Cancer Can’t Stop this Valedictorian!

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21-year-old Divesh Singaraju is Singapore Polytechnic’s valedictorian and recipient of the Lee Kuan Yew Award this year. He has also been offered a place at the Imperial College of London to study aeronautical engineering under a scholarship awarded by Singapore Airlines. Looking every bit the winner, Divesh surprised many of his peers when he revealed how he overcame a cancer relapse when he was 17. He shares with TRIBUTE why cancer could not stop him from achieving his aeronautical dreams at the prestigious Imperial College of London this fall!

1. What were your thoughts upon learning that you had a relapse? I felt depressed, not because I had to undergo chemotherapy once more, but because I was unable to attend school to learn about aeroplanes and to make new friends. It was also difficult to witness the emotional breakdown in my family upon hearing the news. This fuelled my determination to fight cancer so as to return to being a healthy individual quickly.

2. How did your condition affect your studies? How did you overcome the challenges faced to attain such excellent results? Although my relapse caused me to defer my first year polytechnic education by a year, I took this time to brush up on my secondary school subjects. Only a few of my close friends knew about my medical history. My academic results would not have been possible without the guidance from my passionate lecturers and helpful classmates.

3. Did your battle with cancer change your lifestyle and the way you perceive things? The extensive treatment costs made me realise the importance of financial independence and how education is vital for a viable future. At the hospital, watching fellow patients struggling for their lives made me realise how fragile life could be and that not everyone could emerge victorious. The experience motivated me to explore the many opportunities and gifts in my life. Most importantly, my battle with cancer made me re-evaluate my priorities in life and cherish my family and friends who were there for me during my darkest hours.

4. Congratulations! We hear that you are heading to London soon to pursue your dreams of being an aeronautical engineer? Yes! I am extremely excited to pursue my further education at the Imperial College of London. It has always been my dream to study overseas, experience a different culture and live on my own. I also hope to have the chance to be involved in community service overseas as well.

5. Are there any words of encouragement you wish to share with children and youths who are still battling cancer? No matter how hard or painful the battle may be, do not ever give up! Never let cancer determine the future you may have. Instead, dream BIG and build your dreams!