After helping children battle cancer for nearly two decades, the Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF) is now making big plans for the next five years.
It aims to set up a school for recovering patients and provide support to children whose parents have cancer.
These initiatives come at a time when the number of new patients has become relatively stable.
Explaining the rational behind their plans, CCF chairman Dr Tay Miah Hiang pointed out, contrary to popular belief, cancer in children is "much more curable than adult cancer ... We must go all out."
For instance, he said the cure rate for leukaemia, the most common form of cancer among kids, could be up to 90 per cent for children. In adults, the cure rate could be less than 10 per cent.
Next steps: a school, more help for children
CCF is now working with Viva Foundation, which seeks to improve the survival and cure rates of children with cancer, to set up a school next year for children recovering from cancer.
It is the first such school in Singapore and will cater to children in the primary and secondary level.
To protect the health of these recovering patients, the school will be kept as sterile as a hospital. The numbers will also be kept small, about 10 to 20 students for a start.
CCF also wants to expand its outreach by helping children affected by cancer.
Tay, an oncologist at OncoCare Cancer Centre, cites the negative impact on children when a parent has cancer.
"Sometimes the children are being neglected so they go through some emotional changes, (turning) rebellious, so we need to address these issues with them as well," he explains.
One possibility is to categorise adult cancer patients into curable and non-curable patients and start by concentrating on the children of those with terminal diseases, he says.
The foundation also wants to help develop services in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, by sending their staff over to help improve services.
"Singapore is a regional hub for people to come in for treatment and we also provide psycho-social support to these patients. But sometimes when they go back, everything goes back to zero," says Tay.
It's good for foreign patients and also adds meaning to CCF employees' work, he adds.
More funds needed for expanded services, medical costs
As CCF expands its outreach, costs are expected to go up. More funds are also needed because the cost of medical care is on the rise.
The foundation’s operating costs now stands at about $3 million to $3.5 million annually.
CCF executive director Chee Wai Yee says the organisation plans to hire two more social workers in the first half of next year. It is also in talks with potential partners and assessing the needs of children affected by their parents’ cancer.
Tay notes, "Treatment is more expensive now so we need more funds to help these children in terms of treatment.”
Even if a household’s monthly income is about $4,000, they may still face financial difficulty because their child’s medical bills could reach up to more than $100,000, he points out.
“So we need to look into the financial services, how we can increase the coverage,” he states, adding that the foundation is very careful in ensuring they help truly needy patients.
“At this moment, we cover up to 90 per cent of the bills (for needy patients). I’m proud to say, all patients who can benefit from a bone marrow transplant will not be deprived of it because of financial problems,” he says.
Last year, CCF’s financial assistance scheme helped 35 families. The foundation also helped 32 families obtain financial aid from the community and hospitals.
It served a total of 575 families in 2010 and has helped nearly 2,000 children and families since it was established in 1992.
Initially only supporting children with leukaemia, CCF expanded four years later to cover other types of cancer.
The foundation provides not just financial aid to needy patients but also supports families through therapeutic play or art or music therapy, among other ways. It also offers support in three stages, the treatment phase, recovery phase and, for some, the bereavement phase.
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A message from CCF:
Dear Yahoo! readers,
Thank you for your concern, encouragement and support for CCF’s children and their families. We truly appreciate your generous giving to CCF through Yahoo! Purple Hope.
We are grateful to our beneficiaries for consenting to share their stories.The intention is to help raise awareness of childhood cancer and not to garner donations for the individual families. Annually, CCF helps more than 500 children and their families, many of whom are in the same plight as those featured here.
The donations raised through Yahoo! Purple Hope will allow CCF to continue providing critical services to help these children and their families cope with their needs at various stages of their illness.
For any further enquiries, please email to email@example.com or contact Tan Lay Eng/ Koh Yang Cheng at 6593 6478/70.
May our joint efforts assist the children in winning the battle against childhood cancer.
Children’s Cancer Foundation