Health Goddess

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.

Two of Us

Eight years on

To my love,

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Happy eight! Believe me when I say that I am simply amazed that we have survived eight years of being married to each other. Some days are harder than others, it’s true. I know that there have been moments when I would have gladly stabbed you with a blunt fork. But okay, that’s not really a tactful thing to tell you on our anniversary.

At the end of the day though, it’s always been you. No matter how hard I tried, nobody else makes me laugh the way you do. Nobody hugs me right the way you do. Nobody lets me poke fun at him the way you do. Nobody gets my crazy obsessions the way you do. Nobody feeds me the way you do.

Most importantly, nobody gets me the way you do.

(And also, nobody infuriates me the way you do. It must be true love.)

Thank you for having the foresight those years ago to see that we can be a possibility. You were always the smart one for marrying a smarter woman. We may be completely clueless about what may happen tomorrow but I am sure as hell glad that I am doing this with you.

Happy anniversary! I love you like crazy.

xx, me

Aidan

A typical dilemma

The husband flew off a couple of weeks ago and needless to say, I have been solo parenting.

It hasn’t been too bad, really, I am enjoying my time spent with the littles. They have been rather generous in proclaiming their love and adoration for me over the past weeks and I will gladly take all of that. Bad moments, yes, there have been some raised voices and frayed tempers, but generally these come and go and are easily resolved.

I am lucky in that sense, these two are rather good-natured and love their mummy so.

What really struck me, over the course of the past two weeks, was just how much Aidan has grown.

We were strolling along the airport this evening – one of our favourite haunts because aeroplanes! Food! Caffeine! – and as he walked next to me while I pushed Zac in the stroller, I suddenly realised that he’s a bona fide boy. He’s mature and rational and logical (MOSTLY) and I can reason with him. He’s going to be in kindergarten next year.

But his growth is not just measured in numbers.

Last week, his school celebrated teachers’ day and I prepared some gifts for his teachers. For the past few weeks, the school has been hosting some polytechnic interns and he has been interacting with one of them in particular.

As I was packing the presents, he suddenly asked, “Do we have a present for Teacher Edward (the intern)?”

I said no, we didn’t because he had not joined the school when I was purchasing the gifts.

“Can we get something for him? Otherwise, he will be sad,” he said. “Mummy, can we give him something?”

Earlier today, we had lunch at my in-laws’. On the drive back, Zac fell asleep in the car and I gingerly carried him back to the flat with Aidan following close behind.

As I moved swiftly into the boys’ bedroom, I instructed Aidan to stay outside so that I can transfer Zac to the floor bed. To my surprise, he continued following me into the room. I was all ready to raise my voice at him when he dashed into the room and said, “Mummy let me help you.”

He then proceeded to position the mattress in the right way, and he even arranged the pillows all around the bed, the way I usually do. All this while, I was standing in the room with a sleeping Zac in my arms. Once done, he zipped quietly out of the room and closed the door gently.

When did he grow up into this thoughtful boy without my noticing?

All those times when I wished for him to grow up and out of that horrible infancy period, when he woke up a million times at night and I cried in frustration, when he clung to me as he drifted off to sleep – that’s all gone now and in its place is a little boy armed with his future in his hands and a long road ahead of him. Right now he is walking hand in hand with me but I know that it won’t be long before he lets go and goes off without me.

It makes my heart swell with pride and yet there is a tinge of sadness at all that has come and gone. While each moment had felt so long and never-ending, it’s really been just a blink of an eye.

Aidan_yann

Letters to, The organised chaos

Happy 51st birthday, Singapore

Dear Singapore,

Another year, another birthday for you, my beloved homeland.

We watched the parade in the comforts of our own home. This time, Aidan is old enough to be captivated by the proceedings while Zac dozed off midway through the parade. While I can’t say that I cared much for the legend of Badang storyline, I will admit that it’s always the same old things that bring a tear to my eye – the patriotic songs of yesteryear, the enthusiastic performances by all the participants, the pride clearly shown in the spectators and the gorgeous fireworks bursting in the night sky.

This year, however, something else made me almost weep with pride. And that is the inclusion of the special needs Singaporeans in the parade, as well as the signing of our favourite National Day songs. There was something electrifying in that segment, something heart warming. It made me feel like we are taking a huge step forward in becoming an inclusive society.

And yet, I could not help but feel resigned that this took 51 years in the making.

But as I’ve said before, life in Singapore can feel like a complicated cha-cha. We move one step forward and then three steps back. A whirl and a turn later, we are back on track. It can be immensely frustrating and yet hopeful at the same time.

Hopeful. Not quite a word I would use on 2016, frankly. It’s been crazy and weird and downright depressing. Sometimes, I wonder what the hell we are doing and what kind of world we are leaving behind for the children.

But it is precisely the children who gives us hope. Who makes us feel like giving it our all even if we are not sure our best is good enough.

