Tag Archives: hair loss

Hair for Hope 2012

Over the past 11 months of cancer fighting, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the help and support given to me. In the process of graciously receiving from others, I’ve learned the beauty of unconditional giving. With the latest news of my health gradually returning, it dawned on me that perhaps it’s time for me to be on the giving side.

Recently, I saw on Facebook that Hair for Hope 2012 (HFH) is opened for registration. HFH is turning a decade old this year and it has a growing number of supporters over the years. I remembered last July, after my diagnosis, Ewan, LeRoy and my brother supported HFH as a walk-in shavee. Their shaven-head raised curiosities among those they’d met, and with further elaboration, they’d helped spread awareness on children cancer. It goes to show that the initiative is meaningful and it is very successful at raising awareness for its cause. Besides promoting awareness of childhood cancer, the act of shaving bald serves to tell children with cancer and their families that they are not fighting alone, and that its alright to be bald. The monies raised will help to fund the programmes and services that the Foundation provides, for example, counselling, caregivers’ support, therapeutic play, financial assistance, palliative & bereavement support and etc. I believe the event will most likely see volunteers and donors stepping forward to offer regular services and donations, thereby creating a supportive community for the beneficiaries.

According to the statistics on HFH website, the most common age group of newly diagnosed children in 2010 is between age 0 to 5, with leukaemia as the most common type of childhood cancer. I could imagine how the parents would feel upon receiving the “life changing package” that slowly unravels along with their children’s diagnosis. Shock & disbelief, emotional, worries about treatment and prognosis, work disruption, financial stress, caregiving stress and etc which all sums up to two words, life changing. The young patients will never understand why are they different from their peers – bald and always away from school due to regular hospitalizations – and why do they have to tolerate the side effects from the harsh treatments.

As an adult leukaemia patient, I’ve received a similar “package” together with the diagnosis as well. Chemotherapy, in my case, was done inpatient and each hospital stay averages about four weeks. The poor immunity that arises after chemotherapy, may result in infections that can be fatal and thus I had to be isolated in single room. Loss of hair occured in patches, and unlike a clean shave, it’s hardly linked to style or fashion. My hospitalization bills have added up to over S$80,000, and that’s excluding the clinical tests and appointments after discharge. Too many to mention.

However, I’m very grateful for the encouragements and support from my family and friends, the excellent health care standard and services provided by the SGH Haematology team, the counsellings and financial assistance provided by the social workers, the understanding and support from my company and colleagues, and the list continues. With their help, I was able to focus on treatment & recovery and change this “package” to greater hopes and a better quality of life. I believe that’s what the Children’s Cancer Foundation is capable of doing in helping the children with cancer and their families.

I’ve been hanging on the thought of becoming a shavee for HFH 2012. As a registered shavee, I can raise funds for Children’s Cancer Foundation by getting people to pledge their donations in support of my cause. For the past one week, I couldn’t decide on the amount I want to (or can) raise. I was afraid of not meeting my target and I didn’t want my family and friends to feel obliged to give. But today, I found a compelling reason to make a decision and register for HFH 2012. April 17, coincidentally, is my late father’s birthday. We’ve lost him to lung cancer last December. He was a strong fighter and he’d taught us that regardless of the results, always give our best and never give up. With this in mind, and on this special day, I decided to challenge myself to raise S$10,000.00 for CCF by spreading cancer awareness to my contacts and, hopefully, more. Papa, this is for you!

For the kindess I’ve received, I’d like to take this chance to pay it forward. Please support Children’s Cancer Foundation and my cause by making a donation here. Alternatively, you can join me for a shave and help raise funds for CCF by registering today. Lastly, please help to spread this message on children cancer to people you know and inspire them to get involved.

Hair for Hope 2012 will be held on 28 – 29 July 2012 at VivoCity Central Court

See you there!

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!

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!