Mum’s breast cancer diagnosis was ex-offender’s ‘wake-up call’
Once a drug addict who served two prison sentences, Mr Royce Lee Han Loon's road to a new life has not been easy.
Mr Lee, 46, told The New Paper that it was news of his mother being diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time that turned him around.
Said the food and beverage assistant manager at MBox Mahota Market in Century Square mall: "It was a wake-up call. I lived every day in fear, not knowing if I would have time left to spend with her after I got out."
That happened in 2012. Mr Lee reunited with his mother, who is now cancer-free, after his release in July 2017.
Mr Lee's culinary talent will be put to the test in King Of Culinary, where he pits his skills against local celebrity chefs Eric Neo, Eric Teo and Pung Lu Tin on Mediacorp's Channel 8 cooking competition.
The episodes featuring Mr Lee airs at 8pm on Sept 18 and Sept 25.
An advocate for second chances, Mr Lee joined volunteer welfare organisation The Helping Hand in April to share his story to motivate former offenders like himself.
After his release in 2007, Mr Lee, who discovered his passion for cooking while in prison, was recruited as a chef by local restaurant Simply Peranakan Cuisine.
Unfortunately, Mr Lee fell back into his old ways and was sentenced for drug trafficking in 2012.
Mr Lee now hopes to show current inmates and former offenders that they can still have a bright future.
Several months after his second release in 2017, he opened up a restaurant named Volcano Grill in Geylang, with the help of his counsellor and friends.
However, the business lasted only six months due to lack of funds.
Still, Mr Lee did not falter and continued to pursue his passion for cooking.
"Sometimes it may take more than one try. But as long as you have the will and you never give up, there is always hope," he said.
"Think of your loved ones and don't mix with the wrong people. At the end of the day, only you can change yourself, no one else can."
He believes former offenders should not let labels hinder them from wanting to succeed.
"Though you people may look at you differently, and it may be hard to find a job, you must not take it to heart. You can still climb up," said Mr Lee.