Extremely rare cancer hits two in Singapore
by Judith Tan
PEComa is a cancer so rare that doctors around the world have recorded just 20 cases of its potentially deadly malignant form. Yet just this month, the disease has killed one woman here and appears to be ravaging the body of another.
Unlike other types of cancer, PEComa, or perivascular epitheloid cell tumours, can start almost anywhere — including large organs like the uterus, kidneys or lungs — and spread through soft tissue in blood vessels. The tumours spread quickly through the body, said Dr Alvin Wong, a consultant with the department of haematology-oncology at the National University Hospital (NUH).
The first patient here was a 37-year-old sub-editor with Singapore Press Holdings, who died on Feb 14, less than a year after she was first through to have skin cancer.
A lump “the size of a tennis ball” was found on Ms Angela Lee’s back, her brother Eugene said. She underwent radiotherapy but by November, the cancer was back, he said. It had eaten away one of her vertebrae and spread into her chest cavity, he added.
It’s been less than a month, but it seems longer since I heard that she was gone, and painfully so. I had no inkling of her illness. She was particularly pretty, smart, friendly, a wee bit intimidating, and also, from what I now know, brave, strong, caring, loving, and full of faith and fight.
The last time I met her was a bit more than a year ago, at TN’s wedding. She told me to keep in touch, unlike before — a request I couldn’t follow up on in Hong Kong, or even online. So there’s regret there, but just for me.
To keep in my prayers — her mum, her brother, the friends and other loved ones who miss her. She had borne extraordinary grief, battled extraordinary pain, so I am in only one way glad — that she’s left all that behind, and is with Jesus now, as LLP said.