Speech by President Halimah Yacob at the National Cancer Centre Singapore Charity Dinner

Professor William Hwang,

Medical Director, National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS),

 

Madam Ho Geok Choo, Chairperson of Board of Trustee of NCC Research Fund, NCCS Cancer Fund, NCCS Development Committee

 

Dr Charles Toh, Former Chairman, Board of Trustees, NCC Research Fund and NCCS Cancer Fund

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 Good evening.  It is a pleasure to join you at tonight’s Charity Dinner.

 

Our society is ageing rapidly. As this happens, we will likely see more cancer patients. Today, about 35 Singaporeans are getting diagnosed with cancer every day.  At this rate, all of us are likely to know of someone with the big ‘C’.

 The statistics may sound worrying, but I am encouraged that many organisations and community partners are working hard to help cancer patients and their families.  For example, the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), with nearly two decades of expertise in cancer research and patient care, is investing in a new, 24-storey building to better serve its cancer patients.

The needs of cancer care are evolving.  With earlier diagnosis and more treatment options, more people are surviving cancer. However, being cancer-free does not necessarily mean an absence of physical and psychosocial issues from the cancer. Many cancer survivors face challenges in returning to normalcy, such as re-joining the workforce, making plans to start a family, and even fears of relapse. Having a holistic post-treatment recovery and wellness plan is arguably as important as the treatment protocol.

 I am heartened that this is an area which NCCS has paid close attention to. There is a need for a systematic screening of needs or distress in cancer survivors, as well as a more integrated approach in referrals to rehabilitation teams and allied health services. NCCS identified these gaps in cancer survivorship care, and recently reorganised its services and resources to focus on optimising such care for its cancer survivors. Through its Division of Supportive and Palliative Care, doctors work with medical social workers and psychologists to deliver holistic and integrated care services for its patients. Nurse Counsellors who man the NCCS Cancer Helpline reflect the needs and sentiments of patients and caregivers to the medical team in a timely fashion. NCCS is now better able to walk the journey with its patients more closely.

Our healthcare system has readily tackled difficult challenges in the past, and I am confident NCCS will continue to do its best to care for those affected by cancer.

Tonight, I am glad that there is also another common denominator apart from cancer.

Behind this gala dinner is a philanthropic community – comprising people from all walks of lives, from staff and volunteers at NCCS, to donors and sponsors – who are ready to rally behind the cancer community.  This is the common thread that brought all of us here.

Earlier this year the NCCS launched its “Make More Survivors” Fundraising Campaign with the goal of raising $150 million over the next four years.  It was very encouraging that at the time of launch, they were in the position to announce that $80 million had already been raised.  This was in large part due to a generous $50 million gift from the Goh Foundation, which will go towards the Goh Cheng Liang Proton Therapy Centre in the new NCCS Building.  I am glad that Professor William explained about the Proton Therapy so that we know more about the treatment and how it can help cancer patients.

Amongst us in tonight’s event is also Cayden Chang, an ambassador of the NCCS ‘Make More Survivors’ Campaign. Cayden is a father to two young daughters, but has already dealt with two cancer diagnoses within the span of eight years. That is certainly not easy, and the tenacity in Cayden is what amazes me. He authored ‘The Book of Hope’, detailing his experiences with cancer, and donated 100 percent of the book royalties to the NCCS Research Fund. Cayden shares that he keeps himself occupied and focuses on things that he can do, instead of what he cannot change. He chooses to help others as it gives meaning to his life. Cayden inspires all of us to recognise the unique strength in each of us to make a difference.  

Giving back knows no age boundaries. The opening performance by Singapore Chinese Girls’ School is an example of the community, regardless of age, rallying together to support the cause. A group of SGCS old girls who have gone on to become doctors at NCCS invited their alma mater to collaborate on a series of learning opportunities that will promote social responsibility. As an old girl of SCGS, I am greatly encouraged by your dedication to make a difference. Your effort exemplifies the values of SCGS – to nurture generous contributors who use their talent and skills to benefit the community. Everyone can contribute and we hope that those who benefited from society will contribute back to society.

 Many of those present tonight have also chosen to make a difference to others.  I am heartened by this show of compassion.  So in closing, let me thank all those who have made this event possible. You will leave a legacy of having contributed to saving lives.

To the other loyal supporters and donors of this cause, I thank you for not remaining as a spectator even though you may not be aware of the latest medical treatment, or entirely understand the cancer jargons. Instead, you gave your time, service, and contributions to help others.  This is what we want to celebrate tonight. The cancer journey for patients and their loves ones may be long and arduous, but your help will brighten it a little for them. I would like to thank the organiser, volunteers, partners and medical community who have come together to make the dinner a success.

To the celebrated artisans, artists and survivors who have each donated a piece of their work to be auctioned, notably    Dr Iskandar Jalil, Mr Henry Chen and Mr Benny Ong, thank you very much for your contributions.

Also, special thanks to the Pontiac Land Group for sponsoring the dinner and gala venue over the past few years.  Your generosity has made the event possible.

To the SingHealth Fund’s Board of Directors and NCCS Cancer Fund Committee members, thank you for your dedication in championing this cause over the years.

Last but not least, to the NCCS Development Committee that has organised this charity gala – thank you for making this a meaningful evening for all of us. I am sure many of you enjoy the wonderful performances this evening.  I hope you will continue the good work that you have been doing. 

 

Thank you.