Life is filled with the most unexpected of challenges yet, with them, the most surprising of miracles. This is especially true for the person of faith, one remarkable example being Vida Lim.
Vida, a successful jewelry designer and a mother of 3, beneath the exterior of her joyful, chatty, and resolute personality, has been through a very particular wave of trials. Through them, however, the current 41-year-old has developed a kind of faith that has not just supported her in terms of career but has more especially sustained her in facing one of the most dreaded diseases – Stage 4 cancer.
A career of passion and blessings
But trailing back to the time before she even found out about her cancer, Vida had already made a name for herself in the local fashion scene and was seeing her jewelry business, which she had built from the ground up, hit major milestones.
Vida is someone who, ever since she could remember, has always had a natural inclination towards art. In fact, in the past, Vida had her eyes set particularly on fashion design. So despite having graduated with an Interior Design degree, Vida still tried to pursue her original interest by taking up some short fashion courses afterwards.
Behind the scenes of all this, she had been casually searching for vintage earrings in her spare time. Dissatisfied, she noticed that the designs she saw lacked the glamor and boldness she was looking for – a vintage boldness she knew she could create and do. With interests piqued and a gained vision for a potential career, she then set out to study jewelry design, which she turned out enjoying very much. At that point in time as well, she had been asking God if this was what she was meant to pursue, “Everytime I asked Him, it was really jewelry,” Vida confirms. Thus began her career in the field.
It was around 2004 when Vida started her jewelry business, “I first started really doing everything on my own, with my own hands,” she recounts. It was all about starting small at first; Vida was sourcing her materials from Quiapo, utilizing the Multiply social networking platform to advertise, and consigning her jewelry at a store. But then, almost as immediately as things were being put into motion, the unexpected happened, “In that week itself, a stylist borrowed my jewelry to use for a shoot, and it was immediately featured in a newspaper. And I was really surprised because it was credited to my name – it was a such ‘wow’ moment. After that, tuloy na tuloy na yun,” Vida says, telling how her designs from then on were borrowed by more and more renowned stylists in the industry, one after the other.
Eventually, her business grew. Vida Lim Jewelry gained its own website, was featured in magazines, was worn by famous personalities (one of the latest being Catriona Gray), and was showcased in bazaars and shows (such as the prestigious International Jewellery London).
Art and design has definitely always been at Vida’s core, so much so that she derives inspiration for her jewelry designs from anything and everything, whether it be from her children’s LEGO playsets, to the flowers of her garden, to the intricate moldings of Versailles. “If you’re an artist, even before sleeping at night, an idea will just suddenly come,” she mentions while recalling how she used to keep a sketchbook by her bed just in case a design idea would pop out of the blue.
Even something akin to art, like baking, is what Vida is currently involved in as well. Apart from Vida Lim Jewelry, she runs another business, bakeworldph, which is the authorized distributor of the Nordic Ware brand of bakeware in the Philippines. She started this in 2020, but it became notably successful in 2021 during the peak of the pandemic when the baking trend rose.
“Sobrang blessing,” Vida concludes gratefully on how well these ventures have gone.
The shocking news
It was during one unsuspecting day in December 2020 when something very odd happened. Vida’s stomach suddenly began to hurt, and shortly after, she experienced bloody bowel movement. What’s more is that she could only have this checked by the doctor in January, which meant she still had to wait for the holiday season to pass.
But when she could finally do the check-up, the doctors detected colon cancer almost immediately, seeing a 7.5cm tumor in Vida’s colon. Vida and her family didn’t know how far the cancer was, so they did a PET Scan. It was through this that they found that it was already Stage 4B, metastasized in the liver.
It came as a real shock. Vida’s stomach had always been flat, so how could she ever have thought that she had these tumors in her? The sickness couldn’t have been genetic either, as the results of her biopsy confirmed this. Even for the past couple of years, there were absolutely no signs that could have led up to this, especially since Vida is known to be the health-conscious one in her family. If you know Vida, her resolute personality spans all the way to self-care as well, from following those 10-step skincare routines to exercising 2 to 3 times a week. Even when her cholesterol levels had heightened some time ago, she turned to an all-salad diet and committed to it for the past 5 years. The fact that she had been this way for the longest time used to lead her to ask herself the same question time and time again about the news of her cancer: “What did I do wrong?”
However, looking back at it now, Vida does have some suspicions on what could be contributing factors to her cancer thanks to current reflections and recent learnings from nutritionist Baron Method. The main tumor – the colon tumor – started with an infection, which could have been caused by what she had been eating before. It is because of this that Vida suspects it had been pesticides in her salads or perhaps an unbalanced diet that increased her risk for cancer. Another factor also could be being constantly overworked. Going through a pandemic as a mother of 3 boys and as a businesswoman was, and still is, hard, “I work so much. I answer clients’ queries even if it’s 11:00pm. That’s just how I am..”
Faith amidst the storm
Because of her Stage 4 cancer, Vida had to go through a sudden slew of medical procedures. She and her husband went to consult their head physician as well as 3 other colon surgeons on what they must do. While the latter 3 recommended to go through surgery first before chemotherapy, the head physician suggested the opposite, to do chemotherapy first. After praying on it, Vida and her husband decided to follow their head physician’s suggestion.
All this, of course, did not go without its share of other obstacles in terms of family and work.
The impact of Vida’s diagnosis was definitely hard on her 3 boys. “With my kids, ibang level, When I see them affected, that’s when my heart breaks. I kept reassuring them that it’s okay… kept telling them to speak life to me,” she recounts. The kids were really affected emotionally, as Vida had to return to the hospital every 10 days (and stay there for the subsequent 5) and even as Vida’s husband had to bring them to their in-laws to be taken care of.
