PETALING JAYA: In a sort of betrayal of her work as a meditation teacher and motivational speaker, Cordelia Lee gave in to depression after a doctor told her that her son Patrick could be suffering from a rare disease.
“Life isn’t fair,” she told herself. “Why must a three-month baby go through any suffering?”
However, after a month of crying every day, she decided enough was enough. It was up to her, she realised, to make sure that Patrick’s life had meaning. If something did indeed happen to him, she did not want her boy’s final memories to just be doctor’s visits and tears and fears.
She was determined to empower her son. A lover of music and poetry, she decided to compose short, simple songs she could sing to him every day.
One of these was “Never Give Up”, a moving anthem of hope and determination.
“The song is not just for him,” she told FMT Lifestyle. “I’m also singing it for myself. I also need motivation. It helps remind me not to give up, to keep on going and keep on believing.”
Patrick was first diagnosed with biliary atresia, a rare disease of the liver and bile ducts. A year later, tests revealed he also had Alagille syndrome, a genetic disorder affecting several organ systems of the body, including the liver, heart, skeleton, eyes and kidneys. He also has a heart condition known as pulmonary stenosis.
Lee, 51, said the inspiration for Never Give Up came after doctors said there were potential future medical complications in store for Patrick.
“I was worried he might get overwhelmed,” she said. “So, we tried to encourage him. Mummy and Daddy cannot guarantee there will be no pain, although we will try to minimise it. But please trust us. This song is to tell you that as long as you never give up, we will never give up on you.”
Patrick received a liver transplant at the age of one year and nine months and seems to be doing better now. Currently aged five, he appears to be a happy and lively kid. But Lee and her husband Kon Ket Sing, constantly monitor him to ensure there are no further health complications.
“Never Give Up” has taken up a life of its own since Lee started singing it. The song has been performed at local community gatherings and motivational sessions. It is available on YouTube Music, Spotify and Apple Music and is featured on “I Love Life”, a five-song EP on which Lee sings under the stage name of Cordi Li.
According to Lee, she never planned to release her song on such a scale. While in the hospital for her son’s treatment, however, she would often meet mothers of other sick kids.
“I would sing ‘Never Give Up’ to motivate the other mothers. Many of them were touched. I told them I was performing it at talks and events, and they said this was a very small scale. I should think bigger, bring it to wider platforms.”
Before recording her song, Lee went through an artist development programme conducted by Jingles Management. This was in 2021 and it was to sharpen her singing and songwriting skills.
Having little experience in performing, Lee was nervous about undertaking the project. However, she was determined to do it for Patrick.
“I don’t see myself as a professional singer or artiste,” she said. “Unlike performers who have been singing since they were young, I am just starting out in this. I told my music director that this sometimes feels very out of my league. But he told me to just relax and breathe.
“In the end, though, this is to show my son that if I can do this, he too can do anything.”
She said her song could, perhaps some time in the future, be used as part of a global movement to inspire and motivate people.
“Hopefully, ‘Never Give Up’ can reach a wider audience and inspire more people to confront life’s obstacles and hardships with optimism and self-belief.
“And for my son, I have the same hopes for him today as I did when he was just three months old, that his life will be filled with love, joy, smiles, laughter, meaning and purpose.”