SINGAPORE - Facing death, all she wanted was for her children to be raised right.
So veteran television actress Huang Biren penned a secret note for her husband and their three children.
"In my note," Huang told The New Paper yesterday, "I reminded my husband to take good care of the kids, and not to spoil our second child too much.
"I know our kids' weaknesses and strengths well, and I want my husband to give them a balanced life if I weren't around."
The 45-year-old, who is returning to the small screen after a seven-year hiatus, was speaking to the local media during a filming-site visit for her upcoming drama, 3 Wishes.
In the show, Huang plays Shanmei, the wife of Yaozong (Thomas Ong), an assistant horse trainer who has to pay a price after using three wishes to improve the life of his family.
The drama, which will premiere on Channel 8 on Oct 27 at 9pm, also features newcomers Julie Tan and Shane Pow. Recounting her brush with death last year, Huang told TNP: "No one knew about the note, not even my husband - unless he opened the drawer in which I kept it."
Huang was diagnosed with a 10cm cyst on one of her kidneys last April, and had to undergo surgery to remove it. The operation to remove the cyst, which was supposed to last only two hours, dragged for almost six hours due to complications.
She discovered the abnormal growth when she went for a body-shaping session before the annual Star Awards show last year, and was told by two different masseuses that her abdomen did not seem proportionate on both sides.
She said: "When I saw the results after a CT scan, my heart sank. The cyst was bigger than my kidney. I was so shocked and I kept asking, 'Why does it have to be me?'
"My doctor told me that if the cyst burst, it could affect the other organs, so I decided to go for an operation immediately."
Despite feeling upset and worried about her health, Huang said she did not shed a tear as she wanted to stay strong for her kids. Her son Justin is 14, and daughters Janessa and Janelle are six and four respectively.
"I put on a brave front for them, but when I was alone in the operating theatre, I felt really scared," she said.
"I also didn't want my mum to be upset. If I died, my regret would be that I couldn't be there to take care of her."
Her mother is 67 years old. The three-time Star Awards Best Actress winner took a break from acting in 2008 because of contractual issues with MediaCorp.
She was to have made her comeback last year in the Channel 8 blockbuster, The Journey: A Voyage. But she pulled out because she was too weak to return to filming so soon after surgery.
Fellow actress Carole Lin replaced her.
Huang felt that the hectic filming schedule would be too tiring, and she did not want to be a burden to the production team. Huang's illness was not the only blow she suffered during that time.
In the week that she was hospitalised, she learnt that much-loved local actor Huang Wenyong died of lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes.
She said: "It remains one of my regrets that I couldn't be there to send him on his last journey. I feel really terrible about it, even till now.
"It struck me then that life is indeed short, and I should just do what I love to do."
A month before that, she learnt that her good friend, actress Pan Lingling, had breast cancer.
Huang said: "I helped her keep it a secret but I was also upset and prayed for her constantly.
"Life can be unpredictable. You can be healthy but you still can't control what happens to your body."
Despite being away from the entertainment scene for seven years, Huang is not worried about how viewers will react to her. "I am not sure if viewers still want to see me on TV, but I love this job, and it is good to be back."
This article was first published on August 16, 2014. Get The New Paper for more stories.