Veteran getai singer makes comeback after breast cancer battle
Veteran getai singer makes comeback after battle with breast cancer two years ago
After a two-year absence from the Hungry Ghost Festival, veteran singer Angie Lau is back on the getai circuit.
And while she is ecstatic to be on stage in front of an audience again, there is something she is even more grateful for - winning her battle with cancer.
In an interview at her home in Sengkang, she tells The New Paper on Sunday: "I am grateful that I have been given another chance in life. And that I can still go on stage.
"Even though I'm not going at it aggressively, the bookings are filtering in. It's a great feeling."
Lau, 47, says she is grateful for the blessings.
She was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer two years ago.
She had felt some discomfort and went for a check-up, during which the doctor found two tumours in her right breast and another in her left - all malignant. That later led to lymphoma, a form of cancer that affects the immune system.
The bad news came at the height of her career.
She was voted Best Female Artiste at the 6th Getai Awards organised by citizen journalism portal Stomp in 2012. It was her first win in her 20-year singing career.
The win led to more show bookings and invitations to be a resident judge for several singing competitions.
Lau, who started singing at getai shows when she was just eight, admits: "It was tough at first. I felt scared and suddenly, the future seemed uncertain."
But for the sake of her young children - her son is 10, and daughter, eight - she knew she had to be strong.
She had a mastectomy in April 2014 and rested for half a year. Then it was six months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
"I thought I'd get well enough to make a comeback last year... but in June, I had to undergo a 10-hour reconstructive surgery," she says.
While Lau now speaks more openly about her battle with cancer - something she reckons getai emcees will ask her about on stage - she wasn't so willing to talk when she was first diagnosed.
"While I didn't exactly sink into depression, I was reluctant to see anyone except family members," she says.
"It isn't easy trying to put on a brave front."
Lau credits her elder sister, popular getai host and singer Liu Ling Ling, with being her pillar of support.
She says: "No words can describe my gratitude and appreciation for what she has done."
To ensure that she focuses on fighting the disease, Liu helped to support her both financially and emotionally.
Lau says: "My sister knew I was worried about the loss of income and that we had to depend on my husband (who is a chef)."
She declines to reveal her exact monthly income, only that it is a four-figure sum.
Liu, 53, however, makes light of her contribution.
"Angie is my only sister, so it's only right that I do what I can to help her overcome this crisis," says Liu. They have two brothers.
"I told her, I will even sell my flat if I have to. Her children are so young, I can't let her give up.
"So I don't think it was any sacrifice. It just meant that I had to work harder and take on more shows."
Liu, who made headlines in 2013 when she became a mother at 50, says she also tried to find out all she could about breast cancer and lymphoma.
"It's only when you know enough that you know what to expect and you won't be afraid," she adds.
"It is like what I did before I decided to become a mother. I spent two years researching and arming myself with knowledge and expectations before taking that step."
As for Lau, she is thankful she can perform again and hopes to do something special for her fans.
She says: "Fans will see a more spectacular me."
"I am grateful that I have been given another chance in life. And that I can still go on stage. Even though I’m not going at it aggressively, the bookings are filtering in. It’s a great feeling."
— Getai singer Angie Lau
Do you know...
1 During the Hungry Ghost Festival, also known as the Mid-Year Festival (Zhong Yuan Jie), it is believed that the Gates of Hell are opened for spirits to roam freely. The Chinese pay their respects to deceased relatives on the 15th day of the Chinese seventh month.
2 Organising committees are formed by grassroots bodies, merchant groups or residents. Members pay an annual fee, which is used to buy items like rice, noodles and other necessities used as offerings to the spirits.
3 Committees also hold auction dinners to sell auspicious items. Money raised at the auction pays for the dinner and the cost of staging the getai.
4 Front-row seats, usually left unoccupied except for joss paper placed on them, are reserved for the spirits.
5 Expect more than 10 singers and about 40 songs at each getai. Singers generally avoid songs that refer to rain, in case it does rain.