SINGAPORE - When the bubbly Dawn Gan performed for a crowd of 2,000 fans at Bras Basah Complex in July 2014 for the xinyao documentary The Songs We Sang (2015), she did so with part of her lung missing.
But she says: "Even with a piece of my lung missing, when I stood on stage to sing, no one could tell."
It was removed in 2013 after she was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma during a routine health screening. It is a rare form of cancer of the soft tissue and usually occurs near the joints of the arm, neck or leg.
Gan, 53, has had five operations since then to excise tumours and part of her lung, with the latest taking place in January this year. She has also received 25 sessions of radiotherapy, and she marked the end of her treatments with a trip to Tokyo with her businessman husband to view the cherry blossoms. They have three children aged 20 to 24.
She is currently tumour-free but is still being monitored for the return of cancerous cells. Gan adds she is doing fine now, "eating well and sleeping well" and not in any pain, nor is she on any medication.
While the illness might have claimed a part of her body, it has not dimmed her spirit.
Speaking to local media over the telephone on Friday morning (April 22) from Hong Kong where she is based, Gan still sounds sweet and girlish. It is a voice that could still pull off the chirpy Youth 1 2 3, the theme song for the Channel 8 show The Happy Trio (1986). Her xinyao (Singapore songs) hits include Water Tales and Your Reflection and she won fans with her bright pipes and personality.
She has decided to speak out about her battle with cancer as she wants to give hope to those who have been afflicted. "If you know of anyone struck with cancer, don't panic. The most important thing is to engage a good oncologist and face the illness bravely. Don't be frightened by cancer as there are effective treatments for many types of the illness."
This Sunday afternoon, she will be taking part in a xinyao charity event at One KM Mall where she will be donating her hair to be made into wigs for cancer patients.
Despite her composure during the interview, she admits that she was stupefied when she first received the news as she had always been very healthy. At her lowest point, she was hit with the double whammy of being diagnosed with an early stage of breast cancer, for which she underwent an operation last year.
She credits her Christian faith and her family and friends for giving her the strength to make it through the tough times.
After an operation she had in 2014, she recalls, she received a phone call with fellow xinyao singer Koh Nam Seng: "He gave me a lot of encouragement and he had been praying for me."
As to whether she would sing again, she reveals that the latest tumour removed this year was sitting on the nerves controlling her vocal cords. But she adds: "Let's see how it goes. I believe I can still sing but maybe the range will have to be adjusted. I won't be defeated by cancer."