Making Memories: Part 1 – Return To Melbourne

Two weeks ago, Mr Threez and I packed up the three Nglets and headed for Melbourne.

I had been thinking of ways to treat Middle B to something fabulous after all her hard work for PSLE. She reminds me of me — not cut out for massive studying nor consistent daily work. I know it sounds like an excuse but it really is the way we are built. It wasn’t till I was in Secondary school that I realised I could do really well if I wanted to, then I wanted to! Big B, on the other hand, is a photocopy of his father in every way. He is consistently good at his work, setting goals for himself and achieving them (usually overachieving them).

Big B and Middle B catching the breeze in St Kilda Park

Big B and Middle B catching the breeze in St Kilda Park

So, since June I had been considering various options. Seeing what a big One Direction fan she is, it seemed a real treat if I could bring her to watch them in concert. There was no sign of them coming to Singapore in the near future, so then, where in the world could we go and watch 1D? Australia seemed the best place. Just as I was searching for scalper tickets on eBay (tickets to the show sold out 10 minutes after counters opened! So scalper or reseller tickets were all that’s available), my husband asked the fatal question.

“Want to run the Melbourne Marathon 10K? It’s on 13 October.”

DING-DING-DING! That decided it! From a Mommy-and-Middle B adventure this had suddenly turned into a family trip. Melbourne was perfect: 1D were playing on 16 and 17 Oct, and I could visit my brother, my sister-in-law and my baby niece all at a go! Plus, it was PSLE marking week (14-18 Oct) so Little B could come without too much ado (even though she had one more holistic assessment paper left to do when she returned to Singapore).

I managed to bid for and win 8th row tickets to the 16 Oct show — expensive but not much more than the Justin Bieber Singapore concert tickets were, and those had been terrible seats (and a weak gig, sorry, Beliebers).

Keeping the trip and the show a secret from Middle B was an operation. Big B was let in on the secret early on, and proved himself an excellent promise-keeper. Finally on the day of Middle B’s final paper, I picked her up from school and we went to watch The Mortal Instruments and have lunch at Jamie’s Italian. Breaking the news to her was the fun part — watching her eyes go wide and her mouth fall open and actually rendering my noisy girl speechless… PRICELESS.

(A dramatic aside: As life often goes, a few days before our trip, I suffered extreme abdominal pains. So bad I went to see the Raffles Medical GP at the 24-hour clinic at Changi Airport. He suspected gallstones because the pain was located in my right rib cage), so I was packed off to SGH A&E department, whereupon hearing I was a cancer survivor, the lovely young doctor took my blood and sent me for three X-rays. I was then put on a drip for an hour and sat in A&E watching my poor exhausted husband drift in and out of sleep. Honestly, I thought all I had was extreme constipation and all I needed was an enema so I could go to the toilet and let everyone get back to bed. The A&E doctor worried that I was having a relapse of cancer — okay, that sort of freaked me out — but the blood test came back clear, and so did the Xrays. So I asked for some laxatives, went home, took them, and was much better by the time it came to board that plane. Thank God!)

The week in Melbourne was one of the best holidays we had ever taken. We had visited just two years ago in 2011, but somehow, this time it was just that much more fun. Maybe it’s the fact it felt so serendipitous. Maybe it’s felt like a “stolen week” when we could all be together as a family, no stress, no hovering exams, no work, no list of things to buy, no big agenda, just enjoying each other and taking things easy. I love holidays because it’s usually when I really get to know a little bit more about what makes each of my kids tick.

Me and my dear friend Serge, now the deputy mayor of St Kilda!

Me and my dear friend Serge, now the deputy mayor of St Kilda!

We caught up with my old friend Serge Thomann, once a high-flying L’Oreal executive who became a rock star photographer after selling his first photo to Warner Music for Madonna’s video cover. Today, Serge is the deputy mayor of St Kilda, my first favorite spot in Melbourne where once I dreamed of setting up home.

Sophia and Little B enjoying the new park Uncle Serge put up in St Kilda

Sophia and Little B enjoying the new park Uncle Serge put up in St Kilda

I was eager to see my brother and my sister-in-law Sasha — sometimes it’s not easy when your only family lives thousands of miles away. My little niece Sophia turns 2 this December and she is looking more like Mommy and speaking more like Daddy every day. It was clear to anyone who interacted with him that my brother was a genius even at the age of 3. Hopefully Sophia has both her Daddy’s analytical skills and her Mommy’s artistic gift and exquisite sense of style.

My beautiful sister-in-law Sasha, and the two Juice Box Cousins

My beautiful sister-in-law Sasha, and the two Juice Box Cousins

I was chuffed to catch up with my old friends Ping and James, and Alex and Karen. Ping and Alex worked with me at a publishing company that shortened our lives, but we had lots of fun. Between them they have four amazing girls (and Ping and James have an incredible self-feeding baby boy) who are so well-adjusted, enjoy school, love to play and are so charming. Ping made the most amazing leg of lamb — first try! — and Karen brought one of her INSANELY yummy desserts, custard tarts, perfectly turned out and piped. We had a wonderful evening catching up, sharing the good stuff and the bad. I left that night, thankful for friendships kept, thankful that we can keep each other in thought and prayer, and that I have the privilege to meet their children.

