Law Society president Adrian Tan says he is battling cancer, will fight 'until the clock runs out'

Law Society of Singapore president Adrian Tan went public with his condition in a LinkedIn post on July 28, 2022. PHOTO: ADRIAN TAN

SINGAPORE - Law Society of Singapore president Adrian Tan is battling cancer.

The TSMP Law Corporation partner went public with his condition in a LinkedIn post on Thursday afternoon (July 28).

Mr Tan, 56, said in his post he will “fight cancer, fight my cases in court and fight for lawyers as their President, until the clock runs out”.

He did not reveal the type of cancer in the post and also declined to do so in an interview with The Straits Times later on Thursday, only saying that it is rare.

Mr Tan, whose wife works in the Ministry of Defence, has no children.

He said he started to feel unwell in February, becoming feverish and exhausted, with body aches emerging from time to time.

“I was not feeling myself - it was very unusual for me as typically I don’t fall ill (and) skip work,” he said.

The lawyer attributed it to overwork and a lack of sleep, but he soon found it difficult to stand up on some days.

Mr Tan was diagnosed with cancer in March. 

He was not told what stage it was at, but the doctor was positive about his condition.

“(My wife and I) were very shocked by the news and it took us some time to come to terms with it,” he said.

Mr Tan was immediately put on an aggressive treatment regime - involving chemotherapy, immunotherapy and hormone therapy - which continues today once every three weeks.

He has been feeling well since treatment started, and exercises and plays chess every night.

Mr Tan has also started writing a novel, something he has been meaning to do for decades. 

His last book, The Teenage Workbook, was published in 1989.

Mr Tan intends to continue working as a lawyer and to fulfil his duties as Law Society president, even if he is currently doing so remotely. 

He stays at home as his immune system is compromised.

“The best medicine in this type of situation is to have a positive spirit and to have something to look forward to,” he said.

“For me, that involves planning, working and continuing to serve people.”

In his post, Mr Tan said he had initially planned to tell only the Law Society Council, his colleagues at TSMP Law Corporation and his closest friends.

But many people had asked about him, with some hearing inaccurate accounts of his condition, after he turned down numerous invitations to give speeches, attend events or meet in person.

“Under such circumstances, and given my position, it’s best for me to be open,” he said in his post.

He has reconnected with many old friends since making his illness public.

Mr Adrian Tan in a photo taken in January this year. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Lawyers who have battled cancer have been in touch, and strangers have also sent him messages of support.

Former Law Society presidents Gregory Vijayendran and Peter Low also had words of encouragement.

Mr Vijayendran said Mr Tan’s cheerfulness and courage have been an encouragement not just for him, but also for those who know of his battle with cancer.

“By being, not always doing, he has proven to be a great human being and an exemplar of resilience for our Law Society and society at large,” he said.

“Our warm wishes and prayers continue to go out to him for a speedy healing and full recovery.”

Mr Low said it is important for Mr Tan to stay positive, recounting his own battle with prostate cancer 5½ years ago.

“I have been on the front line of litigation in the last 4½ years, having survived chemotherapy,” added Mr Low.

Mr Tan is sanguine, and has no personal bucket list of things to do.

“The life that I am living now is exactly the life that I want, and my only aim is to keep it going,” he said.

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