SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - Miss Dominique Schell is a cancer survivor with a passion for helping others like her beat the disease with positive thinking.
And she’s hoping US pop star Taylor Swift can be part of that process - by directly reaching out to her idol on social media.
The 19-year-old Swiss national, who moved to Singapore from Switzerland in 2008, was diagnosed with a rare form of childhood cancer, sarcoma, in her right leg when she was 10.
She has been in remission for nine years and continues to go for check-ups at the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital every six months.
She has spent the last three years as a youth ambassador with the Sarah-Grace Sarcoma Foundation (Kick Sarcoma), a non-profit organisation that raises awareness for sarcoma, speaking at events to share her story and spread positivity.
For the first time last Friday, she visited the National University Hospital's (NUH) children's cancer ward as part of a new mentoring programme for kids between the ages of six and 15 who are diagnosed with sarcoma.
In an open letter to Swift, posted on Facebook on Wednesday, Miss Schell expressed her hope for the 25-year-old singing sensation to visit the cancer-stricken children at NUH.
Swift is in town this weekend for a two-night sold-out concert as part of her 1989 World Tour at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
She wrote: "Though I'm sure you are one of the busiest bees in the world, I want to invite you to come and meet the children that have inspired so many.
"I can just imagine how big their smiles would be if they were to meet you. Whether they live another month, another year, another decade, you'll have been a glimpse of light during one of the darkest times of their lives. And for that, their families, as well as I, would be eternally grateful."
In the same post, she recalls how inspired she was after having such close contact with the cancer kids at NUH.
She also details her own battle with cancer, writing: "I underwent intense chemotherapy for nine months, lost my hair, stopped practising gymnastics and ballet, and moved into a children’s cancer ward back in Switzerland.
"Though I have a walking stick resting next to me, and some metal rods through my leg holding my bone together, I’m lucky to say that I am cancer-free."
Her post has since received over 4,800 "likes" and more than 900 shares.
When contacted, Miss Schell told The New Paper: "I found out Swift was coming a while ago, but didn’t think anything of it. I wanted to get (concert) tickets but they were sold out.
"I then went to talk to these children at NUH, and a few days later I came up with the crazy idea of trying to reach her. I know she has made hospital visits and she’s a very charitable and kind person who does a lot for her fans... and is known to respond to them... so there’s a very small chance."
Miss Schell is unaware if her post has reached the attention of Swift’s management, but the positive feedback and support she has received from her friends and family is more than enough.
She said: "I know it’s a long shot but if I can get to her through this letter, it would be absolutely incredible. Regardless, through sharing this open letter through Facebook, people are learning about sarcoma and childhood cancer, two subjects that people don’t know nearly enough about. It’s raising awareness and that is equally important."
Miss Schell, a former student of the French School Of Singapore and Tanglin Trust School, studied medicine at the University of Melbourne for only two months this year before she was forced to take a year off due to ongoing health problems not related to sarcoma.
She hopes to return next February.
Dr Grace Moshi, 53, founder of the Sarah-Grace Sarcoma Foundation and a sarcoma survivor, told TNP: "What Dominique is doing is absolutely fantastic. I’m sure the kids will be so happy."
Dr Chetan Dhamne, a consultant of pediatric oncology at NUH, added: "NUH always welcomes celebrities to visit these kids as they feel excited to meet their idols. They feel encouraged by the celebrities' words."
According to him, Hong Kong action superstar Jackie Chan and US pop star Beyonce have visited NUH's children's cancer ward when they were in town over the years.
Dr Chetan said: "Dominique is such a positive influence on the kids and she really helps them have the spirit to fight the cancer when they are feeling low."
Swifties all set for #1989TayDay
Miss Rebecca Quek showed up at Taylor Swift’s concert here last year in a kangaroo onesie when the latter’s Red Tour made its stop in Singapore.
This year, she and her friends will be wearing T-shirts that form the New York skyline, complete with lights.
"Taylor will be opening the show with (her song) Welcome To New York and she has a city chic vibe running through the show so we thought it’d fit," said the 20-year-old student.
The Taylor Swift superfan - or Swiftie, as they are affectionately called - was one of the lucky few who met her idol up close as she was picked to be part of Club Red, a meet-and-greet session that Swift held after each concert on her Red tour.
A team led by her mother, Andrea Swift, would typically look around the concert venue for the craziest, most excitable and creatively dressed audience members. Some 10 to 20 fans will be picked to go backstage after the show to meet Swift and her band.
"Meeting Taylor was wonderful and exciting... She was very attentive and warm, so it made us feel more at ease," recalled Miss Quek.
She and fellow Club Red participant Meris Tan, 19, will be attending Swift’s Nov 7 show.
Miss Tan, who has been studying in Los Angeles at the Edgemar Center for the Arts for the past five months, flew back just to catch the show with her friends even though she had already seen the 1989 World Tour twice at the Staples Center on Aug 25 and 26.
Those two dates featured Swift’s special surprise guests like Selena Gomez, Justin Timberlake, Lisa Kudrow, John Legend, St. Vincent and Beck.
Said Miss Tan: "I lost it when Lisa Kudrow came out at the last LA show because I’m a huge fan of (US TV sitcom) Friends and they sang the iconic Smelly Cat song from the show."
Of their pre-concert plans, both Miss Tan and Miss Quek will be meeting fellow Swifties on the afternoon of the concert held at Singapore Indoor Stadium for #1989TayDay, which will either take place outside the venue or at the 100PLUS Promenade, the walkway that connects facilities at the Sports Hub.
This fan-run event will see the group taking part in various activities such as trivia sessions, games and small contests to win attractive prizes sponsored by Universal Music Singapore, Cornetto Singapore, Royal Sporting House Singapore’s Keds division and Madame Tussauds Singapore.
"I'm very happy that I've stuck with her through the harder times when she received a lot of hate and doubt. I am very proud of her and what she has accomplished. I am proud to call myself a Swiftie," said Miss Tan, on the rise of Swift’s star this year.
Miss Quek agreed: "I am very happy that people are now recognising her talent and that she’s a good person."
Both are looking forward to a fun time at tomorrow's concert with two other friends as this is the first time they have all managed to get seats together.
"It'll be really amazing if I get to meet Taylor again but I won't complain or be upset if it doesn't happen," Miss Quek said.