This Secondary Two boy had a dream the night before he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. One year later, the dream was fulfilled
by Janice Tai // October 6, 2023, 6:01 pm
Isaac's sudden diagnosis of a brain tumour impacted both his and his mother's faith journeys in profound ways. All photos courtesy of Caroline Ng.
“Call the ambulance – quick!”
The urgency beneath the screaming voice of her husband caught Caroline Ng’s attention and she rushed to the room of her 14-year-old son.
She found her teenage son lying on the floor, body stiffened yet twitching, his eyeballs rolling upwards and foaming at the mouth.
It was Isaac’s first seizure, and the start of a storm that wrecked Caroline’s meticulously-crafted dream of the “perfect” family and the “perfect” life.
That life had included a supportive husband and three children with bright prospects – one being a doctor, the other a lawyer and the youngest teenager excelling in one of the top schools in Singapore. Caroline herself was the country head of public affairs at a multinational company.
But her “perfect” Singaporean dream was shattered that Saturday night in the July of 2021.
Caroline’s desire to do well in life and earn the approval of others, especially her parents, stemmed from the rejection and disappointment she had felt from her father at a young age.
“When I completed Secondary 2 and I did not qualify for the triple science class, my dad chased me around the house with a cane. He was so angry that he wanted to disown me,” said Caroline, now 56. Back then, getting into the triple science stream was a prerequisite for aspiring doctors.
Her father was an ambitious doctor who had hoped to start a thriving medical practice with his children. Out of her three other siblings, two of them eventually became doctors.
She was the outlier, the first to step away from the hallowed path of medicine. For 14-year-old Caroline, every corner of her home held memories of unmet expectations and unfulfilled dreams.
Her image of God mirrored her relationship with her earthly father – an authoritarian figure of directions and expectations.
From then on, she would spend her life trying to gain her father’s approval by rising up the ranks of multinational companies in the business world. Yet her father never seemed to understand the jobs she did.
Raised as a third-generation Christian, she attended church aspiring to be accepted and approved as a good Christian girl, a good daughter, a good wife, a good mum and a good employee.
Being Christian to her then was about having a powerful God who could help her achieve her heart’s desires and make good her Singaporean dream.
Her image of God mirrored her relationship with her earthly father – an authoritarian figure whose intentions, while driven by love, were expressed through a structured framework of directions and expectations.
“No going to movies, no shorts, no sleeveless dresses, no makeup,” her father often declared to her in her formative years.
Despite being a Christian all her life, she never had a personal encounter with God, until Isaac’s epileptic fits.
After his first seizure that happened at home, Isaac was hospitalised. A few days later, doctors came back with a shocking diagnosis: There was a tumour in the left lobe of his brain, near the area that controlled speech.
His mother was devastated, but Isaac took it in his stride.
“I was a bit worried and wondered how my life would be affected. I was fearful but not depressed,” recalled Isaac.
As they were leaving the hospital, Isaac related to his mother the dream that he had had the night before his diagnosis.
“Mum, God gave me a dream last night. I saw myself sharing my testimony at Shineforth (the church service held at the ACS hall every Sunday). I know I am going to be fine!” he told her.
Caroline nodded distractedly. Her mind was already wandering to how to marshal up as much prayer support for her son as she could.
She spread the word about Isaac’s medical condition, urging her family and friends to join her in a 30-day prayer and fasting season for him. She set up a Google sheet (listing 10-minute slots that covered all 24 hours a day for 30 days) and people rallied round the family by signing up for the slots and covering Isaac in prayer round-the-clock.
Their nightmare had just begun. They saw Isaac suffer seizures every one to two weeks, and the seizures were unpredictable and frightening.
Once he had a seizure while running along the road. Thankfully, his sister was with him when he fell onto the road, unconscious.
His first seizure in school happened during recess after a game of frisbee. His friend saw Isaac’s face suddenly fall flat on his plate of food, and immediately rushed over to support him before his whole body collapsed.
With every seizure, his medication dosage rose, which in turn led to greater fatigue as a side effect.
Isaac found himself falling asleep in class, and having to resort to taking frequent afternoon naps to keep his energy up.
