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Since starting chemotherapy/post-op therapy 10 weeks back, I’ve found myself in a season of waiting. 

Waiting for each chemo cycle to pass.

Waiting for chemo to be over. 

Waiting for my hair to grow back.

Waiting to get back to normal routine. 

Just before the start of this season, in June, I had glimpses of encouraging things to come. 

Too co-incidentally, these things all went on waitlist status once the chemo period started. Everything went quiet.

As if I am meant to wait in all areas of my life – to be still. 

I’ve always been a Martha rather than a Mary. I’m not good at sitting around waiting. I want to check off the next item on my list. Get things done. 

Now, at mid-point of chemotherapy/post-op therapy, where waiting feels weightier, I’ve made a conscious mindset change to not look at this as 8 more weeks in “waiting”. Because it gets weary and dreary.

In a Faith Gateway e-devotional which popped by in my email inbox “Learning to Wait”, author John Ortberg said “What God does in us while we wait is as important as what we are waiting for”.

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A postcard which came in the mail from writer friend Linn reminding me that winter does not need to be white and grey.

 

And so, instead of seeing this as winter season or my time in the wilderness, I choose to see it as:

my time of physical and spiritual rest – on the finished work of the Cross.  

my time of reading and building myself up in God’s Word

my time of reflection – on areas in my life that I have been convicted to change 

my time of being still – to savour these quiet moments and not be caught up with what is ahead.

It will be a sacred time. A prayer retreat. A holy pause. Where I feed on spiritual manna and hopefully glimpse Heavenly wisdom before my next season.

And when this time of waiting is past, I shall be renewed in strength to soar like an eagle.

Psalms 40:1 “I wait patiently for the Lord. He inclined to me and heard my cry.”

Related links:

https://www.godatwork.org.uk/work-life/waiting-room

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SEED Institute recently organized an outdoor event: “Walking Story” on 27 August 2016 at Pasir Ris Park, using materials from the 4-picture book commemorative collection that I had written for the Year of the Co-operatives in 2012.

Various routes were planned for the 4 books and about 50 Chinese preschool teachers participated in an enriching story walk around the park to learn more about using the outdoor environment to enhance their story telling techniques with preschool children.

I was invited to do an autograph session with the participants at the end of the event as each of them would be given one of the books as a gift. I was unable to attend as I’m undergoing chemotherapy. But I did love the idea of the teachers being gifted a copy each so I pre-signed the books at SEED Institute’s office a few days before.

On the Monday after “Walking Story”, I received a phone call from my 5-year old’s Chinese teacher. As it turned out, she was one of the participants. She was especially pleased to receive the autographed copy of my book.

I was also delighted to receive a lovely photo collage from SEED Institute last week.

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The Singapore National Cooperative Federation first published this series, followed by SEED Institute who re-published it as a bilingual series, with support from the Lee Kuan Yew Bilingualism Fund.

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SEED has also been using these books in their teacher training workshop “Creative Teaching Ideas for Character Development in Early Years” to promote the teaching of character building in preschoolers.

I’m happy to see how far these 4 books have walked over these few years.🙂

 

Related Posts:

When the President and 15,000 breezed through A Very Big Storm

A Very Big Storm in 17 locations in Rochdale Manchester

Bilingual Children’s Picture Books for all Singapore Pre-schools

 

 

Today is Thank God for Family, Friends & Favour Friday!

Lots have happened in the past three months since I was first diagnosed with breast cancer.

But slowly, I have reached half-time in the chemotherapy/post-operation treatment. I’ve completed the first 3 treatment cycles, with another 3 more to go in the 9 weeks ahead. Today, I go for the 4th chemo/post-op treatment.

As I reflect on this period, I’m thankful for 6 decisions which have sustained me this far:

1. Going direct to my Maker

When my watch is spoilt, I go to the watchmaker.

So when my body was found to be with cancer on 1st June, I make a decision to go straight to my Maker.

Frankly, this was something quite counter-intuitive to my usual modus operandi. I chose not to research this condition or spend too much time reading up on it. I asked Ben to do that instead and just flag out (with post-its, please) what I needed to know to arrive at a decision medical treatment-wise.

I would say this is the best decision that I have made since my diagnosis.

Of the little that I read on cancer, it was already too much. Everything about it is depressing and only pulls you down. I have been interested in information only if it makes me better. I choose to look up, not down.

