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My brush with uveitis

It’s been more than two weeks since my left eye started failing on me. Ever since I received the right diagnosis, everyday has been a relief. Frankly, I don’t know how I lived through that week when it was mis-diagnosed. That had been hell.

But I am ahead of myself, let’s start at the beginning.

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I had been solo parenting for two weeks and congratulating myself on doing fine so far. The Tuesday after the haze, my left eye turned red but since I was prone to dry eyes, I chalked it up as an after effect of the haze and left it as such.

By Sunday, it was clear that something was wrong. My eye was red and weepy, and I was feeling poorly. I stayed home alone with my littles, and managed to do all the cooking, washing up, playing, reading, napping etc. Thank god they were cooperative!

When I got to the GP on Monday morning, I was diagnosed with conjunctivitis and prescribed antibiotics, both oral and in the form of eye drops. By then I was in a lot of discomfort. The eye was swollen, so much so that I was unable to open it, and it hurt so much. I crawled home to hide under the covers in my darkened bedroom and slept the day away, rousing only to drive to pick up my children.

I went back to work on Tuesday and Wednesday, and there was a mountain of, well, crap to clear. There were scripts to be read and re-marked, and meetings to be met.

Those two days were awful. It felt like someone was drilling inside my eye socket and my head felt like it was going to explode. My eye was still swollen, weepy and red. My vision was blurred and light hurt my head. In the evenings, after I had fed, bathed, read and put the boys to bed, I would collapse in my own bed, grateful to finally rest. As I shut my eyes each night in exhaustion and pain, I prayed that I would wake up with clear vision.

I didn’t.

By Thursday, it was apparent that the medicines had absolutely zero impact on my condition. I went back to the GP, who prescribed a second round of antibiotics and eye drops. He told me that if I didn’t get better over the long public holiday weekend, he would refer me to a specialist.

I was anxiety-ridden and fearful by then. Why didn’t the medicines work? Was I housing some kind of mutant super bug? Was my eye going blind? How long more can I hold out, doing this all on my own? What would happen to my kids?

Friday morning, I woke up to the husband kissing me hello. He was home! I almost cried in relief, it felt like I didn’t have to shoulder this physical burden on my own anymore. As I debated between going to see a specialist and waiting it out, I received a text from a concerned colleague.

“I will see how it goes after the weekend, if the new meds work,” I wrote.

Her reply came quick: “I don’t think you should wait.”

And suddenly it felt as if the cobwebs had been shaken off. Yes, why the hell was I waiting?

I went back to the GP for the third time, this time blessedly with the husband in tow. He took one look at my eye and said, “It is not getting better huh.”

The sweet clinic assistant made some calls on his behalf. The nearest public hospital was full, unfortunately, and the earliest appointment was the next week. Singapore National Eye Clinic could see us, but it would be on walk-in basis and the waiting time was estimated to be between three to four hours.

I panicked. By that time, I had hit the edge of my tolerance level, I just wanted the pain and the swelling to be fixed. Did I want to wait? NO.

A quick search on Facebook yielded Dr Leo Seo Wei’s name – fellow parents recommended her as being good with kids. Hell, if she was good with kids, she’d definitely be good with me. I placed the call and mercifully, she had an open slot at 2pm.

When we got there, the assistants ran some standard eye tests for me. They could barely get any reading out of my left eye, it was so swollen. After almost two hours of testing and waiting to see if my pupil would dilate and testing and waiting, it was my turn. Finally, the ophthalmologist sat me down behind her sophisticated and complicated gizmo and peered into my eye.

“You do not have conjunctivitis,” she declared. “You have what we call uveitis. Your eye is inflamed.”

I gasped audibly.

In that moment, I felt alive again. I had a diagnosis. It wasn’t conjunctivitis, I wasn’t housing some potent bug, no wonder the antibiotics didn’t work.

