Category Archives: Blog

Staying alive.

Random Thoughts

Health Report Card

Done a bone marrow biopsy on 22 Aug and the results show about 5% blast and ~50% mutated t8-21 cells in the bone marrow.

Not very exciting results but that’s pretty much the characteristics of cancer cells. They grow fast, damn fast. A seed will grow into a plant only when favourable conditions are met. I wonder what are the favourable conditions that make these t8-21 grow so fast.

In any case, I was scheduled for 2nd cycle of AzaCITIdine low dose chemo which I have completed the last dose today. Each chemo jab costs $700+. The bills just helped me earn another $200 cash rebates for swiping >$4,000 in a month on the Standard Chartered Manhattan Platinum Card. This is really a rewarding card to have when you have large medical expenses each month.

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Unpredictable Schedule

Because of possible treatments, appointments and poor immunity, I have been rejecting wedding invitations. For general gatherings, I can only confirm my attendance closer to the date (usually after blood test). Luckily all my friends are understanding.

In support of Liting (my partner-in-crime), and as a treat to my travel buddies, I bought tickets to a play titled “Doctored” after my discharge on 3 Aug. I wasn’t very sure if I could attend it as I’d been told that I might be doing a week of low dose chemo treatment. Leave it to fate, I thought. It turned out that I made it to the play but Peiling and Wei Yuan had to pull out due to work commitment. Fortunately, the tickets didn’t go to waste. I managed to sell one and give the other ticket to Gwen.

A picture with Liting (lead role as Dr Dai).

After the show, Qipei and I headed to Le Chasseur for two-generations Farrago dinner gathering. Similarly, I could only confirm my attendance the day before. But I was very happy to catch up with these group of volunteers and also very thankful for their care and concern.

Freeze your smile for Farrago!

I used to be very cautious of where I go and what I eat. But gradually, I learned to let go of these fears and I found life in my life. Sometimes I wonder why do one seek treatment to extend his life but only to live a life without much life. It’s like building a Titanic and keeping it at the harbour. However, having said that, I still exercise caution by sticking to neutropenic diet and avoid sick people.

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“Experience Your Life”

I was reading Pema Chödrön’s “Comfortable with Uncertainty” and I found a chapter which I love very much. Let me share with you:

Experience Your Life

A woman is running from tigers. She runs and she runs, and the tigers are getting closer and closer. She comes to the edge of a cliff. She sees a vine there, so she climbs down and holds on to it. Then She looks down and sees that there are tigers below her as well. At the same time, she notices a little mouse gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries emerging from a nearby clump of grass. She looks up, she looks down, and she looks at the mouse. Then she picks a strawberry, pops it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.

Tigers above, tigers below. This is the predicament we are always in. We are born and sooner or later we die. Each moment is just what it is. Resentment, bitterness and holding a grudge prevent us from seeing and hearing and tasting and delighting. This might be the only moment of our life, this might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could feel depressed about this or we could finally appreciate it. We could delight in the preciousness of every single moment.

Do you Ukulele?

I have a new toy called D-uke.

It’s a Hulala Soprano Ukulele (HO-1).

Taking the first step to learn ukulele seemed like forever. Nevertheless, I’m glad I did and I love the cheery sound it gives!

My brother and I signed up for the 1-hr Ukulele Introductory Workshop.
It cost $26.75 (incl. GST), with ukulele loan set provided. The workshop taught us how to hold chords, strumming, and a few songs to give us an idea of ukulele playing.

The showroom of Ukulele Movement.

Smile Over Happy Stuff :)

Some things that made me smile!

Collected tickets for Doctored! Hope I’ll be free to support my partner-in-crime, Liting, in this production.

Collected $11,838.00 for Children’s Cancer Foundation!
I have 90-over supporters! :) Thank you everyone! :D

Met up with the Power Puff Girls, together with LeRoy!

Made a small donation in support of needy patients who are going through transplants!

A plate of 番茄炒蛋.

Cooking Mushroom & Pork Rib Claypot Rice with mum!

Pacifying Kexin to sleep in this “kangaroo pouch”.

There are many more…

Having yummy Indian food that I’ve been craving for, at Zaffron Kitchen, together with LeRoy, Ewan, Neil, Lilian and Qipei! (No pictures)

Caught up with Kelvin Ho, Jinhe, Kian Chye and sign language!

Celebrating 47th National Day at home with a simple steamboat with my family.

Met up with Wei Yuan, Peiling, Qian Hao and Pin Jie. My first time trying stuff crust pizza… nice!

Seeing Mr Chow in clinic and knowing that he’s doing well.


Treatment Update

Here’s a quick update on the treatment:

- Inserted a new CVC line and had 5 days Clofarabine/Ara-C chemotherapy. Side effects as usual – loss of appetite and vomiting.

- The medical team thought my bone marrow is unlikely to regenerate white blood cells (WBC) after chemotherapy and they planned to do a stem cell transplant if that happens. But the WBC counts increased which prompted for a bone marrow biopsy. The biopsy showed that the mutated bone marrow cells was reduced from 60% to 6% and no blast cells were found. Blood VNTR (variable number tandem repeats) test was done and it showed that majority of the blood cells were from donor’s. It was an “uncommon result” and they decided to put the stem cell transplant on hold. I was given more donor’s lymphocytes as we want to have a good GVL (graft versus leukaemia) reaction.

- While WBC counts climb steadily, haemoglobin and platelet levels were going the other direction. I had an entire week of transfusions, each day alternating between platelets and red blood cells.

- Last week, the blood and platelet counts were slightly more stabilized (but still dipping) and I got discharged.

This week, I’ll be back for more blood test and transfusion (if necessary).

