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When Mdm Ting, 70, was undergoing chemotherapy treatment in 2020, she experienced nausea, vomiting, as well as cancer-related fatigue and insomnia. She was prone to falls and progressively became wheelchair-bound as she developed chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy in her hands and feet. The pain and numbness were so severe that she would be in tears during treatment.
Being diabetic, the avid foodie could not even seek comfort in what she loved to eat on days when she was not struggling with nausea. To make matters worse, Mdm Ting lived on her own and struggled to manage household chores while keeping to her treatment schedule.
“In the beginning, even getting in and out of bed was difficult,” Mdm Ting shared. “Going for my treatments up to three times a week took its toll and I just felt angry and frustrated. I really felt that I did not want to live anymore.”
Noticing Mdm Ting’s struggles, her Medical Oncologist referred her to Senior Nurse Clinician Tay Beng Choo, a Supportive Care Nurse with the Accessible Cancer Care to Enable Support for Survivors (ACCESS) team at the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS). The ACCESS programme aims to support patients through their cancer journey.
When Beng Choo and the ACCESS team learned about Mdm Ting’s complex medical history, which puts her at risk for treatment complications, social isolation and poor healt literacy, she was referred to a number of support services, such as the cancer rehabilitation team, to better manage side effects of cancer treatment,including chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, cancer-related fatigue and insomnia.
To ensure adequate community support, Mdm Ting was linked up with an NCCS Medical Social Worker, Thye Hua Kwan Moral Home Help Services and the SingHealth community nursing team for follow-up. Beng Choo also encouraged Mdm Ting to text her if she had any questions or concerns. Whenever Mdm Ting came for treatment, Beng Choo made it a point to check how she was coping and assess her symptoms.
Knowing that she was not alone motivated Mdm Ting to adopt a positive attitude and fight on. When she had difficulties with her appointments or treatment, she would approach either the community nurse or Beng Choo for assistance.
Beyond patient care, Beng Choo supports Mdm Ting in other ways. When Mdm Ting’s mother passed away last year, Beng Choo supported her emotionally and checked on her from time to time. When she wanted to explore donating her whole body for research under the Medical (Therapy, Education and Research) Act, Beng Choo sought advice from the National Organ Transplant Unit and put Mdm Ting in touch with a transplant coordinator. Mdm Ting has since completed her organ donation application and is at peace with her decision.
Beng Choo feels for patients like Mdm Ting and is inspired by their resolve and never-giveup attitude. “I can see a big difference in Mdm Ting’s mood from the first time I met her. Her distress screening used to score nine out of 10 compared to under five now,” shared Nurse Beng Choo. “She is tenacious and independent, so once she was given the resources and support, she made the effort to manage her condition.”
To read more stories of our extraordinary nurses, download the Singapore Health Special Nursing Supplement.