Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Today is TGIFFFF- Thank God for Favour, Family & Friends Friday:

FAMILY!

  1. Fab Family

I thank God for my family’s pillars of support through this journey.

On the week before my chemo, I had planned to shave my head alone and spend the rest of the day crying at home.

But Ben had another plan. He and Caleb stayed with my through the shave. I only teared for 1 minute because my little one next to me made me laugh. He pulled a chair next to me and drew an airplane which dripped pee from its plane toilets onto the heads of bad guys below. How do you cry amidst such absurdity?

WithCalebPostShave

Post-shave, sporting my new K-Pop star look

Then my parents and brother’s family showed up unexpectedly to wait for me to finish my shave and wig-fitting.

So that was the end of my grand crying plan.

FamilyShot1.png

 

FRIENDS!

2. Kick-butt friends

On the morning of my 1st chemo and post-op treatment, I woke to whatsapp messages from several friends who remembered and told me they were praying for me.

My very dear friend Arlene sent me a whole series of booster messages throughout my 5-hour treatment. And this was from Australia where she is visiting family.

She tagged them as #watchemilybeatcancer.

My girlfriend Gail came over to watch Caleb all of this Monday afternoon as he was home sick in the week where my immunity is supposed to be at its lowest.

And she has re-arranged her schedule to do so every Monday. She has four kids and she is carving out time to watch mine. I’m so overwhelmed by her love and friendship. (Gail, thanks for being the bestest friend ever :)).

GOD’S FAVOUR!

3. For my 1st cycle of chemo and anti-breast cancer drugs treatment, I had 4 drugs intravenously injected into my arm in slow drip over 5 hours:

Taxotere + Carboplatin (chemo drugs) + Herceptin + Pertuzumab (breast cancer drugs)

(Who on earth comes up with these unspellable names?)

Because I responded well, the nurse told me that I could have a light lunch one hour into the first drug.

So I ate a packet of chicken rice.

When my oncologist came round to see how I was faring, I told him that I just finished Herceptin (the 1st anti-HER-2 drug) and chicken rice.

His jaw dropped. In a good way.

Me-1stBoosterJab..

1 day post-chemo, headed to clinic for my 1st booster jab

 

4. Prior to this, I checked up with 4 breast cancer survivors and was told a loss of appetite and depleted energy are huge side effects of chemo, amongst a few others.

Thanks to everyone’s prayers and God’s medicine (3 doses of Bible a day), I’ve had very little side effects in week 1. I have also continued eating like a horse and been able to taste and enjoy my food.

And I was so energized creatively this week that I have started working on a new picture book manuscript for the first time since my diagnosis 7 weeks back. Which perked me up even more.

5. Yesterday was the Singapore Michelin Guide Launch and Awards Dinner. Ben had bought a table months back. We decided to invite the team of doctors who have attended to me as our appreciation for taking care of me beyond their call of duty. (On top of doctoring me, my poor doctors have to take questions from me about God, life and healing!)

I wasn’t sure if I would make it to dinner since I had just started chemotherapy.

So yesterday, on day 7 post-chemo, my Onco saw me for my blood count. My white blood cells count and immunity registered an all-time high from the preceding 5-days of booster jabs. So, it was two thumbs up for yesterday evening’s dinner. And then, Onco saw me at dinner a few hours later!

So, I got ready for my 1st outing in 7 weeks that didn’t involve seeing doctors.

Pre-Michelin Dinner

Oh…that’s technically incorrect.

My outing did involve my doctors. We had a table of my oncologists, plastic surgeon, breast surgeon, and we invited my eye surgeon friend.  So, all round, I was in very good hands all evening.

withAudra&Esther.png

With my beautiful surgeon friends

TableGroupShot.png

My dream team of doctors who look like they just stepped out from Grey’s Anatomy and E.R… except these lookers are for real. Step aside, Mc Dreamy.

 

Michelin-Ben&me.png

Attending the Oscars of Dining Awards

 

 

I’m so thankful for God’s Favour, Family and so many awesomely kick-butt Friends (including my amazing doctors) who are supporting me through this journey.

