Cynthia Koh's health scare

PHOTO: Cynthia Koh's health scare

Her co-stars and colleagues didn't know it, but while filming Channel U drama Show Hand last November, Cynthia Koh was battling a medical condition that could lead to infertility.

The 38-year-old MediaCorp actress was suffering from endometriosis, characterised by frequent menstrual bleeding and the growth of uterine tissues elsewhere in the body.

"In June, my alarm bells went off when I started having intermenstrual bleeding for two to three months, it's really odd when you get menses for so long," Koh told The New Paper yesterday over the phone.

A detailed check by her gynaecologist revealed two blood cysts about 2cm across in her ovaries. And her fallopian tubes were "small", severely lowering her chances of conceiving naturally.

"She (her gynaecologist) told me I could conceive only through IVF... But at this point, I don't want to think about pregnancy. It's something in the far future.

"Besides, I believe in miracles. Who knows? I might still be able to give natural conception a shot."

Show Hand, which co-stars Christopher Lee, Chew Chor Meng and Ann Kok, is showing on weeknights at 10pm on Channel U.

Koh plays the long-suffering wife of Lee's ex-convict and gambling addict character. The bachelorette attributes her unfazed attitude in the face of her illness to "being well-read and informed" about medical issues.

Health scare after another

Health scare after another

"I'm the sort who goes online and googles the medication my doctor prescribes me," she said.

"This has definitely made me more vigilant when it comes to health.

"Early detection is important. We should never ignore any little signs or physical imbalances."

For seven months, Koh held off surgery to remove her ovarian blood cysts.

"Instead, I tried alternative healing methods like taking herbs," she admitted.

"But somehow, that backfired and one of my cysts grew to 5.1cm!"

She also tried flotation therapy, which involved floating oneself in a sink of dead sea salts mixed with water.

At the recommendation of her gynaecologist, she finally underwent keyhole surgery last Tuesday. "The alternative would be to be on long-term medication, but I feel surgery is the better option."

Koh had another health scare - hyperthyroidism - a decade ago.

An excess of thyroid hormones had caused her weight to plunge and in 2001 and 2002, she found herself breaking out in sweat often.

"I had to be on medication for six years," she said.

Koh, who is on medical leave for two weeks and resting at home, is her usual positive, upbeat self.

"I feel that I'm already very blessed," said the devout Christian.

"I know of other patients of endometriosis who are constantly in pain, or are prone to bouts of bloatedness and mood swings...I was lucky that I didn't have to go through all that.

Marriage plans, anyone?

Marriage plans, anyone?

"After the surgery, my belly was a little painful and that's about it."

A spokesman for Channel U's publicity and promotional team praised the local star for her mettle.

"We learnt about Cynthia's condition only at the press conference of Show Hand (two weeks ago)," she said.

"There was a very challenging scene during the drama's shoot which featured her character attempting suicide... Cynthia had to be dangled from a ledge.

"If the production crew had known she was ill, they could have tweaked the script."

As Koh inches closer to the big 4-0, does she feel pressure to settle down in a steady relationship, tie the knot and have kids?

"Oh, no pressure at all, my mum has already given up (on her getting hitched)," she said with a chuckle.

"Marriage has always been just a piece of paper for me.

"That said, I feel that yes, I'm near the halfway mark of my life journey. It would be great to find someone on the same wavelength to walk the remaining years with me."

Her last relationship, which lasted slightly more than a year, fell apart because of her erratic schedule as an artiste.

Single and available

Single and available

She declined to reveal when it ended.

"I've been single for quite a while," said Koh, who also used to date fellow MediaCorp Adam Chen.

"He was someone who held a nine-to-five job and worked regular hours, whereas my public holidays and weekends were always burned by filming.

"It was really hard for us to arrange impromptu outings.

"So hopefully, God will send me someone from the creative industry. Being from the creative industry, that person will surely understand my work better."

As for her needing IVF to conceive, "these days, men are more open about such things," she said.

"I have friends who have gone for IVF and their procedures were all smooth sailing and successful.

"I'm certainly up for it too, but as usual, I will read up on it beforehand."

Motherhood is not a must for her, but she confessed that some years back, her maternal instincts kicked in quite unexpectedly.

"I was in my early 30s and having drinks with a bunch of friends.

One guy friend brought along his wife, who was heavily pregnant," she recalled.

"When I saw her belly, a wave of sadness suddenly hit me.

I was asking myself deep down, 'Will I ever be able to enjoy the experience of pregnancy and having children?'

"Somehow, pregnancy and motherhood make a woman more complete."

This article was first published in The New Paper.