Dear Bone Marrow, peace please! Hehehe

10 More Days to Support HFH’12

Next weekend, Singapore will see more botaks in Hair for Hope 2012 at VivoCity! After my registration for this Charity event in April, I got excited with sending out messages to friends on Facebook, asking for their support and donations. I must give thanks to Eugene Chen, LeRoy Chan (a.k.a. The Hungry Cow), Dr Koh T.Y., Catherine Ling, and many more who have helped to spread the message to their contacts.

We managed to raise awareness about children cancer and gathered $5,468 (as of 19 July 2012) from over 50 people, for Children Cancer Foundation. I agree with Mr Paul Max’s comment, everyone has their own battle to fight in life. I think it makes us a better person to be able to take a break from our own battle, and help others fight their life battles.

I won’t be able to shave my hair at HFH ’12 as I’m still confined in SGH. My blood counts (today – Hb: 7.9, WBC: 0.05, Plt: 27k) are still on the down trend, requiring transfusions and GCSF – WBC booster shot – every now and then. But it’s okay, I’ll continue to use this 10 days to reach out to more.

Join me in this ‘fight’ will you? Donate, leave a message, forward this link!

Warmest and best wishes to you! :)

I Don’t Want To Fight Anymore

The last low dose chemo, Azacitidine, only reduced the blasts for a couple of days. The baddies grew very fast and we have to move on to Plan B – stronger chemo using Clofarabine + cytarabine.

I was back in SGH on 5th July 2012 for salvage chemo. A new CVC line was inserted on 7th July, followed by chemo infusion. It was a blessing that the line insertion experience was fast and with very little discomfort. Credit to the surgeon and nurses.

Clofarabine is infused over 1hr, and 3hrs later, cytarabine is infused over 2hrs. Felt light nauseousness, loss of appetite, and some occasional headaches over the 5 days of chemo. Didn’t feel like doing anything and lying on bed doing nothing gave me more comfort.

I woke up this morning, and as I was giving thanks to a peaceful night of sleep, a thought came into my mind. For the past one year I’ve been fighting so hard to kill leukaemia. It suffered damages and so did I. We’re both strong and stubborn… and probably stupid too.

I told my marrows, it would just bring us more harm if we continue to fight on. I respect its strength and resilience and I admire even more of it’s ability to stay dormant, in peace and harmony with my body. We shared so many happy times together when we are not fighting one another. I don’t need to remove you totally to make myself ‘perfect’. Life is perfect and beautiful when we live in harmony, and I’m sure this is a win-win situation for us. So why not let’s live with each other in peace and harmony for good? XOXO, your best friend.

The Fight Resumes, Peacefully

Apologies for the lack of post for quite a while. I was away for a week of low dose chemo, went home to readjust myself physically and mentally. The fight has resumed and I would like to put my experience and thoughts to words over here as usual.

It was really difficult to accept the truth because I’d placed so much hope and expectations on the bone marrow transplant. I felt depressed and scared at the thought of a bleak future. Am I too young to go? I still have many unfinished businesses? My mum would be heartbroken! All these thoughts gathered in my mind and crowded out the optimism I used to have.

Being a fighter, however reluctant I was, I knew the fight has to continue. This treatment could be done outpatient, but I had the option to do it inpatient as well. Since I’m covered with medical insurance, it would make economic sense to go inpatient and claim. This will also ensure the next 3 months of outpatient bills are taken care of by the insurance company.

Nurses, doctors and friends who learned about my condition didn’t know what to say. They could feel my level of optimism was going down. But deep in my heart, I knew they wished me well and hope things will turn for the best eventually. In the silence that came after I explained my condition, my words echoed in my ears and I managed to break a weak laugh and said “no worries, my fighting spirit is still high!”.

This low dose chemotherapy using Azacitidine (Aza) was administered sub-cutaneously, under the skin of my tummy. It was coupled with an anti-epileptic drug, Valproate, to enhance the efficiency of the chemo. The chemo costs $700+ per injection and I received 9 jabs in total. Thankfully for the medical insurance, I’m paying nothing. Valproate was given 5 tablets for 3 times a day and it made me groggy even the next two days after my discharge from the hospital.

The chemo made me vomitted a bit and rashes developed on the front trunk of my body. Doctors suspected the rashes could be either graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD) or drug allergy reaction. I was kept for another day so that the dermatologist could remove a small piece of my skin for biopsy. We were hopeful for GVHD so that there’s graft-versus-leukaemia to keep things in control. However, 4-working days later, the rashes subsided and it’s proven to be allergy reaction. :-/

During the stay, I am glad that Ewan loaned me books on Happiness and The Art of Meditation, both by Matthieu Ricard. The books touched on the Four Noble Truths which I have learned many years back in Manjusri Secondary School. I took on further reading on the Internet about the same topic with great interest. After my discharge, Ewan recommended that I listen to Ajahn Brahm’s talks on youtube. I got quite ‘addicted’ listening to the monk and this explains for my absence from TJFC. I was seeking wisdom and enlightenment.

Ever since I started meditating, affirming my sub-conscious mind, and watching Ajahn Brahm’s videos, I found peace and joy in many things that I do or happened to me. I think for once, I really understand what is living the moment. Every day has been a great experience thus far, and I think I’d moved out of the shadows that was over me two weeks back then.

At peace, at ease. :)

Going forward

Appreciate all those who prayed for me and sent me well wishes. It’s been proven again that there are certain things that are not within our control. The blast cells in the bone marrow went up to 30%. What we possibly can take in control now, is to take up a low dose chemotherapy to bring it down to less than 5%. Then carry out a donor (my brother’s) lymphocyte infusion, hopefully will result in a graft-versus-leukaemia reaction, keeping me in remission.

Because the relapse occur very close to the transplant, giving another high dose chemotherapy or transplant may result in more serious complications.

I just hope for a good long term remission now.