BG Lee too displayed the same public composure. The DPM, who was then also Trade and Industry Minister, led an investment promotion mission to Japan after the doctors had finished with their tests.
There was not much point cancelling the trip at the last moment and the doctors advised that one week's delay would not harm his health. He would go on to the US from Japan.
BG Lee would be meeting leading Japanese businessmen to persuade them to invest here. He was also taking along with him Singapore businessmen to help open doors for them to do business with the Japanese.
He has a good reputation among the Japanese businessmen, most of whom, not unnaturally, would want to meet the man in charge of a country's economic policy before deciding if they should do business there.
In the past, some Japanese businessmen were known to Economic Development Board officers to have confirmed their decisions to sink their money in Singapore after meeting him.
Straits Times Tokyo correspondent Kwan Weng Kin said that on the last day of his trip, BG Lee invited reporters for breakfast: "He had a fantastic appetite, eating his breakfast and his wife's as well.
"He looked all right to me. I did not have any clue that he was going to a hospital in the US after that. But I did wonder about the US visit which nobody was supposed to know anything about."
As BG Lee and his wife flew from Osaka to San Francisco, his sister, Wei Ling, had already flown there from Toronto. She was to accompany them throughout their American trip.
In San Francisco, BG Lee was examined by Stanford's lymphoma specialist, Professor Saul Rosenburg.
In Houston, Professor Fernando Cabanillas, head of Anderson's Lymphoma section, recommended that one of the drugs be administered gradually by pumping it in over three days in each chemotherapy cycle.
SM Lee believes that this gradual pumping reduced the toxicity of the drug and made his son tolerate the chemotherapy much better.
BG Lee returned from the US on Nov 15, looking gaunt and tired. He had lost weight.
The next day, at the Istana, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong announced to shocked Singaporeans that both BG Lee and Deputy Prime Minister Ong Teng Cheong had cancer.
If BG Lee's cancer was a personal tragedy for the Lee family, it had all the makings of a national disaster. The stock market plunged 32 points on the day the DPMs' cancers were announced. Singaporeans knew that the country's political future was at stake.
A carefully worked out leadership succession plan was now in danger of being unravelled by the most unexpected and cruel twist of fate.
The two DPMs were not just ministers. Mr Ong was head of the National Trades Union Congress, instrumental in fostering the peaceful industrial climate in Singapore. He commanded the respect and loyalty of a labour movement whose members numbered more than 200,000.
BG Lee was more than just Trade and Industry Minister. He played a major role in the Government, refining policies from Certificates of Entitlement to Edusave. He was in charge of the review committee on health policies at that time.
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