Tag Archives: friends

2013 – To Be a Better Man

Welcome, 2013! Ever since my diagnosis in 2011, every single day is like a precious drop of water in the desert, and it is even so after the subsequent relapses.

2012 kicked off with a shocking relapse, but I am glad that after all those treatments, I’m in remission again at the end of the year. One of the best lessons I had learned in 2012, is to appreciate what I have before time makes me appreciate what I had.

The entire year of treatments made me appreciate my family and girlfriend who are always there for me when I needed them the most. Not to forget all my friends and the dedicated nursing team who cared for me and my family as well.

My humbling experience told me that I must reciprocate my gratitude when I get well, or at least whenever I am feeling well. The best way to do this, after much thought, is to pay it forward by amplifying my supporters’ loving kindness and reach out to the community.

With that, my resolution for 2013 was set – To be a better man and care for my community.
To be specific, in 2013, I aim to:

  1. Raise awareness about bone marrow donation.
  2. Convince 100 people to register as a potential bone marrow donor.
  3. Participate in Hair for Hope 2013 as a shavee and help to raise S$10,000.
  4. Develop a socially responsible business.

What would your new year resolution be like?
If you have not thought of any, do consider joining me in what I will be doing.
Leave a message to let me know you are interested and I will contact you shortly.

Wishing all my family and friends a fulfilling 2013. May you be well and healthy, and blessed with good fortunes and true happiness. Cheers!!!

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. :)

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.

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.

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.

Life Changing 34 Days

34 days of confinement and I am finally discharged from SGH! This is quite an experience for me, a life changing one.

I remember the scene that mum teared when I told her it’s leukaemia. Devastated. It’s so cruel that she has just accepted her husband’s stage 3 lung cancer, and now, she has to accept her youngest son’s new diagnosis. The sight and thought of her crying breaks my heart. I knew to make her smile again, I have to be strong and positive – and it works! This is the power of positive influence!

Although the statistics for AML patients to going into complete remission look promising, I felt a need to have my girlfriend reconsider about our relationship. Qipei knew about the possible outcomes, but she believed in me. We want to go through this together and I am certain it will further strengthen our relationship.

The first cycle of chemotherapy (a.k.a. induction chemotherapy) aims to bring the disease to remission. Cytarabine and Idarubicin were administered, both intravenously, for 22 hours over 7 days and 3 boluses over 3 days, respectively. Of cos, anti-nausea and anti-vomiting (antiemetics) drug was given prior to chemo to prevent any nauseous feeling or vomiting. This cycle was rather gentle on me – only experienced bloated tummy and dry skin. The gassy stomach was relieved towards Day 7 and there was moisturizer for dry skin.

My platelet counts dropped after chemo and brushing teeth was a no no! There was an occasion after rinsing my mouth, in front of the mirror, I noticed some bits of cookies stuck in between my teeth. My itchy finger removed it and fresh blood flowed out from the adjacent gum. In the subsequent two days, my gum bled at various locations and they just refused to clot until what felt like a blood gelatin formed. I tried to remove these gelatin with my tongue and my poor gum begun bleeding again. The pseudo-jelly salty-iron tasting blood in my mouth was really yucky! I learned my lesson to go on soft diet and not disturb any clots when my platelet counts are low.

I was prepared for hair loss and I thought it really does not matter to me. First, it was finding strands of hair on my pillow in the morning. Next was seeing loose strands of hair on my palms after shampooing. The ultimate was when I sat on my bed and shook my head vigorously, strands of hair just fell off. I laughed. Then I botak-ed myself with mum’s help. It was cooling and not so demoralizing anymore.

A few days into chemo, I began to inform a few close friends. They came with well wishes, food, entertainments and good companionships. It was really heartening and morale-boosting for me – I wasn’t fighting leukaemia alone! A particular support that I must mention is from LeRoy and his family. Aunty Susan, LeRoy’s mum, blessed me with some wellness products to complement with my treatment. She also cooked a variety of healthy vegetarian dinners and delivered them to me almost every evening. And of cos, there were lovely messages from friends who could not make it to visit me. I felt loved and I saw genuine care and kindness from everyone. All these – priceless!

My life has changed. I am now living a life with gratitude, love, hope, and zest!