Raymond Yew believed that his two encounters with vocal cord cancer was the wake-up call from God he needed to turn his life around. All photos courtesy of Raymond Yew.

It started with a cough three years ago. Raymond Yew did not think much of it.

At 50 years old, he was fitter than most his age. He had participated in 17 Ironman triathlons. Each gruelling race consists of a 3.9km swim, a 180.2km bicycle ride and a full marathon of 42.2km, all done in a day.

But when the cough became a sore throat that would not go away, he went to an ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist. The doctor advised him to go for a biopsy.


It began with encouragement from his wife to start exercising because he was suffering from depression in his 40s. Soon Raymond found himself running with her, then moving on to mountain biking before competing in his first triathlon.

When the result came out – cancer of the vocal cords – both husband and wife were strangely calm.

His composure had little to do with great faith, Raymond confessed to Salt&Light. In fact, back then, his interest in the Christian faith had been nominal at best.

“I attended church. During worship, people would be raising their hands. I told myself, ‘This is ridiculous.’ So I would skip that and attend only the sermons.  

“But the sermons had no impact on me. I would be looking at my phone most of the time.”

“I never said ‘God, thank You'”

When Raymond received news of his cancer, however, he turned to the Bible for solace.

The Bible reading plan he started on coincidentally had 33 stories, one for each day of his radiotherapy treatment.

“When I read about how God helped Moses fight against the Egyptians, I felt like, ‘Wow this is like me fighting cancer.’”

His wife Swee Tin (left), who is herself a runner, was very supportive of Raymond’s efforts to exercise. She even went mountain biking with him.

He clung to 1 Samuel 7:12, which was about the Ebenezer stones that were erected as a remembrance of God’s deliverance. The stones became “a symbol of the daily fight” during the 33 days of his radiation treatment.

“I thought God made me recover to give me a chance to chase my career.”

The doctor told Raymond to expect mouth ulcers and throat pains as side effects of the treatment. But he experienced none of that. He could run and walk 4km each day, taste food and even put on weight.

“The doctor said it was very rare. God was so good to me,” he said.

After he completed his radiotherapy, doctors gave him the all-clear. “God answered my prayer. But I never said, ‘God, thank You.’ I was not in total surrender to God,” Raymond confessed.

Instead, the first thing Raymond did to celebrate was buy himself a new watch.

“I was still quite worldly in my mind. When I went back to the office, I was still trying to climb the corporate ladder, I was still chasing this and that. I thought God made me recover to give me a chance to chase my career.”

Then the cancer came back.

Miraculous intervention

Four months after receiving the all-clear from his doctor, Raymond returned for a review as his throat was still hurting. A biopsy later, he was told the cancer had returned.

Despite this, the prognosis was unusually positive. The cancer was in its early stages and had not yet spread.

“God protected me. Usually the second time round, the cancer tends to be late-stage,” said Raymond.

His doctor gave him the option of a laryngectomy, the removal of his vocal cords. He would not be able to speak without aid after that.

Raymond and Swee Tin prayed over the matter and decided to go for a second opinion.

“Instead of praying for protection, we prayed for strength and courage to accept whatever God had for us.”

One of Swee Tin’s friends recommended a renowned oncologist who specialises in treating throat and vocal cord cancers. The odds of getting him to see Raymond, especially on short notice, was not good.

But they knew they had to try.

They called the National University Hospital on a Friday and was told they had to write in to the doctor so he could consider Raymond’s case. It was a tight timeline as they had to make a decision about the laryngectomy on Monday.

Before they could email the doctor, however, his secretary called them and told them that their appointment with the oncologist was booked for Monday.

At the appointment, the oncologist offered Raymond laser treatment, an option that would preserve his voice.

“This time, we really surrendered everything to God,” said Raymond.

“We prayed, we read the Bible a lot. Our prayers were different. Instead of praying for protection, we prayed for strength and courage to accept whatever God had for us.”

“I surrender my body to You”

The operation went well. But Raymond was told to watch out for lesions in his vocal cords that had a small chance of being cancerous. If there were lesions, there may be bleeding, he was told.

One morning, he woke up to a terrible itch in his throat. When he coughed, blood came out, splattering all over the bathroom sink. As he coughed again, there was more and more blood.

“I tell God, ‘How can You use me? I am at Your disposal.’”

They immediately headed to the doctor’s office, only to find out that he was on leave. Another doctor would attend to Raymond.

“We went to the clinic praying and praying. To our surprise when we got there, the nurse said, ‘Your doctor came back. Now he can see you.’”

The doctor had returned to see another patient not knowing that Raymond had had an emergency. Once the doctor examined Raymond, he recommended surgery to prevent the blood from going into his lungs.

