Housewife Seow Suat Hong, who has terminal-stage cancer, finds it hard to eat or walk for long and takes medical morphine to ease her pain.
But talk to the 58-year-old about the mermaid-themed cake she received on Sunday, and she lights up with a bright smile.
"I never thought that my son would surprise me like this, and I never thought that you could make a cake with mermaids on it," she said.
It was a cake that looked more like a work of art - it was adorned with 11 fondant mermaid figurines representing Madam Seow and members of her family.
A "mermaid queen" wearing a crown - Madam Seow - sits regally atop the two-tiered cake in a large pink shell. She was touched to know that the cake was made for free by baker Priscillia Wong Pei En, a former colleague of the eldest of her four children, Mr Lionel Peh.
The elaborate work, for which Ms Wong would usually have charged up to $700, was hardly a piece of cake to create.
She spent six days to make the cake, carefully sculpting each figurine and surviving on three-hour naps at times just to finish the cake.
Ms Wong, who met Madam Seow yesterday, said her story resonated with her as her father had died of colon cancer at age 45.
"My father found out about his cancer at the fourth stage and was given one month to live. But miraculously, he managed to survive 20 months," she said.
Madam Seow was diagnosed with colon cancer two years ago. This was treated but the cancer came back and has since spread to her stomach.
Said Ms Wong: "I just want to give her some strength and positive energy because you never know what that can do; it might work miracles."
Mr Peh, 33, an air steward, had come up with the idea for the cake as his mother likes mermaids.
He approached Ms Wong, who now runs Ximicake, which specialises in customised cakes.
Sick grandma cheered up by 'perfect cake'
Mr Peh said: "I knew it was quite a short time for a custom-made 3D fondant cake, but Pei En told me not to worry and to leave it up to her."
He provided a photo of his mother so Ms Wong could sculpt the mermaid queen in her likeness.
But Ms Wong went beyond what was expected of her, hand-painting each figurine and moulding the hair of each figurine. She said: "I just wanted to make sure that when his mother saw it, she'll be happy."
When the cake was presented to Madam Seow at a family gathering at Aloha Loyang resort on Sunday, friends and relatives who were there were all impressed.
"All of my relatives were saying it's the most beautiful cake they had ever seen," said Mr Peh.
Madam Seow liked the cake so much that she initially stopped her family members from cutting and eating the cake, a chocolate fudge cake with chocolate ganache.
The grandmother of three later relented but kept all the figurines, which are edible. They are currently resting in her refrigerator.
The cake delighted Madam Seow, who had been glum as her cancer is not responding to treatment. "Ever since I had been diagnosed with cancer, I have been very unhappy.
"I worry every day about what will happen to my children and my husband and I can't bear to leave them," she said in Mandarin.
But the cake cheered her up. "It was the happiest moment of my life," she said.
As for Mr Peh, he has only one thing to say about the cake: "It was perfect."