Friday, November 18, 2016


Lee Sok Lian holds a BA (Hons) in English literature from the National University of Singapore, and though she worked as a copywriter for four years in her late twenties, she has been an English teacher—her first love and true calling—for most of her life.
Less than ten years ago, she was introduced to meditation and began taking courses in healing, Reiki, Quantum Touch, yoga, laughter yoga, hypnotherapy, intuitive counseling, relaxation techniques, and other meditation subjects, including a two-month stint at the Hypnotherapy Academy of America, where she learned from Tim Simmerman. That’s when her life took a surprising turn: instead of returning to Singapore, she was asked to transfer to Sun Island Shanghai to use her newfound healing skills in addition to her teaching skills.
Now, she is the resident meditation and laughter yoga teacher of Sun Island. She is also the editor of the English segment of The Mahota Quarterly and teaches conversational English as well as personal mastery classes.
Lee’s first book If You Think The Water Is Cold, available at, is based on the true story of a cancer survivor Tan Siew Khim, a Singaporean who, after facing her initial fears and conquering her reaction to “leave this world quietly,” decided that she wasn’t ready to quit this just yet. Siew Khim embraced the different forms of medicine and treatments available. When she was invited to Sun Island Shanghai to convalesce, Siew Khim discovered the power of wellness activities such as mindfulness meditation and laughter yoga. This is where she met—and inspired—her biographer, Lee Sok Lian.


A Cancer Survivor's Story
by , illustrated by 


In this memoir, a Singaporean woman addresses her cancer diagnosis with family support, Western and traditional Chinese medicine, and other means.
In January 2010, Tan Siew Khim, in her late 40s, discovered a lump in her right breast while taking a shower. Though single, Siew Khim was part of a large, close-knit ethnically Chinese family, which rallied to support her once she got up the courage to tell them. Her sisters first took her to a traditional Chinese medicine clinic, then older family members arranged for her treatment at a Singaporean government hospital, where she eventually received chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy. At a family-owned golf/holiday resort, Siew Khim learned the ancient Chinese techniques of physical exercise, breathing and meditation, as well as “yoga, laughter yoga, walking meditation, driving a buggy, photography, dancing, cycling, golf, English, and public speaking.” Two years after the initial diagnosis, she describes her recovery as “a personal choice to get well.” In her debut work, Lee’s thesis is that recovery is a choice: “Any cancer patient can—if he or she chooses to do so—learn to slow and even reverse cancer’s progression in the body.” While some readers may find their experiences or hopes resonate with Siew Khim’s, many more will find the arguments presented here both pernicious and insulting because they continually express the idea that cancer is the patient’s fault: “Instead of letting cancer triumph over her, she reclaimed her life”; “The perfect patient, and one possessed of an inordinately strong will, Siew Khim follows prescribed dietary guidelines”; by “changing her internal dialogue…[t]he cells in her body have started believing it too.” A list of references is supplied, but the ideas are presented uncritically; for example, poor diet and bad mental attitude don’t explain why world-class athletes (who must cultivate both diet and attitude) or infants contract cancer. Nor does Lee take into account the roles Siew Khim’s chemotherapy, surgery and radiation must have played.
While Siew Khim’s recovery is to be applauded, this book is poorly supported and full of magical thinking.



my-story-tan-siew-khimMy name is Tan Siew Khim. I am from Singapore. I am a cancer patient.
I first discovered that I had cancer in 2011. I had the operation in January 2011. My mother was ill at about the same time. She did not know that I was going for chemotherapy treatment at the hospital.
I visited my mother in hospital once. She was very ill then. We did not tell her about my condition. I wore a wig to cover my baldness. My mother did not know this.
On one of the visits, my mother said: “Qin, your new hairstyle is very nice.”
I did not say anything.
Mum’s condition was growing worse. When she passed away in hospital, I felt very sad because I could not be there. I was undergoing therapy at that time. The doctors thought I should stay away to avoid infection.
All my family members were there. Except for me.
During this time I lost my appetite. No matter what I ate, the food always tasted bland. I think my taste buds were not working. The doctor told me that I must eat. So I watched cooking programs on TV. And DVDs of cooking classes. The delicious food I saw on TV helped a little. I was able to eat a little. I gained a bit of weight. I knew I had to heed the doctor’s advice if I wanted to get well.
When you have cancer, you lose interest in many things. In food. In life. In the things that you used to do.
You lose hope.
After Mum passed away, my uncle persuaded me to come to Sun Island. I followed his advice. I came to the island in March 2011. On the island, I learnt qigong and ba duan qin. I also learnt swimming, meditation, walking meditation, driving (buggies), yoga and laughter yoga. My health improved.
I am under the care of the Chinese doctors here. Recently I went to see the doctor in Shanghai. The results of the checkup are very good. My family and my friends are very happy for me. I am still taking the Chinese medicine every day. I know that I will overcome cancer. I am confident that the cancer will not return. I continue to live each day fully, doing exercises and laughing every day.
I know that it is important for me to stay positive. To have hope in the future.
I should also exercise and take in sufficient oxygen. The doctors have told me that when we take in enough oxygen the cancer will go away. I am confident that I will get well one day. I will be better and better.
I wish all of you the best of health! I hope that you will always be happy and healthy too!
Pub Date: July 24th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1492345558
Page count: 108pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie

Review Posted Online: 

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