If you knew your days were numbered--as in you'd die in the coming weeks--how would you spend your remaining time on earth? If you're a car enthusiast, driving the most desirable supercars on a proper racetrack for a day might sound like an epic way to go.
Not for the guy in the photo, no matter how much he so badly wanted to get behind the wheel of his fantasy rides.
"This is my best friend Christian 'Per' Yap," Marc Soong wrote to TopGear.com.ph. "I took him for a fun run in December last year to let him drive a Ferrari for the first time. This was the last time we talked, ate and drove together. A few days after, we found out that the chemotherapy he had been undergoing did not work."
Yep, Christian was battling cancer, and Marc was one of those who tried to make his suffering a little more bearable. For those who don't know, Soong is an industry executive who runs the local distributors for Jaguar, Land Rover, Ferrari and Maserati.
"For his birthday this year, I wanted to organize a track day for him and bring out all the nice cars for him to drive at Clark International Speedway," Marc recalled. "Per was intrigued by Aston Martin, so I was even going to borrow one for him! The lineup was going to be epic--F-Type, 458 Speciale, F12, you name it."
Marc even planned to gather Christian's closest friends to be present at the racetrack.
"I wanted to surprise him with all our friends on the track, cheering him on with banners and a full race-day setup," Soong added. "Instead, Per decided to have a Bible study at my home where he invited his closest friends. It became a living eulogy. He said it was the best day of his life."
According to Marc, he still tried to schedule the track day a week later, "but Per developed pneumonia and got weaker and weaker. He had not been able to eat through the mouth or speak since December. He was the toughest fighter and really went through so much."
Marc made a promise to his friend that he would share his (Christian's) testimony, so here it is (in italics). If you could read just one story this week, let it be this:
Everyone here knows what my life was like before my disease. My life revolved around social life, money, liquor, work and other earthly pursuits. I believed that the top priorities in life were work and career, and placed these above God. I went to nightclubs to entertain business contacts, and I would justify this as right since it was for business.
I had already been attending regular Bible study for about a year. I enjoyed Bible study but treated it like a ritual. A regular activity that could help my Christian life, without really understanding what it meant to be a Christian. I continued living a sinful life that revolved around liquor, socializing, greed and other earthly pursuits.
On June 12 last year, my biopsy results came out. It showed that I had tongue cancer. I had been nursing a mouth sore that would not go away for a couple of months, and it had been misdiagnosed a few times by some doctors. I was shocked and crushed. I couldn’t sleep, eat, think or function.
I kept everything a secret initially, telling only my family and closest friends. I think I was in denial more than anything. From that point on, my life started going on a downward spiral. Everything I held on to as important came crashing down. In the blink of an eye, my whole life changed forever. Not even my closest friends knew about some of these things because I tried to keep a strong exterior.
The lowest point of this ordeal was the loss of my ability to speak and eat through the mouth. I was crushed. Gradually, I was losing the ability to do the things I loved--work, travel and eat. This was midway through a bout of depression. My life lost its meaning. I wanted it to end so bad. I would pray every day for God to take my life. This became worse and worse, and it felt like a bottomless pit with no way out.
To make matters worse, seven months of treatment, chemo and radiation did not fully cure me. I felt hopeless. I wanted to go so bad. The bad thing about cancer treatment is that you can’t repeat most of the available modes of treatment. You can only have so much chemo without killing yourself. You can only have so much radiation without burning your healthy organs. I really felt like I was just waiting to go.
Extreme depression persisted. It had come to a point where existing was starting to become physically painful. I learned how thin the line was in between emotional pain and physiological pain. I would orchestrate--step by step in my head--taking my own life. I would think to myself: If I take my own life and go to hell, that might still be better than what I’m experiencing now.
Throughout this whole ordeal, my family and friends were always there giving their unconditional love and support. Having a life-threatening disease allows one to see how good humanity can be. It is amazing to experience humanity at its finest. I never even knew that much good existed. Thanks to my family and friends for being the reason for me to keep fighting and living. God touched my life through you and gave me a reason to live.
This was somewhere in between battling extreme depression every day for about a few months. I would pray hard that I don't wake up in the morning. Emotional pain and depression are the worst enemies.
One day, a miracle started to unfold. I had been praying so much the whole time. I kept repeating my requests to God to allow me to fully surrender to Him--for me to leave everything up to Him. All my worries, anxiety and troubles. I prayed for peace and calm. I was not even praying for complete healing. Just making life bearable, pain-free, peaceful and calm was all I could ask for.
One day, I made a firm decision that I would live, and leave it all up to God. I intensified my prayer routine, surrendered my whole life, my whole being, mind, body and soul to God. All my pains, troubles and fears.
I had heard these statements so many times before that it almost sounds like cliché now. Yet somehow, when I put my mind to it and prayed daily for this to happen, I started feeling a transformation. Praise God, today my depression is near gone. There are bad days but the good days outnumber the bad now. I look forward to waking up now. All my worries, my pains, my anxiety, my fears, my uncertainties--I have let go of them. Instead, I surrender them all and offer them up to God. Praise God, I now have peace and calm. Peace and calm are the best gifts a person in my situation can ask for. Praise God. The peace and calm I feel now, I can’t even explain it logically. It seems impossible given my current situation.
"I sought the Lord and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears" (Psalm 34:4).
I am cautiously optimistic about the new treatment I am doing. I just recently completed hypofractionated radiation treatment. This could potentially make my tongue cancer-free. Though my scans and tests will be in a month's time, God has blessed me with so much already. I can think and function again and live now. Despite having limitations, I feel alive again now. Praise God.
Regardless of the results of the scans, my current improvements are a miracle already. I could not ask for more. I am on extended, bonus time now, and God has graciously granted me an extension. For all practical purposes, I was just waiting to go.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, and the peace of God that transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4: 6-7).
Apart from the calm and peace, God has granted me another powerful gift. Throughout the whole year, I was terrified of death. Thoughts of death would haunt me over and over. Today, a sense of peace overflows within me. Cautiously optimistic about my life but ready for anything. I could not ask for more. Praise God for answering my prayers for calm. I can now live and enjoy my earthly time. I pray now daily for God to grant me strength to be able to travel and live a normal life. I just pray that I can travel and enjoy the company of my family and friends. I am just taking everything one day and one step at a time.
Thank you, Lord, for never leaving my side. With regard to eating and speaking, I am slowly getting used to using text and writing down my words. It is tough but bearable.
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31:6).
Christian passed away last August 12, 14 months after he had been diagnosed with cancer and exactly two months after his 35th birthday. "We never had our track day," Marc lamented.
Photos from Marc Soong