This Mother’s Day, City News celebrates the sacrificial commitment of three mothers who demonstrate a lifelong love for their children.
Contributed By Daphne Ling
Mothers are special in many ways. Some can cook like Nigella Lawson, others can tell fabulous bedtime stories; yet others smell of sunshine and roses, and some even make boo-boos disappear with a single kiss. While their strengths may differ, they share a universal trait—the ability to love.
It is this love that keeps her up all night carrying a colicky infant for eight hours straight. It is this love that makes her give up a kidney for a child who needs it. And it is this love that gives her the strength to make decisions that will benefit her children at her own expense, for the rest of her life.
That’s probably why being a mother is often described as the toughest job in the world—not because it is so hard to change a dirty diaper or burp a baby, but because they’re responsible for the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual development of a human being. Mothers are committed to love all the time, especially during the toughest times.
Perhaps one of the most trying times for any mother is when a child is sick. Over and above the physical strain of nursing their child back to health, they deal with the helplessness of not being able to make their offspring feel better. But it is in these moments when the love of a mother shines the brightest.
Here are three mothers whose dedication, tenacity and sacrifice demonstrate that even when bad things happen, love does make everything better.
NEVER GIVING UP
Two years ago, Tan Meow Ling entered into a world of physical and emotional challenges when her 4-year-old daughter Janelle was diagnosed with Stage Four Neuroblastoma Cancer.
Helen Keller once said, “All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming.” In the case of Tan Meow Ling and her daughter Janelle, July 2009 was the beginning of a painful journey of suffering, but also a time when they found within themselves the strength to overcome.
Ask any parent and they will tell you that their greatest wish for their children is that they live healthy, happy lives. It was no different for Tan, who was working as a teacher when the then 4-year-old Janelle was suddenly diagnosed with Stage Four Neuroblastoma Cancer, a rare cancer of the nerve system.
The news came as a shock to Tan and her husband Leo Chee Keong, as Janelle seemed like any other bright and cheerful child. Knowing the uphill journey that lay ahead, Tan promptly resigned from her job to give Janelle the full-time care she needed to battle the disease.
The next 18 months were nothing short of arduous for both mother and daughter. It was only with the support of her husband and other family members that she was able to make it through. Janelle had to undergo a total of eight rounds of chemotherapy, 12 sessions of radiation treatment, one major surgery and one stem cell transplant. The entire treatment plan took more than 18 months to complete.
“May 2010 was the toughest period as Janelle had to undergo a bone marrow transplant,” Tan said. “Janelle and I were both placed in an isolated room where no one was permitted except doctors and nurses. As the room was to be kept completely bacteria free, I had to be the one to clean the place myself. I was completely exhausted during this period.”
Amidst the struggle, Tan recalls one heartwarming moment she holds dear to this day. “I was on my knees like any other day, busy mopping the floor. Then suddenly from the bed, I heard Janelle say softly, ‘Mummy, I love you.’” Those four simple words gave her renewed courage and strength to continue doing what she was doing; fulfilling her role as a mother to love and care for her sick child.
Toward the end of the hospital stay, Janelle began having bad diarrhea. Tan had to change the sheets four to five times a day and clean Janelle up so many times that she lost count herself. Once as she was washing Janelle, Tan asked her, “Darling, will you take care of me when I am old?” Her daughter replied, “Mummy, yes, I will. You are my hero.”
Tears filled her eyes when she heard that because in her heart, Janelle was the real hero. She was the one who fought the disease and persevered through the excruciating treatments, never giving up even once.
Almost two years on, Janelle has now completed all the necessary treatment and has gone back to school. She is living life happily, just like any normal child her age. Tan is looking forward to celebrating Mother’s Day with her this year, and for many more years to come.
Discovering that her daughter was born with Down’s Syndrome, Lily Wong struggled to love and care for her child. But her perseverance and love paid off.
