Living to the Fullest

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01 Jul 2019 | PEOPLE

Living to the Fullest

// STORY Koh Eng Beng

// PHOTOS Kenneth Lin & courtesy of Garick Bay & 3WO (NS) Chew

English 华文

A cancer scare and vision loss was a wake-up call for Intelligence Warrant Officer 3WO (NS) Chew Guo Quan, 37, to live his life with no regrets. 

His wife had just given birth to their baby girl, and he was looking forward to caring for his new bundle of joy. But just a week later, his world came crashing down when his doctor told him he had a tumour in his liver. This was in 2013.

"I couldn't believe it. How could this happen? But I couldn't tell anybody; I didn’t want my wife to worry," recalled 3WO (NS) Chew Guo Quan.

Thankfully, the tumour was later found to be benign, but it kept growing for the next six months, prompting doctors to remove part of his liver. 

Family first 

The painful surgery would change his life.

Lying on the hospital bed, he asked himself many questions: Why am I working so hard? What is the money for? Will I still be physically able to do the things I want after I have the money? 

He realised his goal in life was to improve the life of his family. "When you're ill, you will realise that your family is something that you can't let go of easily; you will wish that they can lead a better life."

In the past, he would save all his money for the future, but having realised that the future may never come if he dies suddenly, he no longer holds back on spending on his family nowadays. 

He also spends more time with them by bringing them for holidays or a good meal at a nice restaurant. 

Ticking off the bucket list

The health scare was also a catalyst that pushed him to start ticking items off his bucket list. 

First, he took the leap of faith in 2016, leaving his stable job as a network engineer at the Defence Science and Technology Agency to join a small-and-medium enterprise in the printing industry. 

As a general manager, 3WO (NS) Chew is responsible for the company's sales and operations and, by extension, the livelihood of his workers. 

"Going from IT to printing is a funny move. But I didn't want to stay in the same job till I retired; I wanted to try new things," said the father of a four-year-old boy and six-year-old girl, adding that he felt a greater sense of fulfilment in his new role.

After his change of job, life was smooth-sailing until last year when he woke up one morning with a white, blurry spot in the centre of his left eye. Due to his medical history, doctors could not rule out the possibility of a brain tumour. 

As it turned out, the loss of his vision was due to an inflammation of the optic nerve. He has since recovered 98 per cent of his sight.

3WO (NS) Chew taking part in the Tour De Bintan cycling challenge.

This second health scare was a further reminder for him to stop procrastinating on his personal pursuits. In 2018, he pedalled 1,050km in a round-island cycling trip in Taiwan with three friends. Earlier this year, he took part in the two-day Tour De Bintan, a cycling competition in Bintan, Indonesia. 

He is also "re-claiming" the activities that his health scares took away from him. He has signed up for this year's Spartan Race — which he was unable to do in 2018 due to his temporary loss of sight — and he trains once a week with his National Service (NS) mates.

Ticking off the bucket-list: 3WO (NS) Chew (second from left) and his friends pedalled 1,050km on two wheels, circumnavigating the island of Taiwan.

Serving with distinction

When he was serving Full-time NS, 3WO (NS) Chew dropped out of the Advanced Section Leaders' Course due to a worsening eczema condition.
He was posted to 2nd Singapore Infantry Brigade (2 SIB) as an Intelligence Specialist. His role was to help collate information, and turn them into a complete intelligence picture to help battle planners make better tactical decisions.

When I first joined 9 SIB, we were short-handed, but the team gradually grew, with more officers and specialists. This is a team that really works well together. I derived great satisfaction in seeing the team grow.

3WO (NS) Chew on what motivates him in NS

He always did his duty diligently, often behind the scenes. His efforts did not go unnoticed — he rose through the ranks as an Operationally Ready National Serviceman in 9 SIB, and was appointed the unit’s Intelligence Warrant Officer. 

He is currently serving under the Reservist on Voluntary Extended Reserve Service (ROVERS) scheme. His stint will end in April 2020. 

"My most memorable NS experience has to be Exercise Tiger Balm in 2016. We trained with US (United States) soldiers in Hawaii. They are reservists from the National Guards, just like us. So I got to see the 'NS' culture in the US (and) how they served as volunteers."

Then-Master Sergeant (NS) Chew (front row, first from left) took part in Exercise Tiger Balm in 2016, a bilateral exercise between the Singapore Army and the US Army.

On what he would miss most about NS, 3WO (NS) Chew said: "Meeting new people, and forming a team. 

"When I first joined 9 SIB, we were short-handed, but the team gradually grew, with more officers and specialists. This is a team that really works well together. I derived great satisfaction from seeing the team grow."

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