HE first dismissed it as a mere backache, resulting from the stress of his final year in the university.
But it turned out to be much more than that.
Engineer Ng Yi Yong was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease, a cancer of the lymphatic system.
He was 24 then.
This disease is most prevalent in young adults and people over age 50.
Now 26, Mr Ng is now down to his last hope for a cure: An unrelated bone marrow transplant.
His chances: one-in-20,000 chance of a match. His only sister, 28, has been found to be incompatible.
There was a one-in-four chance of a match.
Six months after the backache first appeared and after visiting different doctors, even one specialising in rheumatism, the diagnosis was made.
He had Stage IV cancer, the most serious kind.
By then, the pain was so bad that he could not get out of bed on some days, he said.
His body temperature was about 38 degrees Celsius, but he was so used to the higher than normal temperature that he didn't realise he was running a persistent fever.
Mr Ng added that he was so tired all the time that he did not notice a 6-cm protrusion from a swollen lymph node under his ribs.
The cancer had spread to the bones of his right arm and shoulder, the back of the neck, near the two temples, and in the entire pelvis.
The lymph nodes in his lungs, neck and chest were also affected.
Dr Richard Quek, Mr Ng's doctor and an associate consultant from the National Cancer Centre (NCC) said Mr Ng had first been investigated for rheumatic or autoimmune conditions - "logical in view of his presentation and age".
At first, there was also no swelling of the lymph nodes.
When my paper met Mr Ng in his Sengkang flat, he put up a brave front.
He said: "I've cried so much I can't cry anymore, so now I laugh. I do what I have to do.
"I really wished that there was more education about the disease so someone would have known and could have alerted me early."
He underwent chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant using his own cancer-free cells and radiation therapy, but each time, the cancer returned.
While lymphoma is a "highly treatable and curable cancer", Dr Lim Soon Thye, a consultant from the NCC, said that about 20 per cent of patients worldwide with Hodgkin's "do not respond to standard chemotherapy".
He said: "Unfortunately, Yi Yong appears to fall into this category."
A few of Mr Ng's friends, including civil servant Tan Wee Kwang, 26, are rallying their friends to become donors, and are taking them to be tested.
The Bone Marrow Donor Programme has about 43,000 registered donors in its database.
Since it was set up in 1993, it has co-ordinated 125 transplants, despite 8,000 searches locally and internationally for matches.
A spokesman said that misconceptions - some think donating requires a serious operation - are not helping the case.