HIS passion was pain. As a devoted triathlete, Paul Terry was committed to testing himself, pushing his body to its limit. And as a physical training instructor with the Royal Hong Kong Police, he knew better than most what the body could endure. It was just after a triathlon, on Lantau Island in March 1994, that the senior inspector was thrust into his ultimate battle. He learned he had cancer. Paul, a lean and super-fit 70 kilograms, had taken a tumble during the cycling section of the event. But the doctors treating his leg, cut during the fall, were more concerned about the lump they had seen in his neck. They insisted he took the first of what were to become innumerable tests. And then they told him he was going to die, probably within three months. Most of us find it hard to comprehend the shock, anger and total frustration you must feel when told you have only a few months to live. For Paul, if anything, it was worse. He was one of the super-fit, the winner of many police athletic trophies ... the man they said was the fittest copper in the force. How could he be dying? 'With doctors, you accept whatever they say,' he said. 'That I was dying.' But as he had always done in life, Paul did his best to take it in his stride. 'I had had a good life and accomplished virtually all my goals. I had been in the Navy, the Police Force, flown in a jet and made some great friends. In a way I felt my life was complete,' he said. So he was resigned to his fate ... even sending results of his tests back to England for a second opinion just to get friends there off his back. 'They kept pestering me to see other doctors. I knew there was no hope. So I sent them the test so they would finally leave me alone,' he said. As far as Paul was concerned, it was all over. He just wanted a final round of golf and the chance to die with some dignity. The first cruel twist in his battle with fate came while he was in Thailand the following month, playing that last game of golf. He was on the course when a greenkeeper hurried over, saying he had an urgent call from England. Those same friends he had wanted to go away had referred his results to a cancer specialist at the Royal London Hospital ... and the doctor was confident Paul could be saved. 'The whole thing only hit me when I was sitting back at home,' he said. 'I was by myself writing my will and choosing what hymns I wanted for my funeral; yet two months before I was fit, healthy and had nothing to worry about.' After dashing back to London, Paul endured crippling sessions of chemotherapy at the Royal London. His hair fell out, and the lack of exercise and a poor diet made his weight soar ... but the treatment began to work. The cancer went into remission and for the first time, Paul had hope. After being sent to his home town hospital in Cheltenham, in the west of England, to recover from the powerful chemicals that had blitzed the cancer, and his system, Paul gradually regained his fitness. He was given the all clear in the summer, and by late August he was back at work in Hong Kong. 'It is not even a case of touch wood. The doctors cannot find any trace of the cancer. My birthday was the day after they told me and it was the best present I have ever had,' he said at the time. Triathlon, as its name implies, involves three stages - swimming, a half marathon and cycling - and is widely regarded as the most gruelling of endurance sports. By this time, Paul had gone through two stages in his own battle with his body - his first brush with death and the seemingly impossible reprieve in London. Now he was to enter the final stage ... and never had the stakes been so high. He came back to Hong Kong in August and less than a month after returning to work, he was timing force colleagues at Wan Chai Sports Ground when he collapsed and suffered a massive epileptic fit. At hospital he underwent brain scans, routine in someone who has been hit by epilepsy for the first time. They revealed a tumour in his head. Paul was rushed back to England and the Royal London Hospital at the beginning of October and began a debilitating routine of radiotherapy. And, for the first time, he was frightened. 'It wasn't the pain that bothered me but the inability to use certain limbs after the treatment,' he said. 'I would wake up and lose all feeling in my arm. Pain is something I can deal with but immobility is something I cannot bear. 'If it got to the stage that the treatment meant my arms and legs could not function I would want someone to turn the [life-support machine] switch off. I am totally in favour of euthanasia. How politicians and members of the public can tell you otherwise, especially as you are the one suffering and not them, is beyond me.' Paul asked his doctors in London if there was an alternative to radiotherapy, a treatment that was less likely to cause paralysis. He was told they could remove the tumour, which was the size of a hard boiled egg at this stage, but only under local anaesthetic. 'The thought of someone digging around in my brain while I was awake did not make me feel too comfortable. I was told it had to be under local anaesthetic because the surgeons would need to check whether I had feeling in certain parts of my body throughout the operation,' he said. 