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At the start of this year, I had a sense that it would be a significant year since 2016 marks 10 years since I started writing. I just did not know how significant it would be until it hit me in the chest on 1 June when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Through it all, the Word has been front, back and centre in my life:

1. Bunny Finds the Right Stage

In March, Esplanade Theatre staged my book Bunny Finds the Right Stuff in a 30-show run for their PLAYtime! children’s theatre. It was a huge delight to see my book come alive on stage in an excellent production.

bunny Esplanade flyer (front)

Esplanade also staged what was probably a first with one Bunny Finds The Right Stuff special theatre show tailored to special needs kids.

StraitsTimes 5Mar2016

Bunny theatre show in the news – Straits Times 5 March 2016

 

2. Benji, Yumi, Origami’s Splashy Launch

To mark Singapore-Japan’s 50 years of friendship this year (SJ50), the Book Council invited me to write a picture book in collaboration with Japanese illustrator Kazumi Wilds based on the theme of Friendship. Another team of a Japanese author and Singaporean illustrator collaborated for the other book.

Genting Resorts sponsored the two English-Japanese bilingual picture books and splashy book launch at their Resorts World SEA Aquarium. It was a fairytale evening which gave me much to soak in before the storm that came a week after.

ST_20160528_NAJAPAN_2322659 (Straits Times photo of Benji, Yumi)

Source: Straits Times news article 28 May 2016

3. God Knows Me & my Inside-out Kid Leh     

Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis on 1st June this year sparked off a start of journaling for me, a writing discipline that I failed to do for years.

I was also prompted in my heart to blog about my journey facing off with breast cancer – which led to my God Knows Leh and Inside-Out Kid blog series – where I shared my raw and blemished off-the-chest experiences, from diagnosis to my latest stage of treatment.

My creative children’s book writing took a back seat for the past 6 months. I did however write one new picture book manuscript which delighted me greatly and lifted my spirits during a slightly down-stage when I first started chemotherapy.

chemo chair

4. Tibby in Tamil translation

Tibby the Tiger Bunny was published in Tamil Edition! Always a thrill to see my books in a new language.

Tibby Tamil

5. Prince Bear & Pauper Bear’s journey to Slovakia

In August, I was delighted to ink a licence agreement for two of my Toy Titles Prince Bear & Pauper Bear to be published in Slovakia in the Slovakian language. This marks the 5th country that my Toy Titles will be published in.

 

6. My Toy Titles’ extended stay in China

I was pleasantly surprised when my China publisher renewed their licence for the Chinese edition of my 4 Toy Titles for a second term. So Prince Bear, Pauper Bear & their Toy friends will extend their stay in China for some more years.

chinese-edition

 

7. My Toy Titles make cover page on The New Paper

A reporter contacted me in October to interview me on my experience with self-publishing. I was going to pass up on the interview as I was going through chemotherapy -I was on my hiatus from writing and publishing stuff and also didn’t want to be photographed.

So, it turned out to be a pleasant surprise when my four Toy Titles made cover page of The New Paper’s Sunday edition.

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And I decided to be brave and say yes to an impromptu photo with my “new hairstyle”.

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8. Tibby, Scaredy Snout & 10 years of Write Stuff

In late November, I launched my latest picture book Tibby & Scaredy Snout in a private party which was also to mark the end of my last chemotherapy session. It was a double celebration and thanksgiving party with family and friends.

 

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Book Launch & Thanksgiving Celebration

 

 

 

9. Gardens Residency

I was awarded a writing residency at Gardens by the Bay this year. So, I will start 2017 with a walk in the park and smelling the flowers as I find the write stuff for my residency manuscript.

 

As I sit in the final days of 2016, I look to 2017 and declare it as my year of Purpose – where I pray that the work of my hands will be purposeful and my words will be well-chosen.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”                                 – Proverbs 19:21

Related Posts:

2015 Reflections -Writing, Waiting & Great (leveling of) Expectations

 

 

 

Today is Thank God for Family, Friends and Favour Friday! This Friday, on the eve’s eve of Christmas, I want to take time to thank God for:

1)      The still small voice who prompted me to do a self-examination earlier this year, which led to my early breast cancer diagnosis. I thank God for the Holy Spirit’s prompting.

2)      The doctors who came my way through various relationships – my breast surgeon, plastic surgeon and oncologist – and have been a blessing with their skills and care

3)      The friendship and favour from many whom I got to know over these 6 months

4)      The prayers and support from friends from many circles of friendship, from past work circles to school friends of over 20-30 years to Caleb’s Kindy, amongst others

5)      God’s provisions through big and small needs, from our insurance coverage to seeing me through surgery without pain and chemotherapy with minimal side effects

6)      My parents who have helped ferry Caleb to Kindy and his other activities since my 1st June diagnosis

7)      The bible readings that have revealed to me so many truths these few months, especially on health and healing

8)      The words impressed upon me multiple times on heart issues which I have been unpacking and releasing – a detoxing of the heart

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9)      Ben, who has stoically supported me through this wilderness period and is a wonderful dad to Caleb

