Hear My Story: Lee Xin Tong, CCF Beneficiary and Childhood Cancer Survivor
Headaches were a common affair for 15-year-old Xin Tong. She had been having them since she was 11, and had assumed it was the norm. It was only when she started vomiting gastric juice continuously one day from the pain that she knew something was amiss.
Whisked immediately into the hospital for an MRI scan, it proved to be Xin Tong’s worst nightmare as the medical team confirmed a brain tumour at the lower back of her brain in May 2015.
“I remember crying quietly when I first heard the news. I was so scared and nervous, but I didn’t want my parents to see my fear,” recalls Xin Tong.
With no time to waste, she commenced treatment which included a surgery to remove the tumour, eight radiotherapy sessions and too many cycles of chemotherapy (she lost count). Xin Tong finally completed her cancer treatments in July 2016.
One would think that she had just overcame the hardest battle in her life, but this was not entirely true. Like many other childhood cancer survivors, Xin Tong faced a plethora of challenges post-cancer, even to this day.
The obvious was of course, hair loss from all the treatments she had to undergo. Her once shoulder-length locks never grew out to be same so she constantly wears a short pixie crop. She also feels tired easily, even from daily activities like walking. However, the most difficult of all is the permanent loss of hearing in her left ear. She now relies on only her right ear to listen.
“Living with the aftermath of cancer has been challenging. A friend once walked with me, and I could visibly see the gap between us grow because I just could not keep pace with her. In a noisy environment, I also can’t hear clearly so I have difficulty participating in conversations. It’s even worse now with the need to adhere to safe distancing measures. I sometimes hope that my friends would be more considerate towards my needs, like speak louder or be okay with repeating conversations that I didn’t manage to catch,” shares Xin Tong.
Constantly feeling like a fish out of water affected Xin Tong’s self-esteem. Desiring to make deeper connections with others, Xin Tong joined YouthConnect, a survivorship programme by CCF where childhood cancer survivors could form friendships and meaningful bonds with one another.
“The CCF survivors at YouthConnect can identify with my struggles easily. It’s nice to feel understood without having to explain too much, and it’s great to feel accepted.”
It is also through YouthConnect that Xin Tong discovered she could volunteer as a Hair for Hope ceremonial shavee. It will be her second time shaving at Hair for Hope, but her first to kick-off off the campaign for CCF. It was an opportunity for her to send a clear encouragement to other children with cancer.
“There is no shame in being bald. Hair or no hair, we can still be confident individuals.”
Make a donation here to support Xin Tong’s shaving today.