I continue to pray for completion and restoration through it all.

Psalm 69:30: I will praise the name of God with song and magnify Him with thanksgiving.

When I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, my most immediate concern was my 5-year old and how I could prepare him for my upcoming surgery and time away from him.

“Caleb, I will need to go into hospital soon because I am sick. The doctor will cut away the bad cells inside me and I will be okay after that.”

Caleb listened and over the days, asked me about where I would be cut and so forth. He peered over Ben’s shoulder at surgery procedure photos in the Mayo Book on Breast Cancer as Ben read up on how a mastectomy and reconstruction surgery would go. He wasn’t spooked and wielded his newfound knowledge with gusto.

“The doctor will cut mummy like that,” he told his grandparents. “This way and that way,” he said with demonstrations of a quack surgeon.

Well, at least he wasn’t too afraid, I thought. I shared this with my girlfriend Gail. She reminded me to hug Caleb as much as possible before my surgery because it would be difficult to do so for a while post-operation.

 

That day, I sat Caleb down again.

“It’s 5 days to my operation. Let’s hug each other 100 times before that. So, make it 20 times a day.”

Caleb hugged me tight and counted aloud to 100.

“I hugged you 100 times!” He exclaimed.

Over the next few days, he hugged me repeatedly and counted as he did. “What’s 20 + 100?”

“120,” I replied.

“I hug you 120 times already!”

And so, he aggregated his hug count with every hug.

“What’s 30 + 120?”

“What’s 50 + 150?”

On the final day before surgery, Caleb jubilantly announced, “I hugged you 585 times!”

 

I asked for 100 hugs. But Caleb’s mathematics of love overwhelmed me sixfold.

For me, that went a much longer way than a certain Big Nutbrown hare who loved his Little Nutbrown hare to the moon and back.

Guess-How-Much-a-Million-Cream_square

I had a prompting to do a breast self-check in the shower some weeks back. A voice (not audible but clear enough) told me to do so. I checked and immediately found a hard pebble-like lump in my left breast. I stepped out of the shower and scheduled a full health screening. 

The first mammogram proved inconclusive so I was referred to a specialist centre for a spot mammogram and ultrasound. The results showed two suspicious lumps.

I was participating in the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) for the entire week. If I was getting bad news, I didn’t want to know yet. I fixed my appointment for the day immediately after the festival.

On the 1st day of AFCC, I attended a session on Complex Issues in Children’s Books by Harry Potter editor Sarah Odedina. She spoke at length about No Matter What, a bestselling picture book about a parent’s unconditional love towards a child no matter what naughty things the child did. Although she touched on other picture books, this book had major airtime so I remembered it well.

NoMatterWhat1 picture book cover.png

On the 2nd day of AFCC, after I parked my car, I suddenly felt like reading an e-devotional in the car. Highly unusual because I don’t read devotionals in the morning, let alone in my car. Actually I was hardly reading the e-devotionals and was planning to unsubscribe them because they were clogging my inbox.

When I saw the title of the daily e-devotional delivered to iPhone’s my Yahoo inbox – No Matter What – I gasped. It was about sickness.

NoMatterWhat2 Devotional.png

“No Matter What” were not words that I wanted to hear leading up to my appointment with the breast specialist. No Matter What didn’t spell a best case scenario. I shut it out of my mind and enjoyed the rest of AFCC without giving further thought to this. 

 

On Monday, my breast specialist looked at the scans and performed a biopsy on me. I would get the report and diagnosis on Wednesday.

On Tuesday night, before my diagnosis, I became anxious. I picked up my autographed copy of A Clean Breast by breast cancer overcomer Theresa Tan. We knew each other through writing circles. I read about her experience with breast cancer for the second time (since her book launch). I wondered if I should get in touch with her.

As I pondered that and toggled with my Facebook page, I noticed that she had just posted a comment to me right at that moment on my splashy AFCC book launch. I private-messaged her about the two lumps in my left breast. She was concerned and asked me to keep her posted.

