My talk at Taylor’s College yesterday was surprisingly full, and I had thought that college students might consider the subject of endurance and suffering to be boring. Those who came in late could not even see that there were empty seats in the front row until I told them to come forward. Most of the audience were Taylorians, while some were from other colleges who drove more than an hour to be with us. There were also blog readers and friends.

After years of telling my story on stage, I finally developed the courage to talk about what I have learned from overcoming Neurofibromatosis Type 2. Prior to this, I told my story as it was and let the audience decide for themselves what my story meant to them, because everyone has different life experiences. I was always concerned about sounding hollier-than-thou.

Then, recently, I started to have a better perspective of life. I can’t explain how I achieve this, but I realize that we are all fundamentally alike. We may have different life paths and experiences, but what we need and desire are basically the same. As Deborah and Joel Shlian wrote in their novel, Rabbit in the Moon, “We are all on the same path but at different points.”

The lessons that I shared yesterday were…

1.There are some things that money can’t buy.
2.The human life is very precious.
3.Bad things happen to teach us lifetime lessons.
4.God has always been watching over me.
5.Our purpose on earth is for a greater good.
6.We won’t know what will happen tomorrow, so don’t waste today.
7.It is our free will to decide how to live our lives. There is no right or wrong, only consequences of decision-making.
8.God helps those who help themselves.

When it came to the time for Q&A, co-ordinators handed out pieces of paper for the audience to write their questions. Most of them wrote words of encouragement. Many said thanks for the inspiration and encouragement. Someone said he/she realized that his/her circumstances were a product of laziness and procrascination. One said he/she has never seen someone who is going through so much speak so motivatedly.They encouraged me to keep inspiring people especially those who have no hope at all.

Of all the messages they wrote to me, there was one I found especially touching. This attendee wrote that he/she didn’t think miracles were possible, until he/she heard my story.

After co-ordinators collected the notes, they read a few pieces and thought that all of the notes were words of encouragement for me, so I said that I will read them later and thanked the audience. But after I came home, I realized that a few attendees wrote questions. One of them was particularly interesting. The writer did not leave a name or contact details, so I don’t know how I can reply the question other than writing it here and hope the writer might read this.

Q: When situations seem difficult and things are not getting better, what makes you want to persevere and think that things will be better when it seems like it is easier to give up and just end things once and for all?

A:Giving up was not an option for me. Even before I was diagnosed with NF2, I faced a difficult home environment after my father’s stroke. Even then, giving up was not an option for me.

Being an only child, I always had to fend for myself while my parents had issues of their own. My parents were at wits end with each other for many reasons, and they were always agitated. Often times, when I turned to them for even the smallest of help, I was responded to with impatience. So I learned that it was easier and faster to solve my own problems

Later in life when I needed to raise funds for surgery, this and other early life experiences were what caused me to have no doubts about starting a public fundraising campaign.

If I didn’t start a project, I would have to wait and wait for my parents to take action. And I can wait until the cows come home. I also didn’t like the agitations, impatience and bitterness that would be evoked in everyone if I simply waited, so I chose to take matters into my own hands.

The words in my fundraising campaign’s name, “heart” for “Hope” were so chosen not by chance. Not because it sounds cool. I was really in search for love and hope. And I wanted people to support me with their hearts, to support me because they share my sentiments and not out of pity, which is why I never believe in wearing a sad face and ragged clothes when fundraising.

I thank the organizing committee, their teacher Colin B. Shafer and everyone who came including those who showed up just to buy something at my booth. Thank you for the support. You keep me going!

We raised RM800.00 for Heart4Hope, that’s me. 🙂 I also use the funds to continue my education.

Thanks Sharon Bakar and Bernice Claudy for donating copies of Readings from Readings. A few were sold!

Categories: Projects

Yvonne Foong

As a child, Yvonne Foong dreamed of growing up to help others. To achieve her ambition, she began studying to become a psychologist. But things changed when tumours were discovered in her body at the age of sixteen. She was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis type 2 -- a genetic illness with no cure. Fighting for survival, Yvonne turned to fundraising and embarked on a medical odyssey to the United States. Her experiences since then have transformed her into a motivational speaker; inspiring hope, faith and strength. Yvonne is currently working to establish a humanitarian foundation that provides NF patients in Malaysia with financial and logistical support. Visit Works of Gratitude to learn more.


pelf · May 15, 2011 at 9:18 pm

I have said this many times, but I’m going to say it again.

“You are truly an inspiration!”

Ever since I learned about you and NF II many years ago, I have always found you very independent and determined. Your ability to face hardship and overcome them, one by one, never ceased to amaze me 😀

I wished I lived closer to you, and I wished I could do more to help you and your cause, so please let me know if/whenever you think I could be of help to you, OK? 😀


miao kien · May 15, 2011 at 9:56 pm


Yvonne Foong · May 15, 2011 at 10:28 pm

Hi Pelf, and I know you have always been there supporting me. 🙂 If you come across any organisations, groups or events that would like to invite a motivational speaker, please suggest me to them.

Syahidah Ishak · May 15, 2011 at 11:00 pm

I will suggest you as Motivational speaker. Take care dear.

Jasmine · May 16, 2011 at 12:39 am

Thank you so much for participating in Hear Us Out 6, Yvonne! We are really proud to have you with us again and hope that we will have you with us in future conferences! Hope all is well with you and best of luck in everything you do! You’re such an inspiration and we have nothing but well wishes for you.

On behalf of the HUO6 committee

John Ling · May 16, 2011 at 8:03 am

It sounds like you had a very successful event. Well done! =)

Yvonne Foong · May 16, 2011 at 8:23 am

Syahidah: Thank you for recommending. 🙂

Yvonne Foong · May 16, 2011 at 8:31 am

Hello Jasmine,

Like I tell Mr. Colin everytime, it is my pleasure to be part of HUO. I feel very thankful for being invited to speak at such a meaningful event. HUO is a unique event where students get to learn about organizing conferences, NGOs get to advance their society missions and raise funds… it is a good tie up between NGOs and college students. The HUO6 committee made a lot of improvements to the conference. Arrangements this time are much better than the last. I appreciate the close attention and accommodations that you provided me at the conference. Keep up the enthusiasm for everything you do!

Yvonne Foong · May 16, 2011 at 8:35 am

Oh, Jasmine, I also realized that one of you (Lyn and Jasmine) added a small and sweet gesture. Besides the Taylor’s College souvenir, you also handed me a mug and inside that mug were keychains. I realized that you had deliberately collected them from other NGO workshops and gave them to me. Thank you for the kind thoughts!

sabrina · May 18, 2011 at 3:37 pm

very good points, Yvonne. i’m afraid people who are much older than you and who are “successful” and what not have yet to understand the 8 valuable lessons you’ve learned in your short life.
keep up the good job 🙂

Cordy · May 18, 2011 at 9:40 pm

Keep up with your good work. May God bless you every step of the way. 🙂

Yvonne Foong · May 18, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Sabrina: I realized that too. That’s why all the dramas that shaped me happened. If the adults understood these lessons, the dramas might not have happened. But then, the dramas were also what shaped me into who I am today. I now understand that it was all meant to be. So I am able to talk about the past without feeling bitter although I still feel sad. I feel it is important for me to talk about these lessons, to pass them on.

Yvonne Foong · May 18, 2011 at 11:17 pm

Cordy, thank you. I hope I will receive more invitations to speak and share my story.

Comments are closed.

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