Fighting for Life and Fighting for a Message: The Story of Wilym Koh

Posted 21 April, 2016 by Clearly
in Real Lives, Real Stories

This is a true story of a man called Wilym.

Just who is he? Wilym was a 42 year old man. Outwardly normal and healthy, just like you. Just like me.

We could almost call him an ordinary person.


As normal as they come, or is he?


But stories are not made out of ordinary people, it is the extraordinary that inspire us. What made Wilym extraordinary was that something disastrous happened to him, but his response to it was nothing but a sheer act of courage.


180 Days. To Live.


Wilym was doing well in life. He had a wonderful family and had a successful career going for him. At 42, he was a Senior Vice President and headed a Department under Great Eastern. Many people would have willingly traded places with him.

But not after 18 May 2012.

On 18th of May 2012, Wilym was diagnosed with Stage 4 Kidney Cancer.

What exactly does Renal Cell Carcinoma Advanced Kidney Cancer mean? To the oncologist, it meant that there were tumours in both right and left kidneys. Stage 4 meant that the tumours had already spread to the lungs.

To Wilym, it meant that he had at 6 months left to live.

180 days.


Shock, Fear, and Disbelief.


What do you do when you’ve just received word that you have one hundred and eighty more sunsets left in this world?


My initial reaction was, it was shock, it was fear, it was uncertainty, it was disbelief, it was hopelessness, it was despair. … It took me more than 2 weeks to accept the truth. The truth is very hard to accept when it happens to you.


Does this resonate with you? It’s always easy to accept bad news when it happens to other people.

A suicide bombing? My condolences.

An earthquake? I’ll send some donations over to help out.

If you have 6 months left to live? Of course the doctor made a mistake.


Treatment Costs like you won’t believe


Over the course of a regular month, I might watch the occasional movie, have dinner with my friends, settle my mortgage and miscellaneous bills. All in, I might spend about 3 – 4 thousand dollars a month living a relatively normal life.

For Wilym, chemotherapy was on the cards. Not just any ordinary chemo, but orally administered chemo. This meant a pill daily.

A $300 dollar pill. Every. Single. Day.

A hard pill to swallow, that phrase has never been more apt.

Throw in several scans, a few trips to the Oncologist, and a couple of injections: the total bill comes to approximately $12,000 a month. Three times more than what I spend on a regular basis.


Many of us don’t even make this much in a single month


Fighting for Life and Fighting for a Message


Every morning when i wake up and see the small lights that pierce through my curtains… I thank God that I am still alive…


As any cancer patient will tell you, treatment is painful. Nothing short of torture, both for the recipient and also the people around him.

There were the blisters on his foot. The nosebleeds. Gum bleeds. Blood on his pillow every morning. Wilym was coughing so hard, he was coughing blood out onto his pillow.

Despite all of this, Wilym stood up. He stood up not only to the disease, but he also stood up as a living example for insurance. Despite his pain, the general discomfort, and tiredness he was experiencing, what made Wilym truly incredible was that he was determined to tell his story.

And tell his story he did. In front of live audiences. I know because I had the privilege of attending one of those sessions. Here in front of me was a man with less than 6 months of life left to live and yet he was still passionate about making sure people learnt something from his situation.

I remember his voice, tremulous at times but you could see his determination to complete his presentation, and complete his story for all to hear.


(Here is just one of the many sessions he conducted)


I remembering his saying his biggest regret was not being able to walk his daughter down the aisle, and that he wishes that he had more time left to spend with his family.

Above all, Wilym wanted to bring across the message to everyone that:


Insurance is something when you have it, you don’t want it. … but honestly, when you need it, you don’t have it or you dont have enough of it.


With treatment amounting to 12,000 a month, Wilym would be spending 144 thousand dollars a year. He explained that he could afford the treatment because he bought critical illness plans from AIA in the past, and those claims gave him the ability to seek treatment.

One of the most pertinent messages he wanted to bring across was that cancer is not a respecter of men, and it does not discriminate. It could happen to the fat, the skinny, the pretty and the handsome.


As a friend to all of you, please don’t wait. Because there will never be a right time



The Story ends here, but the message lives on


Wilym Koh passed away on 27 September 2013. 497 days since he received his diagnosis.



His story may have ended, but I’m sure his message still lives on. If he could, I suspect he would still be giving talks today, to complete and utter strangers.

