IMAGE: STRAITS TIMES
On the day that local actress Pan Lingling found out she had stage one breast cancer, she was midway through a charity golf game at the Jurong Country Club last March.
She had gone for a biopsy a few days earlier and the doctor had called her during her game to inform her that the test results did not look good.
Unfazed by the bad news, the spunky Pan, 43, carried on playing. She said: “I didn’t want to tell my husband who was with me. I wanted him to finish the game.
“I thought to myself, if my health isn’t good, maybe I will have luck to get a hole-in-one and win a Lamborghini. I didn’t win the prize, but I achieved my best score of 97,” added Pan in jest.
It was her husband, event organiser and former actor Huang Shi Nan, 52, who took the news harder than she did.
He was so visibly upset that when Pan was getting ready to be hospitalised for surgery, a nurse mistook him for the patient.Pan said with a laugh: “I said that I had the tumour, but it seemed that the symptoms of sickness were showing on his face.”
She removed a 2.8cm-wide lump in her left breast last March. Later, she underwent chemotherapy between April and September, and radiotherapy from October to November.
There was not a point when she felt despondent or felt she would not beat the cancer. This in spite of having clumps of her hair fall out and gaining 10kg as a result of the chemotherapy and medication.
But what made the strong-willed veteran actress cry were her two sons, Beckham, 15, and Kynaston, 12. Her husband had broken the bad news to their sons and told them to take good care of their mother.
She said: “My older son asked why I had to have this illness. He cried. He apologised for being such a bad boy in the past. That was the first time I cried after finding out I had breast cancer.”
“My sons have matured over the past year. After my surgery, they would tell me to rest and not move around. They would help me get stuff.” The optimistic Pan was also a source of strength for her 74-year-old father, who was diagnosed with stage three lung cancer last November.
She said: “Hearing the news of my dad’s cancer was worse than hearing my own diagnosis. My dad told me that since I was a warrior, he would be a warrior too. If I could do it, so could he.”
Sadly, he died in February on the third day of Chinese New Year. Her mother is 67 years old. Having gone through a tough year battling cancer and losing her father, Pan said she now has learnt the importance of spending “quality time” with her loved ones.
She is back to acting in the police drama Mata Mata 2 – her first English role in her 26-year career. She said: “After my radiotherapy, I told my manager that I was bored and wanted to go back to filming. But my manager told me to rest and get well. I’m really excited to be back filming.”
Besides returning to showbusiness, she has a new mission in mind: to share her experience with cancer patients through talks.
She said: “I’m looking forward to sharing my experience of battling cancer with cancer patients. I want to encourage them. Even if you have cancer, it’s not the end of the world.”
This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on March 18, 2014. For similar stories, go to sph.straitstimes.com/premium/singapore. You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.