The lovely (if scary) Ping in her kitchen

The lovely (if scary) Ping in her kitchen

Alex ponders the antics of our daughters (one from each family)

Alex ponders the antics of our daughters (one from each family)

One of the things I wanted to do this trip was to return to Fairfield Park. We had been to Fairfield first when Bruce was just 15 months old, and we took photos of him crossing a little covered bridge at the Park. We took photos of him again in the same spot when he was 8, when we were back in Melbourne for my brother’s wedding. And now, 6 years later, I wanted a photo of him crossing that covered bridge.

Except this time, he wasn’t so much crossing the bridge than trying not to lift up its roof with his head. Will update this post when I dig up those old pix!

"Brown one's mine," says Middle B

“Brown one’s mine,” says Middle B

It was lovely watching the kids feed the ducks — we went armed with a full loaf! Little B is 7 now — the last time we were here, she was nine-months old — and had a ball with the ducks. In her inimitable style, she quickly made friends with the few Australian kids who were also there in the park.

Little B ensuring no duck is left unfed

Little B ensuring no duck is left unfed

Memories are made of: Nando’s lunches. Solo lemonade. Discovering that Little Creatures (Mr Threez’s and my favorite brewery in the world) had a Dining Hall in Brunswick Street (oh chili mussels, heaven is thy name). Satisfying our craving for local food at the first Killiney Kopitiam on Bourke Street (just a stone’s throw away from our hotel) — they even piped in Joe Augustin and Glenn Ong in the mornings!

Best lemonade in the whole wide world. I think I drank 8 gallons in Melbourne.

Best lemonade in the whole wide world. I think I drank 8 gallons in Melbourne.

A throwback to something we used to do when we were still DINKS (double income no kids): we took Little B to a small gallery to look at limited edition prints of Star Wars, Star Trek and Marvel hero art. The art was marvelous — wish I had the money to buy my husband a canvas piece. But it was sharing it with Little B that made it fun: she carefully read every title and description to every art piece. She laughed out loud when the gallery owner pulled out a painting of Yoda sitting next to Kermit the Frog.

Becca next to "Lovely Leia" at the Silver K Gallery

Becca next to “Lovely Leia” at the Silver K Gallery

It was the best trip I’d had with my brood to date. So grateful I got to be with them and make memories together.

NEXT: Part 2: Catching One Direction In Melbourne

Happy 74th, Mom!

Thanks to my brother James, I did not fail to remember that today would have been my mother’s 74th birthday.

It was 10 years ago on 1 November that she passed away. Seems like yesterday…

My mother circa 1967 before she had me!

My mother circa 1967 before she had me!

My mother was a real babe. She was tiny (4’10”) but had perfect proportions: lovely breasts, a tiny waist and shapely legs. My Dad admitted to me that he fell hard for her the first time he saw her in nursing school.

Sometimes I wonder what she looks like now in Heaven. I tend to think she’s back to her babe self as pictured here. I don’t even think she looks mumsy now, like in this photo taken in 1971 when my baby brother was born.

Mom looking pleased as pie with James while I hug my Panda and ignore him.

Mom looking pleased as pie with James while I hug my Panda and ignore him.

Once in a while my kids would ask me what we’ll look like when we get to Heaven. I would reply, well, the Bible says we’ll get new bodies and there’s no pain or suffering anymore.

So I believe Mom has her new and fully wonderful body, with no scars. And best of all, she can never feel pain again.

I’m looking forward to that day for myself too.

Happy birthday Mom. Still looking up to you and discovering how much truth your words hold. (Especially “Wait till you get a daughter of your own.”)

It’s October! Time To Get Those Mammies Checked, People!

It’s October. And I am wracked with guilt.

I had promised to publicize the Breast Cancer Foundation‘s BRILLIANT annual Pink Ribbon Walk. But I got caught up with work from August through end of September and I totally missed it.

Sorry BCF 😦

I did hear that it was great as usual — this year’s walk totaled 4.1km (now that’s some serious calories burnt) and it was around the Marina Bay Promenade, always a popular spot with great sights to behold. Guest of honor was my Mayor, Dr Amy Khor — always a passionate spokesperson for good health and women’s empowerment.

HPB's amazing record-breaking pink ribbon formation in 2012.

HPB’s amazing record-breaking pink ribbon formation in 2012.

I have my mammogram done every year in June now — it has been 3 years and 4 months since my surgery. It’s clear again this year, thank God. I am truly grateful for the increasing awareness about the importance of early detection. It really does save lives, and in many cases, breasts. One of my absolute favorite events was the pink ribbon formation that the Health Promotion Board organised last year — it was an achievement that made the Singapore Book of Records — which involved 2,300 men, women and children holding pink umbrellas.

