Our 16 and 17 year old days were spent talking about boys (oh, is that a surprise!) - those whom we were interested in and those we were interested in us. We analysed the boys' behavioural patterns and made plenty of deductions with our limited knowledge and experience in the dating and relationship world. I remember having slumber party with other friends, having buffet at Cafe Rosita and also complaining how tight our jeans were. We were also the flower pinning girls for most official occasions in school - I would prefer holding the tray with flowers and make Sylvia pin the flowers on the pockets of VIPs.
We drifted a part quite a bit post secondary school - there were rumours here and there and they strained our friendship quite a bit. However, wisdom and age proved that we were mature enough to recognise deception, lies and truth. We started contacting each other again few years later.
By then, our paths have taken such huge diversions. I went into medical school (and almost depression) whilst she gave birth to her firstborn. We continued keeping in touch sporadically throughout the years, reminiscing those carefree secondary school life where I was 10kilos lighter without half the effort I put in now.
Last weekend I went to Brunei for my former housemate's wedding - a wedding which I have been waiting since I have known my housemate. He said he would probably get married before 30 and he was true to his word - he tied the knot a year short of hitting 30.
During the short weekend trip, I also intended to visit my old secondary school friend, Sylvia whom I last saw during CNY 2014. She went for double mastectomy earlier this year with mediastinal node excision where the doctors found the malignancy to spread to the pleura of her lungs. She had been undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy. She wrote a piece on her blog where she shared about her experience.
A coffee shop kind of meet up I envisioned turned out to be me visiting her at the Brunei Cancer Centre at Jerudong Park Medical Centre. The facility was impressive - I was told it was a country and polo club turned into a hospital. I saw horses along the driveway into the hospital.
I did not spend a very long time at the ward - as a doctor I know patients should get adequate rest and not to prolong visiting hours. We talked bits and pieces but did not divulge into those serious issues I intended to bring across - her poor prognosis, resuscitation status ecetra. I felt that for once I was not going to wear the facade of a medical practitioner. I just had to be a friend visiting a friend in the ward.
My heart was heavy. I knew what the outcome was going to be like. I have seen enough to be able to tell the natural course of these kind of disease progression. I knew it was probably the last time I was going to see her, even though I reasoned with myself I could be entirely wrong. I even thought perhaps I should schedule another visit nearer to Christmas to see her.
Exactly one Saturday after my visit, she has left to be with the Lord. She was a brave, courageous woman who was not afraid of death.
Goodbye, Sylvia (last photo taken a week before she passed on)