Having undergone chemotherapy, he is now cancer-free.
The young man wrote that he had been encouraged by others to share his “highly peculiar and unusual story,” which started with just a cough.
He had come back to the country in September of last year, right before enlisting, from studies abroad. On Oct 8, 2019, he enlisted with the Singapore Police Force at the Home Team Academy, with his parents flying in “to witness my rite of passage from an ‘Ah Boy’ to a ‘Man’”.
However, he started coughing just prior to the start of training, and wrote: “I developed possibly the worst cough and thought to myself; ‘You can’t go to the MO on your first week you’ll look like a chao keng warrior’.”
But he describes that he enjoyed his time in the Police Officer Basic Course, as he was making new friends and challenging his levels of physical fitness. And when he went to get his cough looked at by the medical officer, which he said was getting better, he was only given “basic medications” which helped him feel better.
Jules wrote that his physical test score improved from 84 to 91, not to brag, “but to show you how unexpected a sickness may arrive, even when you think you are in the pink of health”.
By November, however, the young man noticed a lump on his neck. His lymph nodes were swollen, and so he was given antibiotics. At the same time, his cough returned.
He was told that if the swelling in his lymph nodes did not subside, he needed to be seen by the medical officer again.
Over the Christmas break, his lymph nodes kept growing. When he retuned to camp after Christmas, Jules sought medical treatment again, and was told he might have tuberculosis.
On Dec 31, he had an MRI at Changi General Hospital, “and this is where things took a turn towards the dark. The doctor came back with the results and mentioned it might be tuberculosis, or it might be a cancer of the lymph nodes”.
Jules wrote: “My face went pale, and immediately felt the need to cry. We were not sure of it yet, so I told myself; I’m 18, fit and healthy. There is no way in hell I have cancer.”
But further medical tests confirmed that he did indeed have cancer — Stage 4A Nodular Sclerosis Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which had spread to his neck, lungs, spine and tailbone.
After his doctor at the Singapore General Hospital, who he describes as “ the world’s best oncologist,” told him the news, he “felt like breaking down. I cannot find words intense enough to describe the absolutely horrid feeling of someone informing you that you are cancer ridden, let alone at the young age of 18.”
But Jules faced the diagnosis bravely, and quickly started chemotherapy treatment, which was the most difficult experience of his young life.
“There were multiple complications which landed me around 1.5 months in hospital, sleepless nights, losing sight of what feeling normal felt like and just feeling content with not being in excruciating pain. And the stress with COVID as well! Either way, I went through my 12 rounds of chemotherapy as best as I could with the amazing support of my parents taking care of me, solely moving back to Singapore to be with me. I tried to live my life as normal as I could and realised that was foolish and to instead, take things at my new pace of life.”
Happily, the young man responded well to the treatment. In a postscript he wrote that “I am indeed now clear of cancer.”
Jules also wrote the lessons he learned now that he’s a cancer survivor.
“You truly don’t appreciate life until it might be taken away from you. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s true. I was given a second chance at life and never take a day for granted. Each day brings its own beautiful wonders and sometimes hardships. Just be thankful we are all alive and love the people around you as they are the ones who come forward in your time of need. Many lessons were learnt during my treatment and although I am not grateful for having had cancer, I appreciate much more who I am now than who I was before cancer.”
He especially thanked the medical staff at SGH, as well as those SPF, the MO and HTA who helped him, writing, “Thee Singaporean community really is the most giving and caring although it might not always seem like it.” /TISG