【SCMP】Cancer Patients With a Song in Their Hearts


Choir helps sufferers realise they are not alone and to develop the confidence to face their challenges in a supportive environment.

Before tragedy struck, Yip Mak-fong and her husband Wong Hak-yan had thought they only had each other. But now they are surrounded by a group of like-minded companions in their battle against cancer.

“I had given up on myself. I just wanted to my final journey with my husband”, Yip said. Yip, 58, was diagnosed with liver cancer five years ago. The cancer had spread to her gall bladder, and doctors said little else could be done for her. Wong, 71, was diagnosed with lung cancer 10 years ago. He had a relapse in 2010 and has resumed chemotherapy.

Four months ago, the couple joined a choir with other cancer patients at Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centre in Tuen Mun. They also started attending a songwriting class at the centre.”I found confidence and hope. It’s like seeing rainbows. I’m not depressed anymore”, Yip said. “I gained the strength to face everything each day.”

Meeting other cancer patients also changed Yip’s view towards the disease. “I listened to how the others faced it,” she said. “In the past, I didn’t know what to do. But now I think that these are things that we have to go through in life, so we should just face them happily.”

The choir which has about 40 members, is part of the centre’s music therapy service to give patients psychological support. “Taking part in the choir encourages them to sing together without having to worry about how well they sing,” centre head Helen Lui Wong Yun-fong said. The choir performed at the Space Museum in Tsim Sha Tsui this month and will perform in Kowloon Park next month.

Operation Santa Claus, jointly organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK, is raising fund for the centre to provide more diversified music therapies to cater to different patients’ needs.

The cancer centre – designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry with the aim of making patients feel at home – has one-on-one and group music therapy sessions as well as instrument-playing and song writing classes.

Music therapist Chung King-man said the patients were encouraged to share their memories through the songs they sang. Under Chung’s guidance, Yip, Wong and two other patients wrote a song to thank their families for their support.

Wong was in tears as he sang the song, Yip said. “He’s rather a conservative person.” She said of her husband. “It’s the first time I have seen him express his feelings like this through singing.”

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