He would want people to know that cancer (or the unexpected) could strike at any given moment to any given person.

He would have wanted to ensure that you are properly covered and to make sure you have enough insurance to cover any contingency.

Here are some sobering facts:

Out of all deaths in Singapore, nearly 80% are caused by critical illness. The top 5 causes are:

  • Cancer – 28.5%
  • Heart disease – 23.5%
  • Pneumonia – 15.7%
  • Stroke – 8.4%
  • Lung Disease – 2.5%

The average annual income of a working adult in Singapore is $65,000. Yet 80% of Singaporeans have a total sum assured of less than $325,000. Assuming a coverage requirement of 10X annual income, it means that more than 80% of Singaporeans have a protection shortfall of more than $240,000.


If you want to address that shortfall, check out FWD Insurance. They have a fully online and hassle free purchase experience.


To Wilym, having the necessary coverage meant an additional 317 days more than what the oncologist gave him. 317 more days with his family and everyone dear to him.

Who knows what continual advances in medical science will be discovered, and perhaps new forms of treatments will be available in the near future.

What then, will having the necessary coverage buy you?

What then, are you still waiting for? aims to eradicate the knowledge gap between consumers and Life Insurance. Our Vision is that one day, every Man, Woman, and Child will be properly insured.

    1. Clearly *

      Hello there! Thank you for your encouraging comment, it really means a lot to us.

      Hope you get a suitable plan(s) and coverage soon.


    2. Evelyn

      Indeed it’s an inspiring story. My aunty survived a 4th cancer not because of treatment but because of the organ that was affected.

      I may be able to assist on the suitability of critical illness plan. I can be contacted at xxxxxxxx.

  1. SE Ong

    Insurance is important. Besides that other important factors should be incorporated as well. Eg taking the right and well-researched supplements daily coupled with regular exercises, balanced diet, balanced life style, be contented, simplify task, and don’t go for the high stress paid job will help in long term health.

  2. Sharing

    Health is our most important wealth. Medical costs are rocket high in today’s times.

    Life insurance is definitely something we can only buy when we are healthy. Buy a small one despite we are not well-off.

  3. Francis Chin

    Just curious to know: Mr Koh was a top executive in GE but his insurance is from AIA. Any reason? I bought an AIA Colour of Life plan which is specifically anti-cancer. Wonder if that could cover everything if I got an illness similar to Mr Koh’s?

    1. Clearly *

      From my knowledge, he was with various insurers before he was working in GE, hence he probably had other plans with other insurers as well.

      It is also perfectly acceptable for a GE employee to buy plans from other insurers, just like a coke employee can drink pepsi 🙂

      To answer your specific AIA plan question, I suggest you speak with you advisor or call AIA to explain the coverage of the said plan, since we are not associated nor affliated with AIA (or any other insurer) in any way

      1. Louis

        Before he was working at GE he was at AIA for many years as well. His agent was someone he knew from AIA and that’s why he had those plans with him even when he went to GE to work.

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  6. Elyse

    I just came across this article while reading ‘please buy CI insurance’. very touched by Mr Koh’s story and I truly get his message. I believe in the importance of insurance. Love your articles!

    1. Clearly *

      Hello Elyse,

      thank you for your kind words. Please help us spread the message and help your family, friends, and people around you.

      It is people like you that makes what we do truly worthwhile.


  7. dan

    thanks for the story and RIP to Wilym. Just curious, is there a reason why Wilym’s medical insurance didn’t cover his chemotherapy costs? Is it a better option to upgrade our medical insurance rather than upgrade our critical illness cover? sorry if it’s a stupid question, as i’m just starting to read up o this

    1. Surely

      Dear Dan,

      The enhanced shield plan does cover for chemotherapy now but we are not sure if it does during Wilym’s time.
      In any case, the critical illness and shield plan insurance enabled Wilym the financial ability to fight the battle, abeit unsuccessfully.

      It is a good qn that a lot of us get confused with. Basically the shield plan covers your medical expenses on indemnity basis. You don’t get anything extra for your other expenses.
      CI insurance will help to cover the gap. Your loss of income, transport, living expenses, etc may be supported by the CI insurance payout.

      We hope that there are insurances out there to cover both at the same time but there isn’t much such options really. Let us research and let you know in due course.

  8. Kim Pee

    I live a healthy lifestyle but at one point I could surely end up losing it all. I know nothing about insurance maybe I should pursue a little bit to it.hmm

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