Like taking medicine, I also spend three quiet times a day reading the bible and praying. I have been actively reading passages about God’s healing in the bible. It has strengthened me spiritually and is healing me from inside out.

 

2. Creating prayer circles

The next best thing I did when I was diagnosed was to update a few circles of friends through WhatsApp to ask them to pray for me.

The prayers of everyone have sustained me through some of my low points, as at any one time, there’s someone sending me a prayer or pick-me-up message.

On days when I’m cooped up at home, it’s like a line to the outside world.

 

3. Being Open

Right from the start, I made a conscious decision to be open about my diagnosis and treatment.

Because of that, there has been a tremendous level of support from friends and acquaintances. Old friends I’ve not seen or lost touch with for the past 20-30 years contacted me after reading my blogpost updates on Facebook.

Friends who have encountered cancer directly or in their family and friend circles have offered great practical advice, especially survival tips for this chemotherapy period.

 

 4. Family Routine

Although my dad is still ferrying Caleb to Kindy and his other activities, I have resumed the childcare routine at home. It’s nice to slowly ease back to some normal routines and still have some downtime when my dad is ferrying Caleb. And routine includes scolding, nagging and the whole parental shebang. It’s lung exercise which gives me lots of healthy oxygen intake.

 

 5. Friendly Uplift

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Going pink of health in a celebrate-my-wellness lunch with my girlfriends of 30 something years (yes, we are ahem…30 something years old🙂 )

 

Over the past three months, I have met with quite a number of old and new friends. I’ve kept my schedule fluid but have been able to at least catch up with different friends every now and then. A hearty conversation and girly get-togethers has a great way of brightening the week and increasing more oxygen intake.

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Lunch of the week – with my readaholic  friends, where we jabbered about books, reading, motherhood, books and reading

(My dear friend sent this to celebrate my Half-Time. Yes, I got permission to post this so we are still friends!🙂

6. Writing therapy

I wasn’t sure if I was going to be writing during this period but writing has turned out to be therapeutic for me.

I have journaled almost daily, blogged weekly and written a new picture manuscript draft (in its 8th draft). I’m now revising another picture book manuscript that I had gotten stuck on earlier this year.

While I’ve taken it slow with my creative writing, it has been something that perks me up when I look at my week ahead. It’s write medicine for my soul.

 

Reaching this mid-point has felt tedious on some days, but these routines have sustained me and kept me well this far. I thank God for all His mercies through this time.

So, I’m going to keep at it for the remaining 9 weeks ahead, knowing that the goal is not too far off and a new season awaits me when this is over.

 

Psalms 100:4-5

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Related Links:

God Knows Leh #9- Strong Bugs, Choppy Waters & Friendship Packages

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caleb would usually have “sleepovers” in my bedroom a few nights a week. It was a treat for him because we would play board games before bed, I would read him books and he got to sleep later, like a real sleepover party.

During my 9-day stay in hospital following the mastectomy and reconstruction surgery, Caleb spent most of his time with my parents ie. his grandparents, and missed his sleepovers with me terribly.

Even after I got home, we did not resume his sleepovers in my room for a while. He is a roller when he sleeps. I could not risk him accidentally kicking me or rolling onto me.

About two weeks after I had been home from hospital, I heard a wailing downstairs in Caleb’s bedroom when my mum was trying to put him to bed. After it had gone on for some time, I went down to see what was happening.

Caleb was standing a foot away from his bed, refusing to get on. His eyes were red from crying and he was at the end of making a long teary protest speech when I walked in. “…I’ve spent enough time with Grandma. I’m not getting into bed anymore until I sleep with Mummy again. I want to be with Mummy till infinity!” And then he broke down inconsolably.

My heart broke.

But it wasn’t the right time to give in because it might send the wrong message that a protest speech would get him what he wanted. I spent some time placating him and eventually got him into his bed.

That night, Ben and I discussed about re-starting Caleb’s sleepovers in our bedroom. But it would need to come with some temporary rules.

Usually, he would climb onto me and hug me to sleep. Then, I would transfer him onto the giant cushion on the floor next to me. In the wee hours of the morning, half awake, he would automatically climb onto me, hug me like a koala bear and fall back to sleep again.

That had to change temporarily till I recovered from my surgery wounds.

So, we worked out a couple of new rules:

#1 – Caleb could only sleep on Papa’s side of the bed.  

That meant that Ben and I had to switch the sides of the bed that we normally slept so that Caleb would be next to him, not me. I moved to the right side of the bed and Ben to the left.

