Chinese British Director Battling Endometriosis Wants More Stories About Women of Color

British-Chinese director and non-profit founder WaiLo Li is creating a documentary with the goal of raising awareness for breast cancer and women’s health worldwide.

Mother and daughter duo, Elly Li and WaiLo Li.

Born in British Hong Kong, raised in Worcestershire, England and having worked around the globe, WaiLo and her late mother, Elly Li, had gotten support for the documentary from top oncology and OBGYN consultants at Worcestershire Royal Hospital in England.

“Minorities already have such a tough time getting their voices heard – at the best of times – and Women of Colour especially – never mind being accurately represented in sickness and in health,” WaiLo said. “I wanted to show that Endo & Cancer knows no bounds, indiscriminate of neither race nor colour and certainly does not exist in silo. 

WaiLo told HuffPost UK she wanted to break the stigma of talking about breast cancer in East Asian communities.

“One of the reasons why we’re doing it is that as British Chinese we wanted to share the story not only to highlight breast cancer awareness but also cancer in minorities. It’s about breaking the silence and breaking the stigma – especially for East Asians. More talking, awareness, openness, and understanding is needed,” she said.

With Asians being more prominent in media, WaiLo has contacted well-known filmmakers for help in telling complex East Asian stories, including Jon M. Chu, director of “Crazy Rich Asians,” and Lulu Wang, director of “The Farewell.” She has also reached out to Keanu Reeves for help in telling stories minorities and women of color because of his Asian ancestry.

“At such divisive and uncertain times, I hope this shows that we are all the same – we grieve the same, we love and loss, we have nearest and dearest who let us down at our lowest points and rescued by the kindness of strangers with good hearts. Kindness is the answer to all our tough situations,” WaiLo said.

Elly Li, mother of WaiLo Li, was helping her daughter with a documentary before passing suddenly in April 2019.

WaiLo has stage IV endometriosis and nearly died a few years ago, while her mother, the star of the documentary, passed away abruptly in April 2019. There is no cure for endometriosis at all. The womb cells grow outside of where they are supposed to be, causing organs to fuse together and creating excruciating pain for the carer. Before Elly’s passing, WaiLo had planned #SuperSurprises inspired by American comedian Ellen Degeneres.

She described her mother as “the kindest supermom and exceptional human being.” The mother-daughter duo was featured on BBC speaking on language barriers, multiple cultures, complexities and contrasting differences, as well as being positive and overcoming stigmas and traditions.

Alongside completing the documentary, WaiLo is also finishing the #SuperSurprises that she was unable to complete in full with her mother.

Elly Li and WaiLo Li completing surprise number seven of Li’s #SuperSurprises at West Midland Safari Park.

WaiLo is also the founder of Birmingham’s ProjectTOM — a grassroots voluntary #ActsOfKindness non-profit group standing since 2008. To date, they have raised just over $58,000.

“Established in Birmingham (UK), in May 2008, it is based on the simple concept that doing good deeds and helping those less fortunate will help provide good role models for our future – and that the world will become a better place as a result,” the website says.

While in critical condition, she is still trying to help those most affected during the United Kingdom’s shutdown. She is frantically trying to support the National Health Service (NHS) with personal protective equipment (PPE) donations and care packages for the vulnerable as the UK continues a national emergency lockdown.

This article has been updated to report that endometriosis has no cure.

Feature Images via ProjectTOM

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