Monday, March 28, 2011

People's Rememberance of Us......

Since my illness, I have had so many visitors and more have phoned/emailed they
would like to visit me. My sisters who were looking after me were surprised I have so many friends and acquaintances.

My close and best friends, Amu, Sim, Soh Wah, Choon Lian and Chong have visited me
quite regularly, especially Amu who would try to drop by in the evenings after her work. I advised her not to visit me so often as I would also like her to have sufficient rest. Amu works very hard, and always puts others before self.

My ex-colleagues from Dennis Wee Group also visited me and this Tuesday, another group is dropping for a visit. Chong told me that a lady would like to visit me, and
I could not recall who she was, until he mentioned she was grateful because I had helped her to write a letter to the Prison Authorities to request for her son, then an inmate, to have the opportunity to study for his "O" levels. Most of the times, I do not remember what I have done for people; however, it is nice that people still remember us.

Some of my friends from toastmasters' clubs would also like to arrange a visit. I am trying to schedule the visits as eldest sister is worried I will get tired out.
However, seeing my friends only make me feel happy and rejuvenated.

I am hoping I will be well enough on 9th April so that I could attend a speech contest (Division level) at the AIA Changi Toastmasters' Club and to root for a friend who is participating in the Table Topics Contest. At the same time, I could also meet up with other toastmasters so that they would be able to see me and need not visit me at my home. I would also be receiving my DTM medal from District 80. I had told Michael Rodrigues, Lieutenant Governor Education & Training that I had already received my plaque from Headquarters in America, but he told me the DTM medal is from District 80 of Singapore.

It helps that my best friend, Sim, and her sister-in-law, Amelia Ching who is also an enthusiastic toastmaster will be driving us to the contest. Oh Lord, please help me to be particularly strong on 9th April. With grateful thanks in advance.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Let's Do Our Best and Let God Do the Rest.......

On Saturday, eldest sis and I went to visit Dr. David Tai at the National Cancer Centre. I was surprised there were very few people in the clinic and I was immediately able to see him. Cool! No waiting time, unlike the one to sometimes three hours I had to wait at Dr. Karman Wong's clinic!

Dr. Tai was happy to see me, and to find me in my cheerful spirit.

He examined my tummy and asked if I felt pain when he pressed gently. I nodded my head. Dr. Wong had sent him all the treatments that had been rendered to me thus far. He checked my eyes and asked me to open up my mouth for him to examine. He
looked very serious and said to me, "Can I be very forthright with you?"

"Oh! Are you saying I would meet PAPA soon? Dr. Tai, you know how I am. If God heals me it is fine; if He wishes to bring me home it is also fine .....I am all

"From the last time I saw you till now, your liver condition has not improved much.
In fact your eyes have turned somewhat yellow."

"Wonder why Dr. Wong told me just five days ago, that my liver has improved and is on the way to recovery? Maybe she was comparing the first blood test results to the latest one and saw a huge improvement?"

We had spent quite some time talking with Dr. Tai, and he answered all of sister's
questions and I only paid $25 in consultation fees. This was so unlike Dr. Karman
Wong who charged $80 for the first 10 minutes consultation and depending on how long
the patients are talking to her, the consultation fees will vary in amount. Sometimes I noticed that some Indonesian patients would be in for quite a long time.
I guess because of the huge operating costs, private doctors have to charge much more.

I told Dr. Tai that I had been having gastric/stomach pain the past three days and had been throwing out after almost every meal. Dr.Wong had increased my Xeloda tablets intake to two big ones in the morning and two big ones in the evening. I guess when I was given one big one and one small one in the evening, I was able to tolerate the tablets but when the dosage was increased, I experienced the side effects of nausea, vomitting, dizziness and loss of appetite.

We asked Dr. Tai if we could try Traditional Chinese Medicine since Western medicine is giving me some side effects, and he thought it was alright. I could always go back to him for weekly blood tests to monitor the condition of my liver.

I left Dr. Tai's clinic with the same cheerful spirit, but eldest sis was a little downcast. I reminded Dr. Tai to do his best, and let God do the rest.

Later sis became cheerful again and encouraged me to be strong in the Lord.

Gan Cao

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Roof Top Dining......


With Sis Lee Lee, Soh Wah and husband Yew Tien

The Vietnamese paper roll which is beautifully garnished.

High rise buildings everywhere!

