A look at cancer fighter Sarena Li’s short yet courageous life

·4-min read

After battling cancer for the past nine years, former Hong Kong singer Sarena Li died on 4 May. She was only 31 years old. Her passing was posted on her official Facebook page by her good friend, Hong Kong actor Steven Ma.

Ma wrote in his post, "In respect of Sarena Li Mingwei's wishes, I will announce here on behalf of her family that on 4 May 2021 at 5:10 in the afternoon, [Sarena] has returned to the embrace of Heavenly Father. Thank you all for your continuous care, support and love for her! Thank you! Bless you all! Amen!"

Cancer fighter singer

Li was known as the "cancer fighter singer", having diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare form of cancer, in 2012.

She had just begun her career as a singer, debuting in 2010 as part of a group, Xiao Long Feng, when she suffered a nosebleed that could not be stopped. She was sent to the hospital for a check-up and received the devastating diagnosis at just 22 years old. Due to the diagnosis, Li gave up her career as a singer and focused on recovery.

Undeterred by cancer

After her diagnosis in 2012, Li underwent 38 electrotherapy and four chemotherapy treatments. The rigorous treatments caused the singer's body to suffer from many side effects, including hearing loss in one ear, muscle atrophy, and oral ulceration.

Unfortunately, cancer recurred in 2016 and had spread to her lungs, liver, kidney and bones. Due to the enlargement of the tumour in her salivary glands, Li also experienced facial paralysis that also affected her right eye.

Despite all these obstacles, Li continued to fight for her life. In her post in August 2020, Li admitted that her body felt different, but she continued to fight: “I can only rely on myself to walk out of the darkness! I will console and motivate myself with my words! I know I can do it because I have a lot of things I have yet to accomplish!”

A fan of Joey Yung

Li was a huge fan of Hong Kong singer Joey Yung, who had invited the late singer to her concert at the Hong Kong Coliseum. Yung shared the photo she took with Li on her Instagram on 4 May after receiving news of Li’s passing.

Joey Yung greeted the late singer at her concert. (PHOTO: Joey Yung Instagram)
Joey Yung greeted the late singer at her concert. (PHOTO: Joey Yung Instagram)

In the photo, Yung wrote, “Dear Sarena, to know you, to feel the passion you have towards life, your determination for your dreams, let me understand that it did not matter how long or short life is, but as long as it is colourful, there will be no more regrets. I hope that you are free from pain in heaven, and we will always miss you!”

Yung was one of the few that had written a prologue for Li when she released her book, “The Chosen Actress” in 2019, to raise funds for her medical bills. Yung had also donated a six-figure sum to help Li with the hospitalisation bills.

Facebook updates

Using her official Facebook page regularly, Li had updated her fans about her condition, posting pictures of her hospitalisation.

The last time she had updated the page was on 20 April 2021. She had attached a photo of herself in the nursing home.

The 31-year-old wrote that she was hospitalised for five days due to the lack of oxygen and swelling in her stomach. She was transferred to a nursing home after she was discharged to monitor her condition. Li had wished to get well enough to be discharged.

Friendship with Steven Ma

Li’s fight with cancer caught Ma’s attention, who reached out to her in 2016 to collaborate on an album. The album raised funds for Li’s hospitalisation bills, and in 2017, Ma held an autograph session for the late singer.

The duo released a music video based on Li’s 2016’s track, “Love Exchange”, and Ma had written the Facebook update on her behalf as her “body deteriorated in the recent days, and could not reply to each and every comment”. 

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