I flipped through a few more pages of Theresa’s book and got to the chapter where she was struggling with what to pray after receiving her breast cancer diagnosis. Then, her last two paragraphs in that chapter stopped me in my tracks.

NoMatterWhat3.png

A Clean Breast by Theresa Tan (Pg 67 extract)

 

 “…I knew for sure my cancer didn’t come from God – He is life, not death. I might not have understood why God was allowing this to happen, but I understood He has a plan for me. Faith isn’t just words, but putting words into action.

That night broke the spiritual dry spell. I felt God’s presence all around me from that moment on, and I knew that no matter what, He was never going to leave me or forsake me, ever. He would be with me through this.”

My 3rd “No matter what”. 

My heart sank. I knew my diagnosis was not going to be good the next day. 

 

When Ben and I walked into my breast specialist’s room the next day, her first words to me were “I have not-so-good news. You have breast cancer. It’s stage 2 and it looks aggressive but localized to your left breast.”

She went on to tell me that I had two lumps and a bigger pre-cancerous mass all round it. She had hoped to save my breast but it looked like there was no option. She had to do a mastectomy. But prior to that, I would need to do a pet scan and MRI whilst she would get the grading of the tumours done so they could advocate a more complete assessment of my body.

The word “cancer” spoken out loud pierced through my left breast straight into my heart. Me? Cancer? I have no family history of cancer. It was the last thing I expected 

Yet I was strangely relieved. I did not have to choose between a lumpectomy (cutting only the diseased part of the breast) with radiation or a mastectomy. After all, how do you decide between a rock and a hard place?

When we got home, I told Ben that I wanted to send Caleb to his Taekwando class instead of my parents doing it for that day. I wanted to spend time with my 5-year old as much as possible before the operation. In the car, I opened up my iPhone and saw the title of the day’s e-devotional. I burst out laughing.

NoMatterWhat4 Devotional.png

My 4th No Matter What.

 

In the days leading up to the surgery, I received more No Matter Whats. The Big Man living on the Highest Floor knows I have a hearing problem and that I needed to know beyond a doubt that these were divine messages from Pearly Gates Mansion.

Ben and I threw an impromptu prayer party on the night before my surgery. It grew so big that we had to stop inviting more friends.

Just before it started, my 11-year old niece Isabelle (with no knowledge of my No Matter Whats) Whatsapp me a picture image with an encouraging bible verse. It said this:

NoMatterWhat5

My 5th No Matter What.

At my prayer party, I wanted to say a few words just to thank everyone for coming and let them know my update on my surgery the next day. As I stood there looking at a full house of expectant faces, I was mixed about whether to share my No Matter What story. I felt prompted to do so. So I did.

When I finished, our volunteer worship leader Joseph Chean spoke in a very calm voice. “I have a No Matter What song for you. But in this song, you are the one saying it to God.”

We looked down at the last song in the song sheet he had prepared for us (and was handed to me only at the prayer party).

 YouAreFaithful.png

Our friends thought Joseph had themed the song to go with my story. But he was hearing my story for the first time that evening. And I was looking at his songsheet for the first time.

My 6th No Matter What. With 5 No Matter Whats in one song chorus.

For the first time since my prayer party started more that an hour ago, I lose composure and broke down in tears.

 

On the morning of my surgery, I received one WhatsApp message from my friend Shinta, who was in a different circle from my Prayer Party friends. Oblivious to my unfolding No Matter What story.

Her pictogram message said:

NoMatterwhat7.png

My 7th No Matter What message.

In the bible, 7 is a number of completeness and perfection (both physical and spiritual). 

And so it was for me. I was completely and perfectly ready for my operation that evening, well-reminded that God would see me through this and give me victory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m delighted to share that Readers’ Favourite has awarded Benji, Yumi, Origami! a 5-star review rating!