Opinions and second opinions
In the face of Isaac’s potentially life-threatening condition, Caroline and her husband consulted various neurosurgeons, connected with global experts and delved into clinical research databases. From Singapore to the St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the United States, they left no stone unturned.
“I want God’s medical treatment.”
The neurosurgeons’ differing opinions only added to their anxiety. Some urged immediate surgery to remove the tumour in a bid to prevent cognitive challenges. Others warned against language loss and prolonged therapy if crucial parts of the brain were damaged during surgery.
One day, just as Caroline and her husband were leaving to consult yet another neurosurgeon, Isaac stopped them in their tracks. He gazed at his mother and said: “I want the best medical treatment.”
Puzzled, Caroline wondered if he was referring to a specific doctor.
After a pause, Isaac smiled and clarified: “I want God’s medical treatment.”
“Through that simple yet profound statement, Isaac reminded us that beyond medical expertise lies supernatural healing,” said Caroline. “His faith urged us to trust God wholeheartedly and opened our eyes to God’s perfect plan and promise to guide us.”
After that exchange, his parents decided not to pursue any more medical opinions. They also chose not to go for surgery as it may not alleviate his seizures. Instead, a Christian neurosurgeon supported them and prayed alongside them for God’s healing.
“There were many other occasions when God used Isaac to speak directly to me. He assured me that I am never alone no matter how tough the journey gets,” said Caroline.
Light in the darkness
From the time of the onset of his seizures, Caroline kept watch by her son’s bedside every night.
“Mum, go and rest now. God’s not done with me yet.”
Her heart ached with each convulsion. In those quiet hours of darkness, she prayed and pleaded for God’s divine intervention.
On one particular night, as she hovered over his bed in the dimly lit room, Isaac turned to her and whispered: “Mum, go and rest now. God’s not done with me yet.”
“In that moment, I felt the warm embrace of God’s unconditional love enveloping us. It was as if God was gently reminding me that His plans are perfect, and His love unwavering, even in the midst of our trials,” said Caroline.
On September 30, 2021, Isaac experienced a cluster seizure – a series of three seizures within a few hours of each other, on the same day.
Due to the frequency of the seizures, he was taken to the hospital by ambulance. While he was undergoing a brain scan in the MRI machine, he experienced his fourth seizure of the day.
As he was wheeled back to the ward, his mother was in the middle of a conversation with a sister-in-Christ. Caroline was confessing that the days felt like the “darkest period of her life”.
When the conversation came to an end, he softly interjected in medication induced drowsiness: “Mum, why call it the darkest period? Could it be the brightest instead, considering the way we see God every day?”
After the MRI, Isaac also underwent open brain biopsy.
“What he said reminded me of the truth in Psalm 18:28, which assures us that it is the Lord who keeps our lamps burning and turns our darkness into light,” said Caroline.
Jesus also referred to Himself as the “light of the world” in John 8:12, saying that whoever follows Him will never walk in darkness.
“Isaac’s words on such occasions were wise, reassuring and carried a maturity that I knew could not have come from a 14-year-old. When I asked him about it after it happened, he would tell me that he could not recall saying those words,” she added.
Agreed Isaac: “I may be an optimistic boy, but I knew those words were not from me, but from God. I would not have been able to phrase it in such a key way. It seemed as if I were speaking in tongues, but using English!”
Worship through music
Isaac’s seizures, which rendered him unconscious during those moments, lasted for six months till the end of the year.
During that period, he experienced the kindness of teachers who gave him devotional cards and told him they were praying for him.
He experienced the kindness of teachers who gave him devotional cards and told him they were praying for him.
Inevitably, his studies and grades suffered as there were times when he had to miss classes. He was also unable to take the final exams in his Secondary Two year.
“Being in a competitive school environment, it affected me quite a bit to see myself lagging behind,” admitted Isaac.
While he was sick, his older sisters gave him a guitar for his birthday in a bid to uplift his spirits. The first song he played was a worship song.
“I would play worship songs, but in my heart, I knew I was still sick. I still had doubts about whether I would be healed anytime soon,” said Isaac.
He had been raised in Sunday School in Barker Road Methodist Church and had gone on his first mission trip when he was just five years old.
