Khairul fulfilled his 'last wish'
Once told he had only 2 months to live, cancer patient staged art exhibition and went to Bali with family before he died on Sunday (Aug 28) at 23
Last January, he was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer and his doctors told him then that he had only two months to live.
But young artist Muhammad Khairul Ikhwan defied the odds.
He staged an art exhibition in April this year, celebrated Hari Raya in Julyand even made it to his 23rd birthday two weeks ago.
One of his close friends, freelance educator Mohammad Afham Abbas, 26, said Khairul also got his "last wish" - a family trip to Bali earlier this month.
Although he fought the disease hard, the cancer finally got too strong for him to resist.
On Sunday evening, with his family around him, Khairul died.
Mr Afham told The New Paper that Khairul had obtained approval from the doctors to travel to Bali.
Together with his siblings, mother and uncle, Khairul flew there earlier this month.
But after a few days on the island, Khairul started complaining of headaches.
He then suffered a seizure and was warded in the Intensive Care Unit in a hospital there.
Two days later, Khairul and his family flew back to Singapore.
He was then warded at the Singapore General Hospital, where he spent his last few weeks battling the disease.
Mr Afham, who visited his friend every day since he came back, said Khairul was mostly unconscious and could barely speak.
He died at around 6.30pm on Sunday.
Choking back tears, Mr Afham said: "He is just so pure and never judges, he just gives so much love around him. He will be missed."
For almost four years,Khairul published videos that featured him in all sorts of outfits - a bid to express himself and inspire others.
Not wanting to confine himself to just one medium, he also painted and danced.
But in November 2014, during National Service, Khairul began experiencing a ringing in his ears and got bad headaches.
Three months and several medical appointments revealed the worst - he had stage 4 colon cancer.
It had also spread to his brain, robbing the young artist of his hearing and plunging him into a world without sound for a while.
But Khairul carried on producing his videos and making his art. Word of his creativity started getting around and Khairul became a well-known name.
He performed at the annual Pink Dot rally in June last year and launched an 87-piece art exhibition in April at his alma mater, the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.
Khairul's creativity struck a chord with many people here.
TNP first reported on Khairul three months ago.
A TNP video about him, which has more than 290,000 views, touched many readers, some of whom showed their support by leaving encouraging comments for him.
The loss of Khairul is not just felt by his family and friends, but also with people who have collaborated with him creatively.
Kiss92 DJ Joshua Simon, who first met Khairul at a Lady Gaga concert in 2012, worked with him last month on a music video for his single Murda.
Khairul did Simon's make-up, based on one of Khairul's own looks that Simon liked.
Simon, 26, said: "When Khairul was dressed up, he would exude such confidence. But when he took off the wig, he was the gentlest and sweetest person."
YouTube personalities Munah Bagharib and Hirzi Zulkiflie also expressed their grief.
Munah,a close friend of Khairul's, called him a hero in her Instagram post.
"You alone have taught us so much about love and strength," she said.
Hirzi called him a warrior.
"They says legends have left us in 2016. I see it now. He is already missed," he said.
He taught me to value life and be strong
COMMENT by Sukmawati Umar Litak
Khai just left us.
The text on Sunday night tore me to bits.
It broke the news I had been dreading about an interviewee-turned-friend, Muhammad Khairul Ikhwan.
Khai was many things. Performer, artist, devoted son and friend. He was also a fighter.
I first met him last December. He was one of the subjects of TNP's Finding Hope series on palliative care.
My heart sank when I researched him and saw the prognosis - two months. But this man was not who I expected. So flamboyant, so daring.
Online, there was a trove of pictures and videos of him with full face make-up and such bright and in-your-face costumes inspired by Lady Gaga. He was definitely a performer.
My conservative mind immediately thought "attention seeker".
However, meeting him threw out any preconceived notions.
This was a gentle soul.
In and out of hospital, initially wrongly diagnosed and his own body slowly shutting him off from the world, as his vision deteriorated and he went deaf.
Khai was incredibly modest, pausing to read the questions written on a whiteboard before carefully and sincerely answering each one.
Listening to his story, my heart ached. All he wanted was to be himself and spread joy and happiness. His sincerity and gentleness could be felt in his words.
Having outlived his initial prognosis, Khai was positive that he could be cured and made full use of his time.
He allowed me to follow his progress over four months, even letting us film chemotherapy sessions and a gathering with friends.
Strong and determined to live every moment to the fullest, Khai made sure he was busy whether it was with interviews, organising an art exhibition, performing and even helping friends and fans with their school projects and directing photo and video shoots.
He even went out of his way to donate to those less fortunate.
I was curious at how he could juggle all of it with the side effects of the chemotherapy and pain.
"People say I don't look sick.How should I look then? My sickness is on the inside. I can't show it to people like a wound or a scar. And the more I stay in bed, the more sick I will feel when I can do so much more."
Our relationship grew to friendship, and soon I was occasionally dropping by his place.
Even then I admitted to him that I occasionally struggled with some of his flamboyance. He just chuckled and patted me gently.
"It's okay if you don't understand. There are many different kinds of people in this world.
"We are all just human beings trying to find our place and as long as you accept me as a fellow human being, I'm more than happy."
I'm thankful that I got to know Khai.
I am even more grateful that he accepted me with open arms, extended the hand of friendship and allowed me into his life.
His story taught me to value life and be strong.
To cherish every moment. To never be afraid to be yourself and enjoy life to the fullest before it's too late.
Bold, non-conformist and full of heart
COMMENT - PRABHU SILVAM
Writer Prabhu Silvam documented Khairul's journey for TNP.
Over that period of time he grew closer to both Khairul and his family.
Here he remembers the man he came to call brother.
In an attempt to document death, I found life.
Life in its purest, simplest and most honest of forms in the times I spent with Khairul.
From his unabashed love for dolling himself up and performing in drag to his not-so-private habit of singing to The Beatles in the shower; to the way he refused to view the world with rose-tinted lenses.
While he has been taken from us, he has given so much.
I will remember my brother Khairul for his deep appreciation for life even when it had little to offer him.
But more than anything I'll remember him for his art, an extension of the man himself - bold, non-conformist and full of heart.
Nobody is ever truly gone; he is immortalized forever in the brush strokes of his psychedelic paintings, in the memories of those who remember him as a peace-loving, gentle giant and in the grit of anyone who has the will to fight on regardless of circumstance.
You're in a better place now Khai, take care brother.