How it begins
Dear family, friends and well-wishers,
Our first child was due on end of 2010. Like any anxious parents, we explored the options to have her to be taken care of. Options include infant care followed by child care, caring by grandparent and, of course domestic helper.
The first option was out due to exorbitant cost of infant care. The second option was also eliminated, as my husband’s parents were still working. Finally, we settled on employing a domestic helper. While this certainly added toll to our finance, it was the most practical decision, as the helper could care for our child and relieved my mother-in-law of her house chore duties. She had a heart operation a few years ago, and could hardly manage simple chores. Both my husband and I were working during the days, and my nature of work required me to work overtime most of the time.
This was our first time employing a domestic helper, and we were much wary of stories whereby the helpers abuse the children, contaminating the food, or finding their local lovers. It was a chance which we have to take, and we could only pray hard that we can find a reliable helper.
It was by fate that we chanced upon Dahlia in a maid agency. She was a transfer maid whom had been recently returned to the agency. We were told that the old lady she had been caring for, passed away. And the single employer did not feel that there was any need to retain her service.
At that point of time, we could only take the story with a pinch of salt. We thought this was just one of the sob stories which the maid agencies would use for the transfer maids. But we were not exactly in the chooser’s position. The delivery of my child was nearing, and Philippines has recently implemented new regulations affecting the maid employment worldwide.
When we decided to employ Dahlia, we took a leap of faith. She was a quiet person and we couldn’t comprehend her thoughts. The transfer status was a black mark in her relative short employment history as a domestic helper. And introducing a relative stranger into the household was terrifying and hardly an exciting thought. That leap of faith took us on a journey together as a family for 7 years. During the said years, she cared for my first and second child, and presented her loud and positive character. During celebrations such as Chinese New Year’s lohei, she would contribute to the occasions with her loud “Huat” and her loud laughter. Despite being a Catholic, she has no qualms in burning the incense papers together with my mother-in-law. She will cuddle my kids to sleep at nights. Hence the children loved her deeply and affectionately called her auntie Ya Ya.
Then last November, she discovered a lump in her breast during her medical checkup just after her 4th contract renewal with us.
Like us, she has two children (8 and 16). Unlike us, she was widowed just a year prior to her employment with us. Unlike us, she has a total of 5 family members (including her mother and nephew) to support. She was the sole breadwinner of the family, and it was a duty she has bravely took on, with no excuse. During the course of her employment, her household survived multiple typhoons with the roof lost twice. As a results, her meagre saving in the local bank would be wiped out each and every time. I have initially hoped that she has a decent savings to rely on, when she finally retires.
As parents of two, we felt deeply for the Dahlia’s situation. Many the times, we were told that we could just sent her back to Philippine with some money for treatment. However we have concerns in several aspects such as access to immediate treatment in Philippine and her lack of medical insurance coverage in Philippine (PhilHealth was an option, not mandatory; we signed her up subsequently). Given that her domestic helper insurance in Singapore could cover most of the cost for the removal operation, we bit the bullet and encouraged her to take the operation in Singapore. In doing so, we prayed hard that there was no complexity, and that she requires no chemotherapy and radiology treatment prior to the operation. We were not in solid financial position to support those costs beyond the operation. So far, our prayers have been answered, until the operation.
Why am I appealing to you?
Her current domestic helper insurance can only cover $15,000 in local H&S, excluding GST. The cost of the operation with the pre-operation checks was barely covered by this insurance amount.
Do note that if you have domestic helper, do increase the H&S coverage if possible. We weren’t advised to during our early years, and were not aware that true costs of medical treatment in Singapore was higher by 5 to 6 times for foreigners.
On Valentine’s Day this year, she underwent the operation to remove her right breast. It was during the operation which the doctor discovered that a few lymph nodes were infected, and hence removed all the nodes. Theoretically, that translates to higher chance of cancerous spread to other parts of the body. The subsequent test performed on the removed nodes revealed that she had 3 affected lymph nodes. And hence it was confirmed that she had an early stage 2b cancer.
On 7th March, we met up with both the doctors from radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Given that she have affected lymph nodes, radiotherapy will be necessary after her chemotherapy.
the initial costing provided by the hospital, the cost of chemotherapy
(excluding the medical appointments), will be SGD $12k. This was based on the doctor’s
initial prescription of 4 courses of drug A with white cell booster pills, and
4 courses of drug T with white cell booster pills.
And including a heart scan (estimated $300) and medical appointments (costing $100 per visit), we estimated that possibly $13k will be required for this initial round. On the cost of radiotherapy, it is estimated to be at $8.3k excluding other blood checks, medicine or other scans. All in all, we estimate that the cost of medical treatment can reach up to $25k for this coming 9 months.
Subsequently, she will also need to undergo hormone treatment for the rest of her life. We were assured that the cost of the pills for this round will be relatively cheaper, but we have no idea of affordable will that be.
As a foreign domestic worker, Dahlia has no access to the subsidy which will reduce the cost of treatment up to 70%. On the costs for the similar treatments in Philippine, we were exasperated that we couldn’t get any info from organisations such as breast cancer foundation in Philippine, Philippine Embassy in Singapore etc. We can only assume that the cost will be similar or higher, based on hearsay from Dahlia’s friends.
The operation has exhausted our savings and we would not be able to cover her subsequent treatment costs or her family’s household expenses during her recovery period (a year or more). However with assurance from the doctors, we were convinced that Dahlia has a higher chance of recovery if treated now. Given her young age at 38, if she does not go through treatment the chances of cancer recurrence within 5 years is very high. With that and her family in consideration, we hope to raise enough funds for her treatment. As advised by the doctor, she will have to start her chemotherapy by 31st March.
At this junction, we are still pending advisory from her cousin on the potential costs at Philippine’s hospital for both treatments. However the over looming concern is that whether she would be able to get her first treatment before 12 weeks have passed her operation. According to the doctor, the effectiveness of the chemotherapy will be lost after that period.
We are very grateful during this period we have friends expressing their concerns and even gifts of token sum to help out with the situation. To date, we have been gifted $700 which we are holding on to for her treatment. Every small bit helps to bring hope to her and her family. We thank you for reading and your generosity.
Any donations can be made to Dahlia’s Singapore account (POSB FDW Savings 556-69279-3).
Besides GIVE, we have received SGD 700.00 from other sources.