By Charmaine Koh
Note: We visited Mdm Jane Ng in June, when we learnt about her and her husband’s hope to cut their wedding cake in celebration of their 10th wedding anniversary in September. She passed on peacefully several weeks after our visit.
Independent, positive and resilient. These were the traits that would best describe Mdm Jane Ng, who was in her 50s. A preschool educator and mentor, Jane had dedicated the last 20 years of her life educating young children, setting strong foundations for their future.
Determined to rise above her condition, Jane continued to work from home even after her diagnosis.
She had a loving husband of nine years who shared her love for Harley Davidson bikes and a fulfilling career. It seemed like she had everything one could ever wish for. But life took a devastating turn in 2016, when she suddenly became jaundiced and was rushed to the hospital. She had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Jane underwent more than a year of harsh and unforgiving chemotherapy, hoping for a full recovery. She recalled, “The IV chemotherapy felt like a thousand needles piercing your body. It was very painful.”
When all treatments proved ineffective, her oncologist prepared her for the worst. “My oncologist said that I had less than a year to live. I felt lost. I had no idea how else I could prepare for the remaining journey.”
In April 2018, Jane was referred to HCA Hospice for palliative care. Jane said to me, “I was doubtful of the service at first. We were fearful of having to pay a big, fat bill. We never thought HCA’s services were free.”
What began as suspicion turned into a collaboration built on trust. Jane shared, “HCA’s nurses and doctors were very helpful. They taught and educated me about pain management and also worked hand in hand with me to manage my pain.”
Pain was a large part of Jane’s struggle. “My pain level can shoot up to 8 out of 10,” she shared. “This has been a very difficult journey. It can push you to do things you may normally think are stupid – like ending your life – but you cannot help it.”
She also experienced discrimination outside of her home. Jane related, “I took a bus once and no one wanted to sit next to me.” She later realised that her shirt was turned inside out and her hair was “haywire”.
Jane and her husband, Jeffrey Tan.
In the midst of her battle, her greatest joy each day was receiving her husband, Jeffrey, at the door when he returned from work. Being a dutiful wife, she believed the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach. After her condition deteriorated, the chores and cooking were handed over to her husband. “There’s still room for improvement for his cooking,” she joked. Her eyes glistened with love.
Moments like these were precious to her. “With my pain managed, I was able to do things that were important to me,” Jane said. “Jeffrey and I would spend an hour or two before bedtime, chatting.”
The couple recalled the fond memories from their wedding day.
As we sipped our cups of tea, Jane shared that they would be celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary in September. The couple brought out their wedding cake, impeccably preserved from their wedding day. Judging by the quizzical look on my face, she explained, “It’s an American tradition for a couple to cut their wedding cake one year later. But the years flew by and before you know it, it’s been 10 years!” They had hoped to cut it together this September.
The couple shared many of their happy memories as they flipped through their photo albums. Their eyes spoke of their shared love when they looked at each other.
Jane was a loving person who dedicated most of her life to early childhood education.
“Today’s a good and relatively pain-free day for me. I wouldn’t be sitting here having tea with you otherwise,” she said with a faint smile on her face. “I feel so blessed to have Nurse Liu Yan and the doctors who gave me so much support.”
In July 2018, Jane passed on peacefully, leaving behind her legacy of love with those whom she had shared her life with.