Benji & Yumi cover (low-res)

“Benji, Yumi, Origami! by Emily Lim-Leh is a delightful storybook about Benji and his friend, Yumi. Benji’s new neighbor, Yumi, gifts him a book on origami. Benji is excited and he goes through the pictures in the book. He has made origami planes and boats before. He looks at the pictures and tries to make a frog, but is unable to do it properly. He tries to make other animals and insects, but he does not get anything right. Then things change when Yumi visits him and has a different eye for looking at his creations. A bi-lingual book, this story is about friendship and creativity and will entertain young readers. It is also a story that introduces readers to the concept of origami.

I found the story entertaining and engaging. It’s about two kids bonding and also about creating things using paper. The story gives readers an idea about what origami is, and the illustrations are colorful and lively enough to make the book eye-catching. The illustrations also add life to the characters and give a good pace and movement to the story. It’s a good bedtime storybook and can also be used for interactive sessions in classrooms and school libraries. The story is simple, but stimulates creativity in children and will encourage them to try out making new things. Books like this are perfect for kids to inculcate good thinking in them and help them to use their time properly and usefully. Both Benji and Yumi are adorable and have been portrayed well so that young readers can connect with them.”

5star-shiny-web

Readers’ Favourite is a leading US Reviews and Contest site owned and operated by authors. Readers’ Favorite has received the “Honoring Excellence” and “Best Websites for Authors” awards by the Association of Independent Authors, are members of the National Book Critics Circle and National Education Association, and are BBB accredited (A+).

Benji, Yumi, Origami! was authored by me, illustrated by Kazumi Wilds and published by the Singapore Book Council’s AFCC Publications. It is one of the two picture books launched at AFCC 2016, with support from Genting Resorts World Singapore, who also supported its splashy launch here:

Related link:

Benji, Yumi, Origami! makes a splash at Sea Aquarium Fairytale Launch

 

 

 

Come 30th July, five of my loved ones will be going botak in support of me and Children’s Cancer Foundation’s headline fundraising event Hair for Hope.

Hair For Hope’s 2-day public hair shaving event will see volunteers have their heads shaved on stage, supported by pledges from friends. The donations received will go towards CCF families with children coping with cancer. The public shave is to raise public awareness and stand in solidarity with these families.

Our original plan was that Ben and I would shave our heads on stage together. Unfortunately, I was not able to delay my chemotherapy till after this 30-31 July event. (I’m like…supposed to be headed out for my first chemo now…after this post!)

So, in my place, my dad will be going botak together with Ben.

And as if that isn’t enough, 3 of my amazing godchildren – Calvin, Christina and Christopher (17, 15 and 12 years old) -will also have their heads shaved.

If these three young ones are not afraid to go botak for me, then why do I need to be afraid about my botak head?

Since I cannot be on stage with them, I’m doing the next best thing. I’m going “public” here on blogosphere in support of my Godchildren and inviting you to support them with pledges in their names as they support me with their bravery. (Gail, you have raised up amazing kids!)

emily.png

All pledges/donations will go to Children’s Cancer Foundation and are 250% tax deductible (more mileage for your tax statement too!)

To start the ball rolling, Ben and I are making the first pledge in support of Calvin, Christina and Christopher. 

To support CCF and my Godchildren’s valiant efforts, please click on this link here to make your donation.

Calvin Chang – https://www.hairforhope.org.sg/shaveeProfile/10428

Christina Chang – https://www.hairforhope.org.sg/shaveeProfile/10430

Christopher Chang – https://www.hairforhope.org.sg/shaveeProfile/10431

If you have spare change, you can support Ben and my dad here:

Ben-  https://www.hairforhope.org.sg/shaveeProfile/10426

My dad – https://www.hairforhope.org.sg/shaveeProfile/10427

Read more about Children’s Cancer Foundation here.

Headed to chemo now…!

I hate the idea of chemo. 

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer last month, my breast surgeon told me that there was a good chance that I would not need chemo. The biopsy had shown that the mutated/breast cancer cells (known as Her-2) were Her-2 negative. In this case, I may have an option for other types of treatment drugs.

