“So Much Life Left to Live” – a Homeschool Mum’s Winning Mindset Against Cancer

From the Editor’s Desk: The National Cancer Centre of Singapore (NCCS) reports that cancer incidence has been rising over the years, and the number of people living with cancer will continue to increase.1 Insight into how others have lived with cancer offer pertinent lessons for us as potential caregivers, companions, or even mere acquaintances. Homeschool Singapore caught up with fellow homeschooling mom and cancer survivor, Dorothy Lim-Chew, who recently wrote a book detailing her journey.

Most homeschooling families believe in not only learning for life but also learning through life. Having our young partake in activities typically undertaken by adults and observe how their adult role models respond to various life scenarios could shape their social-emotional capabilities in the long run. The vagaries of life promise unpredictable circumstances and challenges for every family. Some families confront unexpected financial difficulties, while others deal with the loss of a cherished family member. For Dorothy Lim-Chew and her family, it was a health predicament; particularly, cancer.

As if parenting in the face of such an ordeal is not already an uphill task, Dorothy, and her husband, Keh Chew, were doubly challenged for having committed to homeschooling their son, Caylen. With much resolve and support from their friends and family, the trio emerged from the trial with ample reasons to celebrate.

On the homeschooling front, they carved out a path that was fitting for artistically talented Caylen.

We were informed that Caylen was a year ahead and would not be able to graduate with a high school diploma from Abeka Academy unless he was over 17 years old. Therefore, we gave him a sabbatical. During that time, my husband and I felt that perhaps it would be a good thing for him to experience “schooling” for a change. So, I got Caylen to put together a portfolio. He applied to LASALLE College of the Arts and was accepted!

Dorothy Lim-Chew

Caylen Chew’s achievement is laudable as he was offered a spot despite being only 16 years old. His coursemates are typically in their early 20s. Caylen started last year and has completed two terms at LASALLE.

“Imaginary Bird” by Caylen Chew

For Dorothy herself, fueled by the mindset of having so much life to live, she pursued her own passion in art to the fullest. In between her treatments, she even curated and hosted an online calligraphy exhibition! Besides drawing strength from the online community of calligraphy enthusiasts, whom Dorothy found to be “amazingly supportive,” the exhibition also gave her “something positive to focus on.”

Given her marked resilience, we asked her for some words of encouragement to homeschooling parents facing health issues of their own.

Firstly, this is the time to rely on family and friends. While planning, look out for tasks that can be delegated, and to whom they can be delegated. Secondly, self-care is very important. There will be an ebb and flow of strength and capacity. So, we have to plan around that and roll with it. We must let go of some things and cannot expect to be functioning at the same level and capacity as before. Priorities change during this season. Thirdly, my family adopted a new normal. However, even as my husband and I tried our best to provide stability for our son, we also involved him in discussions to prepare him for foreseeable changes.

Dorothy Lim-Chew
“Fear not, be not dismayed” by Dorothy Lim-Chew. A calligraphy art made using batik techniques on paper.

Mother, Artist, and now, Author

When Dorothy was first diagnosed with breast cancer, she struggled to find information relevant to the Singapore context that could guide her on what to expect, and how to prepare herself for the challenges ahead. She attributed much of the support she received to her church community, family and friends. As it stands, Dorothy triumphed over her ailments and is currently in remission.

With this experience in the bag, Dorothy was determined to help other cancer patients. Besides candidly sharing about her chemotherapy treatments on her Instagram account, she is supporting three other women in their different stages of treatment and recovery. Hoping to achieve a multiplier effect, Dorothy decided to document her journey by writing a book to share practical tips and considerations for patients and caregivers.

Dorothy’s breast cancer treatment and recovery story titled “So Much Life Left to Live” is now available as an eBook on Kindle (available via Amazon), as well as in paperback format for shipping within Singapore.

The design for the book cover is adapted from Dorothy’s own artwork, Tapestry of Life, a piece she did while undergoing treatments. Image credit: Dorothy Lim-Chew

The 96-page book is an easy read, with photos and illustrations. It is organised chronologically to explicate the various stages one typically encounters: Discovery, Planning, Surgery, Chemotherapy, Hair Loss, Food, Emotions, Radiation Therapy, and What’s Next. For every stage, Dorothy shares her experiences, as well as stories of others whom she has met. Every chapter offers tips, practical considerations, and prompts to help readers process their own experiences. She hopes that it will be useful for caregivers and friends who want to support patients as well.

When I wrote this book, I wanted to bring readers along with me, and show them what it was like. I also wanted to make it very practical and useful, so I included suggestions for what to do at each stage, how to prepare oneself, as well as positive thoughts to focus on. The outcome is a combined narrative and “workbook” style.

As I share this very personal journey, elements of my faith inevitably form a background to the narrative. Nevertheless, the content about the cancer journey and treatment can be useful to people of all persuasions.

Dorothy Lim-Chew

Published Review: It’s real experience, real life application. A good book with “handles” that will be a good tool to encourage someone who is going through a similar situation or struggle.
by Eunice Wong on Goodreads

Paying It Forward

As a cancer survivor, Dorothy would also like to play her part towards knowledge-building through cancer research. For orders received by 31 Jan 2023 (made directly through this Google form), a portion of the proceeds from the sale of books will be directed towards NCCS for breast cancer research under the Oncology Academic Clinical programme at Duke-NUS, which attracts a dollar-matching grant from the government.

Homeschool Singapore is proud to welcome yet another author within our community. Let’s applaud Dorothy for her valiant fight and admirable initiatives, and wish her family the very best in their endeavours!

Dorothy, Caylen and Keh overcoming the odds together. Image credit: Dorothy Lim-Chew