Jeanette Aw confirms Caucasian boyfriend

Few people would know that fiercely private local actress Jeanette Aw went through a breast cancer scare two years ago - she discovered a lump in her breast, but it turned out to be benign. Or that the 32-year-old has been playing mother to her three young godchildren for the past six years.

These revelations and more are presented in her debut book, Jeanette Aw: Definitions, available from tomorrow at $18.90.

In the book, which includes black-and-white photos and sketches she drew, Aw defines what's important to her in words from A to Z.

But the biggest revelation about The Little Nyonya star lay innocuously on the Acknowledgments page.

In the last line, Aw thanks her parents, her three godchildren Jacob, Jay and Jean, and one "Marcus".

In an interview last Friday, Aw admitted that Marcus is indeed the mysterious Caucasian boyfriend that the local showbiz grapevine has been speculating about.

She had written nothing more about him in the book and had wondered if anyone would pick up on that single one-name mention.

Well, we did. But she wouldn't tell us more about him. Not a word about how they met, how long they've been together or what she loves about him.

She wants to keep it private, she stressed.

So will wedding bells ring soon?

Aw replied: "Things are very comfortable between us now. I'm still traditional, so I won't run off to Las Vegas to get married.

"I'm not the kind who will get married secretly. I will share news about it because I respect my partner and I want people to know he's my other half."

However, when the time comes, her wedding will still be a private affair, she maintained.

Aw also talked about what her boyfriend likes about her.

"I would like to say (he likes) everything," she said with a laugh.

Does it mean they are in the honeymoon stage of their relationship, where lovers can hardly find fault with each other?

Aw said they had gone past that stage already and that he is able to accept her for whoshe is, as well as her unpredictable working hours.

She added: "It's all about understanding the nature of one's job and giving support, like with every relationship."

She said she wants to have children, although she's already mummy to a set of six-year-old triplets.

Their mother, a close friend of Aw, died soon after they were born and The Little Nyonya star stepped in.

She has nurtured them and cared for their emotional and mental growth since they were newborns, calling them every day and visiting them as often as three times a week.

The children live with their father, who is their chief disciplinarian.

Two years ago, Aw was worried about having them experience another loss when she discovered a hard, painful lump in her right breast - something she reveals in the book's section titled Note To Self: Write Before You Die.

A general practitioner told her she might need an operation and referred her to a breast surgeon. Aw recalled breaking down in her car after hearing the bad news and that she was filled with fear, especially since there was a history of breast cancer in her family.

"The fear was very real and strong, but it was not out of control," she said.

"There was a big question mark about what the lump was. I didn't want to jump to conclusions, but the fact that my aunt had breast cancer put the thought in my head."

In her book, she also reveals that she was afraid the operation would leave a scar.

"We live in a cosmetic world," Aw writes.

"So there I was, telling my friend, 'People are busy inserting stuff in their breasts and here I am taking stuff out of mine when I really do not have much of them left!'"

She revealed her condition to family members, some close friends, her management company Artiste Networks and the executive producer of the Channel 8 drama New Beginnings, which she was filming at the time.

Aw continued filming every day for the two weeks leading up to her operation.

Half of the time, she managed to keep her mind on work.

At other times, she felt very fragile and vulnerable.

It affected her appetite and she lost weight, but she never cried again, she said.

"It was a big wake-up call for me and I told myself I'm racing against time. I have to re-prioritise a lot of things in my life."

She had wanted to publish her own book six years ago, but had procrastinated. It was her breast cancer scare that finally motivated her to start writing.

Fortunately, the surgeon concluded after checks and scans that the lump in her breast was a cyst and that Aw didn't need an operation after all.

It is a common condition that happens to women, she also found out, and her case was not considered serious.

A needle was inserted into her breast to extract the liquid in the cyst. It was painful, Aw said, and because the cyst was so hard, she said it was like "poking through a wall" to get the liquid.

The actress spent a few hours at the hospital and returned to filming afterwards.

The fact that the lump was benign sank in slowly and Aw said she didn't feel ecstatic after the procedure.

"I was so near something that could've been bad, and I'm glad I have a second chance," she said. The love for her three godchildren also keeps her going.

Said Aw, whose face lit up when speaking about them: "They are a big part of my life. I learnt a lot more from them, like how to love and see things simply.

"Being with them just makes me happy."

She added that they are very well-behaved and easy to take care of.

Apart from being the indulgent godmother who buys them clothes and toys - Wii, PlayStation Portable, Xbox - Aw said she can be quite strict with them when they misbehave, though that rarely happens.

Aw is particular about manners because she doesn't want them to grow up rude and spoilt.

Recalling the first time she had to scold one of them, Jacob, when he was three, over something she cannot recall any more, she said: "I couldn't bear to do it and I cried as I scolded him. It was over the phone so luckily he didn't see it. But after a while, you get the hang of it."

She said the children are very attached to her and she feels they are less naughty when they are with her.

And one child, Jean, was born Amelia, but later changed her name because she wanted to be named after Aw.

The children also decided to celebrate their birthday on Aw's birthday, June 28, one month after their own.

This article was first published in The New Paper.