'I had to give it a go because the radiotherapy would have immobilised me in the end.' The operation went well but Paul recalled the frustrations that followed in the recovery room. 'The nurse would hold up a red book and ask what colour it was. I knew it was red but when I opened my mouth I said 'blue'. She would then ask what month it was, I knew it was October but said it was July. Although my brain was functioning, part was still jumbled as though it wasn't connected properly.' He recalled venting his anger when receiving visits from friends. 'The operation caused a slight speech impediment. Although I was talking slowly I could still understand what people were saying at a normal speed. But because I was talking very slowly people would speak to me in the same way, I hated that.' But it was to no avail. Paul was given until Christmas, at the most, to live. 'That is when I decided to come back to Hong Kong, my home,' he said. 'The weather is warmer here than in England and a lot of my friends live here. I have been in Hong Kong for the past 12 years so it made sense for me to come back and die here.' Within two weeks of his return to Hong Kong, Paul was in the Pamela Youde Hospital, his body now riddled with hundreds of tiny tumours. He was on the last lap of his final battle. The only victory was going to be to lose with dignity. On occasions it was hard. He was in terrible pain, his room dark, his eyes covered to make the dim light bearable. The drugs he was taken also made speech virtually impossible. But he could still smile. Some friends went to see him at this time. 'He told us he thought he was going to die that afternoon. It was the first time we had seen him scared,' one said after the visit. He died last Sunday, just two weeks later. He was 37. Paul had been back in Hong Kong for three days when I went to see him at his office in Queen's Road East, Wan Chai. He was a shadow of his former self. Barely able to muster the strength to shake hands, he rose to his feet. He now weighed 85.5 kg, a scar ran from the front to the back of his skull. But one thing had not changed. Despite being a reservoir for all types of drugs, Paul was still smiling. For the first time, he told me his philosophy of life ... and death. 'I would rather keep busy and speak to people than mope around,' he told me as we chatted over a cup of coffee. 'It is much better to be happier than miserable. 'If people ask how I am, do you expect me to turn around and say 'I'm dying of cancer and I feel like shit'? I just couldn't do that. It just is not me. 'Death is such a taboo subject, people shy away from it but it is a very important subject that we know nothing about. I have been trying to find books about death, how to deal with it, death and young people but there is nothing available. 'With old people we just assume they fall asleep and pop their clogs. But what do young people go through? I was told death should be treated as a celebration, a party. You prepare an invite list, choose some music and approach it that way - it seems much more fun to me.' A memorial service will be held at 11am tomorrow at the Union Church, Kennedy Road, Mid-Levels. Donations in lieu of flowers should be made to the Society for the Promotion of Hospice Care. PAUL'S LAST DAYS EVEN in the darkest moments, Paul Terry was able to tackle the pain head-on, cracking jokes and retaining an amazing optimism that his condition had given him the right to discard long before. He also wanted to help. Paul insisted on keeping a documented record of his last few weeks. He wanted it published, believing it would help people cope with, and confront, cancer. As he said towards the end, death should be celebrated and treated as a party - not feared. So here, in his own words, are the last few days of Paul Terry, a very brave man. January 30 I have pins and needles, my feet are bad and the lump in my neck is growing. I also have a thrush-like infection. At the moment I can cope and I feel fine. February 2 Watched the [Lunar New Year] fireworks last night. Life is so frustrating when you only have the use of one arm. Walking from the Police Officers' Club to The Excelsior hotel (they are opposite each other) totally knackered me. Got home and took 15 tablets: steroids, anti-swelling, and antibiotics. February 3 I have been coughing up quite a lot of blood, it is quite a scary experience and it has happened before. The tumour is breaking against the blood vessels in my lungs; this shows the tumours are growing again. This is not a good sign and I am afraid. I am not frightened about dying or scared really. However, it is scary coughing up blood like this. You think there is not long left and wonder how is it going to end. February 6 A man jumped out of a window and killed himself today. He was worried about his cancer - silly sod! Yesterday, I had ultrasonic scan of my liver, tummy and intestinal area. The doctors found no tumours, good news. Went to work, felt pretty good, life is