“I was in my teens when I first came into contact with drugs.   Back then, I worked as a fisherman on a trawler that sailed in the South China Sea.   It all started when a group of crew members spiked their cigarettes with heroin and offered one to me.

I was arrested the following year and was imprisoned for six months.   But it didn’t deter me and I was soon back on the streets looking for drugs again.  I could no longer go back to my fishing job, so I took up odd jobs instead.

Almost all the money I earned was spent on buying drugs such as heroin, marijuana and pills.   When I ran out of money, I borrowed from my friends and parents.   It broke my mother’s heart. I made no attempts to quit because it was just too difficult.   I would shiver uncontrollably, suffer from body aches and vomit whenever I tried to lay off drugs.

My turning point came in 2015, when I looked in the mirror one day and was horrified by my reflection. I looked gaunt and haggard.   I weighed only 60kg and it hit me that I had lost 15kg over a span of five years.

Determined to kick the habit once and for all, I checked myself into the National Addictions Management Service, Institute of Mental Health, where I spent two weeks in rehabilitation. I was subsequently referred to The Helping Hand, a halfway house for former drug addicts.

In August 2016, I learnt the real reason for my weight loss. I was suffering from bile duct cancer, which had spread to my bone, liver and coeliac lymph nodes.

I am now on palliative chemotherapy.   I hope to live a little longer so I can repay my parents for all that they have done for me.   As a befriender at The Helping Hand, I counsel and advise young residents who struggle with their addiction.   Their whole lives are ahead of them, and I hope they will not make the same mistakes as I did.”

Simon Tan

Winner of  The Singapore Health Inspirational Patient Awards 2017 

The Singapore Health Inspirational Patient Awards is an annual award which honours individuals for their strength, courage and resilience in the face of healthcare challenges.

Tags: IPA 2017