Stefanie Loh was 16 when she started suffering from migraines on a regular basis. A trip to the doctor’s office led to a diagnosis of mucoepidermoid carcinoma, a form of salivary gland cancer.
“It was Stage Two—dangerous but still at a point where immediate surgery could improve my condition. But the real struggle began after the surgery because I couldn’t really eat, speak or swallow,” she explains.
She was hospitalised and for over four months and had to undergo 35 sessions of radiotherapy treatment, which resulted in nausea, hair loss and ulcers. Suffice it to say, it was a trying time, but visits by volunteers from Make-A-Wish Singapore (MAWSG) made everything better.
“My wish was just to get a new laptop to keep me company. However, they made sure to make my experience memorable and not only organised a party for me, but also gave me the opportunity to meet my then-idol Sylvester Sim. I was so touched.”
“This left a huge impact on me because it improved my outlook on life. I was determined to spread that hope, so I joined MAWSG as a wish granter as soon as I turned 21.”
Paying it forward
Now 29, Stefanie no longer lives with a critical illness. Although she still suffers from some side effects, she has been able to live a regular life and has been a wish granter to several beneficiaries.
“An experience that stuck with me was a dinosaur-themed party for a young boy with a critical illness. We didn’t understand his fascination with dinosaurs until he said he wanted to be strong like them to beat his condition,” she says.
If you’re wondering, there is no expectation for wish granters to contribute financially. Instead, their role typically entails meeting with the beneficiaries to figure out how they can help realise their wishes.
“It’s been so fulfilling to be able to spread happiness to people who need it. It taught me that beauty and hope can be found in any place in life, especially in the darkest of situations.”
“Through my experiences, I learnt that a single act of kindness can make an impact on someone else’s life. Now, whenever I face challenges, I tell myself that there are other things to be thankful for.”
It is also a common misconception that the Make-A-Wish Foundation only grants ‘last’ wishes.
“Majority of the children and young adults go on to recover and beat their illnesses, just like me! And for some of them, a granted wish is often the turning point in their treatment as it can greatly improve their quality of life, which produces better health outcomes,” she explains.
Want to help materialise the wishes of youths battling critical illnesses? All you need to do is undergo a 30-minute interview and one training session. Find out more here.