The New Paper
15 January 2015
His health began to deteriorate in 2004.
He could not climb stairs properly or stand for long periods of time.
Local veteran actor Chew Chor Meng tried to hide these symptoms even though they were getting serious.
His confidence took a hit, and he started to feel miserable and lost.
The 47-year-old, who released his biography Stages Of Life recently, revealed his struggle with Kennedy's disease, also known as spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy.
The disease is an incurable motor neuron illness that leads to muscle cramps and progressive weakness. Only males are fully affected.
It is estimated that one in 40,000 people worldwide has Kennedy's disease.
Chew's book, which is in English and Chinese costs $15.90. It is available at all major bookshops.
Speaking to local media yesterday, Chew said the chapters about his deteriorating health were the most difficult to recount.
He said in Mandarin: "I had to take myself back to the years when I realised I was getting sick and relive those moments.
"Just thinking about those times brought tears to my eyes and I found myself crying at home. It was very emotional."
But Chew persisted on finishing the book.
"I wanted to just let it all out. I want it to be a positive story that can motivate and encourage people," he said.
Chew announced he was suffering from Kennedy's disease during a church event in 2008.
In his biography, Chew details his loving relationship with his wife Deon Tan, 40, and his two daughters, Chloe, 14, and Cheyenne, 12.
Chew said it was the love from his family and close friends that helped him through his darkest periods.
He said: "Sometimes my wife and I may have some squabbles here and there, but she is always there for me. I won't forget how I broke down and cried when I found out I was ill, and my wife told me that we would walk down this difficult path together.
"I was sitting there, watching my daughters sleep, and I felt that it's my family's support that would eventually help me overcome this."
Due to his health, Chew now only takes on one or two acting projects a year.
He also hopes to venture into the food and beverage business again this year.
"I still want to give it a try even though my past ventures did not work out," he said, "Everything is still in the pipeline but I am thinking of coming up with a business that can contribute back to society as well. It won't just be about earning profits."
For those who are going through personal struggles, this is Chew's advice: "Don't keep focusing on your own problems because it would only amplify them. Ignore them, and move forward.
"After all, life is short."
WHAT IS KENNEDY'S DISEASE?
The disease is an incurable motor neuron illness that leads to muscle cramps and progressive weakness. Only males are fully affected as it is the result of mutations in a gene on the X chromosome.. It estimated that one in 40,000 people worldwide has Kennedy's disease.
Timeline of his career
1990 - Started his acting career after winning Star Search
1996 - Became a household name playing the lead role of Ah Bee in Chinese comedy Don't Worry, Be Happy
1999 - Gained immense popularity among local viewers with another popular role You Ri'an/You Yongfu in Channel 8 drama Wok Of Life
2004 - Won the All Time Favourite Award at the annual Star Awards after getting the Top 10 Most Popular Male Artiste award for 10 years running
2004 to 2005 - Noticed his health deteriorating
2008 - Announced he has Kennedy's disease
2014 to 2015 - Filmed long-running Channel 8 drama 118, starring as Hong Daming, the owner of the eponymous coffee shop
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This article was first published on January 15, 2016.
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