Tay Qin Han

Hear My Story: Tay Qin Han, CCF Beneficiary and Childhood Cancer Survivor

When Tay Qin Han experienced a pulsing pain at the back of his head whenever he stood up and sat down, the curiosity in him sought to understand why.

He ran an online search and started eliminating the various types of headaches that did not match the sensations he felt. This exercise left him with a conclusion that he may be experiencing symptoms of a brain tumour. Feeling worried, he told his parents but they dismissed it as “thinking too much”.

It was during a regular day out at the movies with his aunt and cousin that matters spiralled out of hand. As Qin Han exited the cinema, he recalled feeling extremely dizzy and nauseous. He then vomited and lost the feeling in his legs.

“Imagine looking at your feet and moving them side to side. I couldn’t. My brain was telling my legs to move, but they just wouldn’t,” recalls Qin Han.

Alarmed, his parents brought him to KK Children’s and Women Hospital for further diagnostics. The medical scans confirmed that 12-year-old Qin Han had a brain tumour. The doctors had found the threatening disease at his cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls his motor skills and balance. Qin Han was wheeled off to surgery almost immediately to remove the tumour. What followed shortly was a blur of surgeries, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

“Did know you’re my first patient to diagnose himself with cancer before the doctors?” shared Qin Han’s attending doctor, when she first heard of how he came to this conclusion after his extensive online search.

Although Qin Han was prepared for impending hair loss due to his treatments, it was still a solemn affair to see clumps of fallen hair on his pillow every morning. To ease the tension, he tried to crack a joke with his mother about how the hair care ads playing on television was something he would go for, if he had any hair at all. This broke his mother’s heart and made her cry.

Qin Han admits that some days were harder than others, even after triumphing cancer. Being physically weaker than others and spending too much time away from his peers during his treatment days made him wary of social interactions. However, with the support from his family, CCF and his friends, he found renewed strength to keep going each day.

What he found especially helpful were the CCF Survivorship programme and events that provided a safe space for him to meet with other childhood cancer survivors and re-learn ways to interact with others.

This year, Qin Han turns 27 years old. It has been 12 years since he completed his cancer treatments, but the shadows of cancer continue to lurk around him. What makes it worse is that these long-term impacts are invisible to the human eye.

He has double vision from damage to his left optic nerve and requires special glasses with a prism installed to see properly. As a result, he is unable to apply for a driving license which would otherwise make it more convenient for his work as a financial consultant. He is also at risk of seizures which disallows him from playing in any contact sports for life.

Last but not least, one other long-term impact that gets to him is that his crowning glory has not grown back to its full volume during pre-cancer days. The trooper admits that while this has affected his self-confidence very much, it is still not a good enough reason to deter him from making a BALD statement at Hair for Hope year on year, for the past eight years.

“I shave to give hope to children with cancer, to let them know that it is OK to lose your hair,” shares Qin Han.

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