November 25, 2016

Work work work work work

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:35 am by puregreenjade

When your work defines so much of your life, it’s the easiest thing to talk about – or the hardest. This year, I walked away from a lot of mismanagement, disappointment and demotivation. Partly by choice, partly because I couldn’t find that valuable niche to fill anymore, not in that place.

It was an eye-opener for sure, as I had been convinced I was unique in the role. A lot of things started to pile up and weigh on me, and I couldn’t dig myself out in that environment.It was bitter realization, for sure. Limped away to lick my wounds and was seriously considering leaving full-time employment (and opting for a part-time or freelance arrangement).

But some industry friends/colleagues pulled me up to my feet again, and I will always be grateful to them for that. I was in a pretty low place, and it took me a few months to begin to see the light again. When the work you’re immersed in fails you (because it’s not a compassionate friend, it’s a cold economic force), your self-esteem, self-worth, self-image takes a pretty hard hit.

But some pretty unexpected people rallied behind me, people I’ve worked alongside for years (but wasn’t exactly close to). They gave me confidence when I needed it, and a listening ear. And it’s in a large part thanks to them that I am in a good place, a supportive place, with great bosses/colleagues. I’d never have considered this place otherwise, and would’ve missed out too on a healthy employment package. It just worked out, and honestly, it’s my job to lose if I don’t focus.

I’m ok. I’m in an ok place.

 

 

Baby talk

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:14 am by puregreenjade

The first time I met the little one was on a cold winter’s night on 16th June 2016 in a quiet Sydney suburb. I remember my brother coming downstairs and it took a double take before I realized he was carrying a tiny little baby.

Lil Bub was sleeping, but stirred soon after. It became a little ritual – he would wake up at night, my brother brought him down and I would help feed expressed milk from a bottle as his mom rested upstairs. Sometimes my brother was so sleepy himself, it was just me and Bub and no one else as I gazed on his tiny little face.

I had a taste of parenthood, wiping poop off his back as they changed him, or once panicking because I assumed the milk was cooled and realized I hadn’t tested it on my hand – he was okay though! By and by, I fell in love with my tiny, tiny nephew.

I came back in October, when the chill was still set deep in the walls of the house. This time, he completely charmed me with his chubby smile and giggles and inquisitive, bright eyes. Completely smitten. I never knew a baby could stir so much warmth and fondness and love and delight inside.

I love love love you little baby, and can’t wait to see you for Chinese New Year!

 

January 24, 2016

First post of 2016

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:36 am by puregreenjade

Happy New Year! May we all actually attempt to be better, improved versions of ourselves. What I’m looking forward to this year:

  • The baby, by far. The little munchkin is on his way. Yes, HIS way – my brother happily announced it to us on 22nd December. That’s when I knew. Funny, I thought about the baby in more vaguely feminine terms, like how I’d buy clothes and be the best aunt ever. I’m happy either way; little boys are adorable too. My brother started tasking us (well, my mum, really) to look up traditional names and meanings. I’ll stick to proposing cool androgynous Westernish names.
  • That promotion. I’ve been promised it’s happening, but until some HR stuff gets sorted out, it’s not and until it does, well…it might as well be wishful thinking.
  • Sydney and then Japan. Yes.
  • Getting a place. Looking, looking, always looking, but recently with more fervour. I just need to do it. What am I afraid of? What I AM afraid of is looking back on my life and realizing I don’t have much to show for it. Not that a house would complete me or anything, but it would be a step certainly.

So, it looks like the next year is going to be about spending a lot of money!

December 7, 2015

A slice of time

Posted in Memories at 1:54 am by puregreenjade

Early May 2011, on a wind-swept balcony.

Your body was an outline against the moonlight as you lit a cigarette. As you exhaled, the smoke caught the light and your eyes glinted momentarily. I saw melancholy. A weariness. It was… honest. In the years after that, no matter how much I came to detest you, I always remembered that one quiet moment in time. It is immortalized in my memory even as the others have melted away, lost in time. There was a gulf between us, even though I was sitting less than a feet away. There was an emptiness I was trying to fill, and just in that moment, for that split second, I wished you could have been the one.

Letter to the beloved

Posted in Family at 1:47 am by puregreenjade

Dear little one,

I first heard about you over Whatsapp, on 30th September 2015. Your dad told us your mum was 7 weeks pregnant. It was so unexpected and I felt such a rush of happiness. They had been trying for more than 2 years now. I teared up, because it’s what they’d been wanting for so long. And our parents would be grandparents. I hurried outside to talk to your grandmother; she had seen the message at the same time too.