In a nutshell, uveitis is a rare condition where the eye is inflamed. The scans showed a cloudy eye, so swollen that nothing could be seen. It’s considered an ophthalmic emergency. It was infinitely WORSE than having conjunctivitis but I was just so happy that someone finally knew what was going on.

The doctor was worried that the inflammation had gone on for so long that it would compromise my sight. After another two rounds of scans (because the eye was just so swollen that it could not open wide enough), she finally determined that the inflammation was contained and I would likely get my sight back. But because it had gone on for so long, the recovery was likely to be a slow one. There was no way the GP could have diagnosed this for they did not have the tools to examine the eye like she did.

She prescribed a series of steroids drops for me and scheduled a review the next day. And after faithfully dosing my eye every hour with the drops, she said the meds were working when I saw her again on Saturday. I was given oral steroids for a few days and told to see her again on Tuesday.

Since then, I have had and will be having weekly reviews with her until the inflammation clears up. It is costing me a lot of money, but I’d gladly pay. Because my eye is saved. I know what I am suffering from and there is a cure. The recovery will be long but I know I will get there. I no longer live in the dark, both literally and metaphorically. That week of pain and darkness was truly awful – and it was dreadful to be going through it alone. Thank goodness for kind colleagues, who asked about me every day.

But the scary thing, really, is how it struck me. According to the doctor, there can be no particular reason but if it recurs, then it could be a sign of an autoimmune disorder. I am taking it one step at a time and praying that my sight will be restored.

Right now, my sight is still hazy, like there is a white film over it. It’s still sensitive to light and I get a headache from the imbalanced vision sometimes. But I am so, so, so thankful that I made the decision to see a specialist. It probably saved my left eye and a whole lot of heartache.

Life in the heartlands

This morning, I decided to go for a run instead of lazing around at home in the morning. Of course, my littles refused to let me out of their sights but I could only take one of them so poor bubba had to stay at home with papa while Aidan came with me. I strapped him into our trusty stroller, packed a bottle of cold water and snacks for him, put Spotify on my phone and off we went.

It was such a hard run. The weather was starting to burn up at 815am and the sun was blazing. It was my first time running with our stroller AND Aidan but thankfully, our amazing stroller was so easy to manoeuvre and it was gliding along the pavement smoothly.

I lasted, hmm, all of 10 minutes. And then I had to alternate between running and brisk walking. It was okay though. I knew I hadn’t been running for a while and the body needs to adapt to having to push the stroller. And when I was walking, the little man and I were having conversations about what we were seeing – rubbish trucks, MRT, construction, (cranky) cranes etc. We were admiring the butterflies flapping among the greenery and shouting out the numbers of the buses that zoomed past us.

On our way back, a young Malay couple, who were devouring cold drinks after their run, hastily made way for me as I rounded the corner with the stroller.

“Thank you!” I called out.

The man smiled. “Most welcome!”

As we neared home, an elderly Sikh was walking his dog with a cup of coffee in hand. Our eyes met and we smiled.

I decided to break the ice and be neighbourly. “Good morning,” I said.

“Lovely morning to you too,” he replied, tipping his cup in our direction.

Behind him was a Chinese woman walking hand in hand with a little girl.

“Look at didi on the stroller,” she said to the girl. I smiled at her and she smiled back, before urging the girl to wave to us.

Even though it wasn’t much of a run, I went home with a happy heart. This is the Singapore that I love, the country I call home. There are many imperfections, no doubt about it, but there is also much to be proud of.

There are many cynics out there who feel that we are overdoing this SG50 celebration, that every company and every ministry is trying to milk it. True it may be but then again, when I turn 50 and I am still Fabulously Gorgeous, you can bet that I will want to celebrate gloriously too.

So let’s pack away the cynicism for just a month more, let the lady turn 50 in a blaze of fireworks, song and dance, and then we can go back to being the practical Singaporeans that we are.

HFMD comes round again

Another year, another round of HFMD.