Following the surgery, a more detailed laboratory test was run on the tumour in the removed left breast. It turned out equivocal – neither Her-2 positive or negative. My doctors could not proceed with a treatment plan. The good news is that my lymph nodes are confirmed all-clear through the lab test. But they would need the FISH test to get a confirmation if I was Her-2 positive or negative. 

“Can I pray that the results will be such that I won’t need chemo?” I asked my surgeon from my hospital bed.

“Pray for conclusive results so we know how to move forward on treatment.”

I ignored her and prayed for what I wanted.

Two Mondays back, the FISH results came back conclusively Her-2 positive. Not what I wanted to hear.

“Why such a variation of results?” I asked.

My surgeon explained that breast cancer cells are not homogenous and can vary across the breast.

My initial biopsy took out a small sample of  cells and confirmed the breast cancer.

The frozen section taken during my surgery analyzed a bigger section and found the Her-2 neither positive or negative. Which then required further testing.

The FISH test, developed in recent years, provided the most conclusive results on whether the breast cancer is Her-2 positive or negative, because it took the “worse” part of the tumour for analysis. 

Both my doctors unanimously agreed, that given my Her-2 positive results, my post-op treatment had to include chemotherapy. It would serve as preventive treatment to eradicate any remaining traces of cancer in my body. 

I spent that night in tears after I tucked my 5-year old into bed. 

Of so many questions to ask, one was at the tip of my tongue. “Will I lose my hair?”  

“It will grow back,” my oncologist told me.

“There are very fashionable wigs these days,” my breast surgeon told me.

I guess my root issue on hair (I can’t help it…pun intended) for me was the feeling of baldness, nakedness and vulnerability. 

No one on the street would know I lost a breast if I didn’t tell them or flash them (not that I actually plan to do this).

But there was no escaping the label of “cancer patient” once I had a bald head. 

Last Thursday, after a really long consultation with my oncologist, Ben and I talked at length and also how we would also manage my 5-year old’s emotional response.

I didn’t want to sit around waiting for clumps of hair to fall out. It would depress me and scare Caleb, who has already been through a rough month with my surgery and time away from him. 

So, we’ve decided to face it head on.

I’ve ordered 6 funky surgeon caps from US medical online store www.scrubs.com. 

Better to look like a surgeon than a patient.

I was inspired by a photo of my beautiful breast surgeon A* featured in a news article wearing one. (I call her A* here because she has been a guiding star to me. She also looks like one of those stars in the TV hit series Grey’s Anatomy, except she has real surgeon brains and hands.)

In the wig department, I was going to be plain boring and just find something exactly the same as my current hairstyle.

My girlfriends all thought I should be more adventurous and try different hairstyles over the months ahead. 

And so, I’ve decided to go with my bosom buddies’ advice and ham this up a bit.

I’ve bought a customized medical wig from the Jullia Olger counter located inside Isetan Scotts. It comes with an unlimited service where I can restyle and reshape my new hair anytime I want. So I’ll start from a shoulder length wig, and have that cropped eventually to pixie short in the months ahead.

Since hair loss is a foregone conclusion for these type of chemotherapy drugs, I shaved my head today. I thought I may as well cry over losing hair upfront and get that over and done with before my treatment starts this Thursday. Then, I can focus on getting well and look ahead to my future. (Surprisingly enough, I teared up all of one minute during the shaving and that has been it.)

Friends who have encountered chemotherapy directly or through their loved ones have given me coping tips during this parched period.

All that is left now as I get ready for my 18-weeks wilderness journey – is preparing my mind and my spirit.

A friend just taken me through some techniques in meditation.

Ben’s friend also just passed me the book 30 Meditations on Healing by Marilyn Hickey and Sarah Bowling -. In the book, Rick Warren, who wrote The Purpose-Driven Life, was quoted as having suggested this – “If you know how to worry, then you already know how to meditate.”

Meditation focuses on God and His Word. God’s Word uplifts and heals us whereas worry just drags us down.

