'Dying' man's girlfriend: All I want is to marry him
Girl hates boy. But they fall in love. Then he gets cancer and is given three months to live.
Miss Sherry Chia said wryly: "Sounds like a movie plot or a TV drama, right?"
But this is real life for the 31-year-old senior constituency manager at Pasir Ris Community Centre.
She told The New Paper yesterday: "I used to laugh at how unrealistic these plots were. And how it would never happen to me.
"But this is my life now."
After three years of dating, her boyfriend, Mr Alan Yap, 36, was diagnosed with stage four liver cancer shortly after Valentine's Day last year.
The couple first met in 2011 when Mr Yap was her boss.
It wasn't love at first sight.
"I hated him because I was working so much - seven days a week - when he was my boss. And he never smiled," said Miss Chia.
But after she was transferred, she began to see Mr Yap for who he really is - a kind, caring and loving person.
They had planned to get married last year. But that was put on hold after he was told by his doctor that he had just three months to live.
Almost a year later, Mr Yap is still alive and their love has captivated thousands of people, including Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam.
Mr Yap, an assistant director at the People's Association (PA), has written a long declaration of his love for Miss Chia, which ends with a marriage proposal.
It has been seen almost 150,000 times on citizen journalism website Stomp, where it was posted as part of its ongoing Love Stories contest for Valentine's Day. (See report above.)
Mr Shanmugam shared the post on his Facebook page and it has received more than 3,000 likes and 290 shares.
Mr Yap had previously worked under Mr Shanmugam and helped out with community activities in Nee Soon GRC, where the latter is an MP.
Mr Shanmugam wrote: "A really emotional story from Alan... He is an exceptional person. Very committed."
When Mr Yap found about his illness, he was devastated.
The divorcé with two young children had always thought that Miss Chia deserved better.
"She certainly didn't deserve to have to be stuck with me when I couldn't even promise her a future," he said.
So he told Miss Chia that she could leave him. But she refused.
"I couldn't leave him. It was so tough seeing him so weak and my only thought was for him to recover. The only thing I knew I had to do was to be there for him," she said.
"I wanted him to recover because I wanted to be married to him."
She was there for Mr Yap every step of the way, even working from home for three months so that she could attend to him.
"I am very grateful to the bosses and directors of People's Association for allowing me to be under a telecommuting scheme," she said.
During the three months spent with her sick partner, she had an epiphany. "I realised just how much I had taken for granted. I longed for days when we would do simple couple activities like shopping or going to movies, even though they weren't very exciting."
But taking care of him took a toll as she was overwhelmed seeing him become so frail and fragile, especially after his initial bout of chemotherapy.
"Even getting out of bed was an achievement," she said.
"I had to hide myself in the toilet so no one, especially Alan, would hear me cry."
Mr Yap said of Miss Chia's devotion: "All these years - even before I got sick - she was always waiting for me.
"I was a workaholic, so our dates would basically be her waiting for me in cafes while I typed away on my laptop."
Things did not change when he got sick. She was still waiting, this time for him to get better.
On why he proposed to Miss Chia after having told her to leave him, Mr Yap told TNP: "She stuck by me and was willing to fight for me.
"I felt I should also fight for her. When I realised that she had given me the gift of time, I wanted to do right by her and be strong and get well."
After the initial chemotherapy failed, Mr Yap decided to undergo intra-arterial chemotherapy in Taiwan, which has been promising. (See report below.)
The cancer has shrunk from 13cm to 9cm, which is an improvement according to Mr Yap's doctor. While he is not completely cured, the couple can finally hope for a future together.
But Miss Chia has yet to say yes to Mr Yap's public proposal.
"My parents do not really approve of the relationship because they think I'm throwing my future away.
"I hope my parents will come around and realise how happy I am so I can finally marry the man I love," she said.
Now that they have realised just how short life can be, they want to spend as much time together as possible.
At the top of their bucket list is a trip to Paris, France, to see the Eiffel Tower.
But if his health makes that impossible, he has a back-up plan.
Mr Yap has asked her: "Will you go to the Flyer with me before I die?"
For Miss Chia, that was an easy yes.
"I realised just how much I had taken for granted. I longed for days when we would do simple couple activities like shopping or going to movies, even though they weren't very exciting."
- Miss Sherry Chia
WHAT IS INTRA-ARTERIAL CHEMOTHERAPY?
Intra-arterial chemotherapy is used when surgery fails to remove the cancer completely.
Dr Ang Peng Tiam, the medical director at Parkway Cancer Centre, said: "Unfortunately, in some (liver cancer) cases, when the cancer is removed in surgery, it often comes back with a vengeance and spreads to the entire liver."
While this means that the person can never be fully cured of cancer, the intra-arterial chemotherapy treatment can improve one's chances of survival, he said. This is because the chemotherapy drugs are injected into the artery that goes directly into the liver.
Dr Ang said: "While normal chemotherapy injects the drugs into any blood vessel, the intra-arterial treatment is more targeted.
"Under X-ray guidance, the drugs are injected at a puncture in the groin. This allows the drugs to go into the blood vessel that is feeding the tumour. It is basically immersing the tumour in chemotherapy drugs."
This treatment is fairly common and effective, said Dr Ang, who sees more than 10 cases of intra-arterial chemotherapy a month.
Highway cop is thief of her heart
FATED: Madam Sheena Toni met Corporal Mohammad Faris when he stopped her and a friend on the expressway. - PHOTO: COURTESY OF SHEENA TONI
Two traffic police officers were questioning her friend on the Seletar Expressway (SLE) for having a tinted visor on her motorcycle helmet.
But all Madam Sheena Toni, who was riding pillion on her friend's motorcycle, could think about was how cute one of them was.
As luck would have it, a mutual friend tried to matchmake her and a policeman, who turned out to be one of the officers, six months later. At the meeting, they did not recognise each other.
Madam Sheena and Corporal Mohammad Faris exchanged numbers and started dating.
They realised they had first met on the SLE in 2009 only when she asked Cpl Faris to share his experiences as a traffic cop.
The 25-year-old guest relations officer said: "He shared a story where he stopped two girls on the SLE. I was surprised and prompted him with more questions such as what the girls were wearing, their names and the bike model.
"I remembered catching a glimpse of his name tag, and I asked for his full name. True enough, he was the same officer.
"It felt like a dream had come true. I had always wanted a husband in the police force and he turned out to be the same guy whom I had wanted."
The couple dated for a year before getting engaged. They got married last year.
Madam Sheena shared their story on Stomp as part of its annual Valentine's Day Love Story contest. It has since got more than 63,000 views.
The couple are expecting their first child in August.
Madam Sheena said: "It doesn't matter whether it is a boy or a girl, as long as the child is healthy."
SHARE LOVE STORY TO WIN
Forty-one stories have so far been submitted for the annual Valentine's Day Love Story contest organised by Stomp.
Couples can share their stories to win travel and shopping vouchers worth more than $2,500.
There are three grand prizes and seven consolation prizes.
The contest will end on Feb 13.
For more information, visit www.stomp.com.sg.