Paralympian cancer survivor begins 50-hour endurance feat for charity and SG50

Dr Tan aims to raise $50,000 for needy children.
Dr Tan aims to raise $50,000 for needy children.PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Dr Tan aims to raise $50,000 for needy children.
Dr Tan aims to raise $50,000 for needy children.PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Dr Tan aims to raise $50,000 for needy children.
Dr Tan aims to raise $50,000 for needy children.PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - There was a time when Dr William Tan did not think he would see Singapore's 50th birthday. But he did.

The 58-year-old paralympian athlete was diagnosed in 2009 with end-stage chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, or cancer of the blood and bone marrow. His oncologist gave him nine months to a year to live.

On Friday, Dr Tan marked both Singapore's jubilee and his sixth year as a cancer survivor by beginning a feat of endurance - handcycling non-stop for 50 hours.

https://youtu.be/WVcjwU2T7uE

From 3pm on Friday to 4pm on Sunday, he will handcycle around the Temasek Junior College (TJC) track.

He aims to raise $50,000 for needy children through organisations such as the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund and Care Corner International, an orphanage in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

"I wanted this to be meaningful, not just by going for a record or something, but to benefit the community as well," he said

Half the targeted amount had been raised when Dr Tan took to the track in the blazing heat of Friday afternoon, paced by around 30 TJC students.

For the first few hours, he also towed pre-schoolers behind him in a child chariot. Fifty five-year-olds, most from pre-school Carpe Diem Young Hearts, took turns riding it.

The pre-school is donating $50 for each child who gets a ride.

Dr Tan said this was the longest continuous duration he has handcycled since his bone marrow transplant. "It's a tall order," he admitted.

He added, however, that he is determined to see the funds raised because he has a "soft spot for children", especially those with hard childhoods.

The resident physician at the National Cancer Centre Singapore has been paralysed from the waist down since the age of two due to childhood poliomyelitis.

"As a child with disability, it was a struggle," he recalled. "Growing up, my dad had to support us selling fried bananas from a pushcart in the street. I empathise with children in need."

Come rain or shine, he will attempt the 50 hours without food or sleep, surviving solely on electrolyte drinks and taking only short toilet breaks.

He expects to make about 30,000 circuits of the 400m-track.

He started training in January last year, hitting East Coast Parkway for a few hours before or after work. He clocks an average of 160km a week in his handcycle.

Besides fatigue and heat, Dr Tan will also be plagued by a greater worry - fretting over the health of his 92-year-old mother, who was hospitalised two weeks ago after choking on some food during dinner.

He said: "50 hours is a long time to reflect on things. I guess I'll be thinking of her a lot, and the tough times she had raising me along with six siblings, as well as of Singapore's journey - one year for every hour."

Members of the public who would like to accompany Dr Tan may do so at the TJC track between 7am and 7pm, during the 50-hour period.

oliviaho@sph.com.sg

To donate. email the event's organising chairman Paul Heng at: paulhenght@gmail.com

Alternatively, donate online at: simplygiving.com/drwilliamtan