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22 February 2019 was Black Friday. That was the day that all hope was lost on any further treatment for Mum.

I was having breakfast at the Yakun outlet in Gleneagles Hospital at 8.30 am and having some quiet time before heading up to Mum’s hospital room. That morning, the Our Daily Bread e-devotion I was reading had jumped out at me.

Heholdsourhand1

The key verses Isaiah 41:10 and Isaiah 41:13 included ‘hand references’:

Isaiah 41:10 “I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” 

Isaiah 41:13 “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10 was a significant verse that saw me through breast cancer surgery without fear in the same hospital two years back.

The “two hand references” caught my attention because the image of “Two Hands” had impressed upon my mind at the Littworld Global Christian Publishing conference a few months back in November 2018. Now, I was to find another layer of meaning to the ‘Two Hands’ image.

A few minutes after I had read the e-devotional, I found out why I needed God’s strength and two hands to steady me. Our doctor called me out of Yakun and informed me that Mum had thrown up stale blood that morning. It was the beginning of the end. 

In the two weeks leading up to that day, we had harboured hope that Mum would be able to start another round of chemotherapy and with this, see her life extended. 

Black Friday changed that. Mum’s remaining few months dropped to remaining few days. She could no longer undergo any more treatment as her internal system was collapsing. 

As timing would have it, three days earlier, our pastor had scheduled to visit Mum that day. Pastor Wendy came and prayed for Mum that afternoon and also requested some alone-time with her. When Pastor Wendy came out, she shared with us that Mum had expressed a deep desire to return home to God.

Five minutes after Pastor Wendy left, Mum threw up much more stale blood. She spilled over two litres of blood in all. I pressed the nurse call button several times in desperation. Dad and I were otherwise at a complete loss on what to do. We both sat there with Mum and wept in utter despair and anguish.

The e-devotional that popped up in my Inbox a few minutes after this episode was titled:

Jesusweeps1

“Jesus weeps with you. Jesus weeps for you. He weeps so we will know: Mourning is not disbelieving… Grief does not mean you don’t trust… so grieve, but don’t grieve like those who don’t know the rest of this story.”

I texted Pastor Wendy and found that she was still downstairs. My brother and Ben were on the way to hospital as we had earlier fixed a 5pm family conference with our palliative doctor to discuss how to make Mum’s last days comfortable. I asked Pastor Wendy to lead us in a short family memorial service first and we took turns to express our gratitude and say the unspoken to Mum before it was too late. 

 

Five days later, on Wednesday 27 February morning, just before Mum passed away, the e-devotional from Faithgateway that popped up in my Inbox was titled: ‘Be You, Bravely’.

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The e-devotional ended with 3 bible verses:

The first 2 verses, Isaiah 41:10 and Isaiah 41:13 were a repeat of the devotional verses from Our Daily Bread’s e-devotional on Black Friday. I had goosebumps from the coincidence, or more, God-incidence. It was God’s Word reminding me and strengthening me for the final hour.

The third verse of the devotional was Psalms 23:4 – I had repeatedly received Psalms 23 in a series of not-coincidences through various people randomly over the past week.

The end was very near. 

And in case I missed the point, as I often do, God had spoken to me in this one e-devotional that summed it up. This D-day devotional was about cancer, fear and being brave. It ended with the 2 verses that jumped out at me on Black Friday and the repeated Psalms 23 assurance through that week. And this devotional ended with the final line:  “The point from God… Daughter, I know you are afraid; let Me help.”

Mum passed away that very afternoon. This time, I did not weep. I knew that God was holding her hand and ours. Two hands.

And I knew how her story continued on.

Double Crosses

In the face of walking alongside Mum so closely through the valley of shadow of death, I experienced the deep truth of John 11:25 for the first time in my life:

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again.”   -John 11:25

Good Friday was Jesus’ blackest Friday on earth. The Son of God was found ‘not guilty’ by the government of that day. But he was still put to death with one of the most cruel forms of Roman executions of that time. He was crucified on a cross till death. He spilled his blood in death. All hope appeared lost.

Mum’s Black Friday would have remained Black Friday if not for Good Friday. Because Jesus died on the cross, conquered Death and resurrected back to Life again, we know Mum’s life didn’t end in death. Her new chapter is in Heaven, where there are no more tears, no more pain and no more sorrow. God’s Word gives us that blessed assurance.

Related links:

God Knows Leh #28- Parting with an Old Spice Alabaster Jar Miracle

God Knows Leh #27- A Pain in the Abdomen & 7 Psalms 23 Assurances

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In the final week, when my mum deteriorated extremely fast from aggressive cancer relapse, Ben and I decided to prepare Caleb that Grandma would not be around much longer. My parents lived with us from the time Caleb was born so he would feel Grandma’s absence in a big way since she had helped care for him since young.

Ben and I sat Caleb down and I started by saying that it looked like Grandma would soon d—.

