Widower plays mum and dad

Widower plays mum and dad
Kelvin Mok and his daughter, Janice.

Church worker Kelvin Mok, 34, recalls asking many "why" questions after his wife died of lung cancer about 11/2 years ago. Their daughter Janice was only four then.

"In the months after my wife's death, I would sometimes sit by her niche alone, asking, 'Why did this happen? Why did you have to go?'" says Mr Mok, who looks after his church's youth ministry.

It all began when his wife, Ms Tan Chia Yen, had a persistent cough in April 2011. She was 31 years old and handling donor matters at family organisation Focus on the Family Singapore at that time.

A biopsy a month later revealed that she had Stage 4 lung cancer. "The doctor said Chia Yen had only four months to live. We were frustrated by the result because she did not smoke, much less do anything hazardous to her health," says Mr Mok.

Ms Tan started going for chemotherapy. The couple also went on a 100 per cent organic and low-sugar diet.

Mr Mok quit his job as his church's pastoral intern to care for his wife and daughter. They were then living in a four-room HDB flat in Dover and did not have a maid.

He would tell Janice that "mummy is sick", especially when Ms Tan had to go for radioactive scans and could not be near her daughter.

On those occasions, Janice would sometimes stay for up to five days at her maternal grandparents' house in West Coast. They looked after her while Mr Mok stayed with his wife at the hospital.

Still, adds Mr Mok: "You can prepare for your loved one's death, but you can never be fully prepared. When that day arrives, the sadness still overwhelms. You realise she's never coming back."

Ms Tan died on Oct 20, 2012 - after 14 rounds of chemotherapy - at the age of 32. "She fought against the cancer as hard as she could," says Mr Mok.

He says Janice was initially afraid to enter the hospital room during Ms Tan's last moments as she was scared of the tubes connected to her mother.

Ms Tan was also unconscious by then. "But she eventually went in and said, 'Bye bye, mummy'. Chia Yen passed away soon after. I believe she was just holding on to hear Janice's voice," says Mr Mok, his eyes reddening.

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