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Breast Cancer Survivor Weaves Her Magic in Handicraft

By Mei Kuan

Ally Li Yen

Having been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, Ally Li Yen’s hobby of making handicrafts began to pick up after she completed her chemotherapy and radiotherapy. 

The Ipoh girl has been single-handedly weaving quality, aesthetically pleasing baskets which are available for sale at an affordable price tag on her Facebook page (Basket With You) and The PWW Shop by Perak Women For Women Society.

From exquisite patterns to eye-catching colours, these multipurpose baskets of all sizes are brimming with artful craftsmanship. Did I mention that it is easy to care for and environmentally-friendly to boot?

“I self-learnt the necessary skills from videos while my design inspiration comes from online platforms like Pinterest. Then, I choose the colour which I think will look good on the basket that I am going to make. To date, the bestseller and customers’ favourite would be the basket with a ribbon wrapped around it (code number BWY029) as I have sold five baskets of that design but of different colours. I do not repeat the same colour, which means the baskets I sell are all unique. Plus, I accept requests for custom-made orders,” she explained, citing that the material she uses, the Japanese paper rattan, is recyclable. 

With a price range of RM40 to RM200 per basket, Ally offers shipping all over Malaysia. According to her, the one-of-a-kind baskets are made for all ages while its price is kept as low as possible to enable customers with a low budget to afford it.

Ally and her family

“I started this home-based business during the MCO (Movement Control Order). I wish that my creations will be known to all and that people from every state can use my baskets. I do not have a physical shop as I weave from home, therefore I’d like to express my gratitude to the PWW Shop along Jalan Market for featuring my baskets. Anyone who wishes to view the products in person can drop by,” enthused the ever amiable Ally who also enjoys baking, knitting and crocheting.

When asked about her biggest motivation in life as she keeps moving forward, she shared, “My 16-year-old boy, a special child who is diagnosed with mitochondrial cytopathy from birth. Besides my son (Asher Phuan), I’d like to thank my husband (Philip Phuan), too. He cheers me up every day by making jokes and doing funny things. During my treatment, my son did all the housework like drying the clothes and mopping the floor. Meanwhile, my husband was really busy from needing to take care of a special child in school and then rushing back to the hospital to take care of me.” 

Ally and her husband

Ally still remembers vividly how her husband comforted her when she experienced hair loss from chemotherapy – by saying he would accompany her to go bald when in reality he went bald many years prior! 

“Right now, I feel good and am still doing blood tests, x-rays and ultrasound to keep checking,” she added.

Here’s her advice for other women who have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer: “Be strong. Breast cancer can be healed. Think positive. Do not give up and do not be afraid to let people know that you have breast cancer. Sharing means caring.”

Besides checking out her Facebook page and The PWW Shop, interested readers can reach her at 012 522 2030

Let us all support local women’s handicrafts!

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Tan Mei Kuan

Tan Mei Kuan graduated with first-class honours and book prize from University of Malaya majoring in languages and linguistics (English). She is proficient in both written and spoken English and Malay. She is also conversant in Mandarin and has knowledge of Japanese and Korean languages. Mei Kuan has been on the Dean’s List for three years running. Having written for the campus newspaper and residential college magazine, joining Ipoh Echo has helped utilise her writing and language skills. In her spare time she enjoys running (races).

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