Mr Seow Tiang Keng and his Shih Tzu Salvador posing with his 1936 Armstrong Siddeley vintage car
We spotted Mr Seow Tiang Keng from a distance away – cloaked in tanned skin, donning a head of greyish-white hair and brandishing a fatherly exterior, the stout able-bodied man looked nowhere near a day over 65 years of age. The moment we settle down for the interview, there is no time wasted as Mr Seow’s passion and exuberance for life shone through from his face and spirited character. The 73 year old, who is about to turn 74 in a couple of months’ time, eagerly sets off in an enthusiastic chatter about his active lifestyle despite his age and zealously spreads out his portfolio of work and photos over the table, his face beaming with pride and joy as he shares with us his story. A proud father of two, to a daughter and son, and a new grandfather to his toddler grandson, Mr Seow’s love for his family was undeniable – he readily scoured through his iPhone to show us pictures of his beloved family; pictures of his grandson zoomed up against the lens, his son’s graduation photo as well as his pet dog of 12 years, Salvador, a Shih Tzu who had recently passed on to old age. When asked about his wife, Mr Seow revealed that she had passed on 22 years ago, but humorously added that he now has three mistresses – his vintage cars.
Driven by Passion
An aficionado of vintage cars, Mr Seow’s face lit up as he shared with us how his love for vintage cars stemmed during an overseas study stint in London, as he acquired a deep appreciation of the meticulous construction and timeless beauty of the cars. As the cars were not attuned to our local driving climate, Mr Seow took it upon himself to customise and modify the specifications and parts of the car to local standards, and gleefully declared that he takes them on a spin around his neighbourhood at Hong Leong Gardens every weekend, a curious sight his neighbours are now no stranger to.
F1 Champion Sebastian Vettel in Mr Seow's car for the Driver's Parade
Mr Seow spoke fondly of how he spends majority of his free time modifying his cars, enjoying every single minute of it as he loves a challenge and achieves a sense of accomplishment whenever he gets to parade his cars at charity drives, motoring heritage drives as well as the recent F1 weekend, where he got to take former F1 champion, Sebastian Vettel around the race track in one of his vintage rides for the Drivers’ Parade.
Mr Seow with one of his handmade pottery sculptures at a pottery exhibition
Always game for a challenge and passionate about building things from scratch, Mr Seow’s other hobby revolves around pottery making. However, his fruits of labour are unlike those of conventional pottery making as he indulges in crafting human sculptures which not only expound on his creativity, but also allows him to recreate his memories into tangible objects. Mr Seow shared that he crafted a figurine of Salvador, and placed it on his urn to commemorate his memory.
With his intensity for life, it is hard to believe that behind Mr Seow’s sparkling eyes, masks a story of strength and courage. The year was 2009 when Mr Seow first discovered blood in his stools. A trip down to the hospital diagnosed him with colorectal cancer. Mr Seow still vividly remembers the day his surgeon broke the news to him, while his son was by his side.
A state of calm – an unlikely reaction to a positive diagnosis for cancer, but that was exactly Mr Seow’s state of mind upon receiving the news. A staunch Catholic, Mr Seow left his fate to his Maker and without hesitation decided to proceed with treatment. The treatment process wasn’t easy, but Mr Seow wasn’t alone, and he told us of how his daughter would load up movies into his laptop for him to watch during the chemotherapy process and how his son moved back to Singapore from England to be his dedicated caregiver.
A New Lease of Life
Fast forward and it was not long before Mr Seow completed his treatment and triumphed over his battle with cancer. We asked him how cancer impacted his life and he told us of a 180 degree shift; once an introvert, Mr Seow transformed into an extroverted character as he considers his survival “a new lease of life” not to be taken for granted. Grateful at his second chance at life, he actively shares his experiences with other cancer patients so they may find hope too, and takes on more public speaking opportunities such as chairing public engineering lectures to students, another interest close to his heart.
Despite oozing with positivity and optimism, Mr Seow expressed that the road to recovery was not all rosy. Due to the side effects of chemotherapy, he experienced numbness and discomfort in his hands and soles which resulted in him having to wear soft shoes all the time. He also experienced incontinence, which posed a hazard and inconvenience to his lifestyle and job at Keppel FELS, which he stayed on at despite being diagnosed with cancer.
Acceptance is Key
A victorious warrior against the fight with cancer, Mr Seow wants fellow cancer patients to know that the first step to defeating the disease begins with “acceptance”. He highlighted the importance of having the resolution to move on with treatment rather than feeling victimised by the disease, as confining oneself in a negative state of mind would only wear one down both mentally and physically. He also stressed the importance of possessing a strong willpower in order to emerge victorious in the battle.
Mr Seow at work
Additionally, Mr Seow cautioned against the temptations of seeking alternative treatments or supplements, as these may interfere with the treatment process. He recounted his personal experience with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) after his recovery, and lamented that it resulted in dire consequences for him. To wrap up, we asked Mr Seow of his retirement plans and he proudly declared that he would still continue to work as long as “he is physically and mentally healthy” and bid us farewell as he scurried off to conduct another public lecture in the National University of Singapore.
Mr Seow on a work trip in China
With his unceasing thirst for knowledge and an insatiable quest for life, Mr Seow Tiang Keng is irrefutably a true warrior indeed!
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