'I felt like an ugly duckling'

She posted about her fight with cancer on Facebook, hoping for support.

Instead some netizens' comments upset former singer-actress Foyce Le Xuan.

This happened in 2013, right after her surgery while she was still in the hospital.

For someone who loved getting her fans' attention on social media platforms, the comments shocked her.

She tells The New Paper on Sunday: "At that time, I thought it was the right thing to do but after seeing comments and even well wishes, it hurt me and made me feel depressed about my state."

She says although she appeared optimistic and energetic, it was all a facade.

She says: "It wasn't the physical pain but the emotional pain that brought me to the lowest point in my life."

Foyce says she found out she had cancer that year after returning from Taiwan where she had been training to become a singer.

While in Singapore, she decided to go for a full-body check-up as she was experiencing abnormal bleeding and irregular periods.

The test reports confirmed that she had two malignant lumps in her right breast. It was then confirmed that she had Stage 1 breast cancer.


The 35-year-old says she has a family history of cancer. Her father was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer when she was 14. That was in 1994. He was the second man to be diagnosed with breast cancer in Singapore.

After treatment, he was declared cancer-free in 2012.

She says: "Even though my father had breast cancer before and I appeared very strong to several media outlets, the test results were actually a very big blow to me."

Foyce underwent two operations on her right breast.

The first was to remove the lumps and confirm the diagnosis, and the second was a partial mastectomy to remove the remaining cancerous breast tissue.

After these two operations, she subsequently removed the uterine polyps that caused the abnormal bleeding.

She says she struggled with self-esteem issues while undergoing treatment.

She would pile on make-up before friends' visits as she felt like an "ugly duckling" while undergoing hormone therapy ­- even though she did not lose her hair, as she did not have chemotherapy.

Weight gain and mood swings - side effects of hormone therapy - depressed her further.

Foyce's dream of being a singer in Taiwan has been delayed, but she says she may go back one day.

She is now cancer-free but returns to Mount Elizabeth Hospital for check-ups every three months.

Foyce has been working from home as a fund manager for about two years.

She says: "For now, I like living a carefree lifestyle, but maybe one day I will go back (to Taiwan) when I am ready."

She says throughout her ordeal, her family and circle of friends kept her strong.


Foyce's father, Mr Lim Yong Joo, a 62-year-old retiree, sought treatment in 1994 after months of pain and noticing that his chest had changed colour.

Doctors were stumped. Even before his surgery to test his breast tissue, his doctor said breast cancer was unlikely.

The surgery proved him to be the second man in Singapore with breast cancer. It had advanced to Stage 3.

Mr Lim had a mastectomy, which involved removing the nipple areola, surrounding breast tissue and lymph nodes, and radiotherapy.

The surgery went well and he received radiotherapy almost daily for a few months after he was discharged from the National Cancer Centre Singapore. Now he goes back for check-ups annually. In 2012, he was declared cancer-free.

Mr Lim declined to speak to TNPS.

Foyce says: "He is not an expressive person, but he has his own ways of showing that he cares." Foyce's mother, brother, 37, and sister, 32, have not been diagnosed with breast cancer. Her mother and sister have annual breast checks.


October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

And the Singapore Cancer Society is pushing for more women to be screened because breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Singapore.

More than 9,200 women were diagnosed between 2010 and last year. Over the years, a number of breast cancer patients have also talked openly about their fight to create awareness of the need for screening.

That is because breast cancer accounts for nearly 30 per cent of all cancer cases here.

But only one in three of those aged 50 to 69 was screened in the last two years, said National University Cancer Institute's senior consultant breast surgeon Chan Ching Wan.

This article was first published on October 25, 2015.
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