Monthly Archives: February 2012

Great Weekend!

Once BMT treatment started, I will be under several confinement and restrictions. Thus I have planned for the weekend before the transplant to meet up with my friends and to get a mobile data plan.

Saturday
A call for meet up sprung up in the Whatsapp ‘#League’, just in line with my intention to meet the poly-mates. We gathered at Ewan’s place for an evening of sausages, mash potatoes, pizza and beer. But thoughtful Ewan actually prepared baked Salmon for me since the other items were deemed unsuitable for someone under chemo. I brought Peel Fresh Yuzi drink and it turned out to taste really nice and refreshing!
Present that night were – Cherie & Ben, Neil & Lilian, Daniel, Jenny, LeRoy, Ewan & ,Nicole, and LAST BUT NOT LEAST… EUGENE CHEN a.k.a. 陈董!!! We had very lame jokes about grasshopper, penguin, ajinomoto and orange ping pong ball. Can’t believe we were still laughing over old and outdated jokes. After dinner, we had a peek at Ben & Cherie’s wedding moments. Time flew past quickly and it was soon time for home. It was passed my medication and sleeping time, but I decided to stay around for a chat with LeRoy, Ewan and Daniel. Look forward to catch up with everyone again, when I get well.

Sunday
Arranged with my travel buddies to meet up and go for Oh! Open House at Tiong Bahru. Reached Tiong Bahru Plaza slightly earlier to sign up for mobile data plan. Traded-in my old Nokia E63 for a white Samsung Galaxy Note, the biggest phone I ever owned! Because of the sign up, I delayed our ticket purchase for the art exhibition. The queue to buy the tickets was surprisingly long, maybe because it was the last day of the exhibition. CMY and I needed to be home for dinner, we decided to give the exhibition a miss as the next slot was pretty late and the duration of the tour was about 2hours. TWY and TPL bought the tickets for a later slot, so that we could catch up over some snacks at Tiong Bahru Market.

Back at home. Mom cooked delicious and nutritious dinner for us. At least a proper family dinner (with Qipei also) before I return to the hospital for BMT. I decided to send Qipei home after dinner since I have not done so for a long time and I would not be able to do so for another six months or so.

With all these businesses done, I felt that I was ready for BMT treatment. Towards the road of recovery!!!

Precious Week

Finally got discharged last Thursday. Happy to have Qipei accompanying me home. Little niece was home too. I thought she would not recognize me because of my skinhead but she did not take long to warm up with me. I could tell mum was happy and relieved that I got home. As I was discharged in the afternoon, I did not get to eat the hospital dinner – Western: Mutton and tofu burger with french fries. It was a meal upgrade from Class B2/C to Class A/B1. But who cares, I had the best home-cooked dinner with my family, the best dinner for 2012 thus far.

Niece came over almost everyday except for weekends and I had fun babysitting her. Mum cooked for us almost every meal just to ensure that I am eating right and have good nutrition. She worked long hours without complains and kept telling me to rest. Brother and I just helped her with babysitting and some simple chores whenever we could.

We have not had a steamboat as a family for quite a long while. I suggested having one when I was in the ward. We almost went into preparing for the steamboat then sister suggested that we decided to go fuss free by eating out. So we pigged out at Mushroom Pot at Indoor Stadium. Part of the agenda was also for me to eat more and build up before the transplant.

The outpatient consultation on Monday was a happy one. Happy to know that the salvage chemo worked and the blast cells in the bone marrow was reduced to 1%. Note “the blast cells” and NOT “my blast cells” – I learned from a patient to talk in this manner as the baddies do not belong to myself and so they shall all perish! All the pre-BMT checks and clearance looks good and there is no need to fill dental cavities before the transplant. The entire schedule will be made known to me on Thursday 23rd Feb during a family conference.

Tuesday was my 4 year anniversary with Qipei. We lunched at Ding Tai Fung at Wisma followed by a hunt for flats (not HDB flats but shoes) around Orchard. No fancy gifts or celebration, we are just happy to have quality time together. We parted before she made her purchase as I had a family dinner later on. It was Ding Tai Fung at 112 Katong. Well, I had to assume the food were more hygienically prepared compared to Dunman market, our other option. It was a lovely day to have spent the time with my loved ones.

