Having been on kidney dialysis for nearly half her life, one would think that 24-year-old Yang Xinyan has little reason to smile.
But the part-time graphic designer was one of 21 kidney patients who won the inaugural Life Champion Awards by the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) yesterday.
"My close friends don't really know me to be a 'smiley' person so winning the award under the Smile and Encouragement category came as a real surprise to me," she said.
Awards under this category are given to patients who stay positive and encourage others around them.
"Her tenacity and strength in the face of her difficulties is an inspiration to her friends and other patients," an NKF spokesman said of Ms Yang.
Ms Yang started dialysis 10 years ago after being diagnosed with a rare kidney disorder called nephrotic syndrome. She later had recurrent cancerous tumours in her kidneys, liver and back.
Despite being in and out of hospital since 14, she completed her Integrated Programme at Hwa Chong Institution and went on to Lasalle College of the Arts to study design communication. She had to take a three-year break due to various cancer treatments, but hopes to complete her final year next year.
Her cancer is now in remission and she does her graphic design work while undergoing dialysis at the Children's Kidney Centre at National University Hospital.
"I'm always reminding myself that pain is inevitable, but suffering is a choice," she said. "I do have my sad times, my ups and downs. It's just that I keep going."
An only child, she said she has received much support from her family, friends, doctors and other staff at the dialysis centre. Her mother, 73, is a retired nurse, while her father, 75, is a retired ship designer.
Two other categories of awards were presented at the ceremony at the NKF headquarters: Health Champion Awards for patients who actively try to improve their quality of life through healthy living, and Lifelong Learning Awards for those who upgrade themselves and continue learning.
NKF project coordinator Arifin Othman, 47, won in the second category. He studied while undergoing dialysis and obtained a Master of Business in Enterprise Resource Planning in 2014.
"Knowledge can be acquired at whatever age, whatever condition you are in," he said.
Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, who was guest of honour, said: "It is encouraging to see kidney patients actively taking steps to develop and improve themselves... Some of them even reach out to help and encourage others. I applaud you for doing so."
NKF also launched its Patient Education Programme, in which nurses train patients in self-care, such as how to care for their mental health and live an active life. About 400 nurses have been trained to conduct these lessons.
Staff nurse Noor Amali Rahmat, 30, one of the nurses trained, said: "Through engaging them, we better understand their concerns and struggles, and know how to help them more effectively."