Will Fan and his two siblings, Kat and Laurence, grew up in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia in an immigrant family with humble beginnings. Growing up in this environment, Kat took on great responsibility and became the ultimate big sister everyone could rely on. As a kid, she’d proudly escort her little brothers on hour-long train rides to and from school while also making sure her brothers had yummy snacks for the long journey. As an adult, she got her law degree and became the main breadwinner for the family. And even though Kat left the nest in her 20s and moved to Hong Kong, she continued to be the heartbeat of her family unit and took care of everyone from afar.
In May of 2021, Kat was diagnosed with lymphoma in Hong Kong. She kept a brave face, went to work, and then went to chemo as if nothing had really changed. Several months after her first series of chemo, Kat relapsed. She insisted everything was fine, bought her own wigs online, checked herself into chemo, and barely missed a work meeting or deadline. Kat was being Kat – the independent, responsible, big sister. She didn’t want the people she loved and supported to worry about her in any way.
Will (left), Kat (middle), and Laurence (right)
The chemo wasn’t working, so Kat’s doctors told her close friends to call her family. Will remembers how, upon entering Kat’s hospital room, he saw his big sister cry for the first time. Reunited with her family, Kat finally accepted she needed them and flew home to Australia to receive top-of-the-line treatment. The doctors in Australia suggested her brothers get tested to find out if they could donate stem cells to Kat. Will and Laurence immediately got tested and eagerly waited for their results – but it was too late. In less than two weeks, Kat passed away.
Kat’s story shines a light on a number of experiences shared by blood cancer patients around the globe.
Firstly, her story highlights the importance of family and loved ones when facing cancer. Kat’s big-sister instinct was to take care of everything on her own and make sure the people she cared about weren’t worried about her. However, Will tells us that he can’t even imagine how lonely his sister was as she went through chemo three times on her own in less than a year. Will’s family didn’t fully realize how severe Kat’s situation was, but as soon as they found out, they rushed to her side. Having experienced this, Will hopes more people talk about the importance of family and providing emotional support to loved ones going through chemo.
Kat’s story also sheds light on the lack of available information on stem cell donation. Will and Laurence didn’t know that they, or even a total stranger, could donate stem cells to save Kat’s life. It wasn’t until two weeks before Kat passed that doctors suggested Will and Laurence get tested. Will wishes he knew about stem cell donation and the need for more ethnically diverse donors before Kat was diagnosed. As Will puts it, “when you’re in the midst of it, it’s too late.” Kat’s story emphasizes the need for greater access to information related to stem cell donation and recruiting more BIPOC donors. At the end of the day, vital information about stem cell donation and treatment should be readily available to patients, family, and loved ones.
Kat and her family
Will Fan & Swab The World
When Will came across Swab The World, he made an incredible donation to support our cause. As the founder of NewCampus – a school with a mission to empower and educate a new generation of global, modern leaders – Will believes in supporting other start-ups and entrepreneurs trying to make a difference. With Will’s support, we’ll be able to continue raising awareness about stem cell donation and encouraging people from ethnically diverse backgrounds to become life-saving stem cell donors. Together, let’s help blood cancer patients around the world get the stem cell transplants they desperately need.