KUALA LUMPUR: When Annie Au was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in 2020, she was devastated. She was only 36 years old at the time.
What made the news even more dreadful was having just lost her mother to that very same type of cancer less than a month before.
Triple negative breast cancer is a more aggressive form of cancer that spreads quicker than other types.
As part of her treatment, Au had to undergo chemotherapy. As a result, she began to lose chunks of her hair, something that plunged her into a depression apart from dealing with the other side effects of the treatment.
“Due to how sensitive the hair loss made my scalp, I wasn’t able to wear wigs, so I turned to scarves instead.”
However, she was unhappy with the kind of headwear she came across in shops, thinking them too plain-looking and not comfortable enough.
So, the spunky woman decided to design her own, and Miyaco was born.
“I also wanted to provide some comfort to people going through the same thing as me, making beautiful and fashionable headwear for them to rebuild their confidence.
“Besides, when we look good, we’ll feel better to face our illness with a more positive approach, which is what’s important for cancer survivors,” she said.
At first, she designed only scarves under the Miyaco brand, but realised all too soon that many women did not know how to tie or style them.
So the range was expanded to include inner caps, turbans, and even sleep caps, all of them sporting chic and pretty patterns.
Speaking with FMT Lifestyle, Au recalled how she, along with her three sisters, cared for their mother while she was in hospital.
“It was so hard to process that I was sitting in the same seat as her, going through the same treatments after losing her not too long ago. The only difference is I was the visitor then and now I’m the patient,” she said.
To cope with her turmoil, Au started an Instagram page called Au Journeys during chemotherapy to share her story and experience with others, and to remind them (and herself) that they were not alone on this difficult journey.
Thankfully, after an operation to remove the tumour in her right breast and a series of chemotherapy and radiotherapy sessions, Au was declared cancer-free in November 2021.
“I still need to go back to do pet scans, ultrasounds and mammograms regularly to monitor my condition, though.”
Au said her husband and family were great pillars of strength throughout her sickness, as she remembered how devastated she was in the initial stages.
“He would stay by my bedside when I was going in and out of the hospital, bringing his work with him so that he could accompany me. When the topic of children came about, he even told me it’s ok if we go through IVF or adoption,” she said of her husband.
“Miyaco is not just a brand, it’s also a memorial to my mother. She raised me and our family with all her love but she left us after her battle with cancer,” she said.
“Miya” is what everyone in her family called her mom, and “co” refers to company, Au explained the meaning behind the brand name.
“So, I want to remember her and hope she can give more courage and strength to other people through Miyaco.
“On the other hand, I hope it can help my fellow cancer survivors be confident again and spread some positive energy.”
As for what’s next on the horizon, Au said she and her husband are still on the fence on whether to have children.
“After all, there’s a chance I may pass the same illness to my daughter if we have one, so there’s plenty to think about before we make a decision,” she said.