Sheila Sim opens up about loss of older brother to leukaemia as a child
"After growing up, I understood that death is permanent, not transient... I didn't understand that then.” The model and actress revealed how she grappled with resentment following the loss of her 14-year-old brother, and why she thought that all doctors were liars.
At just nine years old, Sheila Sim lost her older brother to cancer. On a recent episode of Quan Yifeng’s talk show Hear U Out, the 37-year-old model and actress shared how her sibling Cedear was diagnosed with leukaemia at the age of 14.
“When he passed away, I was too young to comprehend everything,” she said during the two-part interview. “When everyone cried, I also started crying.”
Growing up together, Sim explained how her brother’s diagnosis proved a turning point for their relationship.
“We didn’t really get along, we were young and always bickering,” she explained. “When he fell ill, he seemed to grow up overnight… He became a caring brother.”
In spite of his illness, the actress recalled how Cedear remained cheerful until the end. “His hair was falling out when he was going through chemotherapy, but whenever we went to visit him, he would say, ‘I’ll perform a magic show for you’ and pull out a bunch of his hair from his head,” she recounted.
“When he suffered from oedema, he offered to show me something interesting. He asked me to press down on his arm, which left an indentation on his skin,” she added. “I treated it as (a way of) having fun (with him) back then. He tried to make me smile and it worked.”
During the earlier stages of her brother's illness, Sim was asked to donate her bone marrow in the hopes of improving his condition. "My parents asked me if I was willing to be his donor. Of course I was willing if it could save my brother's life."
Unfortunately, the procedure did not yield the outcome they expected.
"I was very upset because the doctors said I could save him but there were complications after the bone marrow transplant.”
As Cedear’s condition worsened, Sim and her family were told to prepare for the worst.
“When he was on his deathbed, I’m thankful to say that many people were by his side.” However, she expressed her regret at not being able to bid him farewell at that moment.
“For the first one to two years after he passed away, I felt very guilty because I wasn’t there for him," she said. "I would have apologised to him [because] I had never spent quality time with him, but by then it was too late.”
Following her brother’s death, the actress developed a deep mistrust for doctors. “I was angry for a really long time and I didn’t like seeing doctors. I felt like doctors were all liars.”
It took her years to shed the resentment left from the loss of her brother. “After growing up, I looked back and realised that the doctor had done his best based on the technology available back then… A donor's bone marrow may be incompatible with a recipient's bone marrow. The doctor couldn't foresee the complications.”
Over time, this allowed her to make peace with her brother’s passing. "I let go of my resentment after coming to terms with that."