My siblings accompanied me for the family conference on Thursday. We were given the schedule and Dr Ho explained quite a few important things about the transplant. There was too much information, and most are not music to my ears. I suppose in life you gain some and you lose some. We went on to see a ‘showroom’ of the ward that I am going to stay. The only difference is probably just the positive pressure doors that helps to ‘clean’ anyone coming in so that they do not bring in any sources of infection. After the conference, brother and I head down to the admission office for financial counselling. As my CPF Medisave has only a miserable S$3k and Aviva only issued a S$10k letter of guarantee (LOG), the hospital requested that I place a $50,000 cash deposit for the estimated 45-days bill of $72,586. Luckily Linda helped me to request Aviva to reissue another LOG of higher value so that I need not ‘park’ my money with SGH. Hospitalization bills are costly, better get your health insurance early!

During BMT, visitors are strictly restricted to immediate family only. So I am spending the weekends catching up with some close friends! Hope to post some pictures here next week during my free time in SGH. This week is very precious to me, and I believe I have and am spending it wisely.

Preparing for Bone Marrow Transplant

Now that my white blood cell counts are on an upward trend, I am moving into the pre-bone marrow transplant (pre-BMT) stage. There are a couple of checks to ensure that I am physically fit for BMT. Some of these tests on the functions of my vital organs will help to develop a baseline which can be compared with post-BMT tests to determine if any body functions have been impaired.

Healthcare staff has collected 6 tubes of blood from me to test for diseases and antibodies (I was told).

My urine (collected over a 24-hr period) and one tube of blood sample was collected for kidney function test.

Dental x-ray was done yesterday and the dentist identified two cavities that require fillings and a possible wisdom tooth fragment that needs to be extracted. However, these dental care procedures can only be done when my platelet counts rise above 80k (19K as of today).

This morning, I had a MUGA scan(Multi Gated Acquisition Scan) to check on my heart function. The radiologist said it is comparable to the same scan I did in January 2012, which means I still have a strong heart!

I have also met up with a dietitian. Done a handgrip strength test with her and we discussed about my appetite and die. She told me that the total calories provided in hospital diets are less than what I require in a day. I was advised to increase my protein intake by adding milk supplement (e.g. Ensure) to my diet, drink 3 cups of full cream milk per day, and consume more food that is rich in protein. It would be ideal if I can gain another 3Kg before transplant.

So now I am left with a lung function test which can only be done when my platelet counts are above 50k.

The admission for conditioning chemotherapy and transplant is on 20th February. It’s day 31 in SGH and I am expected to discharge next week. Hope to spend some quality time with my loved ones before next admission. :)

Recovering from Salvage Chemo

Good afternoon! I am feeling fresh after a good nap and a nice tea break. Decided to do a quick update about the recent salvage chemo treatment.

  • Admitted into SGH on 11 Jan 2012
  • Done a MUGA heart scan before the chemo
  • Chemo protocol: FLAG-ida (Fludarabine + Cytarabine + Idarubicin) given daily over five days, except for idarubicin which was given daily by bolus over three days.
  • Side effects experienced: Nausea, itchy rashes developed on thighs and back, hair loss, rapid drop and slow recovery of blood counts, virus and bacteria infection.

I was warned that FLAG-ida is a very strong chemotherapy compared to what I had received thus far. True enough, the nausea effect was really disturbing but fortunately it was only during those five days of chemo.

A skin biopsy was done for the rashes and it was found to be due to drug allergy reaction. The itch was unbearable at times but the medical team helped me to manage it well with Sarna lotion, moisturizer and atarax.

I was pretty upset that my total white blood cell counts made a steep decline two days before Chinese New Year. I was hoping to obtain a home leave to have a reunion dinner with my family at home. The risk of infection out there was too high for me to leave the hospital. But I managed to have home-cooked food, cooked freshly by mum, and delivered by my siblings. That was priceless, I gobbled up everything my mum put in the tingkat.

