Breast cancer diagnosis at 26 draws couple closer

Mr Ian Ng decided breaking up with Ms Chan See Ting was not an option after she was diagnosed with stage three triple-negative breast cancer. PHOTOS: COURTESY OF CHAN SEE TING

SINGAPORE - Barely three months after Mr Ian Ng and Ms Chan See Ting met on dating app Coffee Meets Bagel, life threw them a curveball.

In June last year, Ms Chan discovered a lump in her breast. While awaiting the results of a biopsy to find out if the lump was malignant, she offered him a guilt-free exit.

"I told Ian that if he wanted to walk away, there would be no hard feelings. Cancer is not a flu that just goes away. It would affect every aspect of our lives, including marriage and family planning," says Ms Chan.

She was 26. Shortly after, she was diagnosed with stage three triple-negative breast cancer, an uncommon and aggressive variety.

Ms Chan, an only child, had worked as a General Paper tutor and management associate for a group of social enterprises known as Thought Collective before she resigned last month.

Mr Ng, 27, a human resources consultant, pondered her offer carefully. He also considered his parents' reactions and the prospect of losing Ms Chan prematurely to cancer. But he decided breaking up with her was not an option.

Two months after her diagnosis, when he asked her to be his girlfriend, Mr Ng said to her: "In this life, you may fight more battles than most people, but from now on let's make them ours to fight together."

He says: "She is an independent and strong woman with a pure heart and loving nature. Cancer does not diminish her worth as a person."

Their relationship blossomed in hospital wards and in Ms Chan's home, where Mr Ng would visit her after her chemotherapy sessions, travelling 1½ hours from his home in West Coast to hers in Bedok.

Mr Ian Ng spending time with Ms Chan See Ting in the hospital. PHOTO: COURTESY OF CHAN SEE TING

The couple, whose birthdays are three days apart, booked a staycation at Sofitel Singapore Sentosa last month to celebrate their 27th birthday but he ended up spending the night with her at the National University Hospital after an infection left Ms Chan with a high fever. She was warded for four days.

Their love, forged through fire, is stronger because of these trials.

Remote video URL

Four months into their relationship, the couple have already applied for a build-to-order Housing Board flat, are undergoing a marriage preparation course and plan to get married within the next two years.

In the meantime, Ms Chan will go through a mastectomy at the end of this month, followed by reconstruction surgery and radiotherapy. Although she will grieve the loss of one of her breasts, she has never once questioned if Mr Ng will see her differently.

"He impressed me with his loyalty through a sickness that threatened my beauty, appearance and identity," says Ms Chan, who also suffers from alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that attacks the body's hair follicles, resulting in hair loss.

Mr Ng says: "Marriage vows talk about being there with a person through the highs and lows. Cancer made us go through these things at the start of our relationship and consider things that many couples our age do not have to, making us more sure of our future together."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.