Wishing Star helps paediatric cancer patients fulfil wishes

Kapitan Chai (right) is seen accompanying a patient and his family on a visit to his crocodile farm early this year.

MIRI: Most people have a bucket list that they hope to ‘check’ someday, but for terminally-ill cancer patients that ‘someday’ may never come.

While these last wishes are often nothing extravagant and could be as simple as wanting a toy or simply being with their family; the effort to fulfil the last wishes of terminally-ill cancer patients is often not as easy as one may have thought.

Wishing Star, one of Sarawak Children’s Cancer Society (SCCS)’s most important programmes so far, has helped dozens of paediatric cancer patients fulfil their wishes.

SCCS counsellor Liew Kai Syn admitted that the first thing once a patient is declared palliative, after all treatments are no longer effective; dealing with parents’ emotion is always the hardest.

“The last thing parents could have imagined is being told there is little or no possibility for their child to recover. Some could bravely face the truth after being consoled, but most couldn’t accept it.

“Hence, as counsellor, it is part of my role to step in, to maintain a consistent communication with parents and the rest of the family members,” Liew shared with The Borneo Post in an interview recently.

Hee (third right) and volunteers accompany a patient on a visit to Miri Crocodile Farm. A surprise birthday party was thrown by the farm’s owner to give the child something good to remember.

It is undeniable that last wishes often project negative perception among most people, Liew said.

“But I prefer to put it in a better definition, that it helps create an opportunity for the family and the patient to create a good memory, spending as much time with each other, and letting the latter spend the remaining days as comfortable and happy as possible.

“Creating good memory for the child, so that they’ll have no regret (after his or her passing). Similarly, it lets the parents spend quality time with their child knowing that they are finally able to do something for their child,” Liew said.

Despite the amount of effort put in by SCCS to help in granting the last wishes of the patients, disappointments often come at an unexpected moment.

“There was a time when a child was too weak to go anywhere. We prepared a simple birthday cake so that her family could celebrate her birthday that would be two days away. I even prepared a scrapbook filled with photos of the best moments in her life. Unexpectedly, a day before her birthday, her condition worsened, she couldn’t make it. This was one of many times, when I really felt defeated in race against time,” said Liew.

Even after moments of heartache, Liew would pick herself up again, not wanting to waste a second longer, hoping that she could help other patients fulfil their dream.

Early this year, Eamonn, a four-year-old boy who loved helicopter, finally had his dream fulfilled. He was suffering from leukaemia. Layang-Layang Aerospace Sdn Bhd agreed to specially arrange a visit for him and his mother to their hanger. He was accompanied by SCCS volunteers, a medical doctor and Layang-Layang’s director and operations manager Captain Irwin M. Menezes for his first trip on helicopter.

“The first visit wasn’t as good as expected due to bad weather. The owner of Layang-Layang, group managing director Haji Johan Poong Abdullah, had unexpectedly offered Eamonn the second time, to let him ride the B0105 Airbus Eurocopter (helicopter) for a short ride around Miri sky.

“Eamonn kept gushing to me that he could ‘touch’ the sky. I could still remember his eyes shining bright and filled with joy,” SCCS president Jocelyn Hee said of the recent case.

Sadly, the little boy passed away several weeks after that.

“This project (Wishing Star) is very important to us, aside from other activities, because it gives patients the opportunity to express their desire.”

Another most unforgettable trip which also happened early this year was when a seven-year-old boy from Long Lama with brain tumour was declared palliative.

“Thankfully, the owner of Miri Crocodile Farm, Kapitan Chai Kuen Ming, was very helpful and considerate that he opened the farm early specially for the patient, and even threw a tea party for him. The effort and compassion showed by the sponsor had us overwhelmingly reduced to tears,” said Hee.

Though Wishing Star was officially launched in 2014, the programme had already be run on a smaller scale years before that, Hee added.

From organising a birthday party to visiting the crocodile farm and even the Legoland, Hee admitted that sponsorships and support often poured in from all directions, all with a similar aim – that is to bring smile to these children.


From organising a birthday party to visiting a crocodile farm and even the Legoland, Hee admitted that sponsorships and support often poured in from all directions all with a similar aim – that is to bring smile to these children.

“It is the most difficult and challenging, because we are not only focusing on organising the event or trip for the patient, but also the medical condition whether he or she is fit enough to make it. The sponsors are often very understanding. We appreciate their physical and emotional support, all in the name of love for the child.”

In 2017 alone, Hee revealed, about 30 children, whose cases were referred to SCCS by government hospitals, passed away due to different types of cancer.

“They are cases that were handled by SCCS. We cannot imagine the number of cases that weren’t referred to us.”

Parents and patients aside, Hee also felt that the credit should also be given to the volunteers and staff of SCCS who had had worked so passionately to help these young souls.

“There are a lot of untold sweat and tears that are not easily described with words. There are upside and downside of our work. Although there is nothing short of challenging, I as well as the volunteers would regret it if we don’t give our best.”Hence, she added, moral support and physical support in any form could bring hope to the children.


Eamonn was accompanied by his mother as well as SCCS volunteers and a medical doctor for his first visit to see a helicopter.

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