Bad things happen – try to make the best of it

“Finally, our dream (five years in the making) to relocate to Armidale, Australia had come true. We’d sold our house in Singapore, secured a year-long lease, bought furniture, and had enrolled our two young children, aged four and two, into childcare.

One month in, we were easing into a regular routine – when our lives were upended again after my wife’s visit to the doctor.

The diagnosis: stage three breast cancer. Radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery – she needed them all.

The weeks that followed felt like a whirlwind – the nearest cancer treatment facility was in Melbourne, which was a three and a half hour flight away.

I remember our first trip to Melbourne, hastily stuffing our belongings into duffel bags, strapping those, and our bumbling toddler on a baby carrier across my body, our pre-schooler trailing behind, and pushing my wife on a wheelchair (her knees were giving her problems then) across crowded airports, planes and hospitals, for examinations and tests.

We didn’t have extended family or many friends with us in Armidale, and with each trip taking an increasingly larger toll on us, we decided to move back to Singapore to start her treatment shortly after.

In a way, moving back felt like a part of our dream had died – but it unexpectedly opened up new paths for us.

In Singapore, my wife joined regular cancer survivor support groups while undergoing treatment, which became a source of solace and strength.

Today, cancer free, she’s joined those same groups to become that pillar of strength for others.

As for me, I found a new job at DBS, doing Site Reliability Engineering. We’re like the middle man between the front and back office, making sure that all applications and updates go through a gamut of testing, with essential controls, before they are deployed.

Over the last few months, I’ve been working on DBS’ technology resiliency initiative. One project we’re working on is building AI models to help us to automate and verify the processes and policies involved with implementing any sort of system update or change.

Looking back, our struggles and eventual triumph over cancer has changed the way I approach challenges, be it in my personal life or at work.

My current motto: Bad things happen – try to make the best of it. Create a plan of action and go for it. Maybe you’ll find, it’s not that bad after all. Yes, I am a perpetual optimist!

We have our new normal now. My wife is on medication to prevent relapses, which affects her sleeping patterns, she falls asleep late and wakes up late. I handle the “morning shift” of getting our children ready for school – which, as planned for, is just a stone’s throw away from home.

When they return home after school, she’s on the “afternoon shift”, helping them with their homework. As a former university lecturer, she also volunteers to tutor underprivileged children as well.

This is our fifth Chinese New Year since coming back to Singapore, and truth be told, it no longer matters where we are based, I’m just thankful our family is whole and together.”

- Lim Koon Seng, Technology & Operations, Middle Office Technology