In her despair over her husband's cancer diagnosis, Juliet Lum heard the audible voice of God say to her:

In her despair over her husband's cancer diagnosis, Juliet Lum heard the audible voice of God say to her: "I have you." All photos courtesy of the Lums.

It all began when Nicholas Lum started experiencing shortness of breath and acid reflux in April 2020.

Despite the discomfort, Nick continued working his job as a pharmacist. But when the symptoms persisted two months on, his wife, Juliet, insisted on a check-up.

“I was shocked: Nick’s left lung was flooded with water. The doctor admitted him straight away, and I had to drive home alone that night. Something was not right but we were hoping for the best,” recalled Juliet.

Days passed before the diagnosis arrived: Fourth-stage lung cancer that had spread to the pleural membrane.

In disbelief, Nick and Juliet sought a second opinion. It revealed graver developments: The cancer had infected his bones and part of his brain. Nick’s cancer was a rare type that affected only 5% of cancer patients.

“It was so devastating,” said Juliet. “I told Nick, ‘It’s all just numbers. As long as you have breath, you will live through this.’”

Finding strength in community

The couple conveyed the news to their three sons, Noel, Joel, and Wallace, aged 17, 13, and 10 at the time.

Noel took it the hardest, pleading with his father to hold on until he had graduated from medical school. Their younger sons simply understood that their father was very sick.

Juliet’s weekday routine soon revolved around taking Nick to the hospital as he began chemotherapy, going to work and picking him up in the evenings. Noel and Joel took turns to cook nutritious meals.

“It was very tough, but the boys were holding us up,” Juliet remembers.

Nick soldiered on during his treatment. He is seen here doing a bit of gardening and basking in the sun.

Support also poured in from the church community, friends and Nick’s siblings.

“I was transparent and told people what we needed. We received texts, food and flowers. That kept us going and it reminded us that we were loved,” Juliet said.

Their church also started a Facebook group for Juliet to provide updates and for others to extend care to their sons.

“Usually, the focus is on the sick person. But our church elder and pastor’s sons ministered specifically to the boys. We were not seen just as two people but as a whole family,” Juliet said with gratitude.

Hearing the audible voice of God 

Through the efforts of doctors and Nick’s employer, they were able to obtain clinical trial drugs for Nick.

Initially, there were signs of improvement: the tumour shrunk. But it didn’t take long for bad news to follow. 

The cancer had spread. Constantly battling nausea and pain, Nick relied on painkillers to get through each day.

“I was being put in this place that I didn’t want to be in, but I knew that that’s where God wanted me to be.”

One night, a weary Juliet heard a voice speaking: “This is going to be a test. It’s going to be a very difficult time for you, but I have you.

“This is the time when you are going to be polished. It will be very painful, but you will shine after that.”

It was the first time she had heard God audibly.

“I could feel how Jesus felt in the garden of Gethsemane when He had to go through a tough time. I was being put in this place that I didn’t want to be in, but I knew that that’s where God wanted me to be,” Juliet said.

Despite their hardship, the couple provided solace to others who had similarly received a cancer diagnosis.

Knowing that the journey of a cancer patient can be harrowing, Nick and Juliet helped to organise their schedules, offer guidance on insurance matters and facilitate access to clinical drugs.

“I understood what they were going through and am thankful to God for opening doors for me to help people,” said Juliet.

The courage to let go

In February 2022, Juliet felt compelled to organise a family trip to the United Kingdom.

The family prayed hard that Nick would be allowed to fly. In April, he was given the green light. The trip was a wonderful time of rest, reconnecting with friends and spending time as a family.

The UK trip in 2022, when the Lums visited Noel and his university campus, was the last time all five members of the family were together.

Upon their return, Nick resumed work but contracted Covid. It significantly weakened him and everyday activities became more difficult.

“I know now without a shadow of a doubt that God has a plan. He will never forsake us and we will never walk alone.”

A scan showed a tumour pressing on a part of Nick’s brain. By August, he could no longer swallow and had to be fed through a tube.

Juliet, seeing him suffering, grappled with the decision to let Nick go as his health began to deteriorate.

“I could see how he suffered through the night as I slept next to his bed. I told him, ‘I’m not sure if you can hear me, but hubby, I’m ready to let you go,’” Juliet shared.

At that moment, Nick smiled and told her that he was happy to hear that. “I realised that I was the one holding him back when he was so ready to go and meet God,” she said.

On September 19, 2022, surrounded by family and friends, Nick passed away.

God’s goodness in the storm

After his passing, the reality of being a single parent set in and Juliet wondered how to support her three school-going sons.

“I surrendered all to God, telling Him I was so weak and so tired of this journey,” she said.

The Lum family at the jetty of Pulau Ketam after scattering Nick’s ashes into the sea as per his wishes.

God answered her prayers.

Noel secured a scholarship for his overseas studies, aided by contributions from close friends, while Joel earned a partial scholarship. 

Wallace’s school relocated closer to their home, easing Juliet’s burden of navigating congested traffic to get him to and from school.

“It was truly incredible,” Juliet exclaimed. “Everything fell into place.”

She is thankful for her son Joel, who played an instrumental role in guiding the family in their path toward a new life without Nick.

“After the funeral, Joel said to me, ‘Mom, Dad wouldn’t want you to be sad. We should all return to church tomorrow.’

“The congregation was surprised to see us, but upon noticing us, they sang even louder!” Juliet said with a chuckle.

Regular family holidays have been established as part of the new norm. This was their first trip without Nick in end-2022.

Her sons are coping at their own pace, but the Lord has been faithful in taking care of her family, she shared.

After Nick’s passing, her two younger sons developed a deep desire to know God. On Easter Sunday last year, Juliet and their church community witnessed a significant milestone as both boys were baptised. 

“I know now without a shadow of a doubt that God has a plan. He will never forsake us and we will never walk alone. We may not see it at that moment, but He is working,” said Juliet.

Renewed hope and a new identity

It’s been over a year since Nick’s passing and Juliet has settled into a new routine.

Transitioning to a work-from-home job has allowed her to dive deeper into God’s Word, journal and devote more time to her sons.

Juliet and the boys at their first Chinese New Year without Nick in 2023.

Together, the family — better known as The Lummies — has established a tradition of celebrating Nick’s life on his birthday rather than marking the anniversary of his passing.

“This year, we prayed together as a family on Nick’s birthday as a way to remember all the love God has showered upon us. We also prayed for our future as we prepared ourselves for the days ahead,” Juliet shared.

“Even though I went through this hard time, I don’t want to be paralysed by it. I believe that the best is yet to come and there is something more wonderful waiting for me,” she added.

One of the activities at the family’s grief support group was to write letters of farewell to Nick. The session coincided with Nick’s birthday (October 22). Juliet, Joel and Wallace tied their letters to balloons and released them that day.

She has since enrolled in a Biblical Counselling course as she hopes to equip herself to help others who are grieving.

She is an advocate for grief support groups, having benefited much from her own, which she joined with her younger sons.

Not only was it a safe space to express her sorrow, it also helped her to shed labels such as widow and single mum, and encouraged her to embrace her identity as a child of God.

“I centred my identity around being Nick’s wife. Without Nick, I questioned my place,” she shared.

“However, now seeing myself as a child of God assures me that nothing in this world can ever take away God’s love for me. When you see yourself this way, your inherent identity is unshakeable.”


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About the author

Julia Pong

Julia believes that a healthy rhythm of nurturing connections, seeking beauty and indulging in solitude leads to discovering one’s purpose, inculcating gratitude and finding space to flourish. If found comatose, please inject good coffee.