It was funny, our reaction. We had so many things to say and ask, and didn’t know how to or whether they would be appropriate.

I prayed for your well-being then, and I still do, and I probably forever will.

During that period of time, I was having a pain at the side of my abdomen and seeing a specialist about it. It was a suspected gall stone, which had me thinking a lot about my mortality. As someone with pulmonary hypertension, any form of surgery is a high risk for me.

I prayed then, that whatever blessing was due to me, would be granted to you instead. That you were more important and deserved the very best start in life.

Your parents flew back for your uncle Patrick’s wedding on 14th October 2015. The closest I got to you was right then! I had these silly thoughts about keeping track of these moments and writing them down. Maybe someday you will read this and know how thrilled we are about you.

Especially your grandfather. He’s normally a quiet man, given to introspection and intellectual discourse. He has jovial moods, but is generally introverted by nature. When he heard about you, his face lit up. He was so happy. He started researching about pregnancy advice and precautions and vitamins to email your dad, and even mailed a book over to Sydney. Guess who had to send him to the post office?

On 20th October 2015, your dad told us they did another scan and it was so far, so good. And my own medical investigation turned out to be just a case of gastritis. As it is, we both were blessed. And because it was soon past 13 weeks already (2nd trimester), I told a few close friends (like your dad did). My friends said I would so spoil you, and I do think that is quite likely.

I always joke with them that “I’m so ready for this baby”. It’s true! I’m a big kid myself, and I love shopping for baby clothes. I imagine myself being a cool aunt, just as your own grand-aunt was to us. I loved it when she always came to visit us when we were kids. She was always cheerful, funny, and brought us out to eat and do fun things. She treated us almost like her own kids.

As of today, you’re about 16 ½ weeks old. There’s still a while more to meet you, and that’s fine. We will see you soon enough. Your grandma and I are already planning our trip to Sydney next year when you arrive. Trust me, you’re the biggest thing that’s happened to this family in a long time!

Love,
Your silly aunt. 

November 21, 2014

What’s your purpose?

Posted in Life, Thoughts, Women at 2:04 am by puregreenjade

I’ve recently wondered, more than ever, how to make a bigger difference at this point of my life. Thinking about humanity in general, where we’re headed, surely what every one of us chooses to do will collectively make an impact on how we evolve or whether we even survive. How can my life contribute, in whatever minuscule, drop-in-the-ocean-esque way, towards that lofty goal?

How can I better support and inspire the young men – and especially young women – whom I have the privilege of leading? Gen Y/millenials, for all the criticism leveled their way, are SMART. They have so much energy and such a rosy idealism. I could write entire articles about them and some of the individuals I’ve mentored.

I feel like there’s more I NEED to do. Write a book, write books, buy a house, open more doors for women, carve my own niche as a writer, be an inspiration to fellow  PH sufferers. Possible? Sounds like a pipe dream. Sounds like I’m trying to be Jesus or something.

I suppose all this stems from – how do we use the gift of our lives? To waste it away just chasing money, sex, parties, fleeting happiness? A woman much wiser than I am puts forth that we’re not meant to chase happiness. We were meant to seek wholeness within ourselves and find our life purpose that way. How can my life be of meaning, or service?

What do you represent? In advertising terms, if you were a brand, what would be your unique selling proposition?

It’s something I’ve been struggling with. I was tired of not knowing who I was or what I stood for, always trying to please people. Bosses, boyfriends, friends who mean nothing to me today. The desire to be likeable faded over the years, taking a backseat to health issues and grasping priorities in life. And then what’s left? It seems so convenient to hide behind the hard work that comes behind building a career than put in the hard(er) work it takes to build character and stand for something.

It’s at this point, mulling over all of this, that I’m more aware than ever that I’m a work in progress. We all are. But that’s not an excuse not to do anything either, or make your days on earth count.

September 1, 2014

PH symposium in Singapore

Posted in Life at 3:48 pm by puregreenjade

On the 8th of August, I had the privilege of addressing a bunch of doctors and healthcare professionals in NUH. It was the annual PH conference for specialists all over the region. About 20 of them attended, and my doc had asked me to participate in a ‘live’ echocardiogram and then give a speech about my experiences. I was nervous about the speech, as I am with any public speaking, but the entire event turned out to be pretty fun. They were all very supportive and encouraging, and I felt like what I had to say mattered to them. At the very least, I hope that they, in turn, will be encouraged by my milestones and tell their patients that hey, there is this girl who’s been living with it for 11 years – you don’t have to despair. Here was the speech, cheesy jokes and all.

