There are few things more important in life than love and friendship, especially in times of need, which is why one daughter has gone to extraordinary lengths to bring joy to her mother, who has stage four breast cancer.
Elly Li, aged 59, was diagnosed with the illness last year. Secretly, her daughter WaiLo Li arranged for her best friend of 40 years - known as Auntie Ling - to travel all the way to Birmingham from California for a surprise visit.
Auntie Ling, who isn’t a blood relation but is a close family friend, made the trip using air miles gifted to her by her own son Kenson, who had been saving for a trip to Europe but gave her the tickets “without hesitation”.
WaiLo Li said she had told her mum to expect a photographer at the door who was coming to take photos of the family. But what she got instead was her best friend at the door - who flew on her own for the first time to make the trip.
WaiLo Li told HuffPost UK she wanted to bring happiness to her mum’s life, following what had been multiple rounds of gruelling chemotherapy. Her and Auntie Ling met four decades ago as “factory girls” in Hong Kong, where as teenagers they were working to help their families “make ends meet and to put food on the table”.
WaiLo organised for her mum and Auntie Ling to go on sightseeing tours together - including at Worcester Cathedral, Hadley Bowling Green, and the River Severn.
“I’m hugely thankful that Auntie Ling was able to spend some time with and support mum in the UK, during this difficult time... For us, it’s friendships like these that are truly priceless,” she said. “I’m so chuffed we were able to pull off that one, they’d been close for many, many years.”
WaiLo has organised several trips with the help of friends and family, all designed to give her mum amazing experiences and cheer her up.
WaiLo also took her mum to Santorini in Greece for a holiday and arranged for another friend, Auntie Lan and her family, to make a surprise visit from Hong Kong. They spent three days together in Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds sightseeing.
She told HuffPost UK: “I’ve been planning a series of surprises for mum ever since she was diagnosed last year mainly to cheer her up, help her take her mind off things and create some happy memories. There’s not much I can do other than be there in terms of for hospital appointments and be a dutiful daughter.”
Her brother, Wai-Chung Li, also ran the Birmingham half marathon in aid of Cancer Research last year.
WaiLo said she wanted to speak with HuffPost UK to raise awareness of breast cancer and to help to break the “stigma” of talking about it in East Asian communities.
“One of the reasons why we’re doing it is that as British Chinese we wanted to share the story not only to highlight breast cancer awareness but also cancer in minorities. It’s about breaking the silence and breaking the stigma - especially for East Asians. More talking, awareness, openness, and understanding is needed.”
She said she hoped the video would encourage more people to get screenings and help break the taboo about illness.
“Love, support, and understanding can only be a good thing for millions of people going through one of life’s hardest hurdles,” she added.