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Joshua (centre) with his family, and Associate Prof Allen Yeoh (right)

Cheryl and Joshua

Mother and Son

We were devastated when we first found out about Joshua’s medical condition. I still recall it all started on 10 March 2014 when we visited the paediatrician for Joshua’s cold. She noticed a lump around Joshua’s throat area and sent him for extra scans.

From the CT scans, we could see this huge tumour inside his nose and another in his brain. We were told that Joshua had possibly just two months left with us.We were heartbroken, anxious and cried for the days to come. Even our older daughter, Genevieve, who was 9 years old then, would break down at home and in school too. It was like the end of the world.

But we did not give up hope. We scrambled around in search for an accurate diagnosis of Joshua’s condition. His first biopsy at National Cancer Centre turned out to be negative – we were baffled. Next came the diagnosis of Burkits Lymphoma at Mount Elizabeth Hospital. Again, we were not convinced.


It turned out that Joshua’s condition was so rare that we would not have found the correct diagnosis and treatment for him had it not been for the right expertise.



We were eventually referred to Prof Allen and his team at NUH. By then, our resolve had almost crumbled from three weeks of uncertainty. Through a series of tests, Joshua was correctly diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukaemia. Our mind was finally at ease as we can now be assured of the right treatment for Joshua.

When Joshua first started treatment, he had a tough time coping with the painful and numerous side effects, which included fever, muscle weakness and mouth ulcers. The traumatic side effects left Joshua emotionally withdrawn. He refused to speak to anyone else at the hospital but us.

But seeing Joshua respond well to chemotherapy gave us a lot of hope and relief. He entered remission within 29 days.

We were grateful for the dedicated work of the nurses and doctors, who gave Joshua a lot of emotional support and encouragement throughout his treatment. It’s amazing to see how much he had opened up to the hospital staff after two years.

Prof Allen was one doctor whom Joshua highly regarded. It was heartening to see how Joshua enjoyed his intellectual jokes and how both of them were always so comfortable with each other.

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Joshua with VIVA External Advisory Committee Chairman Prof Ching-hon Pui (St Jude)  

Through Prof Allen and the outpatient clinic at the NUH, we found out more about the VIVA Foundation and how her close partnership with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the US had helped saved Joshua’s life.

It turned out that Joshua’s condition was so rare that we would not have found the correct diagnosis and treatment for him had it not been for the expertise of a St. Jude researcher based in Singapore – Dr Allen, along with his research team.

VIVA has helped us in more ways than one. Back then, we were reluctant to include radiotherapy as part of Joshua’s treatment due to the risks involved.

We were relieved that this issue was swiftly raised at the 2015 St Jude-VIVA Forum in Singapore. Our decision to abstain from radiotherapy was strongly supported by the St Jude teams in US and Europe.

Through VIVA, Joshua is now able to obtain his second chance in life. We are hopeful that he will enjoy his life to the fullest and live healthy.