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SINGAPORE - Before businessman Harry Fung’s wife died of cancer in 2011, he would accompany her to chemotherapy sessions and medical examinations.
It was in those seven years of hospital visits that he got to know other patients and caregivers, and their struggles to “put food on the table” for their families while battling cancer.
The conversations he had all those years ago were the impetus for Mr Fung, now retired, to give back to this community.
On May 30, the 85-year-old donated $1 million to the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), where his wife had sought treatment.
He told The Straits Times on Thursday that he did not consider himself a philanthropist.
“(But) I have some savings and I want to donate back to Singapore,” said Mr Fung, who used to run businesses selling textile machines and materials, oil palm refineries and cranes for oil rigs.
“Having been a caregiver myself, I understand how difficult it can be, and this is why I want to help needy patients,” he said, adding that he hoped his actions would inspire others to give back to society.
The donation will be divided equally between the NCCS Cancer Fund, which provides financial support to needy patients, and funding for cancer research, said NCCS. The centre estimated that the donation could help up to 80 needy patients.
Mr Fung’s wife was diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma, a common type of blood cancer that affects the immune system, in December 2004 after she discovered a lump on her shoulder.
It was “physically and emotionally challenging” watching her fight the disease, he said.
“If she doesn’t go for treatment, it ends. But even if she does, it doesn’t mean she will recover,” he said, choking back tears.
His wife had side effects from the treatment such as vomiting, hair loss and oedema that caused her legs to blister and swell with fluid.
Mr Fung travelled often for work but would try to be here for her medical appointments.
When the cancer became advanced and she needed to be hospitalised, he would visit her every day before heading home, as long as he was in Singapore.
But the cancer eventually spread to her organs and his wife succumbed to pneumonia in May 2011. She was 72.
With more people being diagnosed with cancer, Mr Fung hopes this donation would support cancer research by the centre that would benefit patients in the future.
Some 80,753 people were diagnosed with cancer between 2016 and 2020, according to the Singapore Cancer Registry. The figure is higher than the 71,265 patients diagnosed between 2013 and 2017.
NCCS chief executive officer William Hwang said the centre was grateful for Mr Fung’s donation.
“Such generous support enables NCCS to better support our patients, continually develop holistic programmes and undertake impactful cancer research to improve patients’ lives,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.