"Sir, tolong buat sikit untuk aku ni, ni gambaqnya, hang scan bubuh buat satu page, lepaih tu headingnya Gem of Life. Caption semua aku dah bubuh," my simple request to Nasir Ahmad.
The huge letter was naturally designed to impress Intan, marooned somewhere and adapting to life as an English teacher in Cameron Highlands.
We got to know each other in 1999 and in less than a year, we were engaged. On May 28, 2001, the akad nikah ceremony was conducted in Kulim. She was only transferred from SMK Kampung Raja, Cameron Highlands to the Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) in January 2002.
We were blessed with our first-born in June 2002, his birth coming at a time when the world was focused on the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan. Intan went through hours of agonising labour, I should know because she almost crushed my hand in coping with the pain before the doctors decided to conduct an emergency C-section.
The second major operation came along a few years later. But it was not the C-section. It was in fact due to the Big C.
At the age of 29, she was diagnosed with colon cancer Stage 2. It was on Eidul Adha that Intan felt a sharp and terrible pain on her stomach. Immediately I took her to Ampang Puteri. She underwent an ultrasound scan, MRI and the whole works.
Less than a week had gone by when the doctor broke the news to me, one-to-one. A tumour was detected on Intan's colon. And it was malignant. It took time for the news to sink in. How would I tell the family?
So began a journey and a humbling experience for the whole family.
I requested for the doctor to refer Intan to the HUKM after seeking advice from a few close friends and the then National Sports Institute director, Dr Ramlan Abdul Aziz.
Intan was referred to colorectal specialist Dr Ismail Sagap and Dr Azli. They kept asking me, during the check-ups, Intan's age and they seemed perplexed as to why someone under 30 could be diagnosed with cancer. Again Intan was required to undergo the screening process. Everybody was hoping that this second opinion would provide a different diagnose - Crohn's disease or perhaps simply appendicitis.
The tumour on Intan's colon was confirmed as invasive colorectal carcinoma. Decisions had to be made. The date of the surgery was confirmed. The day came and Kak Lin and Man both came over during lunch as I waited outside the surgery room - from 8.0am to 4pm. As she was warded at the female ward, I was not allowed to sleep overnight. Kak Lin spent a few nights sleeping on a toto.
'Akif was only two at that time. We were mentally preparing ourselves for chemotherapy or radiotherapy, supported by Kak Lin, Man, Mak and Abah, Kak Ja, a doctor and Mak Anjang, a nurse. We sought opinions and advice from those who had gone through it before. Adjustments had to be made.
We were lucky. One fine day, Dr Azli gave me a call, telling me the malignant cells were localised and had not metastasised. Intan did not have to go for chemo. I literally jumped for joy and as if a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders.
Once the doctors confirmed the cancer had gone into remission, we sought their advice if we could have a bigger family. They said OK and we had two more, through the C-section.
From those moments onwards, we began to appreciate each other more and savour each and every single day. We learn to count our blessings. We pray that the Big C never makes a return. I learn that nothing comes greater and bigger than the family.
We learn a lot from each other. We share the same values.
Never one to be seduced by material wealth and the allure of precious gem stones, Intan is God's gift to me.
Happy birthday Intan, our precious gem of life.