I was kind of bugged, though, recently, to read in the Straits Times that fewer women were taking advantage of the subsidised mammograms by Health Promotion Board, called BreastScreen Singapore. A private mammogram like mine costs over $200, but I do it at Gleneagles Hospital purely because my doctor is based there and I get everything done in a day. But you could pay as little as $50 for a mammogram if you are being diligent and having your breasts checked every year. A friend recently said she only paid $25 after all the subsidies she could get.

An alarming report in the Straits Times.

An alarming report in the Straits Times.

I hope anyone reading this will take heed. I know sometimes we would rather not know, but it’s really a very small inconvenience and a couple of seconds of pain, for great peace of mind.

I hope lots of women get their boobies mashed for a good and healthy cause this month. I’ve had mine done — have you?

For the what, where, who and how much, click here.

PS: An idle thought. I couldn’t seem to escape Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball video this past month. I realise the girl’s gone through a lot to get that hot body and she can’t help showing it off before the weight comes back on again (I mean, who hasn’t been through that before?). I was just thinking, when I was 20 and had boobies that pert, I never thought one day I would have to remove one of them…

Why is Miley still wearing her Hannah Montana clothes and underwear?

Why is Miley still wearing her Hannah Montana clothes and underwear?

What I Think Of Angelina Jolie’s Decision

In the midst of a very crazy last two weeks I received a call from The New Paper, asking me for a quote on Angelina Jolie.

At that point I hadn’t yet read that she had undergone a double mastectomy and removed all her healthy breast tissue because she had tested positive for a harmful mutation of the BRCA1 gene.

Somwhat ironic now to think that the costumer for Tomb Raider gave Angelina Jolie boosted boobs for the first Tomb Raider movie.

Somwhat ironic now to think that the costumer for Tomb Raider gave Angelina Jolie boosted boobs for the first Tomb Raider movie.

But TNP quickly brought me up to speed, and asked me what I thought.

I spoke honestly, and said I felt it was too drastic a move to make, to get rid of all of one’s breast tissue in the off chance that one might get breast cancer.

The reporter asked me if, like some other breast cancer survivors, I thought Angelina was brave. I replied I did not.

In fact, I felt that was she was doing was really taking action out of fear.

My belief is this: God has not given me a spirit of fear, but power, love and a sound mind.

Can I understand what Angelina Jolie went through? Yes. My mother battled breast cancer for 13 years, just as her mother battled ovarian cancer for eight. My mother never lived long enough to meet my youngest child. Do I share Angelina’s fear that my children have to suffer the agony of seeing me die of cancer? I most certainly dread the thought.

I can absolutely understand what must have gone through her mind:
1. She’s had her babies and probably isn’t thinking of birthing anymore, so not having to breastfeed, she can safely jettison her breast tissue.
2. Getting rid of her breast tissue before cancer has a chance to form ensures that she maintains the beauty of both breasts. Unlike me, she wouldn’t have to sacrifice her nipples.

If my doctor told me, like Angelina Jolie, I had an 87% chance of getting cancer, there is a chance I might feel differently. But I guess I live in hope — as my oncologist did tell me, there is also a chance I will never get cancer again. My doctors have all said to me that for every patient they have seen suffer a relapse, they have seen another one live a long healthy life, never to be plagued again by the disease.

My point? Only God knows the future. I choose to live as fruitful and fear-free a life as I possibly can.

My best friend Karen did ask me, when I was studying the finer points of my breast reconstruction, if I would have both removed since I was at it. My answer was no, and it hasn’t changed.

When I saw my oncologist three months after my mastectomy, he suggested I go to NUH and get tested for mutations in my BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

These were my thoughts:
1. What would I do if I discovered I had the mutated gene? Would I opt for breast tissue removal of my left breast? I could not confidently answer yes, yet I knew it would be on my mind for the rest of my life. I treasure my peace, which I now have.
2. As my oncologist pointed out, not every woman who has the mutation will for sure get cancer. How much faith do I have?
3. If my daughters knew I went for the test, it would be natural for them to also go for it. Am I robbing them of a future—they may opt to have breast tissue and their ovaries removed, in which case they will never have children.

Here are the facts:
• Studies show that 60% with a harmful mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes will contract breast or ovarian cancer. This is why Angelina is also now contemplating having her ovaries removed.
• Such a mutation in the BRCA1 gene is also linked to cervical, uterine, pancreatic and colon cancers. Would she remove all of these too?
• BRCA1 mutation is just one mutation. Other mutations linked with hereditary breast cancer include BRCA2,TP53, PTEN, STK11/LKB1, CDH1, CHEK2, ATM, MLH1, and MSH2. Would she test for them all? Would I? I don’t think so.

All said, do I think that, given the circumstances, Angelina did a wise thing? I do. Upon discovering a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, women have options: you can keep a close eye on things (be vigilant about mammograms and other screenings, cancer marker tests etc), you can opt for chemoprevention, you can avoid risky behaviors (smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, chemical ingestion etc), or you can opt for a prophylactic surgery like Angelina did.