————————–

Hi again, I’m very honored for the opportunity to stand here and share my story; thanks to Dr.Yip for inviting me. I’ll get to a more personal thank you later and try not to embarrass you.

Let me tell you a bit about myself – some of you have heard it earlier on during the live consultation, but for the benefit of the other doctors… I was very active when I was young – I did track and field, played netball, then when I was older, started to take up dance as a hobby, which continued even here in NUS where I furthered my studies. I was always strong, able and healthy. Then I was 16 or 17 years old when I had my first instance of feeling like I was going to black out, after exercising a lot. It happened so rarely that year, perhaps 2 or 3 times, that I just thought I was too tired. But it when I was about 18, here on campus, when I noticed that I was starting to get breathless quite easily. Just a flight of stairs could get me winded. It worried me enough to see a GP, and she just said perhaps I wasn’t fit enough. The next time I was to see her, though, was the beginning of what seemed like the end.

I had a sore throat that just wouldn’t go away. I remember feeling annoyed because they were having auditions in my uni for a singing group and I wanted to try out. You know, because many of us who can’t sing think we can. I should just stick to dance. But turns out I can’t do that either, being with PH – sucks to be me. Anyway, it went on for a week, which was unusual, so she sent me to the ENT surgeon here, Dr. Luke Tan, who then saw that my one of my vocal cords wasn’t moving. See, at least I can blame my inability to sing on vocal cord palsy, what’s your excuse?

Turned out my enlarged artery was pressing against my laryngeal nerve. And so it was a very eventful year-end with test after test – X-Ray, echos, blood tests, CT-scans, a lung function test,      trans-oesophageal echo –there’s really nothing like swallowing torchlight-sized probe while your throat is trying to puke it out –  a V/Q scan, to exclude clots and other causes. I felt pretty special, seeing so many specialists. Finally, Dr. Quek from paediatrics did my cardiac catheterization and diagnosed me on a literally-lovely day, Valentine’s Day in 2003.

It was scary, it was surreal, and the Internet existed back then too, so the times I dared to Google it up, there was nothing but doom and gloom. And this was 11 years ago. Actually nothing much has changed since – war in the Middle East, BN still in power, Ebola…. So it was pretty scary and I felt hopeless, and genuinely upset at the prospect of not being alive – to see the 2nd and 3rd installment of LOTR. You can tell where my priorities lie.

Silliness aside – and that’s how I think I cope with the disease, because if you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re in for a rough time – life went on after the diagnosis. I quit studying, came back to KL and started a career in advertising. By then I was on a few medications – warfarin, digoxin and sildenafil, and my NYHA functional classification was Class 1, so I was actually leading a pretty normal life. I did yoga, belly dancing, went to the gym… no, not all at once, and always I checked with dr.yip before trying anything and he would tell me the same thing every time – just do things in moderation. Except the time when I asked him if I could get a tattoo. His answer to me was very diplomatic.

Through my personal journey with PH, I know that you can lead a fairly regular life but I need to be hyper-aware of a few things. Because of warfarin, there’s food-drug interactions to consider. You shouldn’t knock your head or get into accidents. No NSAIDs. And when you get dengue and land in the hospital, you get the privilege of staying for much longer than regular people because you’re a higher-risk patient. PH sucks, but PH with dengue takes the cake. But what takes the cake and the whole bakery – is PH and a ruptured ovarian cyst. Yea, I had that. Intense pain, total confusion at UH in KL, emergency surgery with the doctors thinking I had appendicitis, only they opened me up and saw it was a ruptured ovarian cyst. Traumatic stuff. I can even feel a phantom pain right now. But yes, major hospitalization aside, because I have PH, even normal things like pulling out your wisdom tooth – or getting a tattoo – needs to have careful consideration and management.

Which comes to my meds, my favorite topic. Currently I am on warfarin, digoxin, spiranolactone, ferusemide, sildenafil, Bosentan and Beraprost. Without these meds, I’m done for. They make me feel better, they allow me to lead the life that I love. And they also cost a bomb. So i use generics – instead of just Viagra, I also take a brand called Caverta. Instead of just Bosentan – I have to apologize to David Lim from Actelion here – I take Bosentas. My dad had to fly to Kolkata, India to obtain that one. I cannot afford Iloprost, so I went to Thailand and met a great doctor Prof.Krit from the siriraj hospital, who prescribed Beraprost for me. It’s a constant effort to keep track of my medication and ensure I have constant supply coming. And I am all too aware of how fortunate I am to have a decent job that let’s me pay for all this. I’m not from a rich family, but I’m not below the poverty line so I don’t get any aid from welfare. So yeah, there’s always this constant worry about being able to afford medications. They say money doesn’t buy happiness, but they likely don’t have PH.