The Marina Bay Sands could be seen in the background

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It has been a long time since I went out with Soh Wah and her husband, Yew Tien. This time, she decided to take my eldest sister and I out for a lovely Vietnamese lunch at the upmarket restaurant called "Nuoc" which is located at the rooftop of Orchard Central.

I told my best friend that perhaps eldest sis might like to try some Vietnamese food, as a group of toastmasters had visited me from the Vietnam Toastmasters' Club
and one of the ladies had taught her how to cook Pho Chicken Noodle Soup.

Wow! What a view! From the rooftop where you can see parts of Orchard Road, you realise that there is plenty of greenery even at the busiest part of town. Our little island is truly a beautiful garden city. The restaurant decor is also very
authentic and makes you feel as if you were in Saigon. I like the dainty cutleries that were being used to serve the food and drinks.

We ordered some set lunch as well as a side dish of paper roll which is like our local "popiah". The Vietnamese tea drunk with some sugared ginger was quite unique in taste.

As usual I did not have much appetite and shared a small bowl of my chicken noodles with Yew Tien. As my taste buds have changed after my chemotherapy, it would not be fair for me to comment on the quality of food.

I am grateful to Soh Wah for knowing all the "in" places to eat. Soh Wah is right to describe me as a "country bumpkin" where good food is concerned in Singapore. But I am blessed with so many friends who are connoisseurs of good food! Isn't that wonderful.? After I have tried a particular restaurant, then I will know how to bring my relatives and friends to enjoy the food.

It only takes a word,
To get the menu going,
Your heart is full of mirth,
When you see your friends enjoying
The food you recommended,
Back to the restaurant they'll be going!
Not once, not twice,
But thrice!

(To be sung to the tune of "Pass it on.....")

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My final visit to Dr. Karman Wong's Clinic......


The tube still inserted to drain out excess water from the pelvis.
Time to remove the tube as my liver has improved.

The wound now looks less sore and angry after some cleansing and medication.
From left: Yati (my favourite nurse), Eldest Sis Lee Lee, Dr. Karman Wong and yours truly. Dr. Karman Wong is beaming with joy because I have recovered so much.

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21st March 2011 - an unforgettable day for me. It was my final visit to Dr. Karman Wong's Clinic because my insurance coverage is only for 90 days after the last hospitalisation.

Everything is in God's perfect timing because it was good that I could have Dr. Wong to look after me during my precarious condition for the first three months. I visited her once a week, and she monitored my condition very carefully. When Dr. Wong first met me, she thought I was someone who was healthy and cheerful but was shocked when she saw my health reports. When my liver condition began to improve, she told my sister that she thought I might not live through the first month. That was why she could not give me my first chemotherapy for it would have killed me right away. She had to wait till the liver stabilised. Yesterday, Dr. Wong told me that my liver condition has improved even more, and now she is confident that the excess water will drain normally without the tube and drainage bag. Hence the tube was removed and I did not realise it was about 7 inches long. Dr. Wong pulled it out in one go - I felt the pain for only a short while. Yati told me that if Dr. Wong had removed it slowly, it would have caused even more pain.

Dr. Wong instructed Yati to put a bag around the wound to catch any flow of water which may still seep through the hole. I learnt that it was the same kind of bag that patients use to collect urine. How interesting! I was glad to note that not a single drop of water had seeped through the bag throughout the night. Hence I could remove it; apply some cream, cover it with non-woven swab and apply a water proof
cover over it. This morning I noticed with joy that the swelling on my two legs have
also been greatly reduced.

It was such a joy to have the tube removed after two weeks of having to lug the water bag around. Sometimes I was careless and pulled at the tube and caused myself excruciating pain because the tube was fastened by some thread sewn onto the body. I told Dr. Wong that morning, I had forgotten to tie the band around my tummy and fasten it with the Velcros and although the bag had no water, I felt it slipping down until it reached my ankle. Luckily my long pants prevented it from being seen. Dr. Wong stared at me, and said she did not know whether to laugh or cry as I am such a funny and happy patient. She is a humble and God-fearing lady and asserted that she is only an instrument for God as a doctor and that it is God who heals and performs miracles! Wow! I thank all my relatives and friends for their coveted prayers and I thank the good Lord for His healing power!

I am so glad that my weight is now back to 66.3 kilos - my last weighed in before it started to baloon to 75.8 kg with all the water retention.

Dr. Wong has referred me back to see Dr. David Tai at the National Cancer Centre. Dr. Tai is also my favourite oncologist as he is gentle, understanding and compassionate. The government subsidizes 65% of the fees and the remaining can be
paid by Medisave and a little cash, which makes it more affordable for me.