10)   For Christmas – for Jesus Christ, who came to bring forgiveness, peace and love to this broken world

Psalms 119:165   Those who love your teachings will find true peace

Jeremiah 29:13  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart

 

“These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise” – Psalms 42:4

Related posts:

God Knows Leh #17 – Rainbows for chasing Start & End Date Chemo Blues

Inside-Out Kid #6 – I want to be with Mummy till Infinity

This week marked the end of my last chemo cycle. Because the tumour removed in July was rated triple-positive (estrogen +ve, progesterone +ve and HER2 +ve), my oncologist has proceeded with the next phase of treatment. He’s started me on 3-monthly injections to take me to early menopause and daily Tamoxifen pills for the next 5 years – all to tame my hormone levels (so to speak) and reduce chances of recurrence. I’m also on 3-weekly antibody injections for another 7 months. As these aren’t as potent as chemotherapy, it means I can resume normal routine.

Not that I have been in a hurry.

Over the past 6 months, I’ve switched to a slower mode and will not be rushing to get anything done too quickly.   

So, I’ve kept it simple this December. Taking Caleb on a few outings. A few Christmas/year-end get-togethers. Plenty of quiet time to reflect on the year fast passing and the true meaning of Christmas – the birthday of Jesus the Christ.

On a literal level, I am seeing things anew. Like my eyebrows growing back. Now I can raise new  eyebrows in the new year :).        

 

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The Lehs see dinosaurs at the Zoo’s Zoorassic Park

 

With gratitude and a full stomach, I had my final chemotherapy session this week. My plan was to finish this last chemo session with Char Kway Teow. But the Zion Road Char Kway Teow hawker closed his stall to attend his daughter’s graduation.

I did have a ducklicious equivalent- Kam’s Roast, the Michelin Starred restaurant from Hong Kong which recently opened in Singapore. Kam’s Roast is founded by a 3rd generation family member of the famed Yung Ke Goose in Hong Kong.

Thanks to Ben who has been catering to my food cravings during every chemo session – starting from chicken rice, moving onto Teochew mee kiah and then Zion Road Char Kwayteow by chemo session 5.

I should qualify that my diet has improved in healthiness by leaps and bounds since the breast cancer diagnosis on 1st June. I’ve endeavored to eat one course of fish and two courses of vegetables every day as well as cutting off sugar. But you can’t take Singaporean food from a Singaporean. So I have my occasional indulgences. And what better time than during chemo when all those drugs are being pumped in to whack out the bad stuff in the body?

My oncologist is continuing me on 3-weekly antibodies injections for another 7 months. I’ve completed 5 months of these injections to date, which were done together with chemotherapy. I’ll also be on 3-monthly injections to take me to early menopause. The analysis of the tumour had shown it to be triple positive (progesterone+, estrogen+ and HER2+). In my layman’s speak, my body is too hormonally active and my oncologist is taming the hormones down several notches.

Since these aren’t as potent as the chemo drugs, I look forward to returning to normal routine. I should say ‘new normal’ because these few months have been life-changing and has altered some of my perspectives on life.

It’s been a long 6 months since I was first diagnosed with breast cancer on 1st June this year. As I count my blessings, I am especially grateful for family and friends who have supported and encouraged me through this journey:

  • Many friends who have been receiving my whatsapp prayer updates and prayed for me as well as other friends who checked in on me over the months
  • My parents who have helped with ferrying Caleb to Kindy and his other activities.
  • Ben who has accompanied me for all my doctor visits and sat through every 5-hour chemo/antibodies treatment with me

I know it is only by God’s grace that I have sustained through this wilderness period. The joy of the Lord has been my strength.

I had originally planned my Tibby & Scaredy Snout and Benji, Yumi, Origami! double book launch cum celebration party on the weekend after my final chemo cycle. But the chemo cycle was delayed 3 weeks till after the party. My friend Bernice said that was better because I would then be celebrating my healing in faith. And so I did. I thank God that I am well and healed in Jesus’ name.

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“These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival”           – Psalms 42: 4

Related posts:

God Knows Leh #5- I ate chicken rice for my first chemotherapy session

Inside-out Kid #2 –It’s not fair, I didn’t want you to be in hospital!

 

Over recent weeks, two ladies from Ben’s work circles were diagnosed with breast cancer. I didn’t know them before this but we connected so I could share my current chemo experience with them.

It wasn’t so long ago that I reached out to friends and friends of friends who had gone through cancer to ask for advice. The best 5 tips that I gleaned from doing so have seen me to this final lap of chemo:

1.      Shave the Head

My breast surgeon told me that it was practically a certainty that I would lose my hair and told me that I was better off shaving my head before it happened. And it usually happens two weeks from the first chemo. Two other women who had gone through breast cancer told me the same thing.

I had a crew cut just before starting the first chemo.

Right on target, two weeks later, my hair fell off in chunks. If 1cm length hair can fall off in chunks, imagine what it would look like for normal length hair. My pre-emptive shave took off the trauma of the hair loss, although it still shook me slightly when it happened.

