PM Lee Hsien Loong at Singapore Cancer Society Hope 50 Concert

SM Lee Hsien Loong | 16 January 2015

Speech by PM Lee Hsien Loong at Singapore Cancer Society Hope 50 Concert on 16 January 2015 at the Star Vista Auditorium.


Mr Choo Eng Chuan, Chairman of Singapore Cancer Society (SCS)
Dr Ang Peng Tiam, Organising Chairman, SCS Hope Concert
Mr Albert Ching, CEO, SCS
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

Good evening to all of you. I am delighted to be here with the SCS and all of the SCS community to gather and celebrate this meaningful occasion with the entire cancer community – patients, survivors and beneficiaries, as well as medical professionals and volunteers. We all belong in this family. I am a cancer survivor too. We are all here and we live on. We fight on another day. 

Cancer is not an uncommon disease in Singapore. It is a number 1 killer. In fact 1 in 3 Singaporean dies of cancer and every day if you go by the statistics, 33 people are diagnosed with cancer in Singapore. 
But cancer is not a death sentence because over the years, especially in the last 10 or 20 years, medical science has made great strides in understanding of how cancer works; the disease at the fundamental molecular level. Developing new drugs, new types of treatment. Developing new tests that can help to detect cancer earlier and for patients who have cancer, tests which will help to guide the treatment, and guide the treatment more accurately and effectively. 

So medical science improves and the odds improve but fighting cancer is not just about high-tech medical science. It is also about our own choices, our own lifestyles, how we live. For example, if you do not smoke you have some risk of getting sick but if you smoke you increase the risk of lung cancer by 10 to 20 times. So these are choices we can make. 

If you do not smoke, eat healthily, watch your weight, exercise regularly – I sound like your doctor – it does not mean you will not get sick, it does not mean you will not get old. One day we all die but it means you will have a healthier, happier life and you will be in a better position to fight whatever illness comes your way, cancer or even many other illnesses. 

So I think lifestyles and other personal choices are also important in fighting cancer. But the third thing which counts a lot in fighting cancer is family and community support. This evening I met with some cancer survivors. They have been through a difficult journey. It has affected them but not only them but also their loved ones. If you make the journey alone, it can be a frightening experience but with support from family and from the SCS, that made a big difference to these survivors and should make a big difference to many more. Not just to your morale and confidence but also to the medical outcomes because if you feel better, you exercise more, you take care of yourself better, I think you improve your odds. So I asked one of them, “Are you all right?” He said, “As long as I am standing here, I am OK.” I think that is the spirit. What is most inspiring of them all is not just that they are still standing there but that they want to give back having gone through the experience themselves. They want to give back and they want to help other cancer patients on their journey.

So I am glad that SCS is doing good work supporting the patients and their families medically, financially also socially, even helping with the children’s education, their tuition.  Enabling different people to come together to contribute talents, skills and to support one another so that cancer patients and their families know – “You never walk alone”.

I am glad that SCS will be stepping up its fight against cancer. For example starting this month, lower-income patients can apply for one-off financial aid under the new Cancer Care Fund and later this year, from September; SCS will be starting a one-stop centre at Jurong Gateway, which will provide holistic care to patients. SCS will also be raising money and boosting its Cancer Treatment Fund by $10 million. Over the last 10 years, since 2005, they have helped over 3,000 patients with treatment cost.

SCS is an example of the kind of civil society, the kind of get-together and do something spirit which we would like to see in Singapore which is what we mean when we say Singapore should be a Democracy of Deeds. Because it does not matter who you are and what situation you are in. Whether you are a survivor or a patient or maybe a family member with a loved one struck by cancer or just someone who wants to make a difference to others. You come together, you work together, you contribute what you have – it could be contributing time, you could be contributing skills, or you could just be contributing your sympathy and your human understanding, a shoulder for somebody to lean on and to rest on. And “Together as one”, which is the theme for this concert. We make the lives of those around us better. We turn adversity into strength and we know there is nothing we cannot overcome.

Thank you SCS, especially SCS volunteers and thank you SCS supporters, for 50 years of outstanding service to Singapore. In fact they started in 1964 before Singapore became independent so it is 50 years plus already. May your example inspire many others to come forward to contribute and to make a constructive difference to Singapore in this SG50 year.

Thank you very much and I wish you a very enjoyable evening and concert.

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