May 2011

Dear friends and partners,

This weekend marks the first anniversary of my discovery of breast cancer. It was a rather special weekend. We had a family team arrive from Singapore to come and build 30 houses – this team included Lisa and Sharon and their families – a couple of the people who had given me so much support in Singapore through a difficult time.

With my little family, we took time to celebrate the weekend together – Saturday night we all stayed up past mid-night – something I haven’t been able to do for the past year – a nice evening of watching family movies and eating popcorn and a bit of champagne. Sunday was a day of church, lunch out and driving golf balls at the driving range – something I haven’t done for a year. We - Miriam, Tuit and I rejoiced in just being – remarked how good it was to do what we had done before the breast cancer happened.

Monday was a big day for Miriam – she had to make a speech in English class – she didn’t tell me – she just asked if she could skip school for the day – being the mean mum that I am, I made her go. As usual at the end of the day, we chatted about her day. She told me about her speech - I cried she said. I had to make a speech about George Orwell’s story – Room 101 – about what our worst nightmares would be and what we didn’t want to find in our own Room 101 – I was doing fine, she said, until I talked about cancer – about you and Uncle Rennie– about our last year – about how I didn’t want any more cancer in the world. I didn’t mean to cry, she said, I just couldn’t help it. But then mum, I made them laugh – I said, my mum looks much better – sometimes her pants fall down because she is in much better shape than she was a year ago and her clothes don’t fit so well anymore.

I kind of shuddered – my girl is only 12 and dealing with stories like Room 101 – it’s rather deep. But then I think of all the Room 101’s we have here in Cambodia. It’s not just cancer; it’s all kinds of illnesses. It’s the fact that the nightmares have no end. For so many - a year after contracting an illness, there is no quiet weekend to celebrate – there is no going back and doing things that were done before the illness struck. For many, there is no longer a family to celebrate with; there is no longer a safe place to call home.

Nokor Tep Women’s Hospital is a bold dream – a dream to replace some of the nightmares. We have grown in size and there are now four of us working together to make it happen. H.E. Trac Thai Sieng and H.E. Sok Siphana have joined us – Sieng is looking after the detailed plans for building and Siphana is our lawyer, taking care of all the legal details.

We are in process of hiring a Medical Director – someone who can help us plan and implement the medical needs. We are in process of developing a Scientific Committee, Phavi will head this committee – she is a doctor. This committee alongside of the medical Director will help design a permanent training schedule – enabling us to train Cambodians as well as International medical professionals in many aspects of our work – it will enable us to develop a research capacity – and all that entails- it will enable us to stay abreast of the latest developments – it will enable us to choose what would be the best course of action for the people we will serve. It enables us to define excellence – excellence in how we treat our patients – excellence in providing dignity, respect, comfort – excellence in selecting what we are best able to do and excellence in providing that medical care.

Our dream is to replace the nightmares of Orwell’s Room 101 – to dreams of possibilities and hope and dignity. I am so thankful to my God, for always keeping my Room 101 a mystery – for allowing me the privilege of changing other Room 101’s. It is so very good.


Stories of Cambodian Women


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