#2 – We built a wall of pillows which divided our bed into two. Caleb had to stay on the other side. And he could not sleep on me like a baby koala for the next few weeks.

We pilot-tested the next night. In the wee hours of the night, Caleb automatically climbed up to my side of the bed and slept on Ben. The pillow wall stayed intact and we were all systems go for his regular sleepovers again.

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Goofing it up in my room during a quiet day at home

 

With my chemo-cycles now, we’ve still kept some of these temporary rules. For every 1st week of a new chemo cycle, Caleb has to forgo any sleepovers in my room. Given the amount of medicine pumped into me at each chemo/post-op session, I abstain from kissing him for a week till I flush out all the chemicals from my body. My oncologist said it usually takes two days to flush it out of the system but I prefer to buffer it up to a week where Caleb is concerned. Once that week passes, my routine with Caleb goes back to normal and I give him infinity kisses till he begs me to stop.

That said, I have explained to him that I cannot be with him till infinity because one day I will grow old and no longer be around. But I tell him that we have the assurance of God’s Word in the Bible that we will eventually be together in eternity in Heaven.

And Eternity is better than Infinity and beyond.

Related Links:

Inside-Out Kid #5 – “My Mummy is a Botak Head! But she covered it up.”

God Knows Leh #10 – Three Wise Women with Gifts of Frankessence, Mastec & Go

Benji, Yumi, Origami! is in the house! Literally. I’ve finally stocked some copies at home.

This picture book saw a splashy launch at Resorts World Singapore’s SEA Aquarium in end May. Then, I encountered a storm one week later with a breast cancer diagnosis and never got round to doing anything for this book.

Benji, Yumi, Origami! is a story about new perspectives and seeing beyond the imperfect.

Benji is a kid who wants to get everything perfect. When he receives an origami present, he sets out, very much by the book, following each step methodically from Page 1.

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But origami is a craft that needs skill and patience, and Benji fails to fold his paper animals perfect.

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Just as he reaches the point of giving up, he meets his new neighbour Yumi, who gifted him the origami set.

With Yumi’s encouragement, Benji starts to see his imperfect creations with fresh eyes.

His crumpled frog isn’t really crumpled. That’s his reflection in the water ripples.

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From there, a beautiful friendship unfolds as Benji works on his new creations with new perspectives.

Benji, Yumi, Origami! is now retailing at Kinokuniya Singapore.

I’m also offering autographed copies with free delivery (within Singapore) for a limited period only! Send your orders to me through a private message.

Related Links:

Reader’s Favourite awards 5-star rating to Benji, Yumi, Origami!

Benji, Yumi, Origami makes a Splash at RWS’s Sea Aquarium Fairytale Launch

Over the past 2 months or so, I’ve been finding and stumbling upon ways to help my 5-year old cope with my breast cancer diagnosis, surgery and recuperation period and now chemo and post-op treatment.

I found the 6 best things that have worked well with him to date:

1. Preparing your Kid in Advance

From the moment I received my diagnosis, I spoke to Caleb about it and prepared him for my upcoming surgery. All in age-appropriate terms.

“Mummy will need to go for surgery and stay in hospital for a week or so. The doctor will cut out the bad cells which are making me sick. I will be well after that.”

I also prepared him for my hair loss from chemotherapy so he wasn’t afraid or confused when I went bald.

I spoke to him several times and answered all his questions about it so he had an understanding of what was to come.

 

2. Keeping to routine

As it was during the month-long June holidays when I was in hospital and then recuperating at home, I kept Caleb to a fixed routine for the entire month. He went to Chinese enrichment class for 3 hours daily in the mornings (similar length of time as his Kindy) and visited me in hospital in the afternoons.

He also continued his gym, taekwondo classes and Sunday School.

 

3. Finding something he could latch onto

Ben bought a few big Star Wars Lego sets, which Caleb built in my hospital room every day. It was the thing he looked forward to doing when he visited me daily, along with us watching a Pixar or Disney movie together.

My mum bought him a junior monopoly set which he loved. That became his game with grandpa every day for my 9 days stay in hospital.

Interestingly enough, the moment I returned home from hospital, he stopped playing monopoly and switched to building Lego in my bedroom while I rested.

With Christopher

Godbrother Christopher, who was supposed to be studying for PSLE, came over to give Caleb a Superman Lift-off

 

4. Letting him have a voice

Caleb was very chatty with friends who visited me in hospital if he wasn’t in the middle of a movie.

