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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.

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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.

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

October is my wedding anniversary and birthday month. This year has been especially significant, following the breast cancer diagnosis, as I am reminded to cherish my time with my family and friends.

Family!

Ben took leave on my birthday and we had a quiet lunch together.

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I also decided to attempt 9-holes golf for the first time since my mastectomy and reconstruction surgery. I wasn’t sure how my reconstructed body would hold up given I only have my left six-pack muscles in my tummy. (My right six-pack was promoted upwards to become the left breast.) Well, I got through 5-holes and managed to tee off further than pre-surgery. So that’s a good start.

Friends!

For our 18th wedding anniversary, we decided to celebrate with a group of close friends. I asked our friends to come in matching couple outfits and everyone did so sportingly. No prizes for guessing who won 1st prize for the Best Matched Couple. (Their photo is the biggest amongst our friends).

 

For my birthday week, I also caught up with both old and newer friends.

 

Favour!

I caught a strong flu bug right after my last round of chemo and was holed up at home for a week. It was a reminder to rest and not run ahead of myself. And that reminder came through again when my last chemotherapy session scheduled for today had to be postponed.

My heart scan showed up some fluid retention around the heart which could possibly be due to a side effect of a chemo drug or from the recent bout of flu. I will need to do a follow-up review in 3 weeks before the final chemo session can be scheduled.

I’m thankful for my oncologist who has seen me through all this over the past 15 weeks of chemo treatment. As I approach the tail-end of chemo (now delayed by another 3 weeks), I need to be still and wait patiently for this season to pass.

Proverbs 3:5-6  Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Hop Snort Hooray! Tibby & Scaredy Snout, the 3rd in in my Tibby picture book series is out!

Tibby & Scaredy Snout is a story about fears and friendship. A young boar Snout is afraid of the dark and other things that come naturally to boars. He meets Tibby the tiger-bunny who befriends him and shows him that some things are not as scary as they appear.

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With my tiger-bunny at Epigram Books, publisher of my Tibby picture book series

 

My character Tibby the tiger-bunny came about the week that Caleb was born. It was Chinese New Year week – with the Year of the Tiger passing and the Year of the Rabbit coming. As I sat, heavily pregnant and waiting to pop, I wondered if my son would be a tiger or bunny. Out of that came the idea of a character with both traits, who is as friendly as he is loud. As it turns out, Caleb does roar like a tiger and bounces all over like a bunny.

Jade Fang, illustrator for the Tibby series has definitely outdone herself for this book – her amazing artwork brings another layer to the story which plays off and also counters Snout’s fears in delightful ways.

Related links:

Tibby  & Duckie Launch Off at Singapore Writer’s Festival

Tiger Bunny Flies Crystal Kite & Helps Friend Soar

 

 

 

This year marks 10 years since I started writing. My debut book Prince Bear & Pauper Bear was published in October 2007, so technically, I have been a published author for 9 years. Whichever way, it is a cause of celebration. Especially since the year took on added significance when I was diagnosed with breast cancer this June.

In 2007, I set up Mustard Seed Books to publish my Prince Bear & Pauper Bear and subsequent 3 Toy Titles, as inspired by the Parable of the Mustard Seed in Matthew 13:32 of the Bible. Although the mustard seed “is the smallest seed of all the seeds, it becomes the largest of the garden plants…so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

Likewise, it was my aspiration that my writing would grow in reach and purpose.

I’m thankful for God’s favour throughout my writing journey this far. This year end will see a total of 30 children’s picture books and 1 memoir published.

I did not imagine that it would all begin with one little picture book about a poor teddy bear whose toymaker forgot to stitch him a mouth so he could not speak…