great. You would certainly not get me jumping out of a window. February 8 Had another liver, pancreas and intestinal ultrasound scan and was given the all clear. Going to hospital next week for chemotherapy. February 11 I have got this terrible cough and I am having difficulty breathing. Instead of having 20 breaths every minute it is 40. Went in to work this morning. Apart from the cough and my lungs I am feeling fine. Hospital next week and I am dreading an injection into my spine (for chemotherapy). February 12 Went to hospital (Pamela Youde, Chai Wan), now I can hardly breathe. I have a lung infection and do not have much lung working. Still no major problems. I still think about death but I am not worried about it. February 13 Back at hospital. I waited one hour 40 minutes for an appointment time. February 14 This afternoon supposed to have one of three injections into my spine. It is supposed to stop tumours from developing in my brain. I have never been so scared. They put me under local anaesthetic, my teeth were chattering and I was very cold. My fear transferred to the nurses and it was decided not to try the injection again today. Hopefully we will do it tomorrow. My stomach is very painful. Apart from that everything is not too bad, I am hoping to get a good night's sleep. I saw on the news Mike Sinclair died today. He was only 42 and an AIDS carrier. I do have a lot of sympathy. To see him die is quite upsetting. I have just finished watching Shadowlands, the story of C.S. Lewis, and his wife who died of cancer. It is a very good story and I wept buckets. I would not have watched a film like that if I had not had cancer, it is too weepy. February 15 No more chemotherapy today, my kidneys are not working properly. They are still producing too much acidic urine so I am going to drink, drink and drink. It is just a question of staying in bed today hooked up to a drip of saline solution. Nice to know they are not going to do this back injection today! For the past 14 hours I have been on a drip to get my urine to go to alkaline as opposed to acid. You measure the PH, protein, glucose and blood in your urine with a special stick and it has been stuck on 6.5. I'm worried that my kidneys are not functioning. There has been a large amount of blood, which has started to worry me a bit. But just now I realised I have been looking at this stick with the indicators the wrong way round. I have actually got the most alkaline urine you ever did see. The amount of blood is absolute nil. I feel so stupid, but I am off the saline drip now. I feel such a fool but a very relieved fool. February 20 Had a very rough couple of days. On Friday I had some chemotherapy. It was an hour-long drip. For the next 18 hours I was extremely sick, vomiting every 15 to 30 minutes initially. I stayed in bed all day on Sunday. I have a very low red blood cell count, I am anaemic and I am bound to have a low white cell level. All that happened to me under chemotherapy in England for the last nine months does not compare to this. I have to go back to hospital tomorrow for a blood check. They will almost certainly keep me in to give me a blood transfusion. I am finding it very difficult to breath, but never mind ... I am still here enjoying every day. February 21 I am in hospital and feel very weak and dizzy. I have seen the doctors and everything seems to be okay. There is no toilet paper ... it appears you have to bring your own. A nurse offered to lend me a roll - yet another Hong Kong phenomenon. February 24 Went back to work yesterday. I have a bruise on the back of my hand which means my platelet levels are low. Apart from feeling completely weary, life is great. February 27 Another bad night, I found it very difficult to get air into my lungs. I think that this is the way I am going to go, through lack of oxygen. Good to see my UK surgeon, John Sutcliffe, was in the news again. He did the brain surgery on the American boxer that was downed yesterday. [Gerald McClellan suffered a brain haemorrhage during a fight with British boxer Nigel Benn in London on April 26. John Sutcliffe was the doctor who removed Paul's brain tumour.] March 1 Back at hospital again for another blood check. March 11 Last week my blood level was very low and they did not have any O-negative at the Red Cross. I put a teleprinter message through the police and I got 40 names within two days of people who volunteered to give blood to help me out. That was really very sweet. Otherwise still going to work and still having a fairly good life. March 23 I am feeling very docile and relaxed. There is no pain at all and nothing to be afraid of. However, I still really do not want to go. The bottom line is there is no need to be afraid. I just want to go to sleep but every time I try I wake up again. I do not know whether it is because I am fighting it, or because I have enjoyed my life. I do not ramble like this normally but my brain is obviously not working properly. Please forgive me. Cheers everybody, thanks for a great time. See you in the next world. Seventeen days later, Paul Terry died at the Pamela Youde Hospital.