Singapore #Fitspo of the Week Julianne Danielle Lim: 'Post cancer treatment, I worked hard to change my life'

Be inspired by the success stories of fitness influencers, celebrities, models, trainers and everyday movers in Singapore

Singapore #Fitspo of the Week Julianne Danielle Lim is an equity trader, as well as a presenter-speaker.
Singapore #Fitspo of the Week Julianne Danielle Lim is an equity trader, as well as a presenter-speaker. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

Life goes beyond the digits on the scale and your body is capable of so much more! Yahoo’s #Fitspo of the Week series is dedicated to inspirational men and women in Singapore leading healthy and active lifestyles. Have someone to recommend? Hit Cheryl up on Instagram or Facebook!

Name: Julianne Danielle Lim (@juliannedanielle)

Age: 42

Height: 1.65m

Weight: 48kg

Occupation: Presenter-speaker, Equity Trader

Status: Attached

Food: I focus on a balanced diet by paying attention to macronutrients (protein, carbs and fats). I found that by being dairy and gluten-free - including no sauces and gravies - and focusing on whole foods and eliminating processed foods, I no longer feel bloated. Eating clean has also made my gut and stomach “clear up”.

Exercise: I exercise multiple times throughout the day and my sessions sometimes include up to four different types of workouts ranging from strength training, running, swimming, rhythm cycling and core work.

A: My life was all about achieving success and accomplishing goals. What meant a lot to me was how much money I made, how quickly I climbed the corporate ladder and how many awards of honour I achieved. My priorities in life were accelerating my career and committing to competencies that contributed to my career. I spent a lot of time networking with business associates, making money in financial investments and investing in real estate. On top of my finance career, I even created an e-commerce business, and served in church and the community.

Julianne used to be super driven to climb the corporate ladder, until cancer struck in 2020.
Julianne used to be super driven to climb the corporate ladder, until cancer struck in 2020. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

I hustled hard. I was so laser focused on the pursuit of the glitz and glamour of success in my six-inch stilettos and corporate dresses. I loved living life in the fast lane and I reached the peak of my career and was thriving. But God had other plans for me.

One night, I was waiting to hear back on a work-related issue at 11pm so I decided to take a shower. That’s when I saw something unusual and had it checked. I was so shocked at what the doctors had found.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that this would happen to me at a young age in my 30s. I was diagnosed with Stage Three breast cancer in July 2020. I immediately ejected out of my “successful” life into a chemotherapy chair two days later.

Initially, as my hair fell away and my physical body succumbed to the side effects of the effective chemo drugs, and with a disease like cancer staring at me, I felt like I was stuck in my pursuit of success.

I was having FOMO (fear of missing out) because everyone else is achieving and enjoying more success than I was. I had a lot of self-blame and I formed habits of being unkind to myself.

At some point, when I looked at myself in the mirror, I felt unrecognisable to myself and I felt that I could not relate to what I was chasing anymore. Surely God did not create me just to achieve material success right? Because when is it ever enough? Why can’t I have more?

I soon became depressed clinically and emotionally. I felt that that I did not know who I am. As I sank lower into depression and into a dark tunnel, I asked myself questions like, “What is my purpose in life? What on earth am I here for? What is God's plan for me? What is my mission? Am I a good Stewart of my life? Who am I?"

Then the true realisation of what my life meant to me hit. My goals were changed by this encounter and my life orientation changed. As I descended from the peak of my career to the rock bottom of my life, the people I met and the circumstances revealed to me who I really am from past to present.

Julianne's life direction changed after her cancer episode, as she worked on becoming healthier.
Julianne's life direction changed after her cancer episode, as she worked on becoming healthier. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

In my life, I am so used to measuring success by how much revenue was generated for the bank or how effective the change implementations were. In fact, on the day of diagnosis, I was still preparing to present the many successful change implementation that the teams had done for the whole year.

All these were days, weeks and months of hard work to present how effective and successful they are, but I could not bring any of these with me into the chemotherapy rooms nor did I find it meaningful anymore when I was struggling with my existence.

I had gained 13kg due to the side effects of the chemotherapy and also an insatiable appetite. Dieting, pill popping and shortcuts are not for me. Post cancer treatment, I worked hard to change my life.

It was not just the weight, but I needed to lose the attitude. I replaced old habits with healthy ones, made healthy habits stick, change my relationship with nutrition, exercise and sleep. I focused on being consistent and not just resist temptations. I managed stress with self-love and self-kindness.

I was constantly out of breath and I recognised that there were the side effects from the chemotherapy, but that was not going to stop me. My cancer journey spanned 12 months and I started with daily walks of 3,000 steps, gradually increasing to 10,000 steps.

After the operation, I did basic mobility recovery and private stretch classes as I was too immobile and also too shy to go for a group class. By Month 10, I had a bit more strength from physiotherapy so I tried to run for 30 seconds every day for two months.

Whenever I felt stronger, I attempted running the length of my condominium’s car park. This went on for another two months. Later, I progressed to running two lengths, then four and finally I made it out to the park connector.

Yes. Between Kallang Stadium and my condo’s car park, I started with running 100 metres and eventually made it to 4 kilometres. It is amazing how our bodies adapt and exercise can help overcome everything, such as chemotherapy and recovering faster than the average after an operation.

The best part? I feel so good about myself. Now, I travel the world to go for fit-cations and running events.

During chemo and post-operation, I realised that I had to lift myself off the bed and my “chicken arms” had a lack of strength. I was only in my 30s, so I felt I could do a lot better than that. If I live till my 80s and beyond, I need the strength to lift myself off the bed, so I better start practising now.

Julianne used her cancer episode to reinvent herself and re-prioritise her lifestyle.
Julianne used her cancer episode to reinvent herself and re-prioritise her lifestyle. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

Instead of cancer ruining my life, I saw it as an opportunity for a new beginning. I’ve learned to re-evaluate what is important in my life and cherish the time I have with my loved ones more because life is short. Before having cancer, I tend to overwork but now I make it my priority to take care of my health. I learned to appreciate the little things in life more.

After my chemotherapy treatments concluded, I was determined to turn my life around. I lost my physique, muscle, strength and all my confidence, but I was determined to reduce the chances of any cancer recurrence.

I was only in my 30s and I wanted to turn my life around after. How can I help myself reduce the occurrence of any cancer recurrence? I asked every medical staff and doctor along the way and the answer I got was to have a healthy lifestyle. That meant balanced nutrition, daily exercise, seven to nine hours of sleep, positive emotions and less stress.

Being fit has given me overall strength, form and discipline. I find that strength training helps me to stay focused mentally and it spills over into every aspect of my life. I can spend hours to prepare for boardroom presentations, then it dawned on me that I need the same precision and mental focus when doing each rep in the gym.

Being fit helps me stay disciplined in resisting temptations, in doing what’s needed and not under-doing or over-doing. Creating new habits is not the hard part, making habits stick is what’s difficult. For example, taking my vitamins is something I struggle to remember every day.

I generally don’t live life in regret or with regrets, but perhaps one thing I would have done more, is to actually sleep more and have afternoon siestas. Many of us Singaporeans, I’ve observed, feel guilty when we have power naps or down times. Some even frown on schedules when it is “less busy”. Is this a toxic mindset?

Sleep and rest is so important. It increases our immunity and also balances our life just with this one single priority. Our whole being changes. Try it and you’ll see!

Singapore #Fitspo of the Week Julianne Danielle Lim.
Singapore #Fitspo of the Week Julianne Danielle Lim. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)