2.      Gargle Sea Salt

As mundane as it sounds, gargling sea salt water 3-6 times a day kept sore throat at bay because chemo causes heatiness. I slackened during my third chemo and had a terribly painful throat for a few days.

3.      Look Forward  

In the first two weeks after my first chemo, I was miserable from staying at home. I had already been home for a few weeks following my mastectomy and reconstruction surgery.

Now I was cooped up at home again, with a major “puberty” acne outbreak from the chemo drugs, feeling ugly and forgotten as the rest of the world went about their life.

Having a 5-year old kept me from sinking into misery because I needed to be together for my son. So, I started scheduling one appointment a week with friends, either for lunch out or in. It gave me something to look forward to.

I also started work on one new picture manuscript which kept me happy and buzzing for weeks.

Taketwo (2).png

4.      Take Walks

Before the breast cancer diagnosis in June, I was a slug. I never exercised.

But I started taking daily brisk walks around my neighbourhood from the first day of chemo. As a friend said, it ups the happiness quotient. The fresh air and outdoors perked me up, woke my muscles (more like ached my muscles) and helped me sleep better.

5.      Read, Pray, Listen

During my chemo and antibodies infusion-thon, I listen to gospel music and bible verses. When I am having four potent drugs pumped into me for 4-5 hours, God’s Word and worship music are the most powerful ways of counteracting any negative effects of the drugs.

I also spend time daily on God’s Word and the bible verses on healing in particular- it’s my daily medicine.  

This has also been a period of much reflection for me. In this 5 odd months, I have journaled more than in the past 2-3 years. It’s been a good time to detox off the negative things that I have accumulated in my life and in my heart. I’m looking towards a new season with a renewed heart.

Tremble and[a] do not sin;
    when you are on your beds,
    search your hearts and be silent.
Offer the sacrifices of the righteous
    and trust in the Lord

                   –        Psalms 4:4-5

 

 

I was supposed to finish off with my final chemotherapy session last Friday. I had planned what I was going to wear and eat during that last session. I had even counted off the last day of this final chemo cycle for a celebration.

So, when my oncologist told me that morning that we would need to hold off the last chemo, my heart sank a little. Based on my heart scan report, he wanted to wait it out and review me again in three weeks to see if I was ready to proceed with the last chemo session.

My past 5 chemo sessions had been right on track so I had left no room in my mind that the last session would move.

In the bigger perspective of things, I have much to be thankful for and this three weeks delay isn’t the end of the world.

But I had not planned for a delay. I was already counting down the days when I could:

– stop gargling salt water (multiple times a day) to keep sore throat at bay

– get pass the few days of insomnia from the steroid tablets that I had to take for the first 3 days post-chemo.

– ditch wearing  a mask when I go out

Amongst other things.

I was in R.O.D. mood but the Run Out Date shifted.

I’m a planner. But I did not leave room for this wet weather plan.

After going through 5 chemo cycles over the past 15 weeks, I couldn’t wait to count down the last 3 weeks, which has now extended.

So after a mild case of the blues last Friday, I perked up for my 5-year old’s year end concert the next day, which would have been one day after that last chemo. Although I have stayed away from crowded places and his Kindy events since June, I had promised him that I would attend the concert to watch him perform. So, I got to watch him without insomnia. And seeing him on stage (and we gelled his hair for the first time) made me teary-eyed and proud. It was a day where I sighted a big rainbow. 

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I had a much bigger case of the blues just before the start of chemo 4 months back. I didn’t want to start. Although I didn’t express it, my girlfriends of over 30 years surprised me with a party on Hari Raya.

They showed up with food, balloons, party favours and a makeover for me. Everyone was yakking away at the same time and no one was interested to talk about bluey things. In fact, I could barely get a word in because everyone was talking at the same time. Outrageous 🙂.

 

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The party was a bright rainbow that lifted my start-chemo blues.

So, in these weeks ahead, I will quieten my heart as I watch and wait out the end of this season. And I will look upon new rainbows in my horizon.

Psalms 27:14 – Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes wait for the Lord.

 

Today, I received a most unexpected surprise. It brought good cheer and lifted some mild blues after my doctor postponed my last chemo session (meant for last Friday) till 3 weeks later, pending further review. The New Paper interviewed me a couple of weeks back on my experience and views on self-publishing which has increasingly caught on in Singapore in recent times.

I was told this morning that the article would be out today. But I did not expect Prince Bear, Pauper Bear & their Toy friends to appear like this!

 

I had initially requested that if TNP needed photos, I would just provide one of my earlier photos. So I had showed up with barely any makeup and did not dress up for the interview. I had to draw in my eyebrows though because they have now fallen off!

Well, after a great conversation with journalist Hung Yin, I agreed to her snapping some shots with her iphone. After all, I post my new “hairdo” on my blog, so why do I need to fight shy about it?

Thanks to her photo skills (on top of journalistic skills), the impromptu shots worked out okay 🙂.

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The full article in today’s The New Paper is here.