When my friend Hwee visited me the day after my surgery, he introduced her to my hospital room because he was so familiar with every nook and corner.

He greeted Hwee with, “Come, I show you my mummy’s urine packet!”

Fortunately, Hwee is very well acquainted with Caleb’s personality from all the anecdotes I’ve shared with her.

She very sportingly followed him as he led her to the left side of my bed and obliged when he asked to her squat down to get acquainted with my urine packet.

“I feel like our friendship has just moved to a more intimate level,” I told Hwee.

with Angel & Christopher

Having a playdate with God sister Angelina and God brother Christopher

 

Two days into visiting me, Caleb met the lift attendant when he and his grandparents were on the way up to my ward. Someone before then had pressed all the lift buttons so the lift attendant came in and dis-enabled the buttons. My dad told me that Caleb watched intently as the lighted buttons all went off.

“How did you do that?” He asked the lift attendant.

Amazingly, the lift attendant taught him.

The next day, armed with his newfound knowledge, he put it to use.

They pressed the 10th floor to where my ward was. My mum then pressed level 2 because she wanted to go buy lunch at the food court.

Caleb did not want the lift to stop because he had to run to my toilet. He dis-engaged the 2nd floor stop so the lift went straight up to my floor!

Unfortunately he applied his newfound knowledge the next day too, which stopped a nurse going to another floor.

After I explained to him that he shouldn’t be stopping other people from going to their floors, he settled into a more lift passenger friendly routine.

My parents told me that he took on the role of a lift attendant. He asked every person who came into the lift where they were going. He pressed the lift buttons for them, and pressed door open and door close for them.  He also engaged some of them in conversation. “I’m visiting my Mummy. Who are you visiting?”

 

5. Informing his Kindergarten

Once Caleb returned to Kindergarten, I notified Caleb’s teachers about my situation and sought their help to keep a close eye on him through this period, especially if he had any emotional issues in class.

His teachers got his class to pray for me and also read him stories which helped him relate to my situation. His teacher also called me a few times to update me on how he was doing in class. I was relieved to hear that he was very settled in and happy in class and had in fact matured even more in his social interactions with his classmates during this time.

 

6. Encouraging Expression of Emotion & Openness 

I reminded Caleb several times that it was fine for him to tell me how he felt. Caleb’s Inside-Out board helped him express his feelings well in the first week I returned home.

For the next couple of weeks, he also had at least one emotional outburst a day on something seemingly unrelated where he became angry or sad. I just let him get it out of his system and he was fine after.

I knew he was expressing and saying what was on his mind (in a healthy way) when I sent him to Kindy for the first time in 7 weeks since my surgery.

When I reached the drop-off point for him to enter the Kindy gate, the staff opened the door for him to get out. The first thing he said to her was, “My Mummy is a Botak Head. But you cannot see because she covered it up!”

Later, when he returned home, I spoke to him about it. “Caleb, so have you told everyone that Mummy is a Botak Head?”

“Only that teacher (at the drop off point), my class teacher and ….my whole class.

“Oh, that’s all?” I said.

“Yah, that’s all,” he said.

Well, that was definitely all.

 

Related Links:

Inside-Out Kid #4 – I’m Happy & Loving You! The Inside-Out Board

Inside-Out Kid #3 – Mummy, you can take out your Pretend Hair at Home

Tibby the Tiger Bunny, the 1st in my Tibby picture book series, has now been published in Tamil translation by Crimson Earth! Yay!

Tibby Tamil

I also had a glimpse of another rainbow which made my day. I saw illustrator Jade Fang’s amazing storyboards for our 3rd Tibby title- Tibby & Scaredy Snout.

The idea of using a boar for the 3rd book came about when Jade asked if I was going to base the next book on a boar. We had a wild boar in the 1st Tibby book which Jade had drawn the boar so endearingly that it deserved a book of its own.

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A sneak-peek at Tibby & Scaredy Snout’s black & white storyboard

 

Tibby & Scaredy Snout has been my most challenging picture book manuscript to date. It took me 1 year to write this 500-word story as I grappled with how to depict the theme of fear in a way that a young child can understand and relate to.

With Jade’s amazing artwork for this book and the pain it took me to write it, this is shaping up to be my favourite of the Tibby books.

Tibby & Scaredy Snout will be out in October! Just in time for my birthday!