Ex-SPH journalist Clarissa Tan dies from cancer

Former Singapore Press Holdings journalist Clarissa Tan died in London early Monday morning from colon cancer.

The 42-year-old, a writer at weekly British magazine The Spectator, was diagnosed with the cancer in September 2012, about six years after her mother, Madam Helena Wong, now 81, was struck with the same cancer.

Ms Tan's condition was discovered while she was on holiday in Italy. Hit by bouts of dizziness and breathlessness, she was rushed to a hospital where doctors found a malignant tumour pressing down on her stomach.

Born in Malaysia, Ms Tan had moved to Singapore to study when she received an ASEAN scholarship at the age of 15. Her schoolmate from Assunta Secondary School in Petaling Jaya, Ms Claudine Wong, said she died peacefully in a London hospice, in the company of a "dear friend".

Her niece, business executive Adelyne Lo, 35, said her death was a shock to her family, who did not know she was hospitalised. "She put up a very strong face to us and didn't want us to worry about her," said Ms Lo.

Ms Tan worked at The Business Times (BT) as a banking reporter from 1996 to 1999.

She joined financial news wire service Dow Jones as financial editor, before leaving in 2007 to be a freelance writer, contributing articles on the arts to BT as well.

BT lifestyle editor Jaime Ee said: "Her very original voice could bring life to the most mundane and the most abstract topics... She was the best writer I've ever worked with."

In 2007, Ms Tan won The Spectator's Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize for travel writing. The first winner in 1987 was novelist Hilary Mantel. In 2013, she topped her cohort in the master's programme in creative writing at the University of London.

This article was published on April 2 in The Straits Times.

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