However, there was a challenge. The procedure required Raymond’s mouth to be opened wide enough for a tube to be inserted. If his jaw could not accommodate the tube, he would have to remain awake for the operation.

“When I was lying there waiting for the operation, the last thing I remembered before they put me under anaesthesia was me telling God twice, ‘God, I surrender to You. I surrender my body to You.’”

When he awoke, he was told that they had managed to insert the tube into his mouth. His prayer had been answered.

A mark of God’s protection

After the surgery, he had to go through a series of scans to ensure that the cancer had not spread. 

Lying on the hospital bed, Raymond prayed and asked God for a sign. As he looked out at a patch of sky through the hospital window, he saw his answer.

“I was never a believer of supernatural things. I am usually very sceptical. But when I looked at the cloud, the word ‘good’ came out. I was so awe-struck that I didn’t want to take out my phone to take a picture. I just kept on praying.”

“When I looked at the cloud, the word ‘good’ came out. I was so awe-struck.”

He was still praying when the doctor returned with the test results.

“He said, ‘It’s all good.’ That struck me,” said Raymond, tears flowing as he recalled the message in the sky. “That was how much God had not given up on me.”

Raymond would experience one more answered prayer.

When he underwent radiotherapy to treat the first round of cancer, the procedure left him with burn marks on his throat in the shape of a cross.

“I showed the doctor and he said this doesn’t usually happen. He also wondered why there was a cross there,” said Raymond.

“When I looked in the mirror back home, I prayed, ‘Since You gave me this, I pray the scar will be there so I can remind myself that You protected me.’”


The faint burn mark in the shape of a cross.

The burn mark eventually faded. But his latest surgery left in the same spot a cross-shaped scar, faint but distinct, where a tube had been inserted.

Instead of the expected one week, Raymond was discharged from the hospital within two days.

A life transformed

His two encounters with cancer – and God – has left Raymond irrevocably changed.

When he was diagnosed with vocal cord cancer the second time, he made a pact with God. “I told Him, ‘If you get me through this, I will take up the ushering ministry.’”

“What God told me was that we are all sojourners here. We are passing by. What we can do is to glorify Him.”

He signed up for the ministry after he was given a clean bill of health. He thought he was giving back to God. Instead, God taught him precious lessons on being changed from the inside out.

“Through the ministry, God made me realise what humility is about. I used to be very proud. I was so used to being served. Now I am serving people,” he said.

Raymond has changed in other ways.

“I used to ask for protection. Now I ask for repentance, thanksgiving and building relationships. I tell God, ‘How can You use me? I am at Your disposal.’

“What God told me was that we are all sojourners here. We are passing by. What we can do is to glorify Him. That is the most important,” he said with tears in his eyes.

Living for Jesus

Raymond is now part of a prayer group and plays the guitar during worship at his cell group. He also serves as a cameraman in his church’s media team.

Said Rev Dr Edwin Wong, Senior Pastor of Christ Methodist Church where Raymond worships: “The Raymond I encountered three to four years ago is not the same person I know today. The recent episodes in Raymond’s life have mellowed and humbled him. Like clay in the Potter’s hand, our heavenly Father — in His grace, love, and mercy — has reshaped Raymond.

“As believers, we must be mindful that Christian perfection is an ongoing journey. The transformational grace of God will take time to come to fruition as all of us are works in progress, and we will continue to journey with him.”

Raymond (left) playing the guitar for his cell group.

Raymond is also trying to bring that transformation into his workplace.

“The recent episodes in Raymond’s life have mellowed and humbled him.”

“The way I go about my life, my work is also so different. I used to be very hot-tempered. My blood pressure was high. I had depression. I am a lot calmer now, I listen more, I’m not afraid to tell others I am a Christian.

“My staff also say, ‘You are so different. Why are you so calm?’ Last time, I was very kancheong (anxious). Now I say, ‘I pray and I leave it to God.’

“People gravitate more to me now … That has given me more opportunities to evangelise.”

His weekends with Swee Tin used to be all about shopping, going to the movies and dining out. “Now our dates are going for intercessory prayer, serving in church. Now we minister to the poor, we share our journey.”

During Christmas, Raymond also volunteered at HCA Hospice.

The change in him was so obvious that his father agreed to go to church and even attended an Alpha course.

“He is now more open to the Word, to Christ. I am so grateful,” said Raymond.

Looking back on his trial with cancer, Raymond said he “would not trade my experience for my previous life”.

“I was so blind to the things God gave me. If I had not gone through this, I would be dying in a ditch somewhere or divorced, my life would be in shambles, I would owe people money because I was always trying to buy new cars.

“I’m really happy now.”


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About the author

Christine Leow

Christine believes there is always a story waiting to be told, which led to a career in MediaCorp News. Her idea of a perfect day involves a big mug of tea, a bigger muffin and a good book.