Yes, the three-year-old is down with this dreadful illness again. Poor baby has ulcers at the back of his throat and isn’t eating well at the moment. When he gives up three quarters of his chocolate biscuit, you know he is in great pain. He would never have given it up willingly in healthier times, hah.

The silver lining is that he is still, pretty much, himself. He’s happy and playful and still singing away.

Right now we are concerned with separating Aidan from Zac. The last thing we want is for the baby to get it too. And that’s where it turns dicey. We now have to activate our parents’ help – I can’t take leave because of classes and assessments while the man is juggling several projects. The logistics can be a challenge and this is frustrating for two parents who are working full-time.

At the same time, I am terrified of getting HFMD too. My last experience was nasty, I could barely eat or drink for seven days. It felt like I was swallowing shards of glass whenever I tried to ingest something. And then, miraculously, the ulcers disappeared on the 7th day.

Yup. HFMD as an adult is a terrible experience.

It’s been tough for the past year because we have been bouncing from illness to illness. It’s frustrating that we can only catch a short break before the next wave of illness comes, we are talking in terms of a week or two, at most a month. This is something that we accept as part and parcel of daycare life but it’s still difficult to live through. I’m tired of being sick, of my two babies being sick, of having to wake up a gazillion times at night to an angry, crying baby who cannot breathe through his congested nose, of having to clean snotty noses and rub phlegmy chests.

Well, everyone tells me that the first year of daycare is usually the toughest on the kid’s health. Fingers crossed that their immune systems would be strengthen soon as we inch towards that one-year mark.

Time and tide and all that

The other day, I took the morning off and went to meet my girlfriend for brunch.

We’ve known each other since we were 13 and suffice to say, we have seen each other through the ages: from the awkward teenage years to our youthful 20s to the current 30s. When we first knew each other, we were mere wisps of girls, at the beginning of our journey. Now, we are mothers to a brood of five in total, over a relatively short span of two years. While we once used to lament our lack of fertility over many cups of tea, we now chat about our kids’ tantrums and illnesses over Whatsapp.

That morning, we looked at each other and said, man, we’ve aged.

And we certainly have. Or at least, I have.

Time is cruel to the human body. So is motherhood.

Oh, I am definitely very happy with my body and thankful that it was able to house and incubate my two babies healthily and safely. But the subsequent months of becoming a mother, that took a toll on my physical health and my looks.

Some days, I look at photos of myself in my 20s and I am startled by just how much I have changed. The youthful vibrance has all but vanished under the yoke of exhaustion. My eyes have seen so much more and the crow’s feet surrounding them are a testament to that. The lines, ah the lines, they have taken over my face and are insidiously creeping about, as if determined to create a network of railway tracks all over.

I’m not enlightened enough to say that what I see reflected in the mirror does not affect me. It does. I sigh and tell the husband that I have aged, and I am most certainly not an example of fine wine and gracious ageing. He says all the right things which makes me feel a tad better but I also know that he is simply being nice.

But at the same time, I am not bothered enough to kill myself over it. I still stick to a relatively simple routine of wash-moisturise-sunblock. No fancy brands, just products you can pick up at the drugstore. Perhaps I am in denial, hah! No, scratch that, it’s mostly because I don’t have time and I really can’t be arsed to apply 10 different serums on my face.

So I suppose I am doomed, really, until my kids start sleeping consistently through the night. Maybe when they turn 18?

I guess now is also the time for me to go into a spiel about how beauty is skin deep and inner beauty matters. And it is true. I am much happier in my 30s than I was in my 20s. And I’d like to think, nay PRAY, that this inner confidence and serenity will eventually find its way to my face.

(Also, I would say botox, except the thought of needles stuck into my face scares the shit outta me.)

Almost – gulps – 10 years ago

Happy 30s

The long goodbye

Just the other day, I went through the contents of my bedside drawers.

It’s a simple Muji chest of drawers. The topmost drawer contains my toiletries like a box of tissue, lip balm and assortment of body lotions. The one below it holds my essential oils. The third one holds odds and ends like light bulbs and power plugs.