If I had to choose among these 4, I guess I would have done like Angelina and maximised my chances of avoiding cancer. Even so, there is still a chance for women to develop breast, ovarian or primary peritoneal carcinomatosis despite such a surgery, because not all at-risk tissue can be removed.

What I have found is, there is no guarantee against death. The only guarantee is death itself. Fear is a greedy animal — once you let it in, it will eat you up from the inside.

I choose to do the best I can, live as prosperously as I can, enjoy all the time I have with my children and my husband, and do what God has tasked me to do, in the days He has already numbered for me.

Recommended reading on BRCA mutations.

The Launch of A Clean Breast

What a start to a new year! I don’t know about you but I’ve been up to my ears in kids, work and new schedules and just when I think things are beginning to resemble a pattern, Chinese New Year hits me in the face like a big tangerine.

But thank God for CNY because I finally have some reprieve and actually some breathing room to write a blog post! What a treat! (Full disclosure: I am colouring my hair as I write this — busy women have to multitask, it is not an option)

So I’m going to be posting about some key events that have happened since the book was printed, starting with the launch party.

My book, A Clean Breast, hit the bookstores the first week of December. The week before that, on 21 November 2012, my dear friend Dee, owner of a very stylish and trendy PR and events company called Bless Inc, helped organise a book launch for me.

Thank you Dee and the girls of Bless Inc for making the launch happen!

Thank you Dee and the girls of Bless Inc for making the launch happen!

We had the distinct honor of holding the launch at The Royal Mail, the private dining restaurant at The Ascott, only Singapore’s premier serviced apartment block right in the heart of the CBD, at Finlayson Green. TRM serves classic British cuisine in a charming crescent shaped room. TRM is run by uber-restauranteur Michel Lu, a lovely man I have known since my days as editor of Female when he brought Elite Models into Singapore. Michel very generously sponsored our entire evening — venue, delicious food (which my 200 guests are still talking about today!) and drinks, plus the special something that touched my heart: cupcakes with fondant pink ribbons to signify Breast Cancer Awareness. In fact, all the wonderful Royal Mail staff wore pink ribbons that evening! Talk about great taste and meaningful service!

The wonderful team from The Royal Mail made these lovely cupcakes for the launch.

The wonderful team from The Royal Mail made these lovely cupcakes for the launch.

People I admire: Edwin, Laura, Grace and Noor.

People I admire: Edwin, Laura, Grace and Noor.

My best friend Karen had a dress rehearsal for the theatre play Kuo Pao Kun And Goh Lay Kuan (she played Goh Lay Kuan, an amazing performance, as always), and could not be there. So she despatched her husband Swee Chong and their beautiful girls Rachel and Livi.

My breast surgeon Dr Hoe Ah Leong also showed up to support, and bought a stack of copies of A Clean Breast to give to his patients. I *wish* we took a photo!

I wish I could name everyone who came — you guys rocked my world. My wonderful cell group, E538, who came early and helped me to pack the goodie bags, set up the book table and basically run the show from behind the scenes. My friend Michael Chan who came and took photos to help me chronicle such a special night.

Clockwise from left: Nanz her and family; my ex-colleague Juleen; host with the most, Bernard; and chef extraordinaire Janice Koh.

Clockwise from left: Nanz her and family; my ex-colleague Juleen; host with the most, Bernard; and chef extraordinaire Janice Koh.

But the true highlight of the evening for me was really having my husband Mr Threez get up on the podium, after my publisher Tan Chin Kar from Write Editions, had given his introduction on why he even said yes to A Clean Breast in the first place. Mr Threez writes what I feel is the best chapter in the entire book. About his experience seeing me through cancer, what he did right, the one thing he did wrong, and how he steered the kids through it. My incredibly brave and supportive spouse looked me in the eye as he spoke and I felt my tears hanging precipitously on the edge of my eyelid, and quickly blinked them away as I pretended to fuss over Little B’s hair. Words cannot express the gratitude and love I felt at that moment.

Listening to Mr Threez's speech drove me close to tears.

Listening to Mr Threez’s speech drove me close to tears.

The night ended with massive book signing — my friends made me feel like Richard Castle, haha! I thoroughly loved seeing all of them and taking photos — my favourite one is of Big B and Middle B with their friend Joie (and her mom Jo). Joie was there for Middle B (and for me) the day I had my biopsy done. She prayed with all the faith of a giant. To be able to sit there today and hug her and look at her, I was truly grateful.
signing joie

With the launch party done, I was really looking forward to seeing the book on the shelves of Kinokuniya and Times now. And that’s when I realise the world of book publishing and distribution can be a rather confounding one!

But I’ll save that for my next post! Time to rinse the hair out!

I’m signing my book at Kinokuniya this Saturday! Come!

Screen Shot 2013-01-21 at 1.08.11 PM

I have to confess I am weirdly excited about my first public book signing this Saturday at Kinokuniya (Ngee Ann City).

Weird because I have always thought it is a very stressful thing to sit in the middle of a store like a display while people are busy shopping.