I am so thankful that as a Singaporean, I have a choice of either a private or public hospital, and I am proud to say that the public hospitals have improved so
tremendously and remarkably in their health care system.

Gan Cao

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dainty on the inside, but the reverse on the outside?

I was at Dr. Karman Wong's and there was Yati, my favourite nurse, doing her usual injection of needle. Yati, with her experience, must be one of the very few, who could often aim accurately at my tiny vein. I asked her if her veins are also as tiny as mine, and she nodded her head.

"Isn't it ironical that overweight ladies like us should have tiny veins beneath our
layers of blubber?"

"You're not fat, Choo."

"Don't forget that at my heaviest I weighed in 90kgs."

"Yati, wouldn't it be nice if we were dainty on the outside and let the reverse be inside?"

Yati laughed and laughed.

Ah! Please don't get me wrong. Am not one to complain about my looks or what God has given me. However, when you have inexperienced nurses poking needles into your hands three times and still could not get the right vein, it is quite painful a process. Worse, I am often left with blue-black marks on the wrists and arms.

I guess the worst experience must be the one I recently had. The sweet and compassionate Filipino nurses were concerned they could not find my veins and wanted the doctor on duty to insert the needle. I kept encouraging them to try again, saying that nurses are often more adept at "needle work" than doctors. However, in came the doctor, and horror upon horror it was the one lady I would have wanted to avoid given my bad previous experience. Dr. Tan Hui Kian! Now with the bright lights on in the ex-ray room before my CT Scan I could see her face more clearly. Perhaps to save her pride before her nurses, she poked in the first needle on my right wrist and pushed it in with force that it caused me such excruciating pain. Worse, I later heard her say, "This is the best I can do. Bo Pian. (Bo pian in Hokkien means "can't be helped".) Tears rolled down my cheeks. I saw the Filipino nurse with moist eyes. She could feel my pain. When I looked at my wrist I could see the little tube still jutting out somewhat. The nurse had to inject some iodine so as to mark the distinction between the organs and tumours. This is an expensive private
hospital where the quality of the doctor on duty is below par.!

When the Filipino nurse told me that they would have to postpone the minor surgery to the following day, I decided to put my foot down and insisted that if it were the same Dr. Tan to do the surgery, I would not do it unless given another doctor. Twice bitten, ten times shy!

Gan Cao

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Much ado about names of drugs......

I am so happy that Dr. Wong has stopped my TS-1 and introduced a new oral chemotherapy drug with a musical name of Xeloda. Makes me think of the instrument called xylophone. I was amused that although the drug is from America, Xeloda also sounds somewhat Japanese while TS-1 certainly sounds American or British!

Most important of all is that the drug, Xeloda is more suitable for me. It does not make me tired, lethargic and irritable with myself. It also does not cause me the side effect of losing my precious hair. Let's keep our fingers crossed.
I hope the tests next week will truly reveal whether the drug agrees with my liver.

Dr. Wong's knowledge, as accurately described by Pastor Tang, is superb. While it is not difficult for me to learn new words in Tamil, Hindhi or French, I found it somewhat difficult to remember the name of drugs, except for a couple of names. The most outstanding one is Senokot as it reminds me of some industrial estate. Strangely the drugs are grayish black, reminding me of the soot or sometimes black smoke that one can find in industrial estates. However, the drugs help tremendously when a patient has constipation.

Thank God for all the medical researchers for all the drugs. I must remember that although one drug may not be compatible with me, it may help others. However, great the medical researchers and knowledgeable all the specialists, the greatest physician is our Heavenly Papa and in Him I trust and have my joy and strength.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The new TS-1 tablets

As one of the chemotherapy drugs is not compatible with my liver, Dr. Karmen Wong stopped the intravenous chemotherapy and is now trying TS-1, an oral chemotherapy which is supposed to be quite mild. I was supposed to take 2 tablets in the morning and 1 tablet in the evening. After taking the drugs I felt extremely sleepy and lethargic and only wanted to sleep round the clock. Instead of the side effect of diarrhoea, I actually had the opposite effect of constipation.!

At the same time, my stomach was getting bloated with water. Dr. Wong asked me to
stop the TS-1 and I was admitted to have the excess water drained out. After staying in the hospital for 4 days, I felt much better and stronger. Dr. Wong told me that the TS-1 did not cause the stomach to be bloated but it was an accumulation of water when one of the drugs did not agree with my liver.