If it sounds like I’m some lone warrior battling all this alone, that would be the furthest thing from the truth. I have had such an incredible network of support, not least are the doctors and healthcare professionals. Here is where I am going to embarrass you Dr.Yip, sorry. Dr.Yip has been there since 14 Feb, that lovely day where you were the knight in shining lab coat. I was scared but his manner was very warm and reassuring, it comforted me a lot. He didn’t give me any false hope but he gave me hope at the same time, I don’t know how he does that. He was one of the very very few PH specialists at the time, there were none I knew of in Malaysia. For 11 years, he has been my constant source of medical advice and I pretty much don’t do anything without his approval. Can you please reconsider about that tattoo?

If it was not for Dr.Yip and his experience and knowledge right from Day 1, I would not be standing here today. So Dr.Yip, I’ve never expressed this before but thank you, I am so grateful to you.

I have other doctors who support me as well. Dr. Imran from UH, who was a great help in getting government subsidy for me in the earlier days and helps me with forms, prescriptions, advice, and insisted I took his personal number in case I ever need anything. Actually, now I’m not sure if that’s for medical purposes or… Professor Krit from Thailand, very nice doctor who is currently assisting me with Beraprost. My gynae, a very sharp lady, who has helped me with my cyst issues – I actually had another cyst after that ruptured one, but it went away on its own. I have a good regular GP as well, Dr. Chuan, who is aware of my condition and medications, so he is quite careful in prescribing anything if I’m ill. The nurses – Margaret, Geying – coming here from KL requires a lot of coordination and fairly tight scheduling to get all my tests done in a day, they do such a remarkable job of it every time.

Of course at home, my family has been invaluable – I cannot not mention my dad. I know Dr. Yip has mentioned my dad, I’m going to add on to that. In fact, he was so excited about this, he told me all the things I should say and I told him maybe he should stand up here and talk about his journey with PH.

When I was first diagnosed, he really left no stone unturned. He read up with extreme thoroughness on the internet, he drilled every doctor we met, he emailed a few key PH specialists overseas like, Stuart Rich, Lewis Rubin, Charles Berger, names like that. And they were very generous in sharing their knowledge. In fact he had such extensive awareness, he could even tell that one of the doctors we met lacked experience – because that doctor said I should be on calcium channel blockers without recommending that I do a cardiac cath first to see if I respond to NO. The doctor’s opinion was that a c.c was too risky due to the high pressures. But those doctors I mentioned, they asserted that the safety of the procedure has a lot to do with the experience of the doctor, and that simply prescribing me calcium channel blockers would delay appropriate therapy. And I was fortunate to have Prof.Quek to do the cath and I did not respond to the NO and so started on sildenafil instead. So I guess it showed that it’s very important as a patient, to educate yourself and be your own advocate. In fact, for many years he would even monitor me himself by conducting our own 6 min walk tests in the park, he actually measured it; he would make me climb flights of stairs in my old office building just to keep track of how many I could climb (last time about 7 floors; 14 flights). It was my own personal Olympics. These days he’s content with giving me fruits and vitamins, and reminding me to take my INR. So yes, you’ve heard of the overly protective dad, this is taken to the next level.

Thank you for still being with me so far! Through all this, I just try to stay positive and have a grateful attitude about things like having a great family, and friends who are remarkably understanding – they don’t walk too fast when I’m around, they check if I’m okay with going here or there, they know I avoid climbing staircases… And I do a bit of alternative therapy lately – don’t worry Dr. Yip, nothing drastic – like Qi Gong, which helps me in breathing, and have even done hypnotherapy with my good friend who happens to be a licensed hypnotherapist. One of the most encouraging things I’ve heard about coping with PH is – you’re not dying from it, you’re living with it. And I hope to be able to do that for a long time more.

With this, I just want to thank you all for listening. Thank you.

————————–

 

 

May 11, 2014

A mellow fellow

Posted in Future Plans, Life, Thoughts, Work, Writing at 1:27 am by puregreenjade

It’s so frighteningly easy to forget about the things you want to accomplish, and just lose yourself in the mind-numbing routines we set for ourselves every day. I think about the things I’ve told myself to do, about the things I’ve actually started working on, and every time I come to the same dead end: nothing gets completed. So many distractions, so little focus…

Anything significant I’ve achieved was done at work. That makes sense, seeing as I spend a large bulk of my time working, but take away what I do for a living and what happens then? Can I still contribute to society and provide sustenance for myself and my family? How tied up is my  value and identity to the job that I currently do?

