Cancer History:

September 1992 – Operation to remove malignant tumor in right tear duct.

October 1992 – Operation to remove one neck lymph node and bone between right eye and nose in case tumor has spread to these areas.

June/July 1993 – Radiation to right jaw as tumor has spread there.

July/August 1994 – Tests confirmed irradiated tumor has grown again. Operation to remove part of right jaw recommended.

November 1994 – Operation to remove right jaw bone, all the right neck lymph nodes and some facial nerves but facial skin retained.

February/March 1995 – Several tumors on right facial and neck skin discovered.

March/April 1995 – Radiation to right side of face and neck.


When I first knew I had cancer, only a few friends (not even my parents) were informed. Around that time, my mother told me about the death of one of her close church mates, due to cancer. That sister had been very zealous for the Lord, and was instrumental to my mother’s spiritual growth. She told me how this woman had to go in and out of hospital, and towards the last stage, underwent a major operation before her death. I told God then, “Lord, I don’t want to go through all that and still die of cancer in the end! I’d rather die earlier!” Little did I know, that God in His providence, has chartered the course for me to go in and out of hospital, for tests after tests and treatments after treatments that traumatize and weaken me more and more.

Besides coping with the stress of cancer, my family and I had to go through exceptionally more trials, especially after my radiation in 1993. While we try to rejoice in tribulations, there were times when I developed a kind of numbness to protect myself from more emotional pain. Our marriage and family life also became affected. As we look back now however, I can only say that God’s ways are unsearchable, His grace has no measure and I am but a wretched sinful creature.

When my jaw tumor reoccurred last year, I was very sure that psychologically and physically, I wasn’t ready for the jaw surgery. Through circumstances which we are sure it’s the Lord’s leading, we had known of a health institute in USA. When we called them, we were told “come before the surgery.” We prayed earnestly for God’s will to be done. I asked God to give me one more chance. “Help me. I cannot achieve this on my own. Grant me the miracle of 2 cures:

(i) To change the undesirable traits in my personality, so that my children can see in me, a better mother, and my husband in me, a better wife.

(ii) To grant me a cure from cancer whether through surgery or alternative means.”

I didn’t want to go all the way to USA if it wasn’t the Lord’s will. God opened the way. I was introduced to a program, which I subsequently followed to see if it worked for me while I delayed the operation which was scheduled in early September.

All through the subsequent weeks that followed, we requested for church prayer support as we sought for the Lord’s will. My frequent trips to McRitchie Reservoir for exercise and meditations on God’s Word were one of the most wonderful times of my life as I got strengthened in the Lord. Later I was encouraged to go to Germany for another program which had worked for some terminal cancer patients. However, when I went for the operation in November 1994, I was ready—I had peace, as I was sure it was God’s will for me. I wrote letters to my husband, sister and children. I spoke and sang “Jesus Loves Me This I Know” into a tape for my children to remember my voice. Even if I survived the operation, I might not be able to speak normally again.

Should I become inoperable because the tumor had intruded an artery leading to the brain, I trusted in God’s grace to prepare me for death. Yet on the other hand, I told God “I want to live on, despite the sufferings. You know it’s not because I love the world and want to hang on to enjoy life more. I just want to be able to fulfill my role as a mother to my four young children and nurture them in the Lord, and be a help meet to my husband.” I thank God for carrying me through the surgery and for the church members’ prayers and encouragements.

Never in my life had I been in such a terrible state of health. Emotionally, I was very vulnerable. What carried me through were my constant meditations on these verses in the Bible:

Psalm 118:17-18: “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. The Lord hath chastened me sore: but he hath not given me over unto death.”

Psalm 118:24: “This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

Psalm 37:5: “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”

I thank God that I need not go for speech therapy after the surgery. One of the things which I struggled and managed to overcome was the disappointment over the loss of control over the right side of my mouth due to the removal of some facial nerves. I had told my surgeon while we wrestled over the issue of my operation. “It’s not the fear of deformity that makes me reluctant to go for the operation. I believe by God’s grace He’ll help me to overcome it. It’s the belief that having gone through previous operations and treatment, this major one (at this advanced stage) will bring my health all the way down and make it very hard for my body to continue to fight cancer.” So after the operation, when I saw my crooked mouth, I prayed to God sadly “I was prepared to accept deformity and disability. Now I cannot even have my radiant smile to brighten my face.” However, faced with the reality of death, my crooked mouth, bad scarring, impaired hearing and stares from people, are nothing.

My struggle to regain health after the operation was uphill, lonely and ridden with assaults from Satan. At one stage when my sufferings seemed beyond me, Satan mocked me. “You wrote in your testimony before the operation that God has taught you to accept the fact that if all that you’ve suffered, or will suffer were to bring just one person to repentance/revival, it would still be worth it. Is it really worth it? Weren’t you talking “big?” I am not in my dying moments yet, and I still believe that God can heal me if He wills. I have learned to surrender my all, be prepared to die if that is His Will and stop questioning “God must you make me die as well so as to bless others?”

At one stage, I was devastated by thoughts like, “Why struggle on to prolong your life, and make others suffer? Give up the will to live. You are not indispensable. Let someone else who may do a better job take over.” By God’s grace, He has enabled me to overcome these.

I thank God for the little ways He shows that He still remembers me, cares for me and provides grace for every need. A card or note will arrive from someone. Once even a stranger gave me words of encouragement. Recently a child sent a letter to me. My tears just rolled down as I read her letter.

During my recent radiation, I couldn’t talk for nine days as my ulcers hurt terribly and my vocal chords were affected. With the temporary break in radiation to the neck area, I could talk again. Now I treasure every moment I can use my speech to instruct my children, and instill values in them, to praise God, etc. I thank God for every additional day He gives me and for the little things that I can still enjoy or do, like chewing a soft fruit, going for a walk, enjoying the breeze. What matters more is no longer “Has my tumor shrunk or grown?” but, “In what way can I please God today and live life to the fullest?” I’ll need much, much more grace to face the increased sufferings in the days ahead.

Through these years of battling cancer, I am fully aware that it had also been a spiritual warfare. That I had been able to come thus far, is a testimony to God’s grace. He strengthened me through His Word, and some books that were given to me. He prepared me years ago. Firstly he gave me a firm foundation as a young Christian in my teens when I attended a counselors’ training course where I was challenged to memorize God’s words, to seek to encourage and to help others, thus helping my own spiritual growth. Often, the verses that encourage me now, were verses that I had memorized as a young Christian.

I must also thank God for giving me a mother whose strength in her own afflictions has been a great example to me. All her sharing with me when I was a little girl made lasting impact. I feel that a mother’s sacrifice is not in vain. I am also thankful for a supportive husband whose love and spiritual steadfastness are some of his gifts to me that I will always treasure till death do us part. We must all face death one day. What really matters after all?

I would like to share a song that’s especially meaningful to me.

“Be Thou my vision, O lord of my heart;

Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art;

Thou my best thoughts, by day or by night,

Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.


Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise;

Thou mine inheritance, now and always:

Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,

High King or heaven, my treasure Thou art.”


Tan Boon Hwee was taken to glory early in October, leaving a dear husband and four children ages 3 through 11. She was a member of First Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore.

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