It is the last drawer that I have not had the – for a lack of a better word – guts to clear out. This last drawer had once held my hopes and dream, and was also the home to my pain. It contained my Puregon injection pen, the remaining needles, cartridges, syringes and alcohol swabs. They were neatly stored in a little bag, left untouched since I discovered that I was expecting Aidan. My books on fertility and IVF were also housed there.

I never threw them out. I suppose at the back of my mind, I always thought that I would have to rely on them once again. You can say that even though I left infertility behind me as I embarked on the journey of becoming a mum, infertility has never left me.

Even when we were hoping to add to the family, my subconscious was preparing me for the jabs and hormonal lows all over again. We went through blood tests again. I didn’t dare to go through the drawer or put them into the bin because I believed that I would most likely be using them again. I was being pessimistic and pragmatic at the same time, let’s just say, and I didn’t want to have to go through the whole cycle of trying and hoping and then having my dreams fall flat on me all over again.

And then Two came along, unexpectedly. Which left us as gobsmacked as when we first discovered that Aidan was conceived.

And yet it has taken me 36 weeks to finally clear out that drawer and throw everything out.

Like I said, infertility has never left me and I don’t think it ever will.

Because, you see, every time I look at Aidan, I marvel at the child that he has become, the blessing that he has been, the bonus that we have never expected to receive. Things could have gone oh so differently indeed, we never take that fact for granted.

Even with Two, I feel exactly the same way. Look, pregnancy is physically hard for most of us. But I also know that being pregnant is a privilege, something that many women long for but may not attain. So I always remind myself that I have no business complaining about how tough it is when there are others who would literally die to be in my shoes.

We remember. All the time.

There are still so many of us struggling out there. And every time I hear their stories, my heart breaks a little. Because I have been there, I know what it’s like and I know how fucking painful it can be. I remember crying in the bathroom, crying in my sleep, crying when watching TV. I remember not wanting to go near a pregnant woman because I hated that they are glowing and that I was so bitter. I remember how I could only confide in a few girlfriends because they were going through the same journey as I was and they were the only ones who truly, truly understood.

Nothing like infertility to bind you together, really.

I don’t know if anyone is still reading this blog, since I got pregnant and became all bright and shiny (HA HA HA). But if you are someone who chanced upon this place while goggling “infertility Singapore”, know that there is someone who is thinking of you and praying that you will get your happily ever after – no matter what form it takes.

High on wheels

Bike Marina Barrage

One day, husband said to me, “Let’s buy bicycles.”
I replied, “Okay.”

Not sure what possessed me to say yes, really, since the last time I rode a bike was when I was a wee kiddo and it was not a pleasant experience – I had flown across a drain and ploughed into a tree.

Yes, apparently I had not mastered the use of the brakes then.

During our hunt for bikes, I tried riding the bike that I would eventually buy. And the owner of the shop was extremely, shall we say, concerned about the way I was wobbling about the carpark. I still hadn’t figure out how to brake and turning was a bit of a problem. I had to stop, turn the handlebars and then slowly inch my way around by pushing off with my toes. Not entirely promising.

Our first ride was a bit rocky. We decided to hit to the roads one night and head to the bistro at the nearby reservoir. Along the way was a multitude of construction and we had to dismount a gazilion times.

Thank goodness for alcohol then. After a pint and some greasy sausages, I felt sufficiently brave enough to tackle the roads.

Since then, I have been pretty hooked on riding! I love the feeling of the wind in my hair, the buzz in my ears as we speed downhill, the burn in my quads as we climb up slope. Riding is very addictive and I had never expected myself to enjoy it as much as I do now.

We’ve chalked up quite a few rides as a family and the little man has his own seat and helmet. And on some nights, Mr Thick and I go on cycling dates and head out for ice-cream and waffles.

Hey, at least we work hard for our food.

Now, I can’t wait for A to be older so that he can ride along with us.

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