Monday, August 01, 2005

Le Tissier and 秋, you're not alone

One of my closest friends, Le Tissier, is ill. Another of my closest friends, 秋, is his Significant Other.

When they first became in item a couple of years back, my first thoughts, being the perpetual devil's advocate (I suspect it is an acquired actuarial trait), were," I really hope they will remain together forever or things could get really awkward...". Indeed, I was an unwitting participant in the period leading up to and including their initial "courtship". On hindsight, it was pretty amusing stuff. But then, lots of things in life are amusing on hindsight.

As the years go by, I realise my initial fears were unfounded. If anything, the duo seems closer to each other than ever before. And I feel genuinely elated for them. Lately, one of my favourite questions to them (posed to them individually but not together so that I can gauge their reactions separately, and also after I've sufficiently "softened up" the target) was," So when can I expect to receive your wedding invitation?". Heck, I hate attending wedding dinners (being in Sydney means I "siam" a lot of wedding dinners *Grin*) but theirs is one I really look forward to.

I passed my most recent actuarial paper (not a frequent event!). The results were out in early July. They were one of the first people to know, via e-mail (they work overseas). A week later, he was back in town and called to congratulate me. Two days later, a second call to let me in on the news.

He is ill. Very.

She is flying back. That very night after hearing about the initial diagnosis.

I couldn't decide how to react. The phone call continued as per normal. He sounded calm. I willed myself to feel something, but couldn't. Maybe in medical terms, they call it shock. The news just refused to sink in. Indeed, my first thoughts were of looking ahead and questions like "Are you adequately insured?" and "When will the final diagnosis be out?" sprang into my mind. I asked most of those questions, leaving out the most sensitive ones, and he responded. Calmly.

Then he dropped a second bomb on me. I was the only friend to know and he wanted to keep it that way. A fluttering of 受寵若驚 followed quickly by a wave of sadness; it is touching to know I meant this much as a friend to him but what an unfortunate way to find out.

My thoughts shifted to 秋. I promised to provide as much help and support to her as required during his as yet unknown recuperation period. His reply was "That's the main purpose of this call.".

He needed further tests. The final diagnosis would take a further two weeks. The wait must have been agonising for them. I've not met him in person yet since the news, so it all felt semi-real for some time. He was not ready to meet anyone yet and I respected that.

Perhaps it is not a bad thing to not have met him in person. I might act too impersonally, or be too self-conscious. Nothing I say will help, and the resulting silence will feel heavy. I can't even bring myself to call him directly anymore. I end up calling 秋 often to get regular updates on how all of them are feeling now, how his condition is and such. She has shown great strength in dealing with this situation thus far. Only once in all of my phone calls to her (my very first phone call to her after her return to Singapore in fact) did I detect a quivering edge in her voice but she quickly got it under control.

It is also for the first time in my short career that I felt embarrassed about being in the actuarial line. It all sounds silly, but having my work being associated statistically with mortality and morbidity suddenly seems overly formal, distant, disconnected, from his current circumstances. But later, she told me they all felt similarly too, i.e. not knowing what to feel. Only after hearing this from her did this feeling of mine start to subside.

After going through a few troughs in emotions, I realised perhaps the best way to cope with this situation IS being formal. We all need to stay clear-headed as some important decisions have yet to be made, preparations for the future requires attention and the collective bracing of our mental and emotional states for all possibilities needs more than a few deep breaths.

Perhaps the emotions will really hit us when the treatment starts and side effects kick in. I’ll worry about that later.

I really wish I could stay put in Singapore longer but I had to fly back to Sydney. For some time, I couldn't decide whether to meet up with him, or rather, to insist on meeting up with him before the flight, for I know not when I will be back in town.

Some things are best left suggested and unsaid.

In the end, I didn't. He just wasn't ready. A week before I flew back, he received the final diagnosis. It's bad but not too bad. A few days before I flew back, he went for his first round of treatment. The day before I flew back, I finally got to meet up with 秋 (It has been that hectic for both of them).

Talking to her, observing her body language, I could sense a certain amount of confidence in her about his chances of recovery. Her main worries were regarding the process in between, how he would cope with it. Both of us knew how impatient he is. Both of us also knew how fast his mind works. As I've correctly guessed, some of his thoughts were already on fears of relapse although he did not exactly spell it out. (Actually, part of my initial thoughts were also related to that, i.e. he will not be able to get insurance coverage after recovery; exclusion clauses will almost certainly be inserted.)

Our meeting probably did me more good than her. Her confidence in his recovery reassured me tremendously. I was able to stay calm during my flight back. Mostly anyway.

Akan Datang: Winter

242 days to go.


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