While MKR fans may be stunned by the sensational and unexpected turn of events, New Idea can exclusively reveal the heartbreaking personal tragedy that has lead the Melbourne mum to make the totally gut-wrenching decision.
Rocked by a devastating call from her mother, Kim rushed to be with her terminally ill sister, Lan, after doctors advised the family that they should say their final goodbyes.
‘I had to leave MKR,’ Kim tells New Idea in an exclusive interview. ‘I had to go, I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t see Lan – if she passed away and I hadn’t said goodbye, then I would’ve lived with that guilt for the rest of my life. I wouldn’t wish that situation on anyone.
‘Mum called me and said the doctors didn’t think she had long left. Before I’d gone on MKR Lan had been stable and the tumour in her lung had actually gone down in size. But while I was on the show, the tumour in her brain had basically grown overnight and she was deteriorating rapidly.’
While Kim knew she wanted to be with her sister – who had been diagnosed with inoperable brain and lung cancer in 2009 – she said giving up her MKR dream was weighing heavily on her mind.
‘My mum said: “this is your dream to be on MKR, your big opportunity” – but the guilt was too much,’ she said. ‘I also felt bad for Suong – she was my partner and I didn’t want to take her MKR dream away from her, I knew her future rested on this. ‘If the producers said that if I left then Suong would have to go too, then I would feel really bad on my part because I was making her lose her opportunity.
So I had a lot on my mind, a lot of pressure because I felt like I was letting people down.
‘Suong was very supportive – she said if you have to go, you have to go,’ Kim tells.
Luckily, the compassionate MKR bosses found a way for Suong to go on without Kim while she dashed to be with her sister.
‘The producers said they were going to support me and I should take as much time as I need and come back any time,’ Kim says. ‘It was so nice to know that I wasn’t going to lose my spot on MKR, lose my chance at a better future. After that, a burden had been lifted off – and I went home. I’m so grateful that I got to do that for myself and for her.’
But in a miracle twist, Lan pulled through her grave brush with death after having Kim by her side – and is still alive, taking each day as it comes. And after a four-day vigil, Kim was able to return to the MKR kitchen and join forces with Suong again.
‘Lan is still living day-byday,’ Kim says. ‘We are happy to have her in our lives for an extra day. The doctors tell her that she should plan her funeral, but she says, “No! I’m going to live for another 10 years!” And I believe her.
‘She’s got two kids, and her youngest Leon is just 10 – and his mum has been sick for most of his life. Lan lives for him. He’s the one that’s keeping her alive.
‘The doctors have said that there’s nothing more they can do for her, and Mum and Dad are giving her a lot of Chinese medicine – we feel we have nothing to lose.
‘In saying that, her health is getting worse and worse. She’s starting to lose her vision, her hearing and her movement.
‘Her internals are going, having more problems. She’s still deteriorating.’
Kim, who has five brothers and five sisters, says her whole family is incredibly close, but she was always very close with 48-year-old Lan.
‘She’s one of the best people I know, so kind,’ says Kim. ‘She was diagnosed with tumours in her brain and lung in 2009. The brain tumour is in the middle of her brain and doctors could never operate or she’d die or be left a vegetable.
‘She’s had four different types of chemotherapy – she’s definitely a fighter. They’ve given her six months to live before, and she just keeps fighting.
‘They say that bad things happen to the best people – and with Lan, that’s definitely true.’
For the full story see this weeks issue of New Idea - out now!