But at the same time, I have to say I am keen to meet people who would buy this book for themselves or a friend — I have had so many encouraging reviews for A Clean Breast, all those 18 months of headaches, neck-aches and various stresses seem worth it!

So do come by and say hi if you are in the area! It’s 4 to 6pm at Kinokuniya, Ngee Ann City!

The Book Is Born

It’s been a most exciting (exhausting) month! Praise be to God!

My book, A Clean Breast, has finally been published, hallelujah. What started as a book outline in July 2011 has finally been born—and I can see why Singaporean writers struggle! Given our fast-paced lives, writing a book is both an exercise and an art, and above all, a marathon that brings out our discipline and “tong” power (as my friend Lawrence Yeo calls it), or lack thereof!

I am grateful to God, my ever-present help in time of need; my husband, who endured nights of my chair scraping and rocking on our floor as I grumpily forced myself to type out chapters that I would later declare “LAME! USELESS! REWRITE!” Mr Threez also wrote the best chapter in the whole book. My kids, Big and Middle B, who gamely let me interview them for their contributions.

I’m thankful for all the kind voices that gave it their reviews: Mdm Halimah Yacob whom I met at the Singapore Woman Award, such a humble and unassuming woman with big brains! Mayor Amy Khor, my mayor, who always writes so beautifully and from the heart. Laura Hwang, who says Mr Threez’s chapter made her cry. Flo Lian, my former colleauge and head of MediaCorp Radio, whose time, I know, is so very precious. My doctors, co-authors, ex-boss…all the amazing people in my life who actually took time to read this book!

I know God sent my publisher Chin Kar of Write Editions into my life for such a time as this. We have known each other for a number of years, through many different portfolios, but it is this author-publisher arrangement that has brought out the best in both of us (or rather, the best in him and the most challenging in me!)

But through thick, thin, serif and san serif, we finally completed this work.

A Clean Breast, which covers my journey through cancer—some of which you have read here, and much of which you haven’t—launches this Wednesday at a private event, and will be in all major bookstores by early December.

Retail price is $20. You can buy it at Kinokuniya or you can buy it by mail here. More details soon!

Thank you for your support and encouragement, and most of all for the inspiration. The book was birthed out of the blog, and the blog exists because of you.

Illuminating Breast Cancer Awareness With Estee Lauder

The Helix Bridge and Art Science Museum awash in pink on 5 October. (Photo by Daniel Poh)

On 5 October, I had the distinct privilege of “modelling” at Estee Lauder’s Pink Ribbon Global Illumination Event with Middle B.

Grace Ban, the Managing Director of the Estee Lauder Companies in Singapore called me a few weeks back to ask if I would be part of the group’s Breast Cancer event. Estee Lauder Companies has been a breast cancer awareness champion for 20 years since Mrs Evelyn Lauder co-founded it with US Self magazine editor Alexandra Penney. Mrs Lauder was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1989, and although she did not share deeply about her own experience, she turned something bad into something amazing: she founded the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and thanks to her, the Pink Ribbon is today the widely-recognised symbol for the fight against breast cancer.

I said yes right away. Grace and I have been friends for a long time, since my days at Female magazine. Also, I had had the immense pleasure of meeting and talking to Mrs Lauder on a trip to New York City once. We talked about breast cancer — my mother had just completed chemotherapy following her second mastectomy. I remember asking Mrs Lauder if she felt stress was a major cause of cancer. She replied, quite crisply, that there had not been any conclusive proof of it (there still isn’t but most doctors will tell you that stress is bad for you). She was an incredibly gracious, yet dynamic woman who had great vision for the Lauder Group and for her cause. It was very saddening to hear of her death in November last year—she passed away from ovarian cancer at the age of 75. This would be my very small way of remembering her.

The Global Illumination Initiative which began in 2000 is an annual event that happens in the month of October. All around the world, the Estee Lauder Companies light up famous building in a pink glow every year in October. Buildings from the Empire State Building in New York to the Taj Mahal in India have participated in this incredible event. This year in Singapore, it was the Art Science Museum and Helix Bridge at Marina Bay Sands, and this year’s theme was Courage.

Harrod's of London and the Sydney Opera House all dressed up in pink on Global Illumination Day.

Initially I was told I would be opening the catwalk show with MediaCorp actor Nick Shen. I have to confess that had me all worried because I didn’t want to look like some middle-aged lady next to a pretty boy! (No offence, Nick Shen!) Having worked in MediaCorp for more than half my career I knew better than to stand next to a Channel 8 actor—he usually has the waistline of a 13-year-old girl.

So when I was told two days before the event that Nick Shen was not able to make the event, and asked if one of my children would accompany me, I was beside myself with joy. If I could, I would have had all three of them come with me. Big B would be in school till late afternoon that Friday (plus he is extremely shy) and Little B was at school camp. So I asked Middle B if she would do the honours. Actually, I told her she was coming with me. She gave me a stunned look, but I knew she wouldn’t say no. Middle B is just 11 but she’s now officially taller than me at 1.6m — two whole centimeters taller than her mom. There wasn’t a clothes sponsor for her, so we rustled up a pink dress and a pair of pink ballet flats, and she was all set.