As he grew older, however, he drifted away from Sunday School and only followed his parents to the adult services.
God, to him, became simply a being he would pray to for help to excel in his studies and other endeavours in school.
However, when his grades started spiralling, his studies became less of an idol to him. No longer able to pride himself on his academic achievements, he turned to music for comfort.
The lyrics of worship songs encouraged him. He applied to audition for the worship team in church and, to his surprise, he got through.
As he began to be more involved in church, Isaac got to know more teenagers his age and his sense of belonging grew.
Instead of barely paying attention to the sermons, which was the case in the past, Isaac’s spiritual life blossomed as he began to play worship music in his cell group and at Sunday services.
When the church asked him to be the deputy commandant for its camp for secondary school students the following year, Isaac felt so honoured that he agreed to it despite his mother’s reservations.
While the grand mal seizures had stopped, he was still experiencing little episodes of seizures while he was conscious. Isaac took a risk and trusted God to give him the health and energy needed to lead the camp.
“Interestingly, other youth leaders were complaining about how tiring it was for them. I usually would have to take an afternoon nap every day to keep my energy up due to my medical condition. However, I found that I could go without my naps during those days when I had to run the camp,” said Isaac.
Saying “yes” to leading the camp in spite of his medical condition led to another divine assignment for him.
“If I obey God, don’t you think He will be with me and protect me?”
One of the adult mentors for the camp, who was also part of the AC Homecoming planning committee, noticed how Isaac led the camp with authenticity and vulnerability. She knew she had to get him to share his testimony at the AC Homecoming event.
When Isaac told his mother about the invitation for him to testify at AC Homecoming in July 2022, which was held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Clocktower Revival in 1972, she encouraged him to pray about it.
Deep down, she did not think it was a good idea for him to do so as it was a large-scale public event and he had not yet received complete healing for his medical condition.
“I didn’t want so many people to know that he was sick. I felt that testimonies are shared when you are above 50 years old and God has already totally healed you,” Caroline admitted.
In response, Isaac said to her: “Why are you afraid, Mum? Don’t you think that, if God asks me to do something, I should obey? And if I obey, don’t you think He will be with me and protect me?”
Caroline broke down in tears.
“Isaac’s patient guidance led me to realise that our testimonies aren’t confined to the outcomes we expect but reside in the story that God is weaving behind the scenes. I am learning to let go of my expectations and surrender control,” she said.
At the AC Homecoming, God used the ongoing journey of the 14-year-old to witness to others.
During the altar call, people came forward looking for the boy with the big faith in his powerful God. Among them was a father who had a brain tumour and requested for Isaac to pray over him.
At the altar call, Isaac also had his own personal encounter with God.
“As I was being prayed for, I started to weep. God was touching me. My eyes were opened to the fact that God not only exists, but that He has done so much for me. I was so grateful and I kept crying,” said Isaac.
He began to see God’s blessings even in the trials that he was facing: His godly teachers, how the Covid pandemic enabled his sister to return home from overseas to help him catch up with school work, how the guitar gifted by his sisters led him back to the church and its community, how the church youth camp could take place on-site when the pandemic eased, which in turn led to him being invited to testify at the AC Homecoming in 2022.
“So, one year after I had the dream in hospital (the night before I received my diagnosis), the dream came to pass when I shared my story on the same stage that I saw in my dream – the ACS hall where Shineforth is held. It was no coincidence; you can’t make up this stuff,” said Isaac.
Isaac now relates to God differently.
“He is my Friend, One who listens and One who cares for me,” he said.
Through his journey, his mother’s faith was also impacted.
“I learnt to surrender my deep-seated fear of rejection and desire for the approval of man. I don’t need to impress others and look perfect anymore. Encountering God’s unconditional love and His abundant provision for us has set me free from the chains of fear,” said Caroline.
Today, Isaac is still on medication but the seizures have ceased. He is able to resume his daily activities and doctors continue to monitor his condition through periodic health checkups.
Citing Romans 8:28, he firmly believes that the storms in his life are intertwined with God’s purpose for his life.
“God’s plan for each of us is different. So even when we are filled with brokenness, the brokenness is unique to the individual’s story and purpose. It holds a beauty in its own right.”
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