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Actress Janice Koh shares her journey battling tongue cancer, receives supportive messages from netizens

She shared in a recent interview that she's had more than half of her tongue removed and she’s currently “in speech therapy and [her speech] is slowly improving over time”. 

Actress and former Nominated Member of Parliament Janice Koh won the hearts of many after recently opening up about her battle with tongue cancer.

In an interview with Vogue Singapore published on May 24, the multi-hyphenate revealed details about the early days of her diagnosis and the changes that have taken place in her life since then.

Koh publicly revealed her struggle with tongue cancer in November 2022 – four months after her initial diagnosis. In the Vogue Singapore interview, she expanded on the events that led to her diagnosis, sharing that she “first discovered an ulcer on [her] tongue and didn’t “think very much about [it]”. After realising that the ulcer persisted for multiple weeks, she visited a general practitioner, followed by her dentist who told her “to see an oral surgeon”.

She then went through a biopsy which confirmed that she was suffering from tongue cancer.

“My diagnosis filled me with regret. Why had I wasted months in between noticing the ulcer and finally getting it checked out? I had delayed proper medical attention because I was travelling, working and life had gotten in the way. It had never crossed my mind that it could be something serious,” Koh said.

Two surgeries later, more than half of Koh’s tongue has been removed and she shares that she’s currently “in speech therapy and [her speech] is slowly improving over time”. 

Koh seems to be accepting the good with the bad these days, saying “It’s a small price to pay for being well. Even though there is a part of me that mourns and grieves for my voice, I’m learning to accept that there is a limit to how perfect my speech will be. Being able to accept that, to me, is part of the emotional recovery from the trauma of the illness.”

Some of the ways the Crazy Rich Asian actress stays positive currently include meditating, journalling, going on short walks and having visitors twice or thrice a week because it “makes [her] happy to see [her] family and friends”.

Now, Koh is “making up for lost time” by spending more time with her family.

“I’m in a liminal space now where death doesn’t feel as far as it once did. I’m living from scan to scan, so I don’t plan too far ahead of time. These first few years after cancer are delicate. It’s become important for me to live my days well.”

Since the interview, multiple netizens have praised Koh for her vulnerability and bravery. A video of the interview – posted on Koh’s Instagram page – has since received over 10,000 likes, with one commenter thanking Koh for “paving a way for tongue cancer warriors to speak out and find the love within [themselves]”.

As for Koh, she seems to be taking her mantra of “living her days well” to heart – with her recent social media posts revealing that she’s currently on holiday in Peru with her husband Lionel Yeo and celebrity host Rosalyn Lee. 

“If there is one thing the past year has taught me, it’s never to wait too long to do the things you’ve always wanted to do.”

Source: CNA/hq