Pageant finalist battling Crohn's disease: 'Anything is possible'
22-year-old with painful intestinal disease defies odds to become Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant Top 20 finalist
Miss Lovelle Cengiya has been suffering from Crohn's disease since the age of 15, but that is not stopping her from wanting to be a beauty queen.
She had to take up to seven types of pills, including steroids, to combat her condition, and the medication ended up causing her physical appearance to change.
Crohn's disease is a type of chronic inflammation involving any part of the intestinal tract.
Miss Cengiya went from 43kg to 58kg within two weeks when she was 15 while on medication and she was called a "hamster" by her secondary school classmates because of her bloated cheeks.
Now 22, the 1.72m-tall pageant debutante, who has a degree in electrical and electronic engineering from Coventry University, is a Top 20 finalist of this year's Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant.
BEAUTY QUEENS: Miss Lovelle Cengiya, one of the top 20 finalists (above) in the Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant 2016, wants to raise awareness of Crohn's disease, which she was diagnosed with at age 15. TNP PHOTO: ISKANDAR ROSSALI
She told The New Paper at the unveiling of the Top 20 finalists last Wednesday of the pain the disease has caused.
"I had mouth and stomach ulcers and they weren't small ones, they were huge and extremely painful," she said.
She has been visiting the doctor every month for check-ups since then and the disease has flared up three times. Her medical bills each month are about $100.
She fears steroids can no longer stabilise her condition in the future and she might have to receive injections instead, which can easily cost up to $20,000 to $30,000 a year.
Miss Cengiya, a Singapore citizen of Manchurian descent, said: "When I relapse, I cannot eat or drink because of the ulcers. I feel the pain, like something's cutting my lips."
The treatment phase, which lasted around a year, was the "worst part" for her, as she needed to take a type of steroid called prednisolone.
This caused her to have a swollen "moon face" and "pimples", which led to her being bullied and teased at school.
She added: "My bed is in front of the mirror, so when I woke up every morning and looked in the mirror, I would cry because... it didn't look like me at all.
"My classmates called me a hamster and thought I stuffed fishballs in my (mouth) overnight."
Her illness is now under control, but Miss Cengiya's last relapse was in February, during Chinese New Year.
She said: "I spent my whole Chinese New Year in the hospital. During the reunion dinner, I felt a bit unwell. The next few days, my abdomen became more painful and I started to get bloated in my stomach.
"I remember that on the fourth day, I couldn't get out of bed because it was so painful I wanted to faint."
The pageant newbie decided to join the Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant as she wanted a platform to raise awareness about her condition and inspire others who may be suffering from the same disease.
The grand finals will take place on Aug 26 at the Orchid Country Club Grand Ballroom.
She said: "All the (contestants) look so healthy and I felt like I wanted to do something for people with Crohn's disease.
"When I was diagnosed, I felt so lost because I didn't know anyone who had the disease... I want to share (this) with people so they will start to find out more about it."
Miss Cengiya added: "Suffering from an incurable disease doesn't mean the end of everything. You either embrace the facts to grow stronger, or you get stuck in this pool of misery. Your life depends on your choices. Here I am standing as one of the Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant finalists - anything is possible."
Suffering from an incurable disease doesn't mean the end of everything. You either embrace the facts to grow stronger, or you get stuck in this pool of misery. Your life depends on your choices.
- Pageant contestant Lovelle Cengiya