When I came back from the hospital I was full of energy again, so much so that I practised my violin for an hour - something which I had not been able to do for a long time, as I felt weak and easily tired. It was eldest sister's birthday, and I gave sister a big ang pow to thank her for all that she had done for me, and to ask her to have a romantic lunch at Crystal Jade in Nex, with her husband, while my best friend, Geok Sim and I went to Singapura Plaza to have our own lunch and to do some shopping. In the evening, I fried a plate of Penang koay teow for Sim and taught her how to fry some Koay Teow to bring home to her mom. It was the first time that I had the energy to do some cooking!

Last night I re-started my TS-1 tablet, and this morning, I felt tired and lethargic and only thought of bed. It would not do, as I must get ready for church service by 11a.m. and I had to have the energy to take the 15 minutes walk to the church nearby with sister. After that we would have a simple lunch on the way back, and after getting some rest I would be ready to meet my niece, Ning, who is visiting me and who had just arrived from London yesterday. Ning would only be in Singapore for two and a half weeks and her schedule is very tight as usual. I want to be energetic and well to receive her.

Hence, I would not take my TS-1 tablet, and I may have to talk to Dr. Wong about
swtiching to TCM soon, as I understand there would not be so many side effects.

Wish me better and improved health!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A New Reservoir of Water.....

In case my readers are wondering why I had not been posting my articles for the past few days, I had actually been hospitalised at Gleneagles Hospital. During the weekends, eldest sister was getting worried over my increasingly bloated stomach. I felt very tired and could not stand even for five minutes. I had to make an effort
to walk from my bedroom to the kitchen. Worst of all, I could not eat or drink much. After eating 3 segments of oranges, I felt extremely full! After three spoonfuls of porridge, I'd feel bloated.

On Monday morning, eldest sister insisted that I called up my oncologist, Dr. Karmen
Wong to tell her of my extremely bloated stomach and to see what could be done. Dr.
Karmen immediately arranged for me to have the excessive water removed by surgery.
As the doctor could only see me at 5p.m., I decided it would be best for me to stay
for a day at the hospital. The CT Scan was scheduled for 3p.m. but I had not realised I had to fast for at least 4 hours as I had eaten three pieces of cream crackers at Dr. Wong's clinic at noon as I was very hungry. Hence, the scan was delayed to 4p.m.. The nurses and doctor had a hard time finding my tiny veins and by the time the scan was completed it was almost 5.30p.m. - a little too late to do the minor surgery to remove the water. Hence it was done the following afternoon at 2p.m. Hence, I could barely eat the food served at the hospital. I smsed my best friend, Geok Sim to tell her that Singapore should not be afraid of water shortage, because she now has a new reservoir called the Choo Choo Reservoir. The nurses looked so worried and I shared with them the same joke to cheer them up a little.
"You could still joke, eh", the doctor smiled.

Wow! The outpouring of the water was fast and furious and in no time, 6 kgs of water
had been drained out! The water was somewhat yellowish and murky, and the tube and bag were left behind so that more water could be drained out. Thank God that tests showed the water to be normal and by the time I left the hospital, almost 9 kilos of
water had been drained out.

I felt so much lighter and with a flatter tummy, I would be able to wear my usual clothes again. My appetite improved a little, although I could only finish half of the food served to me. On the third day, the moment I had food in my mouth, I would vomit, and I vomitted out all the food I had eaten three times in the evening, and three times in the morning. My doctor, saw my weakened state, and advised me to stay
for another day. I had lots of protein intravenous as well as glucose intravenous
throughout my 4 days' stay. I slept very soundly during my stay, and by the fifth
day, my vomitting had stopped and I could consume my food normally. I felt really good and energetic. I have never really felt so good for such a long time, and I felt I had the energy to practise my violin after such a long break!

The CT Scan showed an improvement in the liver as compared with the previous CT Scan.
The smaller tumours have disappeared while the tumour that measured 7cm has now shrunk to 4.6cm.

Some of the nurses were more efficient and diligent than others. There was a nurse whom I told her that my dressing was wet and she argued with me that it was dry. I did not want to argue with her, and talked to another nurse and immediately she
said she would change the dressing. I respected her dedication, because she was on two shifts and must have been very tired towards the evening, yet, she was cheerful and helpful. Attitude says it all. However, I will not complain against the less
than efficient nurses, because I think they are also trying their best. Nursing is indeed a tough job and I try to emphatise with the nurses.

A new reservoir of water? Oh! No! The reservoir has shrunk! Now, we are in for a short period of drought!

