This is what it's like to be diagnosed with Stage 2 cancer at the age of 3

Soft truths to keep Singapore from stalling.

Mothership | June 22, 2019, 12:07 PM

Mothership and The Birthday Collective are in collaboration to share a selection of essays from the 2018 edition of The Birthday Book Jr.

The Birthday Book Jr is a collection of essays about Singapore by 54 children, mostly five- to 13-year-olds, from various walks of life.

Apart from showcasing the diversity of young voices in Singapore, these essays also discuss our collective future as a nation.

12-year-old Maeve Low contributed an essay, "Roads story", sharing the story of her journey with Burkitt's Lymphoma, a type of cancer, which she was diagnosed with when she was three years old. Her essay is reproduced here:


By Maeve Low

Taking a journey down a rough road is never easy. Especially one with thunderstorms, endless clouds and rain.

That was the road I took. No, it wasn’t by choice. Yes, that was my cancer journey.

When I was three years old, I was diagnosed with Stage 2, Burkitt’s Lymphoma. Burkitt’s Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the lymph nodes.

Even though that was close to nine years ago, I can still remember what happened. The rough road was definitely cancer.

But the clouds and rain and thunderstorms?

The arrival of my little sister, Paige

My mother had recently given birth to my adorable sister, Paige, shortly before I was diagnosed. I was being wheeled into hospital at regular intervals and I rarely got to see my baby sister.

When I was in hospital, my sister wasn’t allowed in as hospitals didn’t allow infants into wards. I couldn’t do all the normal things a normal child would do.

Now, for the clouds. Clouds are like fear. They can block your vision from seeing all the happy things behind them.

Ever notice you don’t see the rainbow when the sky’s all cloudy? So, clouds were like fear to me. They blocked out positive thoughts, leaving my family and friends clinging onto a thin strand of hope.

Staying positive despite chemotherapy

Chemotherapy. All these new words to me.

Being wheeled into hospital is definitely scary.

The smell of alcohol swabs, and I knew I was going to be plugged into a drip again. The different blood-red IV bags.

But finally, rain came. Rain washed away everything negative.

It pushed the clouds away, and I could finally see the rainbow hiding behind it. The rainbow that God had promised.

On hindsight, I am happy I went down that road. Because of cancer, I am able to encourage others around me, and be the rain for them, to wash away all negativity.

Like people say, “You can never experience joy if you have never experienced pain.”

If you happen to be in the education space and think this essay may be suitable as a resource (e.g. for English Language, General Paper or Social Studies lessons), The Birthday Collective has a new initiative, "The Birthday Workbook", that includes discussion questions and learning activities based on The Birthday Book essays. You can sign up for its newsletter at

Top photo by Selina Boertlein c/o SBPhotography, via Getty Images.