Kim Christian and her mother, Doris

Three Amazing Stories Of Women Helping Women
Kim Christian, in her 40s, a Zumba instructor, reveals how her homemaker mother Doris, in her 70s, was her support as she overcame the breast cancer that took her sister’s life

“My sister Zoe, an actress and dancer, moved back from Australia to Singapore in 2007 after being diagnosed with stage four breast cancer at the age of 43. Zoe stayed with me and my husband, Rodney, in our home in Marsiling. Then, three months after Zoe started her cancer treatment, I was also diagnosed with stage two breast cancer. I was 38.

For mum, it was really difficult. She had two of us to look after. She went through such a hard time. Zoe needed a lot more attention and mum would spend nights with her, nursing her and helping her with every little thing.

My sister and I both had chemotherapy, but I was the only one who lost my hair. I have always been into looking good and being fit, and I loved my hair, so this was hard.

So when I knew I was going to lose my hair, I had a hair cutting ceremony. It was a big deal to me. Mum was there for the shaving of my head. She made it light-hearted… we had a little laugh together, and she made me feel comfortable and beautiful.

Even when chemo took away my hair, and I had no eyelashes or eyebrows she would say, ‘Wow, look at you! You could have been walking around with no hair all this time, because you still look lovely.’ All this came from mum’s heart. And because she believed it, she made me believe it too.

When I was tired from the treatments, mum would put me on her lap, stroke my head and tell me to rest. Sometimes, that was all I needed, a hug from mum. I would fall asleep on her lap, and when I woke up mum would be there, looking right at me, smiling. I knew then, that I was comforted and safe. She would say, ‘You are going to be okay my ponna mole’ (meaning precious daughter in Malayalam).

It was often the little things that showed me that mum was there for me, like stocking my fridge with my favourite brand of milk, or making my favourite childhood meal. She gave me strength and helped me to see the good through the hardship. She was positive and showed me I still had my family and my heart.

Sometimes, when I felt that I had lost everything, and I just wanted to go into a cave and hide – mum would remind me there is so much beauty in nature. She would tell me, ‘There is a reason for everything that happens in our lives.’

I survived breast cancer. Zoe did not.

But my mum and I both feel, in some way, that I was meant to go through this journey with Zoe. I was never scared for my own mortality. In a way, I felt I had been given the cancer to help Zoe through her journey, to hold her hand, and let her know I understood what she was going through.

I would want everyone to meet my mum, even just once… because she is the gentlest, most amazing and big-hearted woman.

I want her to know that she is my heart – and that I am inspired by her. Like her, I also
try to reach out to others. I try to help them, even if they are strangers. My ability to feel comfortable enough to reach out and encourage others comes from all that my mother has
done for me.”

Kim will be celebrating an important milestone in August – seven years of being cancer-free.

Edina Rahman and her best friend, Fadzilah Mahmud

Three Amazing Stories Of Women Helping Women (2)
Edina Rahman, a civil servant, says her bestie, Fadzilah Mahmud, an education officer, both in their 30s, helped her recover her joy for life after divorce

“I have known Fadzilah since I was four and we’ve been friends for over 30 years. Other people come and go, but Fadzilah is always there. She is my best friend.

Yet our lives have taken very different paths – I am a divorcee and still go out clubbing, while she is a conservatively-dressed, happily-married mother-of-two. Looking at us, you probably wouldn’t guess we are best friends! Yet, Fadzilah has always been there for me, emotionally and spiritually.

I was 28 when I married, it lasted for just two years. Even before the wedding, my ex-husband and I often argued – we thought marriage would bind us together, but we still argued a lot. He was a musician in a local band. So while I stayed at home, he was busy with events and often away during the weekends. After marriage, I started to feel that there was no value being added to my life – I was still paying for everything, I had no children and felt like I had no husband. I was still very much on my own.

I tried to be a good wife, but when my volatile marriage inevitably began breaking down, Fadzilah supported me. She let me rant when I needed to, and helped me to figure things out for myself.

Fadzilah’s advice got me thinking – it was short, sweet and impactful. When I was upset, she would say, ‘You are old enough to know better, and you are young enough to try again.’

And she was there even when I called in the middle of the night. She was like a mother guiding a child in walking reins – she would let me wander off, but was always there to pull me back in, emotionally.

While my marriage was crumbling, Fadzilah was going through IVF to have her first child. She struggled for seven years, and finally got pregnant after three rounds of IVF. Her situation helped me see that there are bigger problems than divorce. Her struggles put things into perspective for me.

With her, I don’t even have to finish my sentences – she knows what is going on in my mind. I am so grateful she kept me afloat. She does not judge me. She lets me be myself and I know she loves me, for me.”

Dorothy Teo and her best friend, Ginny Pang

Three Amazing Stories Of Women Helping Women (3)
Dorothy Teo, a financial planner, shares how she and Ginny Pang, a service manager, both in their early 40s, have become more like family than friends

“Ginny and I have almost the same astrological profile – we were born just one day apart. We both have two daughters each. But while I am still married, Ginny’s husband John passed away from brain cancer in 2010. He was only 35.

John and Ginny were childhood sweethearts, and before he died, he would tell me, ‘You must look out for my wife and kids.’ So I do that in the best way I know. Because I am a financial planner, I know how important it is to have personal documents and finances in order. But Ginny hates paperwork. So I help her with her estate matters. We joke that I’m her PA and she’s the boss because I fill in every form from every financial institution on her behalf – All she has to do is wait for her turn to sign.

When Ginny made her will and her Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), she appointed me as her donee. It’s a huge testament to our friendship as it means I can step into her shoes should she become mentally incapacitated. I would take care of everyone that matters to her, including her mother, sister and young daughters. It’s a huge… no, a mega responsibility and it speaks of her trust in me.

Ginny has really helped me too. When my eldest daughter was young, she was in poor health – she had a swallowing issue and she had to be tube fed for four years. When all was so bleak and I felt so lost, Ginny really helped. She found an article in a magazine that turned my daughter’s life around. She is now on the road to recovery, thanks to Ginny’s help.

Ginny and I may not spend many hours together physically but we are in touch regularly. I know that we will always be there for each other.”

Text: Vicky Henniker / The Singapore Women’s Weekly April 2014
Additional Reporting: Candy Lim
Photos: Joel Low