I wonder about this because late last year and early this year, my health suffered so much that I could literally see how it would all end for me. On a bed, unable to breathe or talk, much less get up, and slipping away in a heavy fog. There were days when I could hardly get ready in the morning or walk to the office without feeling like I was going to faint. Weekends were spent holed up in my room. I avoided going out because all I could do was get breathless. I kept feeling like throwing up after eating because my body couldn’t handle the strain of digesting food. I must’ve lost about 6 or 7 pounds.

So I contemplated quitting work to freelance permanently, or working part-time perhaps. And this was heartbreaking to say the least,  because it meant that things were going downhill. But thank God it all took a turn for the better due to some new arrangements in my meds, and I’ve been feeling much, much better.

I cannot forget how it felt though, being as lethargic and lifeless as I did. For somebody who is constantly hungry for new experiences and to see the world, it was a proverbial nail in the coffin. And it’s probably…only a matter of time. But until then, I’m grateful I do have a little bit more. And who knows… new advancements are constantly being made.

Well, the whole episode just keenly reminded me about what I’ve tried to set out to do. Something outside of work that I can be proud of. A little legacy to leave behind when the time comes. Isn’t that what we all want for ourselves?

March 31, 2014

March 2014

Posted in Thoughts at 2:09 am by puregreenjade

There are just some things you’re reluctant to commit to pen and paper, or black and white, much less speak about, because words have power. It’s like if you let it out to the universe, it becomes true and alive with purpose, not some string of strange coincidences… But in the end, if words do have power to make things come true, then it also has the power to change the tides.

I’m not sure if I’m making any sense.

March has been a really, really weird one, in a really bad way. The proverbial snowball started rolling with the ban of Ultraman, of all the nonsensical things; then grew bigger with the big mockery of justice that’s the country’s legal system that’s sending the opposition leader to jail for the second time, the water rationing, the damn forest fires that started to haze up the skies; then it became an avalanche when MH370 happened, a tragedy on a human, administrative, national security and international level.

Amongst my social circles, I got news that an acquaintance passed away. We had many mutual friends, and I’d spoken to her only a couple of times before, so I just want to express my own little sorrow outside the social media cacophony of people who knew her well and were understandably grieved by her sudden passing. I remembered her as someone who was genuinely friendly and warm, with a bubbly personality. She had a wide smile that made you feel welcomed. For one or two events I’d attended where I didn’t know anybody, I would be relieved to see her friendly face. Alas, our paths rarely crossed, but I can see why she had many friends who loved her. May she rest in peace in God’s embrace.

And I think in this month, in these parts, there are many people who need a comforting divine touch… It’s like we all just need to gather around in a circle and sing Kumbaya and pray and get the good/positive vibes flowing again. Just a scary, weird month that I just hope everyone can just ride out and be stronger for it.

January 21, 2014

Welcome to 2014 eh

Posted in Family, Friends, Life, Thoughts, Work tagged , , , , at 12:26 am by puregreenjade

The older you get, the more misconceptions and ideals and naivete you seem to shed. People say that as a matter of fact, but you don’t really feel the pain and hurt of the loss until it happens to you. And when you know it’s not your doing and your conscience is clear, that’s when it’s even more heartbreaking and you just have to let go and move on with love in your heart.

The previous year had ups and downs, as always, but they were more prominent than usual. It’s been hard to deal with my deteriorating health, when sometimes crawling out of bed is about all I can handle. My meds are all over the place, like literally having to go to Bangkok and India to get my supply, and traveling itself is a challenge with my oxygen requirements. It’s just been the most challenging year in terms of my condition and I suppose there’s a lot I could whinge about – and I have, to my closest friends, bless them – but at this point I just want to motivate myself instead of wallowing in pity. It’s tiring, and I’ve felt so down that I’ve wondered if it was better if I just gave up, whatever that means… but still there are beautiful things I can’t be ungrateful for in my life that are worth living and fighting for.

I go on for my family, whose love is unconditional and vast as the sea. I go on for the friends who care, after all this time. I go on for my other half, who even now is mad at me for getting too absorbed in my own worries that I’ve neglected him. They have brought meaning and joy through the grind of every day, when pressures of work and harsh realities just relentlessly bear down on you.

I go on for the young people who look to me for guidance. I have found a little vocation within my new role in the office – creative mentor and occasional listening ear. A deep satisfaction comes from hearing that they’ve cited me in gratitude, and from my boss no less. I enjoy passing on my knowledge and experience, and gaining respect in a tangible, meaningful way. If I ever were to quit to freelance full-time, I think this would be the part I’d miss the most.

One day at a time. Until things get better.

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