Friday, March 04, 2011

Mind your language ..........

I was having my ultra sound scan at the Gleneagles Hospital when the Filipino staff doing the scan said, "Aunty, please turn around." I wondered with some amusement as to how I was related to her. I thought you might hear some food vendors calling you "aunty" at the market, but at a classy hospital like Gleneagles, staff would use more formal terms like "Mr. or Madam So and So. After all, my name was right on the computer screen! Now, even the foreign staff who are working in Singapore have caught up with our peculiar lingo. At least the Filipino staff was so much more
polite than the doctor - a Dr. Tan Hui Kian who came in to double check the scan. No, she did not introduce herself - I found out her name from the report. Instead, she came in and stared at me through her thick glasses for a little while as if I were E.T. from outer space. After a while, she said in a loud voice, "Peng".
(In Hokkien, meaning turn over). I guess she did not know how to use the word, "Please in Hokkien", which was why the word was omitted, making her sound quite rude and unrefined for someone so well educated. Then the doctor mumbled something in Hokkien which I thoroughly ignored. I guess little did she realise that the patient on the bed speaks more languages than she does.!

My primary school classmate, Jenny Moxey, a senior nurse, had visited me from London and had insisted on accompanying me to Gleneagles Hospital. She had asked to be allowed into the ultra sound room as she wanted to see the results. She was quite cheesed off by the rudeness of Dr. Tan, and the lack of EQ displayed by her when handling a patient.

I guess my best friend, Sim, was quite right when she said she somehow enjoyed the services of the public hospitals. Sim has been hospitalised in a few private hospitals and felt that many of the staff lack the EQ that is of such great importance when dealing with sick patients.

The other day I was taking a taxi, and told the taxi driver that now the Singapore General Hospital has improved tremendously as I was hospitalised there for a week.
"Yes, that was what I heard", smiled the taxi driver, "and that is good for our nation".

Thursday, March 03, 2011

"Please consider the environment before printing this email."

" Please consider the environment before printing this email."

I was most impressed when I receveived an email from Joe Choy of Merlin Frame Maker
and Art Gallery Pte Ltd when I saw the above quote at the bottom of his email to me.
I wrote to ask him if he were an environmentalist or an animal lover. Joe replied
that it was sent by the National Parks Board.

Now, in sharp contrast, the new CEA which has devised standardised forms for all
agents have now come up with commission forms that are seven pages long. Before the change in rulings, most real estate companies use commission forms that are only one page long. Can you imagine what this means? Each time a sale, purchase or rental
deal is closed, there are altogether 21 pages that have to be printed. A set of 7 pages for the client, a set of 7 pages for the company, and a set of 7 pages for the agent for his filing and reference. Can you imagine how many thousand deals are closed in a day? How the heart of the National Parks Board must be bleeding.! Of course, they are the ones who take care of the trees, and know how long it takes for a tree to grow from infancy to adulthood.

I also love nature and animals and try to do my part by being vigilant in recyling of used papers, used bottles, cans, etc. But we need a concerted effort from everyone to help preserve the earth. I really hope the CEA will consider shortening
the words in the forms so as to reduce the number of pages. It takes only one hour
to cut down a tree but tens and hundreds of years to grow it to a dignified height.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

My Thoughtful Friends......

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Since my illness, many of my friends have visited me. Till now, there are some friends who have called to say they want to see me, and I will be making arrangements.

Eldest and second sister are surprised I have so many friends. Eldest sister is concerned I may be tired, but I love meeting my friends and appreciate their taking their time to visit me. Eldest sister shared with me that a relative from Kuching had stage one liver cancer, and refused to have friends to visit him for fear that his poor immunity might put him at a disadvantage. I reminded eldest sister that we all have different principles and outlook in life.

Many of my friends brought me books to read and tapes on Christian messages for me to listen to. I am grateful for their thoughtfulness. My friend, Geok Cheng, bought me a a book on "Hard Truths" by MM Lee Kuan Yew because she knew that I admire our great leader. Elsa brought me tapes on messages by her pastor, Joseph Prince. Rebecca Lee, a health enthusiast, brought me 8 books on health - from detoxification to eating the right food. My ex-student Alyssa, sent me a book on a testimony by Moses Ng, "Touched by a Miracle". Janice brought me a book, "Natural
Cures Revealed" when I was at the National Cancer Centre.

There are still many more other books brought by friends, and I know I have enough reading material to last me a year or two!

Friends - how they show their love and warmth when the need arises!