Former CHIJ St Theresa’s Convent student Samantha Gan spent many days at home and at the hospital doing her own revision.

By Jared Ng

Samantha Gan has mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer that develops from the layer of tissue covering many of the internal organs.

Despite this, the former CHIJ St Theresa’s Convent student went on to score distinctions in Elementary Mathematics, Additional Mathematics, Humanities, Pure Biology and Chemistry in the O-level examinations.

At the tender age of nine, she was diagnosed with cancer which required surgery to remove a tumour behind her liver.

She also had to go for subsequent chemotherapy sessions as part of the treatment.

Another surgery was required about a year later when it was found that another tumour had grown.

In May 2016, Samantha had a relapse which required “more surgery and I also went for chemotherapy after my recovery,” she recalled.

As a result, Samantha missed many days of school up until March 2017 and spent the remainder of her Sec 4 year catching up on her studies.

Due to her chemotherapy treatment, administered through a drip at the National University Hospital (NUH), “I often feel fatigue, nauseous, have body aches or headaches which make it difficult to focus on my homework or revision,” said Samantha.

She added that she also went for MRIs every six months as well as checks on her blood pressure and blood cell count.

On days when she was absent from school, Samantha would compensate by doing her own revision at the hospital or at home.

She shared that some of her close friends from school visited her at the hospital and also compiled a list of revision notes for her.

Her form teacher, Ms Emily Koh, also made time to visit and encourage her.

“My Mathematics teacher, Mr Patrick Ng, recorded his lessons for me and some of my other subject teachers also arranged for consultation after class hours,” added Samantha.

Her peers from the Church of God (Singapore) also visited and prayed for her. Some even offered to tutor her in certain subjects.

Asked whether she ever thought of missing a year of school because of her health, Samantha said she was “determined to study and wanted to progress with her friends.”

Her family fully supported her by accepting her decision to carry on studying. “It meant a lot to me,” said Samantha, who has a younger sister.

As for the next step in her education, Samantha shared that she has applied for Catholic Junior College.

Studying in a junior college “may be an even tougher challenge but I have faith in God that I will be able to handle it regardless of my condition,” she said.

Samantha, who was a trombone player in the band during her time in St Theresa’s Convent, said she hopes to work in the healthcare sector in the future.

Her reason: “Whenever I went for chemotherapy or MRIs at NUH, the staff there were really friendly and supportive.

They inspire me to want to help others in the future.”

To those struggling with their own challenges, Samantha said, “Don’t be afraid to share your problems with others. Confide in others and don’t lose sight of your goal.” 

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