Peiling, Wei Yuan and Mei Ying accompanied me on the second day of CNY. We played monopoly deal and the small mahjong tiles Wei Yuan brought. After we finished the games, I ran a temperature and was down with fever for two days. I had the worst chill ever, whole body trembling hard uncontrollably. The nurses had to switched off the air-con and cover me with four thick blankets. The culprit was later found with a simple throat swab – it was a common virus that caused running nose and cough. Thanks to Ribavirin (anti-viral drug) and procodin (suppressed my cough), I was well again!

Last Thursday (2-Feb),  I spiked a fever again. This time the culprit is Escherichia coli. As of now, I am still on antibiotics (Cefepime).

Today, Dr Yiu said I would have to stay for at least another 9 – 10 days to complete the entire course of antibiotics. My white blood cells finally rose above the 0.2 mark to 0.47! Happily counting down to going home soon! :)

World Cancer Day 2012

According to the Singapore Cancer Society, cancer is the number one killer in Singapore! 1 in 4 Singaporeans dies of cancer. Every day, 12 people die from cancer and 28 people are diagnosed with cancer.

There are many things you can do to prevent cancer from happening to you:

Quit smoking | Eat lesser red meat | Exercise regularly | Healthy lifestyle | Apply sun screen | Go organic | Regular health screening | Fight pollution | Wear PPEs | Smile & stay happy | Fight obesity | Reduce alcohol intake | Raise cancer awareness

Treatment may have many undesirable side effects. For me, the salvage chemo treatment has caused patchy hair loss, a second time for me. The following illustrates why prevention is better than cure!

After showering, I looked like an old man!

My fingers run through my hair and I collected this!

I made a mess on my head.

I decided to tidy things up a bit, with mum’s help.

Now this is what I call neat and tidy!

Don’t wish to be bald like this because of chemotherapy treatments? Get something done today!

 

4 February 2012 World Cancer Day – Stand Up and Do Something

Help spread the message!

Luck or Choice?

In the many visits my relatives and friends have made, I always use my case to emphasize the importance of insurance (especially medical plans) to them. Most of them thought that I was lucky to have bought a hospitalization plan which helps to pay off the bulk of the expensive hospital bills. I did not think that was luck. It was a choice that I had made and a step that I had taken to plan for financial security. I was not given a choice for leukaemia, I was unlucky then.

Insurance is a product that you buy and hope (pray hard with fingers and toes all crossed) that you will never ever need to claim during your lifetime. This intangible product may make you feel like you are giving away your hard earned cash for nothing.

When I entered University as a freshman, I terminated the one and only term life policy (Aviva-SAF) I had, bought when I was doing my national service. It cost only S$12.80/month for a coverage of S$100,000. But I thought that being young and healthy, and as a student, I had low risks, what could happen to me? I was also partially under my mother’s nag: “don’t waste your money, you are not earning now”.

In 2009, my late father was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer. Following that, the stack of tax invoices for chemotherapy treatments and regular follow-ups were getting thicker with days. I recalled some chemotherapy drugs cost a few thousand dollars. The treatment was drying up his years of savings and medisave account. This prompted me to start financial planning.

I was not sure how and where to start my financial planning. I had saved up a bit from the temporary jobs I had done during school holidays. Investment was the only idea I had and I decided to look up a friend who just started as a financial adviser for advice on unit trusts. I was presented with investment-linked policies (ILP) which provide both insurance coverage and investment features. The benefit illustration was very attractive to a newbie but people around me advised against mixing insurance and investment together. I dropped the ILP idea and bought back Aviva-SAF term life policy with a critical illness rider.

In 2010, I happened to know that Linda, my HI! Club friend, is also a financial adviser. I made an appointment with her for a second opinion. Linda assessed my situation and explained in length the different tiers of financial planning. That was when I first learned about medical insurance. I appreciated the fact that Linda did not throw high commissioning polices at me, but instead, she patiently started me with the basic. I bought an integrated shield plan Aviva MyShield, one of the best decisions I have made in my entire life.

Today, I am still surprise to meet people who have joined the workforce but have no basic hospitalization plan. Savings from monthly income do not guarantee financial security for the future. I have seen for myself how critical illness such as cancer can wipe out one’s savings. Take action NOW to review your financial plans or get yourself covered for the unexpected, if you have not. Make a choice and not leave your life to luck.

 

P.S. I am not endorsing Aviva products. Please seek a financial adviser for recommendations.