“Don’t say that word,” Caleb interrupted. “Say that she’s going to sleep and she will be with Jesus.”

“Yes, you are right,” I said. “It looks like she will be with Jesus soon.”

Soon after, Mum passed away in hospital, after spending her final three weeks there. We were unable to bring her home as she was tubed up with painkillers, glucose drips and antibiotics from various infections as she had weakened considerably by then.

We decided to give Mum a homecoming. Ben made all the arrangements for Mum’s wake services at our home and we brought her body home on the same day that she passed on. As Ben said, knowing Dad’s devotion to Mum, Dad would have camped out three days and three nights at whichever funeral parlor or chapel that her casket rested if we had held the wake services anywhere else.

Mum Homecoming

Set up by evening for Mum’s homecoming

Caleb had been in the hospital room on the afternoon that Grandma passed on. And now, that same evening, we brought her casket home. It was a lot for an 8-year-old to take in. He stood at a distance all night, uncertain if he wanted to go near her casket.

By morning though, he had come to terms with his Grandma’s casket sitting in our dining room and was able to look at her without apprehension.

As Caleb sat at the dining table during breakfast, he watched curiously as I walked to his Grandma’s casket and spoke to her.

“Mum, what are you doing?” Caleb asked.

“I’m talking to Grandma,” I replied.

“But Grandma is not there,” Caleb said, looking towards the casket. “Grandma is up there.” He pointed upwards.

“Yah, okay. But I want to look at her face when I speak to her,” I said.

“Mum…,” Caleb said in a tone of voice like a parent explaining a simple truth to a child. “That’s an empty body. Grandma has already gone to Heaven.”

Empty body? I didn’t teach him that. I hid my surprise as I looked at my son. “You are so right. She’s already in Heaven.”

Then he added, “I must get used to talking to Grandma like that.” He craned his head  upwards to practise speaking to her.

I could not help but break into a smile.

As a parent, I often teach my child the truth that the Bible imparts. Yet at times like this, I needed my child to remind me what faith looks like. It is the confidence that Christ has conquered death on the cross for us, so we can lift our heads up high in hope instead of looking down in sorrow. And we can look forward to the blessed assurance that we will one day reunite with our loved ones in Heaven.

John 11:25, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live…”

John 14:1-3, Jesus said “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

Related links:

God Knows Leh #28: Parting with an Old Spice Alabaster Jar Miracle

God Knows Leh #27- A Pain in the Abdomen & 7 times of Psalms 23:6

 

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2018 was a challenging year for my family. In March this year, my breast surgeon gave me the all-clear as I crossed two years from when I first found a pebble in my left breast. Our happiness was short-lived. One month later, in April, a close family member was diagnosed with critical illness. I’ll leave the details out as this is another person’s diagnosis.

But I would say that we walked through “the valley of the shadow of death” for months. Amidst the darkness, I lost focus and could not hear God.

Then, I had a freak accident.

I accidentally stabbed myself in the left ear forcibly with a sharp object that left my left eardrum tattered and torn. I’m not entirely clear how it happened except that the accidental stabbing traumatized me severely. I hardly cried through my cancer surgery and treatment. But I bawled my eyes out over the thought of going deaf in my left ear.

When I saw the ENT doctor, he showed me the ghastly damage on a TV screen and told me it was 50% damaged. Given the severity of damage, he thought I might require surgery. But he was a believer in natural healing. So he gave me antibiotics to prevent infection and asked me to see him in two weeks’ time.

At my 2nd review, my ENT doctor saw that my body had shown initial signs of repair. He decided that we would wait it out for another 4 weeks to see if I needed surgery. He said he was hopeful that my body would heal itself.

For weeks, I listened to a wind-like sound blowing through the big hole in my left ear. It was like being stuck on an airplane for 6 weeks.

When I saw the doctor again, we were amazed. My left ear drum was scarred and scabbed. But I was fully healed!

KeepCalm(Quotesgram.com)

Quotesgram.com

As I stand at the cusp of a year that is passing, I look back and thank God for many things. In particular, I’m thankful for these:

  • On Christmas Eve, after 9 months of treatment, we received the scan results that death had lost its sting and my family member had received the gift of life. It’s a miracle!
  • We experienced God’s love through prayers and support of friends and an outstanding doctor who journeyed with us through the valley of despair.
  • Friends who reached out when our family was at our lowest point and pointed us to the Healing Room at Cairnhill Methodist Church. That first visit there marked the turnaround of healing and recovery in the most amazing way. It gave our family hope and sustained us through the year.
  • Last week, I saw my ENT doctor one more time as my left ear felt slightly blocked. We looked at the TV screen hooked to his ENT camera and I saw the most incredible sight. My left ear drum was a completely clear membrane, without any sign of scarring. The scab had fallen off and was blocking my ear canal, which my doctor vacuumed out. I have a brand new ear drum!

