Readers of a certain vintage will recognise the name Chew Chor Meng.
The Channel 8 actor is the latest guest to appear on local celebrity host Quan Yifeng's talk show "Hear U Out", where he revealed some little known facts about his life, career, and family.
For instance, the mild-mannered Chew revealed that he used to be bad-tempered, swore a lot, and was known for telling dirty jokes.
On his swearing, Chew said that it was his way of venting all the pent up stress from filming.
Kennedy's Disease diagnosis
But perhaps the most heartbreaking part of the episode was when the star of "Don't Worry Be Happy" and "Hainan Kopi Tales" talked about his illness.
Chew was diagnosed with Kennedy's Disease, a rare neuromuscular disorder that causes progressive weakening and wasting of the muscles, in August 2008. He was given about two years to live.
There is no known cure for Kennedy's Disease.
Initially thought it was a slipped disk
During the talk show, Chew said that back in 1997, he suffered what he thought was a slipped disk while filming. Despite years of physiotherapy, his condition did not improve much.
In fact, Chew shared that he had a scare while filming Love Blossoms 2. His character, who suffered from brain atrophy, seemed to have the same symptoms that he was displaying in real life.
However, he brushed it off as mere exhaustion and reasoned that he probably over-exerted himself and caused his slipped disk to worsen.
It emerged later, that it was not a slipped disk but something more sinister.
You may wonder what exactly muscle atrophy feels like.
According to Chew, the condition makes his muscles feel sore. He gave this example:
Imagine going for a run after a year of inactivity. After the run, your legs would feel sore and "not like your own". That feeling is what Chew encounters constantly, he said.
Could not carry daughters since they were 2 to 3
The actor said that he didn't have much of a reaction when he received his diagnosis. It was only later, when he saw his daughters sleeping (one was four, the other was six), that he felt overwhelmed by sadness.
"The kids were so small. I really hoped to be able to see them grow up, and get married, or even meet my grandchildren. We all want to witness our children growing up. So that thought made me very sad."
Because of his condition, Chew did not have the strength to carry his daughters since they were two to three years old.
"As they were growing up, aside from the time that they were infants, I barely carried them. Especially my second kid."
Thankfully, Chew said, his daughters were sensible and did not demand for him to play with them.
Growing up, Chew's daughters knew to give him space so as to avoid bumping into him and causing an injury.
While some might feel sad about such a situation, Chew chose to see that his daughters' actions came from a place of love and care.
Support from friends
It took Chew many years but he finally came to terms with his condition, thanks to his Christian faith and support from family and friends.
One such friend was fellow artiste Pan Ling Ling. Both Chew and Pan worked together on the series "118".
"She would often say, 'Meng, let me do it. I can do it, you don't have to. I'll help you, you don't have to stand.'"
Even Chew's director would accommodate him by using creative ways to frame a scene so as to give Chew time to get up slowly whenever he had to move in his scenes.
Top images via Chew Chor Meng/Instagram.