the US-Canada border and its southern end is on the US border with Mexico.
The trail passes through the states of California, Oregon and Washington. It avoids civilisation and covers scenic mountain terrain with few roads.
"Hiking the entire Pacific Crest Trail in one season is incredibly difficult," Mr Jack Haskel, trail information specialist at the Pacific Crest Trail Association, told The New Paper.
"It involves walking all day, every day for about five months."
He added that hikers have been deterred from completing the trail due to injuries and illnesses along the way.
Said Mr Haskel: "Travelling long-distance, especially the entire trail in one season, is undeniably a remarkable physical achievement.
"It's a huge amount of exercise, more than most people have ever done in their lives."
How to donate
You can contribute to the Children's Cancer Foundation (CCF) through the following platforms:
Online donations at www.ccf.org.sg
Cash donations at CCF Community Office at 8, Sinaran Drive, #03-01, Novena Specialist Centre, Singapore 307470
Cheque made payable to "Children's Cancer Foundation" and posted to CCF Community Office
Sign up for one-time or monthly Giro donations
For donations to Trekinvicta:
This article was first published on June 09, 2016.
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