In this Christmas season and final days of the old year, I remember the “old” and look to the “new” and am thankful for how God sustained us through the year and has made all things new.

 

“If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new has come.”

– 2 Corinthians 5:17

 “And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

–Revelations 21:5

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Salt quote p3 edited

Salt & Light recently asked me the question, “What does the finished work of the Cross mean to you?”

This question gave me pause to reflect on my personal response in the lead up to Easter week.

Read the full article here.

 

 

 

 

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Today marked the last of my antibodies cocktail of Herceptin and Pertuzameb. It’s been 18 three-weekly cycles of 90-minute infusions over the past 1 year. I checked off that final jab with Yakun toast and teh siu tai.

LastHerceptin2

Now, I am down to daily Tamoxifen tablets and 3-monthly Lucrin injections over the next 5 years. The Lucrin injection is a simple procedure which takes under 5 minutes at the clinic.  That means I see less of the oncology clinic walls (and my doctor) going forward!

Whilst I marked today with a celebratory mood, I was reminded that there are others going through tougher journeys. The lady in the seat directly opposite me today had a severe allergic reaction after taking a pre-chemo medication meant to settle her tummy. The nurses hadn’t even started her on chemotherapy yet. There was a huge flurry of activity as the doctor and nurses rushed her to the ICU upstairs. It was the first time I have seen such a drastic reaction in my 18 sessions at the clinic.

For me, it was a poignant reminder to be thankful for how well I have responded to treatment, and to continually nourish my physical and spiritual health going forward.

 

Psalms 28:7

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.

Related Posts:

God Knows Leh #18 – Finishing Final Chemotherapy with Char Kway Teow

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

 

 

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Exactly one year ago, on 1st June 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember that day in the doctor’s office very vividly.

Before that, cancer was a scary sickness which I would hear about now and then that someone had. Until it hit home. Now, I have become one of those people other people hear about.

How has life changed over the past year? 

Well, my most frequented places have been the doctors’ clinics. 

There was a whole series of tests and scans, followed by surgery and 9 days in hospital. 

Then, it was followed on with 6 cycles of 3-weekly chemotherapy for 4 and half months. 

Thereafter, I have been continuing on 3-weekly Herceptin and Pertuzameb antibody injections. Come July, I will complete 1 year of antibody injections.

I am also on a 3-monthly Lucrin injection to take me to early menopause and daily Tamoxifen tablets for the next 5 years.

In between those, I had 3-6 weekly blood tests, 6-weekly heart scans, a brain scan, lungs scan and another full body scan. Soon, I am up for another mammogram.

In the midst of these, I became acquainted with people around me battling cancer. I got to know two ladies from Ben’s work circles who were diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after my diagnosis. A mum from Caleb’s kindy also got in touch with me to share her recent breast cancer diagnosis. We shared our diagnosis and treatments. I have been praying for all of them as well as for 2 other ladies fighting cancer. 

As I reflect on this year past, I am clear on one thing. I reject cancer and give it no place and no credit in my identity. 

I refuse to call myself a cancer patient. I do not call myself a cancer survivor either. I am simply someone who was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am well now and I will live my life well, without the shadow of cancer obscuring my life lens.

I remind myself that my identity is in Christ. I am a child of God. And that’s where I will fix my eyes on. The right C. The most powerful C. Christ is my answer.

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 Related Posts:

God Knows Leh #2 – I really didn’t want to drink this chemo cup

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

 

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Caleb and I recently followed Ben on his 16-day work trip to Switzerland and USA.

It was an important family trip for us after 10 months of being in and out of doctors’ clinics and multiple scans following my surgery last June where I had one breast removed and reconstructive surgery following a breast cancer diagnosis. I thank God that I am well and was ready for my big trip.

As Ben’s work locations were in two rather un-touristy towns, I packed several small travel toys and activities for some afternoons where I might just want to veg out in the hotel room when Ben was at work.

I wrote out a travel checklist to remind myself of various things to pack into our luggage.

Caleb, who loves to be involved in everything, saw my list and decided to start his own travel checklist.

He followed me around the house, asking me how to spell words that he added to his list.

When he reached item #24 on his list, he told me, “Remember to bring Joy.”

“Bring what?” I asked as I busied with packing his clothes and toys.

“Being Joy…you know Joy? Joy in your heart,” he said.

I paused from my busy bee state and looked up. “Wow…,” I said. “Okay, we will bring Joy.”

Caleb travel list

“And don’t forget me,” Caleb said as he added his own name to his packing list. “We’ll also bring God and Jesus,” he said, adding two more names to his list.

And so we did.

We had a free and easy, chilled out vacation.

Caleb St Galen

Caleb and I spent a morning playing in a patch of residual snow outside our hotel.

An afternoon in the bookstore when it was too chilly to be outdoors.

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And other simple pleasures.

And we were filled with joy in our hearts.

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