Cancer changed him as a person, says girlfriend

Cancer changed him as a person, says girlfriend
Alan and his girlfriend, Sherry.

SINGAPORE - He has become more affectionate, does more of the things she enjoys and among all, he now listens to her.

These are some of the changes Ms Sherry Chia, 31, noticed in her boyfriend Mr Alan Yap, 36, since he was first diagnosed with terminal stage liver cancer in February last year.

The two met in 2011 through work and started going out the following year.

Ms Chia, a senior manager at People's Association, describes her boyfriend as "a man of few words" and who is usually very rational. She claims she had never gotten more out of him except for the usual one-liner in her birthday cards that would simply state: "I love you".

However, she got more than what she had expected on Wednesday morning when she saw Mr Yap's public marriage proposal to her made via an entry to a Valentine's Day contest organised by online citizen journalism website Stomp.

In his entry that took form of a love letter, Mr Yap wrote about how he once promised Ms Chia that they would wed at the Singapore Flyer in June last year but was diagnosed with cancer after Valentine's Day. He told Stomp that he hopes to fulfil his promise of getting married at the Singapore Flyer next month.

The online post has gained attention with more than 100,000 shares by Thursday morning and touched many, including Law Minister K Shanmugam who also commended Mr Yap's effort on his own Facebook page.

Calling the move a "pleasant surprise", Ms Chia told AsiaOne in a phone interview that she had only noticed the online post when she was looking through her own Facebook feed.

Ms Chia said: "Cancer changed him as a person. He hardly listened to others (before) ... He is not the sensitive type but he listens to me more now and he does things that I like."

Mr Yap agreed. He also told AsiaOne that he has "mellowed" down a little and is no longer as quick-tempered as before.

Last week, Mr Yap had gone to the extent of preparing a home-cooked meal for his girlfriend as a surprise when she had asked him to get her some food before catching a movie together. He had even included a note with it expressing his "appreciation" for her.

This is the same man who would usually tell his girlfriend that her emotional complaints were "nonsensical" and "crazy".

Mr Yap, the assistant director of People's Association, confessed that he sees his public proposal as more of a gesture for her "devotion" to him.

"I could have not done anything but I wanted to acknowledge her and give her a status," Mr Yap said.

As for their marriage status, Ms Chia has said "Yes". However, she still believes in getting her parents' consent because she sees marriage as "not just between two people but two families".

"They have no issue with him but of course, they would prefer me to marry a healthier man because they are worried that no one will take care of me in future.

"I think it's very important for me to get all of the support from my parents and relatives first," Ms Chia said.

Mr Yap understands his girlfriend's position but still sees his public declaration as one that is of "no harm". He said his three sisters too, understand Ms Chia's concerns.

Tumour has shrunk

Despite this, Ms Chia remains supportive and accompanies Mr Yap on his trips to Taiwan where he has been receiving monthly intra-arterial chemotherapy treatments.

He had previously undergone 10 sessions of conventional chemotherapy in Singapore. Though his doctors were pleased that his health did not deteriorate, he remained unsatisfied.

He then took up a friend's recommendation to undergo intra-arterial chemotherapy, which allows for the drug to attack his cancer cells more easily as it is pumped directly into his liver.

As the tumour embedded in his liver has now shrunk from 13cm to 9cm in diameter, his visits have since reduced from once every two weeks to once a month.

The couple identified their current goal to be that of ensuring Mr Yap's gradual recovery such that he will eventually be well enough to undergo curative surgery, the ultimate step of recovery.

A self-professed workaholic, Mr Yap said he now spends more time with his son and daughter aged seven and four respectively.

He claimed his daughter had never used to allow him to touch her but she now "recognises" him and allows him to play with her.

He also said he now understands the "strong bond" he shares with his family and friends after witnessing many of them stepping forward with advice since he fell ill.

"I feel like I'm a very blessed man. I would rather have (this cancer) now than older and my perspective on life has changed tremendously," Mr Yap said.

Not only has his perspective changed, but his eating and daily habits as well. Mr Yap now exercises everyday and eats mostly vegetables and fish without seasoning. He also makes it a point to visit organic food stores when in Taiwan.

While he is making good progress, the couple is aware of the obstacles they face in regard to Mr Yap's recovery. Though wedding plans are not yet under way, marriage is still on the cards for them.

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