Diagnosed ii learned invincible”
free, hormonefree, organic products—not an easy task in Hong Kong. “I turned into Meg Ryan from When Harry Met Sally. I was an absolute nightmare in restaurants, questioning the origin of every piece of produce; I’m sure waiters around Hong Kong thought I was insane,” she says with a smile.
Ross-tse had been very active before the surgery, taking up to four exercise classes a day, and her sedate new lifestyle was something she railed against. “I decided to try a yoga class about two months after the operation, and when I attempted the bridge pose I screamed and passed out from the pain,” she says. “That was a turning point for me, as I realised I had to relinquish control and let my body recover at its own pace. All my friends would tell you I’m an exercise nut and a control freak, so that wasn’t exactly easy for me.”
Nearly five years after that life-changing diagnosis, Ross-tse is sitting opposite me at Zuma eating sushi and looking slim, fit and pretty in white jeans and a Breton top, set off by a deep tan from her recent holiday in Phuket. “It took me three years to feel normal again,” she says. “I still have to eat very healthily, but I can now indulge from time to time and I allow myself a glass of wine at parties. I’m exercising a lot too, so other than my scar there are no physical signs that I’ve ever had cancer.
“However, it has had a profound effect on me mentally. The day I was diagnosed I learned that I wasn’t invincible, and that changed my outlook on everything. I’ve taken a step back from hectic Hong Kong life and appreciate how sacred a night at home with my family is. I love and appreciate my husband more than I ever thought possible. We got through the cancer diagnosis as a unit and came out the other side stronger than ever. I don’t sweat the small stuff in our relationship any more; if he wants to have a boys’ night out, that’s fine with me. It seems pointless to argue over such trivial things after everything we’ve been through.”
As well as changing her approach to life and love, Ross-tse has also shifted her professional focus. Before her diagnosis, she spent most of her free time working on her beauty and lifestyle blog, Glamaross, but today she is pouring her energy into promoting the Hong Kong Adventist Hospital Foundation’s cancer fund. “Surviving a cancer diagnosis is largely determined by how quickly you get treatment,” she says. “I had private healthcare and access to the best hospitals in Hong Kong, and they couldn’t have reacted faster, as shown by the fact I was on the operating table less than 24 hours after my diagnosis. But if I’d been in the public sector, it would have taken weeks or even months just to get my test results back, and that would have spelt the difference between life and death.”
The foundation’s cancer fund aims to fast-track tests for underprivileged people and help them gain access to the best cancer care the city has to offer, thus offering a far greater chance of survival. Ross-tse is helping the foundation raise money through Women of Hope, a Hong Kong-wide campaign that allows residents to vote for the most impressive women in the city in a number of fields, including entrepreneurship, the environment, health, and art and culture. The Women of Hope awards lunch, at which the eight winners are to be announced, will be held on June 11 at the Asia Society. All proceeds from ticket sales and donations will go to the foundation’s cancer fund.
“There was no doubt in my mind that I had to do something to help people with cancer,” says Ross-tse. “I know the sense of helplessness that comes from a diagnosis, the sadness of watching your family worry so deeply about you, the terror that you may not see your children grow up and the guilt that this is somehow your fault. But I now know that cancer is nothing to be ashamed of and, if anything, it makes you a stronger person. There is a great joy that comes from recovery and the realisation that what you thought was just everyday life is actually a thing of wonder. And I want as many people as possible who are currently battling cancer to experience that sensation.”
To cast your vote for the Women of Hope, go to