On the afternoon of 5 October, we gathered with the other models and their partners at Marina Bay Sands, where the Estee Lauder team ushered us into a secret passageway and into a dressing room. Jerome, our stylist, had already picked out outfits from Robinsons for each of the models in the previous few weeks.

It was great meeting the team from Lauder and the ladies from BCF. We would be made over by the team from Bobbi Brown, all very swish in their black outfits and toting multi-compartment metal cases of fabulous makeup.

I met Irene and Wai Fong and many of the lovely ladies who would be modelling along with Beth and I that evening. Our conversation was really funny.

Irene: What stage were you?
Irene: Oh, that’s good.
Me: But I had a mastectomy and recon.
Irene: Me too! One mastec, two mastec. Did you do the TRAM Flap?
Me: Ya.
Irene: Good right? I also had the TRAM Flap with the first one, second one was from the back (Latissimus Dorsi Flap).
Me: Wow…

It sounded a little like we were talking about golf games or the cars we owned. But it felt good being able to just talk about it openly with women who had been through what I’d been through, without grossing anyone out.

Middle B loved the water lilies at the Art Science Museum

We went out to the venue to do a short rehearsal. The catwalk choreo was simple: The stage was T shaped, and we just had to make an L, pose and an then a “reverse” L. But we had to decide what we were going to do when we posed.

Middle B had a major case of nerves. We had to figure out if we were going to hug, kiss, twirl, dance, jitterbug for our pose. She backed out of every single suggestion till we finally decided we would just twirl one another and curtsey. It would be easy to remember and we wouldn’t trip over one another.

Posing after rehearsals.

We finally returned to the dressing room where we started having our hair and makeup done.

Middle B had a great time having her face done. I’m not usually in favour of makeup on girls under the age of 18 but this was a special occasion. Her makeup artist did a lovely job and she was very happy.

Middle B getting a touch of Bobbi Brown eyeshadow.

The hair team were a wonderful lot. Middle B’s stylist had a speech impediment but his cheery wackiness left an impression on her. It was suggested to her that her hair be tied into ponytail, at which she recoiled in horror. So they obliged her and gave her angelic curls at the ends. When she was done, she looked like a real teenager!

She loves her curls just so.

To tone down her “grown-up-ness”, Jerome clipped on a pink flower hairpiece which made her instantly adorable but no less gorgeous.

As for me, I had tried on about eight outfits for Jerome previous to the day. He picked out a hot-pink Mad Men-inspired sweetheart-collar Coast dress with a pencil skirt for me. I liked the way I looked in it. I don’t have any high heels shoes left that I can actually walk in, and so Nancy Thong from the Lauder team loaned me her wedding shoes! Now that’s dedication!

Dinner arrived at the dressing room: delicious Cedele dinner boxes filled with pasta cups and gourmet sandwiches! We all needed a lip touch-up after scarfing our meals!

A rosemary chicken sandwich, pasta and veg salad and a teacake from Cedele.

The host of the evening Sharon Au came in and practiced her lines as she was having her makeup done. Beth and I had a short chat with her and she was just lovely! She prepped us for the questions she was going to ask me and then we started taking pictures and the whole room just went berserk with photo-taking!

Sharon Au was such a hoot!

At 6.45 we made our way up to the event venue. Guests had started to arrive. My sweet mother-in-law and Big B took the MRT to Marina Bay Sands! We met up and took endless photos. Very soon the guest of honour and other special people had arrived.

Mayor Amy Khor, Minister of State in the Ministry of Health and in the Ministry of Manpower, was the GOH and she looked as fit and resplendent as always in a pink dress. Mrs Noor Quek, the president of the Breast Cancer Foundation was a sight for sore eyes in her black outfit with a hot pink Issey Miyake tunic. And pretty as I have always remembered her, the managing director of the Estee Lauder Companies in Singapore, Grace Ban, floated in in a girlish pale pink dress.

The evening kicked off with a touching video on the life and work of the late Mrs Evelyn Lauder, how she had founded the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and started the Pink Ribbon movement which is today such a global symbol of the hope of a cure for breast cancer. Her dedication to and passion for discovering a way to prevent breast cancer, to find a true cure for this disease touched my heart as I know it did many others that night.

The Pink Runners in action. (Photo by Daniel Poh)

The Pink Runners commenced the lightup by running across Helix Bridge, each arch of the bridge turning pink as they ran under it. They handed the torch over to Dr Khor, Noor, Grace and Sharon, who together lit up the Art Science Museum. It was a real sight to behold, the “waterlily” bathed in pink, the Estee Lauder Companies logo “stamped” in white across it.

The moment MBS turned pink!

