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Fri, Oct 29, 2010
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Brain-tumour victim lives to run
by David Lim

MELISSA Lim will be among 12,000 women taking part in Sunday’s Great Eastern Women 10K run around the Marina Bay area. But her world almost came to an end back in October  2003, when she was admitted to hospital for severe dizziness, vomiting and weakness.

Then 38, she had all the attributes of the typical successful Singapore woman: a career as head of training for a local media company, a loving husband and two children – a boy aged 11 and a girl aged seven.

She was apparently in the pink of health too, having taken part in several runs, including the Standard Chartered Mini Marathon and the Shape Run.

She recalled: “I thought I would die that October day. I was vomiting and everything was spinning around me. From being perfectly fine, I was in a wheelchair all of a sudden.”

Then came the shocking news after a magnetic-resonance- imaging scan: She had a tumour the size of a golf ball in her right brain, called an acoustic neuroma.

The news evoked painful memories, as she is not the first in her family to suffer from a brain disease. Her mother had died from brain cancer in 1998.

Speaking to my paper at her condominium in Trevose Crescent, Madam Lim said: “When I heard the news, I just couldn’t take it at first. It was also very upsetting for my family.

To us, it was like lightning had struck twice.”

Fortunately for her, the diagnosis from the doctor was a positive one.

Her tumour was benign and she had a good chance of recovery if she could find a highly skilled neurosurgeon.

Thus, despite the devastating news, she found new hope as she raced against time to find a cure.

She said: “I believed with all my heart that I found out about my tumour in the nick of time, so that I could do something about it and live.”

Madam Lim eventually underwent surgery in February 2004 but, as a result of the operation, her hand-eye coordination was severely affected. She also had paralysis on the right side of her face.

Further complications necessitated another operation two weeks later. What followed was an arduous time as she tried to recover her hand-eye coordination.

It took almost a month of repetitive exercises that the doctor taught her before she regained her motor skills.

While she was advised to rest at home for the next two months, she decided to return to work after only a month. She said: “Going back to work was the best therapy because,
in a way, it also challenged me to keep up.”

In 2005, a year after surgery, she ran a Stanchart race. Nowadays, the 45-year-old consultant exercises daily. She said: “I find that exercising is a matter of making time for what you think is important, as everyone is busy.”

This will be the second time that Madam Lim is taking part in the Great Eastern Women 10K run. And she is doing it for a special reason: She is taking part with her daughter Sarah, now 14.

Sarah had signed up for the 5km route through her school, and Madam Lim decided to take part to encourage her on. Said Sarah: “I’m glad that she’s going to support me as it’s my first time running the race.”
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