In 2019, Krissy Jesudason lost her Australian stepmother Sharon, to breast cancer. What was worse was that the Philippines-born actress wasn’t able to fly back to Australia in time to grieve with her family. “I wasn’t able to say goodbye, I wasn’t able to be there for my brothers and my father during a difficult time, and due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, I wasn’t able to see them for a while. It made me feel awful and helpless,” she utters.
She shares her stepmother’s cancer story: “It started with a breast cancer diagnosis. She had surgery and went through chemo, then was in remission for two years. When the cancer came back, she fought so hard for so long. Sharon was kind, funny, a wonderful mother and wife. We miss her terribly but I know she would have wanted us to love each other and make as many memories while we have the chance. She was a true hero.”
Last year, in memory of her stepmother, Jesudason embarked on a fundraising project for the Breast Cancer Foundation (BCF) where she and celebrity friend Nikki Muller walked the circumference of Singapore over five days. They covered close to 140km and raised over $5,000.
This March 17-21, Jesudason will cover the same route alone with a slightly different mission and perspective. “I walk to remember that while journeys can be long and difficult at times, we must still put one foot in front of the other to persevere and appreciate the journey we are on,” she says.
She also embarks on this walk as a “shero” as part of BCF’s 25th anniversary celebrations, where Jesudason joins 24 other inspiring women in a Sheroes campaign to raise funds for the breast cancer community. Each woman, who has her own relationship with breast cancer, is tasked to raise $5,000 through various activities of her own choosing. To support Jesudason in her pledge, you may make a donation at www.giving.sg/campaigns/walk_for_warriors
As a shero, Jesudason hopes that her supportive role will not only bring people closer but ultimately help make preventive care and treatment more affordable for everyone. “Illness can make us all feel helpless, and although there are many things we cannot control, we can seek to help where we can, when we can. You are not alone.”
Best known for her work in Singapore’s longest-running TV drama Tanglin —where she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Asian Television Awards in 2017 — Jesudason is not just an accomplished actress with a theatre degree from The University of British Columbia but is also an acting coach, mental health advocate and personal trainer.
“Right after lockdown, like a lot of people, I was feeling lost and looking for some purpose. I was going to the gym a lot and decided that if I spent most of my days keeping fit, why don’t I help others do it too? So I got my personal training cert. I also teach HIIT boxing class and took up Filipino Martial Arts,” she shares. Incidentally, her fitness background was what landed her the lead role in her latest play Bitch Boxer.
Although she has yet to take a mammogram, Jesudason does believe in regular self- checks and staying healthy mind, body and soul. She regularly talks about mental health on her podcast channel as well as Instagram. “Learning to love and be present in your body are both things you need as an actor and sportsperson. I take care of myself by saying no to things when I’m too tired or busy. My therapist taught me how to have boundaries and to protect them. Some people might think that it’s selfish and lazy but my health is my number one priority.
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Singapore’s first Breast Cancer Centre
Coinciding with BCF’s 25th anniversary is the launch of Singapore’s first Breast Cancer Centre this January, offering a cosy and safe space for breast cancer patients and survivors seeking psycho-social, emotional and rehabilitative support.
Taking up two blocks at Sin Ming Court, the centre is 42% larger than BCF’s former premises boasting expansive communal spaces for curated social activities. Designed pro-bono by Kingsmen Design based on the theme “Journey of Hope and Joyful Living”, the centre combines neutral and vibrant tones to represent the fighting spirit of its breast cancer warriors. The key highlights include counselling rooms, a fitness studio, a “Positive Image” room, a multi-purpose hall, and a social space-cum-kitchenette.
Made possible through generous donations of corporate partners and donors such as the Estate of Khoo Teck Puat, Estée Lauder Companies, Lawadinata Family and Shein, as well as funding from NCSS Care & Share, the centre is a non-medical set-up managed by BCF offering lifestyle and wellness programmes, support groups, as well as educational workshops for the public learn about breast cancer and early detection. It also offers subsidy assistance to support low-income women for mammograms, and prostheses or prosthetic support bras, and runs a complimentary wig loan service.
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In February 2021, the World Health Organisation declared that breast cancer has overtaken lung cancer as the world’s most diagnosed cancer and the most common cause of cancer death in women. In the past 50 years, it remains the most prevalent cancer among women in Singapore.
While breast cancer screening rates reported by the National Population Health Survey have increased from 30.9% in 2017 to 37.9% in 2020, there is still room for improvement. BCF is partnering the Health Promotion Board to launch the BCF First Screen Fund Programme — to offer subsidy assistance to support low-income women for their first-time mammogram. There will also be affordable screenings conducted throughout the year on the Mammobus, parked in the vicinity of the Breast Cancer Centre. For those who sign up for screenings on the Mammobus, the fees will be co-funded by BCF. For more in- formation, visit www.bcf.org.sg.
MAIN PHOTO: Albert Chua/The Edge Singapore