Grace told the audience about the heart of ELC for the cause, while Noor gave a resounding speech about the collaboration between ELC and BCF — the Foundation features a Estee Lauder room where breast cancer patients can visit to get fitted with prosthetics, wigs, and have their makeup done. There’s also a cosy room if someone needs a heart-to-heart or a good cry. The room is a welcome haven for those undergoing treatment, who aren’t exactly feeling their best.

Takeshi Sato’s amazing portrait of Mrs Lauder.

In a very special section of the evening, the marvelous Japanese artist Takeshi Sato created a stunning portrait of Mrs Lauder in a matter of strokes, to the rhythm of a piece of music. It was enthralling to behold the image appear on the canvas, as if by magic.

“I can’t believe he did that!” breathed Middle B, her eyes wide with wonder.

Dr Khor took to the stage to talk about the importance of women looking after themselves. We’re the caregivers in the family, we have to make sure we stay in good shape to keep looking after our loved ones. The woman runs every day to keep fit! It’s probably her secret to holding two huge portfolios and being a wife and mother to three children at the same time.

Jerome cued us “models” to get in line, and when Dr Khor stepped down the stage, it was our time to go up. Middle B’s hand was icy in mine. “I’m not scared. I’m not scared,” she muttered to herself in terror, before looking at me. “You’ll go with me, right?” Of course, Princess! You and me together.

A moment I’ll remember forever: being on stage with my daughter.

Middle B and I opened the show, to the loud cheers and whistles of the crowd, which comprised not a few (extremely supportive) Breast Cancer Foundation members. We twirled one another, and then we curtseyed, and my daughter was just graceful and lovely on stage and she made me so proud.

The other models were stunning. There was the lovely and very young Ivy, and her best friend Pearlyn. Ivy had emailed me after reading this blog in 2010, when she discovered she had cancer—she’s only in her late 20s. It was amazing and immensely touching to me when she came up to talk to me and to remind me of our email exchanges. I was so, so glad to see how wonderful she looked.

There was Rosemary and her daughter Isabelle, a mother-daughter team that was absolutely beautiful and gentle-spirited. Wai Fong and her sweet husband, the very picture of love. Irene and her handsome shy son, the perfect foil to his dynamic mother. And many other lovely sisters, mothers, husbands and wives, all of them heroes.

Having a fun chat with Sharon. (Photo by Daniel Poh)

We re-entered the stage and Sharon had a short “interview” with me about my upcoming book, and about the importance of family support. Suddenly, she turned to Middle B and asked her how she felt. My 11-year-old froze completely, saved only by her million-dollar smile. But we could feel the love from the audience, who clearly thought she was rather cute and a wonderful support to her mommy.

Irene was the other interviewee, and she shared freely about overcoming breast cancer twice. Her son, too, was put on the spot and scraped by with short, shy answers. I thought he was adorable and I wasn’t alone in my view.

A highlight of my day: meeting Ivy, one of my “blog gang girls” who had written to me via this blog in 2010. So gratifying to see her healthy and luminous!

It was altogether a wonderful evening. Happy chatting continued over pink champagne and yummy canapes, and I caught up with some great old friends. But the best part of it all was having Mr Threez, Big B and Middle B and my mother-in-law there to celebrate with me, and especially being able to create such an awesome memory of being on stage with my daughter.

With Dr Amy Khor, a woman I deeply admire, who finds time to run every day before she goes out to save the world.

All the models gather with Jerome (front).

Thank you Estee Lauder Companies for the amazing experience.

Celebrate Courage! Get This Gorgeous Bracelet!

Me and Janice (center) and Carrie in the FIJI Water Courage Harness campaign shot—I love wearing it as a bracelet!

A couple of months ago, I received an email from a PR agency called Food News. I was asked if I would consider being an ambassador for the new FIJI Water Courage Harness campaign.

My fellow ambassadors would be Carolyn Kan of artisanal jewelry brand Carrie K, and Janice Wong, the marvelous chef from the famed 2am:dessertbar

Of course I said yes, mostly because I love novel ideas and the chance to work with three artisans—FIJI Water (the softest, smoothest bottled water on the face of this earth), Janice whose creativity has won her countless accolades and awards, and Carrie, who I first met when she was 16 and my brother was kind of smitten with her, who has gone from being an advertising honcho to a seriously gifted jeweler.

So I tried to strap on another bottle with this harness and it didn't look as good ...

Carrie created this gorgeous leather strap “harness”, inspired by ancient battle wear, as a multi-purpose fashion accessory. It can be used as a bottle carrier, a necklace, a choker, a bracelet and possibly the coolest lanyard in existence.

Two silver charms adorn the black braided leather strap, Carrie’s insignia of a crown, which I love, because aren’t we all the kings and queens of our lives? And the other is a lion’s paw, a symbol of courage.

All proceeds from the sale of the limited edition harness go to the Breast Cancer Foundation.

This week, Carrie, Janice and I went on radio to talk about the harness.

On Tuesday morning, we were at MediaCorp’s News 938Live, on The Living Room with Keith de Souza and Howie Lim. I was in their studio half a year ago after the Singapore Woman Award and it was good seeing them again.

