'I won't take for granted the simple happiness': Singer Angie Lau on her battle with cancer
When veteran singer Angie Lau last sat down for an interview with TNP in 2016, following a two-year absence from the Hungry Ghost Festival, she was ecstatic to be back on the getai circuit.
At the time, she had just won a two-year battle with Stage 3 breast cancer, one that came at the height of her career in 2014.
In a face-to-face interview recently, Lau tells TNP: "Never did I imagine the cancer would return... and that it would be even more aggresive than before."
Yet it did, as early as last December.
Known for her powerful vocals, Lau recalls how she started to lose control of her voice around the time.
"My voice was turning hoarse. I thought I had just damaged my vocal cords, so I did not pay much attention to it. I just tried to avoid the high notes."
@tnpdigital In a face-to-face interview recently, singer Angie Lau tells TNP: "Never did I imagine the cancer would return... and that it would be even more aggresive than before." Read more about her journey on our website. #fyp #sgnews #cancer #cancerfighter #cancertok #cancersucks ♬ original sound - TNP
By March this year, she had committed to a new season of variety show Golden Age Talentime as a music instructor.
"I saw a GP to get an antibiotics jab, and when that didn't work, I saw a TCM practioner, but the problem persisted."
After about six episodes of filming, she found she had lost her voice.
"I wanted to complete the full recording, but one night, I had difficulty breathing. I went to the hospital and my nightmare began."
Doctors at Sengkang General Hospital detected water retention in her lungs. Further scans showed that her cancer had returned — it was Stage 4 this time, and the cancer cells had spread to her lungs, lymph nodes and bones.
Last month, a PET scan showed a tumour in her brain.
She muses: "Can it get any worse? I had a mastectomy in April 2014 but I bounced back after six months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. I could get still back on stage and perform."
Lau was even crowned champion of Mediacorp's reality singing competition GeTai Challenge Season 2 in 2018.
In a voice that sounds more like a squeak, she reveals: "At first, I told no one, not my mother or my sister (getai star host and singer Liu Lingling)."
"I did not want to worry anyone, I just wanted to work for as long as I could."
It was during Lau's stay in hospital that the news broke.
One of her singing students, James Quan, shared about her condition. Lau was his mentor in a previous season of Golden Age Talentime.
Mr Quan, 55, a business owner, tells TNP: "My wife and I visited Angie in hospital, and we realised it was going to be a long-drawn battle. I sought permission to share a photo and an update on her condition on my Facebook, along with her mobile number that's linked to her PayNow account."
The post went viral, with various news outlets picking it up. Lau's fans and other singing students also went on to share it.
He says: "That opened my eyes to the power of social media. While I don't know how much was raised, Angie appreciated the outpouring of financial aid and encouragement."
To help Lau continue her battle, Mr Quan has initiated another fundraising effort taking place on Sept 21.
Together with eight other former contestants from the show, they will stage a three-hour mini concert #SupportAngie at HaveFun Karaoke in Safra Toa Payoh from 7pm to 10pm.
A total of 100 tickets at $100 each were sold out in just 24 hours after the news was made public. They hope to raise $20,000.
Mr Quan says: "Some supporters even paid $500 for a pair of tickets, and then told us to resell the tickets to others."
The show will also be streamed live on Facebook here.
Lau says she immersed herself in singing after her divorce in 2019.
"I can't really blame my ex-husband, I can only say we are no longer fated to be together," she adds. "My children are now my biggest motivation as I continue to try and beat cancer."
Her son, 17, is in ITE, and her daughter, 15, is in Sec 3.
Lau shares that the financial support will go towards paying current and subsequent medical expenses, and in supporting her children.
She had to battle a bout of depression before coming to terms with her situation.
"While I accept going through ups and downs is a part of life, at first, I asked why did this happen to me? I was upset and desperate but I never showed it, and it is useless to keep whining about it."
Lau, who started out as a getai singer when she was just eight, says: "I can only say I love to sing — it made me happy and it helped me forget all the bad stuff in my life. Singing also gave me the chance to make a living, especially during the period when my marriage broke down.
"I never thought there would come a day where I could no longer sing."
But with the financial support and constant encouragement from her fans and the community, Lau appears to have overcome some of her emotional struggles and is more upbeat of her future.
"Every day when I wake up, I tell myself I have earned another day. I can't sing now, but I can still talk. I can still eat properly, I can sleep well. That, to me, is simple happiness that I won't take for granted."
She concludes: "I want to thank everyone for the love they have shown me. When I fully recover, I will definitely pay forward the kindness, and help others.
"In case I really can't sing again, I will think of something else to do. Nothing is constant in life. I believe I can make it."