Fern Wong is a talented 27-year-old artist who has won many awards for her paintings. Growing up in a happy environment, she is loved by family and friends, and shares a particularly close bond with her mother, Lily Wong. Fern also has Down’s Syndrome.
When Wong first realized in 1983, upon giving birth, that her daughter had the condition, her immediate sense was one of overriding concern. “It was completely unexpected and we didn’t know how to deal with it,” she recalled.
The challenges that came with the realization of having to raise a child with Down’s Syndrome made it an even harder pill for Wong to swallow. Down’s Syndrome children have learning difficulties but the greater challenges are health and medical concerns; at just 9 years of age, Fern had to undergo open-heart surgery. She was constantly on medication, flitting in and out of hospitals.
Despite the overwhelming obstacles, Fern was not a difficult child in her growing up years. Contrary to that, she was an unassuming, low-maintenance young girl who was happy just to be around people.
“As I had another two active boys at home, a lot of my time was spent watching and chasing after them,” Wong recounts. “At times when I was busy with my boys, Fern would play quietly in a corner for hours at a go and not fuss at all. She was a very adorable and likeable child.”
However, the feelings of love and affection toward Fern took time to develop, Wong candidly confessed. “I have to admit, it was my sense of responsibility as a mother and my willpower that got me through the first few years.
“Before Fern turned one, she ran a fever practically every month and it was very straining for me. There were times when I questioned God as to why I was given such a heavy burden to carry. It was very difficult.”
Wong then decided to leave her job to provide full-time care for Fern. Looking back, it was one of the best decisions she ever made. In time, she came to love and accept Fern for the sweet, caring and gentle soul that she is.
“Fern has grown to be a beautiful person in spirit. She has such a simplicity and openness in her character that she loves people unconditionally. As a mother, that is something that I am most proud of about her.”
With the support from her mother and loved ones, Fern began to find confidence and discovered that she had an artistic talent. She drew intricate and vibrant art pieces that touched people’s hearts, and started winning art competitions one after another. Fern found a purpose in her life, and through that, Wong found hers.
“It has been a tough but rewarding journey and what I’ve learned is that while love is an emotion, it is also a choice. And when you choose love, you discover that what the Bible says is true—love never fails.”
Madeleine Ong bore the pain every parent prays never to experience: watching her son contract cancer and succumb to it within one short year.
Dealing with the death of a child is perhaps the toughest thing any mother has to go through. Seventy-year-old Madeleine Ong is one of those mothers who had to walk this difficult path. Her second son, Choong Tsih Sing, was diagnosed with cancer at age 36 in September 2006. Despite radical doses of radiotherapy treatment, he passed away exactly a year later.
Sing was living in England with his wife and children when he discovered that he had a very aggressive metastatic cancer. He had a tumor mass sitting on his spinal cord, which caused him severe, shooting pains in his back.
However, as the doctors were unable to locate the primary site, they could not prescribe the necessary drugs to combat the condition.
Ong recalls being in a meeting with colleagues when she received a call from Sing informing her of the horrifying diagnosis.
“I flew to England that very night and it just broke my heart to hear him sounding so helpless. It was difficult to stay strong and not fall apart,” she said. The pain prevented Sing from flying home so she stayed there with
him throughout his time in the hospital.
In her usual positive demeanor, Ong, who has two other children, describes her time with Sing in the hospital as the best time they spent together. “When my children were young, they were usually out. And if they were home, they only stayed for short periods.
“I stayed with Sing in the hospital and we had a good time of mother-son bonding. He saw me not just as his mother but as his friend.”
In one of their conversations, she told him that God had prepared a mansion for him in heaven and that he should pick the best one so that the rest of the family could join him in that big mansion one day.
Even though it was difficult to see her child go, Ong knew that God was still in control. “Sing was so special and
God must have loved him so much that He had to take him home early.”
Whenever she misses her son, Ong thinks of how happy he must be, that he is in a better place where there
is no suffering.
“I’m certain that in Christ, all of us will meet again. This gives me comfort—knowing that all things will work together for our good.”