Speech by Mrs Lim Hwee Hua, Minister of State for Finance and Transport, at The Singapore Cancer Society's Charity Gala Dinner cum Fashion Show on 13 October 2007, 7.30pm, The Ritz Carlton Ballroom15 Oct 2007
Dr Koo Wen Hsin, Chairman of Singapore Cancer Society,
Dr Ang Peng Tiam, Vice-Chairman, Singapore Cancer Society
Ms Serena Wee, Director of Can-Care, Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A very good evening to all of you.
1. It is a pleasure to be here this evening for a very worthy cause, that is to lend support to one of the oldest charitable organisations in Singapore - the Singapore Cancer Society. The Society has been around since 1965 - round about the time of Singapore's independence - and has been working diligently for cancer prevention and control. The Society has also extended its reach to providing support and care for cancer patients, bringing comfort and assistance to these patients and their families.
2. It is indeed unfortunate that humanity has been plagued by diseases throughout our history. The word "Cancer" - Latin translation of the Greek term for malignant tumours "Carcinos" - was coined in ancient Greece, around the time of Hippocrates (approx 470-360 BC). It has developed into one of the major killers in the modern world. In Singapore, cancer is the top cause of death, accounting for about 28.5% of all deaths in 2006. I am sure we all have lost a loved one or a close friend to cancer.
3. Many cancers developed as a result of lifestyle habits such as excessive drinking or eating or smoking. Others are caused by environmental factors such as sunlight, radiation and certain industrial chemicals. By leading a healthy lifestyle and avoiding certain risk factors, about one-third of all cancers can be prevented from even occurring.
4. Cancer can also be cured. Advancements in medical science have given us the capability to overcome cancer. Though the treatment process is often long, arduous and comes with many associated side effects, with determination and adequate support, cancer can be defeated. Many former patients have successfully fought off cancer and are now leading healthy and meaningful lives. Some known examples include Straits Times correspondent Ms Chua Mui Hoong who recovered from breast cancer, and veteran actress, Ms Koh Chieng Mun - who is also our emcee tonight - who overcame breast and kidney cancer.
5. Recognising the early warning signs and going for regular check-ups can save lives. Therefore, the key is cancer awareness and early detection. Having successfully overcome her ordeal, Ms Koh Chieng Mun has been an advocate of breast cancer screening.
6. Incidentally, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the Breast Cancer awareness month. Breast Cancer is the most common cancer among women in Singapore. Each year, about 1,100 women are diagnosed with the disease. That is also the reason why the Singapore Cancer Society as well as other cancer organisations, are making efforts to highlight the importance of early detection. Be it promoting regular mammography screening or encouraging women to perform the Breast Self-Examination at home, these initiatives help raise awareness among women in Singapore about the disease and to be more mindful of the warning signs. Awareness and early detection is vital as early treatment means a higher chance for survival. I am glad to note that the Singapore Cancer Society conducts regular public forums and screenings to reach out to the general public.
Building a Social Support System
7. Besides providing good quality medical treatment, emotional support for cancer patients is also crucial in helping them go through the process of treatment and recovery successfully. I understand that there are many support groups set up to render assistance to those who are diagnosed with cancer. These Voluntary Welfare Organisations, or VWOs, play a very commendable role and I would like to acknowledge their efforts in helping cancer patients. There is a need to ensure that these VWOs not only continue with their good work and expand their network of support, but also more importantly, not lose sight of their original objective, which is to aid those who are most in need of help.
8. Ex-cancer patients or inexperienced volunteers who render their services with the VWOs should be provided with basic training, to equip them with skills in counselling and communication so that they can be more effective in their role.
9. To the employers among us, I implore you not turn a deaf ear to ex-cancer patients who have recovered and are seeking to re-enter the job market. Many of them have been fully recuperated under the expert hands of the oncologists in our hospitals and would have no problem performing their jobs. I am certain that these cancer survivors can continue to journey on and lead meaningful lives if society encourages them with our actions, so let's work together to build a more compassionate society.
10. Tonight's dinner is not only a fund-raising event, but also a testimony of what cancer survivors can do to give back to society. The fashion show this evening, which will feature former cancer patients, truly shows that there is no barrier towards leading a normal and fulfilling life after overcoming the disease.
11. Allow me to end with a story of an inspirational person that may be familiar to many of you. It is the story of Lance Armstrong who was one of the world's best cyclists when he was diagnosed with cancer in 1996. Not only did he not give up his sport, but also through his determination, did he go on to win the Tour de France a record 7 times from 1999-2006. Lance Armstrong successfully fought and overcame the disease. He also worked tirelessly to set up community programmes and raise funds for cancer patients. The Lance Armstrong Foundation that he had established took huge leaps towards building cancer awareness and gaining societal support when LIVESTRONG.ORG was launched in 2003. Today, it has grown to become one of the largest charitable organisations that provide support to cancer patients in the US. To the survivors, both the men and the women, who are here tonight, I salute you for your strength and courage; you are indeed an inspiration to all of us.
12. It leaves me now to thank the Singapore Cancer Society and all those involved, for your efforts in taking care of the needs of the community. Challenges may wear us down, but I want to encourage you with Sir Winston Churchill's famous words "never, never, never give up".