Theresa Tan, breast cancer overcomer and now someone dear to me, pointed me to the bible verse Isaiah 41:10 just before my surgery. Another friend’s two kids, coincidentally, gave me this exact same verse in cards they wrote for me the night before my surgery.

Isaiah 41:10

Do not fear, I am with you

Do not be dismayed, I am your God

I will strengthen you and help you

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand

Isaiah 41:10 was the verse I recited as I was wheeled into the operating theatre last month. It was the same verse that I recited when I woke from my general anesthesia. 

(On a side note, the nurses also reminded me that I said, “How’s my boob? I’ve done an Angelina Jolie.” This part was clearly the G.A. talking.)

The day after my surgery, Elain, my first girlfriend to visit, coincidentally, had the same verse for me.

That afternoon, Arlene was my 2nd friend to visit. We shared our Isaiah 41:10 coincidences with her.

As we concluded our story, Arlene noticed Ben was wearing a tee shirt which had a clever spoof of Star Wars. She wanted to take a photo of it. As she did, we only then noticed what the bible verse in the smallest print and last line of the tee shirt was – Isaiah 41:10. It was a goosebumps moment.

Never Fly Solo

God is in both the big and small details. And in case I missed it, I received several God-incidences (not mere coincidences) of His word to me.

I prayed for cancer to miraculously disappear. It didn’t. I had to go through mastectomy and reconstruction surgery. But God shielded me from fear and I came out of surgery with no post-operation physical pain. 

I didn’t want to drink the chemo cup, so I prayed for it to be taken from me. It hasn’t. But I’m going to keep on praying for what is now before me.

As I proceed with this next stage, I will continue to pray for all things since all things are possible with God. 

-That the chemo will effectively remove all remaining traces of cancer cells, if any

-That I will have no side effects or other untoward effects from chemo and my other treatments. 

-That I will experience God’s strength, joy and peace daily.

And I will hold on to the promises in Isaiah 41:10 which saw me through my surgery with little fear and no post-surgery physical pain. 

Related Links:

God Knows Leh #1 – I’m living my life above breast cancer

Theresa Tan’s blog – A Clean Breast

 

A few weeks ago, in June, my life came to a pause.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I thank God that it was detected early. Whilst in the shower, I sensed a voice prompting me to do a breast self-examination. It wasn’t an audible voice but it was clear enough.

I listened to that prompting and found a small hard lump in my left breast. (I go for annual/biannual full health screenings but don’t do breast self-examinations.)

I finished my shower and immediately arranged an appointment for a mammogram and full health screening.

After a biopsy, PET scan and MRI, it was confirmed that the cancer was localized to my left breast. But there was no saving my left breast – it was diseased – and removing it was the only option. I said goodbye to my breast friend readily. Because I choose life.

I underwent a mastectomy and reconstruction surgery. Yep, I did half-an-Angelina-Jolie.

I thank God that His hand was sentinel over my sentinel nodes, which are found to be all clear.

 

When I came down with a rare voice disorder Spasmodic Dysphonia over 17 years ago, in 1998, I put my head down and was afraid to talk to most people. Fear, Worry and Despair moved into my life and overstayed their welcome. I thought my life, as I knew it, was over.

In 2007, someone pointed me to John 10:10 of the Bible which became my life verse:

“Jesus said: the thief comes to steal, to kill and destroy; I have come so they may have life and have it to the full.”

2007 became my breakthrough year:

I found my faith in God.

I started recovering my voice.

I wrote my first children’s book Prince Bear & Pauper Bear. This year marks 10 years of my writing journey.

 

My doctor will now start me on follow-on post-operation treatment, as a preventive measure, to eradicate any remaining traces of cancer cells.

It’s not been easy riding out these rough waters. But this time, I choose not to ride alone or bury my head under my pillow. I spent most of 10 years of my life doing that already.

Instead, I’m looking up to God and around to my loved ones right from the start.

I will live my life to the fullest because God’s Word says so.

John 1010

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 706 other followers