Keith was rather fascinated with the bracelet, so Howie tried it on him (unsuccessfully). Carrie jumped in and dressed his wrist and he looked really good wearing it—very rocker!

In the studio with News 938's The Living Room duo, Keith & Howie

We had a good chat and I was really moved to hear Janice share about her chef friend in LA, who was 27 when she discovered she had breast cancer. Janice flew to the US to spend time with her as she underwent treatment. It’s such a shocker to hear that someone so young and healthy getting stricken with breast cancer. This cursed disease must be destroyed. We must keep fighting till the cure is found.

Yesterday, Carrie and I went to SPH’s new station for women, Kiss 92 FM and met the crazy Jason Johnson, chirpy Maddy Barber and serious Arnold Gay. Jason insisted that the harness was really a whip, so I obliged him *laugh*

Maddy asked a super serious first question: “What does love mean to you?”

Of course, the first answer off the top of my head was the good old line from Love Story: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” But nothing could be further from the truth of course, hahahahaa….

The next thought I had was “Perfect love casts out all fear.” So I replied, “Love means never being afraid.”

When I said it, it sounded so serious, so “poetic”, even a bit pretentious (let’s be honest). But as I thought about it the rest of the day, it really is true, isn’t it? If you truly love with all your heart, you’ll never be afraid of anything—not even loss, disease, death. The love you have had, that can never be taken away from you.

Anyway, we had a rollicking good time. Carrie’s passionate explanation of how her sister Geri went through cancer and beat it on her own terms was incredibly moving. Geri worked throughout her diagnosis and cancer treatments—she never let her illness become an excuse for not living life to the fullest. I don’t have that kind of strength—I took my time out from work quite seriously. So to hear how Geri bravely carried on was just amazing to me.

Jason looks like the Godfather here...

I hope that the radio appearances were powerful in leading people to buy this great harness. I love the fact it is black (not pink — sorry, much harder to match). I love the way it looks on my wrist. I plan to wear it all year round.

Do buy this lovely and meaningful accessory for yourself or for someone you love. Only 120 pieces available, and all proceeds go to BCF. Priced at $128 at Antoinette (yes the divine French patisseries) or at Carrie’s atelier at 136 Bukit Timah Road (call 6735 4036 for an appointment). You can also buy it online at (online price is inclusive of shipping).

The Reason For The Long Silence: MY BOOK IS DONE!

My proof-reading copy of the manuscript. No this is NOT the cover!

I had the idea to write a book about my cancer experience about a year and a half ago when it struck me that getting so many people emailing me to ask all sorts of questions about breast cancer was a sign that there wasn’t enough information (or easily-found information) out there on what I had experienced.

I thought it would take me, oh, maybe three months to complete it. After all I am a professional writer and editor so what’s a three month deadline?

Three months turned into 18.

My poor publisher Chin Kar waited a long time for this manuscript. When I finally delivered the first (extremely choppy and unpolished) version in April this year, I think the poor man got a rude shock. Very gently, he broke the news to me that there was no way he was going to publish that, and that I simply had to rewrite “some parts”.

“Some parts” turned into 75% of the book.

It was a struggle, but I basically started all over again in May. I ripped apart what I had previously written, took into serious account what Chin Kar had wisely advised me to change, rewrote parts, wrote new ones, and what was meant to be a 10-chapter book turned out to be 37 chapters long, divided into three parts.

There were moments I wanted to give up. It was just too hard, and when it comes to writing, I am easily discouraged. If something isn’t “coming together” quickly enough, I begin to think, “It’s not meant to be.”

I can’t go into details about how I decided to carry on, but I will share that one day, after praying, I wrote myself this note on a yellow Post-It and stuck it in front of my desk to remind myself why I was putting myself through such agony.

That note kicked my butt every day. And every day (or as many days in a week as I could squeeze time out of) I wrote.

Finally, the day came. I finished my manuscript. I sent it off to Chin Kar, who read it in one day and sent back his corrections that same day. Awesome feat. He is a very dedicated publisher, and I am blessed.

Next I had to invite people I respected and liked to “endorse” my book. I hate the word “endorsement”, it makes me think of some poor TV actress holding a bottle of sugary drink in a poster, claiming that she loves it (when clearly, she wouldn’t touch that stuff if you fed it to her through a 24-carat gold straw).

So I worded my requests very carefully, and so far, all of them have said yes.

As I write this now, I am awaiting the final few. Some of them have made me cry.

Pretty pink cover makeup by Charmaine. How to not love someone who makes you look younger and fresher?

Today I had a fun day doing the shoot for my book cover. I can’t give away what it’s going to look like, you’ll see it soon enough. But I can show you what my makeup looked like—I do love it, I look pretty and modern and maybe 5 years younger!

Next, comes the full manuscript with all the forewords and backwords and cover, and then it’s off to print.

We’re scheduled for a November release. Stay tuned!

PS Today, 4 October, is my late mother’s birthday. She would have been 73 today. Thinking of you with a heart full of love, Mom!

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