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The Promise
07 October 2016

Madam Soh Chin Hong, 47, fought the good fight against cancer with her husband by her side, until the end.

“She was very loving, a very righteous and passionate person”, said her husband and caregiver, Mr Eric Yeo, 47. The loving couple, who have been married for 20 years, first met while they were studying in NAFA School of the Arts. Eric reminisces fondly, “She didn’t like me at the beginning because I was like an ‘Ah Beng’ to her, so she played hard to get.” His perseverance and sincerity paid off. After their graduation in 1991, they started dating and married in 1996. They then had a beautiful baby girl, Xuan, who is now 16.

Madam Soh first discovered she had cancer during a CT scan check, after experiencing pain in the upper abdomen area. A further detailed scan showed several other cancerous lesions throughout her body.

“I was devastated.” recalls Eric, when he first heard the diagnosis.

Hope Amidst Trials

The next few months proved to be challenging. She had hopes of bringing the cancer under control despite the bleak prognosis, all for the love of her family. However, the doctor had pre-empted and prepared her for a difficult chemotherapy process.

Eric said: “We didn’t want to start her on chemotherapy as we had heard about the many negative side effects. We tried and tested every possible treatment that you can imagine. But at the end of the day, chemotherapy seemed like the best option for us.”

Swinging into Action

Without a minute to lose, Eric buckled down to make the necessary changes to adapt to Madam Soh’s condition. Diets had to be adjusted and schedules had to be re-arranged to cater to unpredictable scenarios. All this took a toll on his job.

Everyday brought with it new uncertainties. “I was on constant ‘standby mode’ just in case something happened to her,” Said Eric.

The chemotherapy soon took a toll on Madam Soh’s body and had left her physically weak. Seeing the frailty of his wife, Eric decided to hire a second domestic helper solely as her caregiver. However, her increasing mood swings proved to be a formidable task for the domestic helper.

The role of primary caregiver fell back to Eric. “I am easy going and took it in my stride. I took it as a chance for me to learn how to care for a patient. Though there was help from others, they would come and go. At the end of the day, I still had to handle everything.”

Quality over Quantity

Every moment together was a gift to be treasured. “No matter how busy I was, we will have dinner together every night. Over the weekends, we try to go outdoors, but if she feels too weak, I will stay beside her,” shares Eric. “I just want to be with her.”

In her last few months, some of the happiest memories Eric shared with his wife were engaging in simple things.  “Small talk was the best,” he said.

Eric shared with us a poignant note he wrote her:

“In sickness and in health, until death do us part, as promised.

You once asked me “Can we meet in the next life?”

“Yes, of course”

But please don’t change your look, I need to recognise you.”

“I promise.”

In sickness and in health, we promise.”

Acceptance and Comfort

Coming to terms with the short prognosis was a great struggle for Eric.

“I only accepted it when the doctor told me that the blood clot was a bad sign and he told us to prepare for the worst. But still I thought to myself, there must be a way. I wondered what I had done wrong?”

“When she was in a delirious state two days before she passed away, she looked at me all of a sudden. I saw her eyes, filled with love, trying hard to tell me something. I leaned in, and she weakly said ‘群,辛苦你了。。。’ (Qun, it’s been tough on you…) I held back my tears and smiled, “芳,不辛苦,我不辛苦。。。 别这么说。。。 你比我更辛苦。。。” (Fang, it’s not tough, it’s not tough at all… don’t say that… it’s tougher on you…)

The Pain of Moving On

It’s been 3 months since Madam Soh passed on and the pain of her absence is still fresh for Eric. Will time heal all wounds, as the saying goes?

“It will never heal. I wish I could carry on taking care of her. For now, I will just put the sorrow aside and carry on my duties as a father, a son, a brother, a son-in-law and have faith in myself. After my mission in this world is completed, I’ll meet her again.”

The undying love Eric and his wife shared is one that transcends above time and death.