Photos: Tammi Tan
With her energetic spunk and ageless looks (she turns 40 in December, by the way), you’d think Vivian Lai has been a health nut all her life. However, the vivacious actress-host admitted to us that she never really paid much attention to her wellbeing until she had daughters Vera and Ariel, who are in primary one and primary six respectively.
“When I was younger, I didn’t think so much about going for regular health checks, but that changed after I had my kids,” she said, implying that she wishes to remain as healthy as possible for their sake.
Toggle was speaking to the Star Awards 2015 All-Time Favourite Artiste recipient at Singapore Cancer Society’s (SCS) new rehabilitation centre, where a cheque for $60,803 was presented by Pokka, the beverage company that Vivian has endorsed for eight years.
The money was raised during a two-month drive, where Pokka pledged to donate $50,000 to SCS upon selling 5 million litres of their specially-packaged drinks. The additional $10,803 was garnered from the social media sharing of a Pokka campaign video starring singer Daphne Khoo and actor-host Paul Foster (who were also present at yesterday’s event), as well as from public cash donations and the sale of ribbon magnets hand-crocheted by SCS patients.
(Left to right) Pokka CEO Alain Ong, Denise Khoo, Vivian Lai, Daphne Khoo, Paul Foster and Albert Ching, CEO of Singapore Cancer Society
Fortunately, neither Vivian nor Pokka CEO Alain have personally experienced cancer, but they’ve witnessed loved ones battle against it. While Vivian has a good friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer, Alain revealed in a separate interview that his grandfather suffered “quite violently” for three months before succumbing to the disease, and his own mother had thyroid and ovarian cancer scares before going through successful operations.
His mum’s ordeals have pushed Alain to take measures to protect his two young daughters. “I spoke to an oncologist and he advised that prevention is the best, so we plan to get (my daughters) to go for cervical cancer vaccinations after they have their first menstrual cycle,” he said.
How Vivian "tricks" her daughters into eating their vegetables
Besides the birth of her children, Vivian also credited her husband for influencing her to be a bit more health conscious. “He takes a lot of supplements, such as vitamins, but I pay more attention to my food intake,” she said. “As for exercise, I go swimming once a week with the kids and skip rope.”
Her daughters, however, are not as easily moved to discipline when it comes to a balanced diet. “They don’t eat their vegetables, so I have to find creative ways to include it in their meals – for example, I mash up broccoli and put it in their porridge,” she said. This little hack works wonders and the girls love it, as it takes away the crunchy texture that they don’t like.
Thankfully, she doesn’t need to do anything to get them to be active, as they already love “moving around nonstop”. “It gives me a headache sometimes,” Vivian said with a chuckle.
Vivian Lai and her co-host banter with Daphne Khoo, Paul Foster and Daphne's mother Denise (centre), a breast cancer survivor
Daphne Khoo uses music to make chemo "less boring" for patients
As the survivor of a rare ovarian cancer, Daphne “is more than happy” to talk about her trials. The 29-year-old former Singapore Idol finalist is also using her talents to help those who are going through what she did by returning to perform at Singapore General Hospital’s annual MusicFest this Friday (Oct 28).
“For me to be able to entertain and talk to (the patients) is a very enriching experience for myself, and hopefully I manage to make that one day of chemotherapy less boring for them,” she said.
The former Berklee College of Music student also shared that she will be moving to Los Angeles next month to further her music career. On the cards at the moment is an acoustic EP featuring the songs she has sung live at various concerts but never recorded in the studio.
But before that, Daphne will be taking on a 5km run on November 13 with her older sister Astrid, also an ovarian cancer survivor. The duo will be participating in support of one of the marathon's beneficiaries, the Breast Cancer Foundation.
"I'm working out at least three times a week (to prepare for the run) but I'm hoping to make it a daily thing," said Daphne. "Astrid walks a lot at work so she's always mocking me because well, my job is singing, so I just sit around all day," she said, laughing. "But we have started training together and we're getting somewhere."
Paul Foster was reminded to go for a health check himself
Rather than finding it difficult to talk about losing his father to tongue cancer almost 20 years ago, Paul believes he is honouring the late elder Foster every time he shares their story, which he hopes serves as an inspiration.
"This campaign isn't just about those who have survived cancer, but also about those who have survived losing a loved one to cancer," he said. "To me, anyone who gets up to share their experience is awesome."
Attending yesterday's event, where the message of "early detection saves lives" was repeated, reminded the 35-year-old that he himself needs another comprehensive health screening, as his last one was when he just turned 30.
"I've spoken to a lot of people who would rather not know if they're sick, and that's a funny way to think – why not go get a check-up to make sure you're in good health?" He mused. "It's easy and a lot of them are free of charge, so there's really no excuse."