Portraits of Strength: Joanna Goy

Portraits of Strength: Joanna Goy - Hegen

In honour of International Women’s Day, we are featuring ten Hegen mums who have found strength in spite of the odds, adversity and loss. This week, we have a mother who survived stage 3 cancer. 

Woman. Wife. Mother. Breastfeeding advocate. Entrepreneur. Cancer survivor.

Not everyone can say that they have played these same roles and lived to tell a tale of strength in the face of adversity. At the young age of 35, Joanna Goy not only survived cancer, but also fought to keep her business going at a time when it seemed that it might fail. At the same time, she was trying to keep her marriage strong through financial as well as physical and emotional challenges.

This Boss Lady and Mum of three daughters definitely inspires us and gives us hope that we can indeed have it all!


Hegen: Joanna, you’ve been through so much and still going strong! What is your personal definition of strength?

My Strength comes from my Faith. I believe that everyone can have faith, which may come in many forms – some people pray, others find it in their children or even in themselves. If people take a chance and look deep within, anyone can find the strength and resilience to succeed and that drive to push ahead. For myself, I just wiped my tears and kept moving forward!


Hegen: Can you talk about a period in your life when you had to rely on your strength?

There have been many! In the early days of the business, Nick and I really struggled to make enough to get by.  I remember baking late into the night after my kids had gone to sleep, and once I was so tired and burst out crying for a good hour! But when there were no more tears left to cry, I wiped my face and kept baking until morning. 

I remember this incident vividly because it was the turning point of our business. I realised that the shared kitchen we were using didn’t serve us well. So we took a leap of faith, looked for a storefront the next day and secured our first retail kitchen within the next two days. 

Thank God, with hard work and perseverance, we moved from a retail shop to a manufacturing plant in Singapore last year in March during the start of Circuit Breaker. With the appropriate licence from SFA, we are set to expand exponentially in this market. Our goal is to make these cookies accessible for all mothers in Singapore!

Another time of struggle was in 2019, when I was misdiagnosed for a year before I found out that I had lung cancer stage 3A (with a survival rate of only 30%). The GP said that I had just a normal pneumonia but the white spot in my lung in the X-Ray turned out to be cancer, discovered by another doctor a year later. 

The hardest day for me was the very last time I breastfed my youngest, Jorissa (now aged 3) before my first chemotherapy session the next day. Everyone around me knows how passionate I am towards breastfeeding, even founding a company that is so close to the heart of breastfeeding community and taking up a breastfeeding counsellor course to help other Mums struggling with breastfeeding. To give up nursing my baby because I was ill was heartbreaking. I began an aggressive Chemo, Radiation and Immunotherapy treatments for the next 1 year 4 months.

Fighting this episode made Nick and I stronger as husband and wife and I thank God for blessing him to me. There were so many nights when he carried me to bed where I was just too tired from treatments. On my numerous visits to hospital, he would accompany me, working while I am having my chemo sessions. 

It was a long and painful journey but well worth fighting. I’m currently in remission!


Hegen: That’s so good to hear! What or who was your source of strength during those tough times?

I would definitely say that my family is what keeps me fighting when chips are down.

Working with my husband Nick has been one of the best experiences of my life. We work hard together towards a common goal to make a good living for my kids, and most importantly to help other mummies in Singapore. He is the rock of my life, and anchors me whenever I get ahead of myself. We have worked together for the last three years and our marriage has solidified because of that. There is mutual respect and admiration for the different skill sets that we each possess. 

Of course, my children are the ones who strengthen me, giving me hope and will to carry on through my brush with Cancer. There were times when I was actually afraid to sleep with them, worrying they might wake up to a mom who has passed on. Yet holding them, gave me so much strength and comfort. Just being in their presence told me I had to fight on and live!


Hegen: Was there anything that shaped you to have this determined streak?

As a child, I often helped my family in their hawker stall, cooking food and serving customers, so I grew up with a very strong sense of community and camaraderie. 

Many of my core values of today were developed during my time helping out at the hawker stall. The hawker spirit of Singapore embodies values like hard work, good customer service and the spirit of perseverance. Hawkers get up in the wee hours of the morning every day no matter rain or shine, to work and serve their customers with a smile. 

This "never say die" attitude is one that I bring from the hawkers to my business and how I live life!