Even while going through chemotherapy, Vida was still replying to client queries through mobile. 2020 had been a year of hard work for her; although there was a pandemic, business was booming. However, Vida had to start her chemotherapy sessions in 2021 by late January and would only be able to finish them by the end of July. This meant that she would just have around 4 months in 2021 to fully put herself to work again.
But then, when Vida had finally reached the end of her first cycle of chemotherapy, the most amazing thing happened.
Vida had another PET Scan to see if the chemo medicines were working. Then, it was found that after just one chemo cycle, almost all of Vida’s tumors were wiped out.
It was simply unbelievable how such a thing could happen after only having gone through one chemo cycle. It was so surprising that it led Vida to a heart of great, relieved gratitude towards God and His power to heal and save. When the news reached other people, they also couldn’t believe the results, even to the point they thought it could be a misdiagnosis. “I even had a colonoscopy and other tests to be sure,” Vida explains, “Although meron pa tira tira sa tabi-tabi, it was almost really gone to be honest. I kept telling the doctor with God-given confidence that I believed I was healed. Even the doctors were shocked that after one cycle, halos wiped out na.”
It was a miracle Vida couldn’t have ever anticipated – a miracle that could only be the work of a faithful and loving God. To her, there could be no other reason.
Vida confirms that God has been at the helm of her and her family’s journey all along, as blessings other than this miraculous result have happened as well. According to her, when her husband saw her at her worst, that’s when he really became close to God. She even found an opportunity to minister to a caregiver she had, which she sees was one of her chances to be a blessing to others. Moreover, the overall sales of her businesses in 2021 ended up 30% higher than sales in 2020. “It was shocking, nakakiyak,” she describes, “It showed me that God wants me to live abundantly – like God was blessing me even more while I was in the hospital.”
But perhaps the most astonishing thing about Vida’s experience as of now is that she can say she has won over Stage 4 cancer in only a year’s time. Just this past January, she completed an operation on her colon and liver and was dismissed from the hospital after about 5 days. The results of this surgery ended up being really good, and all her tumors and nodules (except for her main tumor) were negative and benign.
“Because I was diagnosed with Stage 4…when somebody tells you that, it could feel like the end of the world. But, imagine, in just one year, I’m already cancer free. That’s pretty fast,” she says, still astounded by the thought, “I mean, who wouldn’t say it’s fast, right? So I believe it could only be really God who made it so.”
Faith as the root
Vida has just celebrated her birthday this month, an occasion she would rather mark as a celebration of God helping her fight her battle with cancer thus far, “Without my relationship with God, I wouldn’t be able to survive this journey.”
Vida is one who is truly grounded in the faith, believing that God is the source of not just her own wellness, but of all life, “You really have to have that faith that God healed you already…If it were you in my shoes, you will feel sad the first time you are diagnosed. But what you do with that sadness is the most important thing. For example, if cancer hits you, what will you do? You [mentally and spiritually] cast it out, remove it, you don’t embrace it. You have to reject it – to fight it – that’s why it’s called a ‘battle’. Then, you’ll come out strong. You will only survive this if you are already able to live in victory.”
Reflecting back on the staggering aspects of her cancer journey, Vida notes that the negativity she felt while she was sick is something she did not embrace in the moment. “Stage 4 is not a death sentence. Others think that Stage 4 is already a death sentence, but for me, what is amazing and surprising is that God is really bigger than any doctor or any science, most especially if you’re told that you only have 6 months to live. Faith in God is very important. It is the root of my experience.”
On another note, the same faith can also be said to have supported Vida in terms of her work. This is not to mention how Vida’s career is not really the preferred or conventional type of career choice for some more traditional folk in the Chinese community.
When asked if she experienced any sort of conflict with family or friends upon going into jewelry design, Vida replied, “When I started, yes, especially with my dad. He used to say this career was just a small-time thing.” But when Vida started getting featured in magazines, that’s when she proved to him the potential of her career. “When you start, everything is small-time. But you just have to keep on believing and to show others that you can be successful.”
When asked what her advice would be to others who want to pursue a career not typical of ones traditionally preferred in the Chinese community, she answers, “You really have to just believe. I know it’s hard, but you cannot expect things to be great overnight. Even if it will take 3 or 4 years, you really have to just keep the faith. People will eventually see that, but I know even that will take time too, especially when we’re talking about the Chinese community, who are used to lines of businesses like hardware and the like. However, I also noticed lately that parents now are becoming more open to these new things compared to times before. Now, one by one, they are already seeing that people can be successful in other fields… Still, I know it will take time, but you just need to believe in yourself, and believe in God as well. If you don’t believe in God, wala talaga eh. And of course, you need to be hardworking too. Others just believe in themselves but don’t put in the work. Well, good luck to them.”
“If it’s God’s plan for you,” she notes, “ it’s impossible that it won’t be successful. You really have to believe in your own craft and product. I’m sure if it’s God’s will, it will be successful – you should not doubt.”
If Vida were to choose three words to summarize her life’s journey so far, it would be faith, contentment, and happiness. It is because while going through trials in her life – primarily her battle with cancer – she still found herself remaining joyful and striving to not let the enemy take that joy away from her life.
“Every journey in life will make you stronger and mold you,” Vida says, “As we grow up, we will all face battles. But as long as we believe in Jesus, we will win every battle…For me, I’ve had so many trials and battles in life, and Jesus has always paved the way for me. As in, always.”