As a part of our Faces of Courage series, we are featuring a caregiver story. Each one of our members has a unique story to tell, but they all reflect the intrinsic courage of those who face the challenges of cancer head on, with dignity, strength, and passion for life.

Our Caregiver of the Month for July is Amelia Yeo. Here is her story:

Amelia Yeo

Amelia Yeo, Changi Jewel, Singapore

Andrew’s GISTtory

Andrew was rushed to hospital on April 19th, 2019 after experiencing severe abdominal pain. A CT scan showed a large mass on his intestine. It was pressing against the instesting, causing a partial bowel obstruction. Emergency surgery was scheduled, and the mass was removed five days later, along with 5 cm of jejunum. Margins were clean. The 9 x 6 x 6 cm tumor was found to be a GIST of exon 11 mutation (deletion on 5 codons: 568-572), with a mitotic rate of 7/5, which is considered high-risk. Andrew was subsequently put on Gleevec for adjuvant therapy.

All of this came as a shock to both of us. Andrew had previously been healthy, with no major telling symptoms. A full medical check-up in 2015 showed that his lymphocyte levels were low, but other than that, he felt fine. Only in the preceding two to three weeks before his diagnosis did he start to feel some gastric discomfort that ultimately lead to him ending up in the emergency room.

Coping With a Loved One’s GIST Diagnosis

In the initial period after diagnosis, we were both extremely stressed and upset. This diagnosis hit us so suddenly and neither of us had ever heard of GIST before. Andrew and I quickly read up on his condition and found a wealth of information available on the Internet, as well as various support groups we could join – The Life Raft Group being one of them. Perusing the relevant research articles and statistics on diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, etc. really gave us a much better idea on what to expect. We didn’t feel so helpless anymore. Reading about other patients’ experiences, how they coped with their symptoms and other aspects of their condition has also helped us greatly. Some very kind individuals also reached out to us personally to lend us emotional support, which is always uplifting.

Advice for fellow GIST Caregivers

Be informed. The more you know about something, the more in control you will feel and the better the care you’ll be able to give. Join support groups, if need be, in order to manage your emotions. Empathy and love can readily be found in every corner of the world, regardless of race, culture or religion! Always be positive, and don’t allow situations to overwhelm you. Treat every challenge as a learning opportunity.

Hobbies

Playing and discussing video games is our favorite thing to do – we met each other playing the same arcade game “Virtua Fighter 3” back in 1997 and will forever share the love of gaming! We both also read a ton and enjoy discussing a wide variety of topics that range from current affairs to quantum physics to sociology and a whole lot more.

Motto

“Live one meditative day well, with morality, wisdom and goodness, rather than a hundred years badly.”
– Buddha

Criteria for Caregiver of the Month:

  • Patient must be part of Life Raft Group Patient Registry
  • Caregiver is regularly active on LRG platforms (GIST Chat, LRG events)
  • Patient provides constant medical updates and participates in our tissue bank

Interested? Contact Sahibjeet Kaur, LRG Patient Registry Supervisor, for more information: skaur@liferaftgroup.org

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