On Monday, the school that the littles go to had a National Day celebration and the parents were invited. Amid the various activities and shows and games, there was one thing that stood out: the simple, pure joy and enthusiasm of the children.

They sang this year’s theme song, Tomorrow’s Here Today (a rather catchy and fun tune, I really love it!) with much happiness, were loud and proud when reciting the pledge, and belted out the national anthem with gusto. There was so much love for the celebrations, for the country. And as the proud parents watched them do their thing, we couldn’t help but feel inspired by and smile at their positivity.

At some point in time, they will lose this simplicity. They will lose all the sense of wonder that they have for their country. They will be critical – and rightly so too. But at that moment of watching them take their pledge seriously, that was when I came to the realisation that the children are our future. And how they will be in time to come will be the results of the seeds that we sow today.

And that’s why the segment with our special needs people is important. It may have taken 51 years for us to get here but it isn’t too late. We still have time and hope. We cannot give up, we must not. We have to do our best today to lay the foundations for our children, to ensure that the future for them is an inclusive, gracious, open one.

Happy birthday, my birth country. I am proud of how far we have come but there is still much to be done. I don’t know if I will be here when you celebrate 100 years of existence but I do know that we can weather the storms of today to build a home that we will be prouder of for our children.

NDP2016

The organised chaos

Mad world

I don’t know about you but I think I have had enough of 2016, thank you very much.

Every morning, I wake up to a string of notifications from my NYT app, informing me that sometime in the night, something nasty has happened somewhere in the world. I wake up to an axe-wielding man running amok in a train in Germany. I wake up to a revellers in a gay nightclub getting gunned down by a closet gay man in Orlando. I wake up to shootings here, there and everywhere in the States. I wake up to a toddler being dragged off by a gator. I wake up to a gorilla being shot to death because a child went into its enclosure and suddenly everybody is a parenting/wildlife expert. I wake up to China threatening everyone from the Hague to the Philippines. I wake up to the deaths of Prince/Muhammad Ali/Harper Lee/David Bowie/Alan Rickman/Glenn Frey/Anton Yelchin/you name it, we’ve got it. (Death by one’s own car in one’s own driveway? SERIOUSLY?) I wake up to an attempted coup in Turkey.

I also wake up to the sacking of some random dude who was mouthing off against Singapore for not having Pokemon Go. Are you fucking kidding me? I mean, I get that he is a dumbass but THAT INTERNET MOB THO.

Then there’s Brexit, the appointment of some blonde buffoon to the post of Foreign Minister in the UK and the bizarre meteoric rise of a similar ginger buffoon in the US WHO COULD POSSIBLY BE THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE USA.

I am sorry but what the hell is going on?

To say that I am gobsmacked is an understatement. And as a mother, as an educator, I worry and fear. That our children are too insulated and protected from the hard truths. That we are setting them up for failure in life eventually because of the choices that we are making today. That the world we are handing to them is a crazy, cruel, strange one.

The world has indeed gone mad.

Maybe the Dementors are behind it.
Arts & Entertainment

Les Misérables

For his birthday this year, I got the man (and I, heh heh) a pair of tickets to watch Les Misérables. Really, it stemmed from the fact that I had no idea what else to buy for him and I thought that a day at the theatre catching the holy grail of all musicals was just perfect.

You see, the two of us met through a love for singing. And we were lucky enough to sing together for seven years. We sang, and travelled the world, and won accolades and made some pretty beautiful memories together. And in our world of choristers, Les Miserables was like the ultimate goal.

We dreamt of putting up a production like this in Singapore. We would have loved to try. We thought of who amongst us could take on the roles of Valjean, Eponine etc. And we memorised the lyrics and sang together – at the pub after practice, at someone’s place, at the beach, outside the arcade.

I first watched the musical when I was 14. It was the first time the production was staged in Singapore and my mother had struck the lottery. So off we went! The seats were high up in the stalls but no matter, I remembered being so entranced by the singing, the backdrop, the plot. I cried when Eponine died.

In the interim, I fell in love with the 10th anniversary concert cast, the so-called dream cast. I mean, it WAS the dream cast. Colm Wilkinson, Ruthie Henshall, Lea Salonga, Michael Ball, Philip Quast – they were perfection! Just watch the video of Ruthie Henshall singing I dreamed a dream and you will understand. I still get goosebumps to this day.

So 20 years later, who better to watch this with again, other than my partner in life?

les_miserables_us

Let me tell you, even as the prologue was playing, I had tears in my eyes. The iconic strains that rose up majestically in the air, whipped into life by an Adele lookalike (from the back) conductor (YAY LADY CONDUCTOR!). And the tears kept threatening to fall, scene after scene. It was all I could do to stop myself from bawling AND singing loudly along, as if it’s a luxe karaoke session.

It was such a dream come true. (Especially after that awful movie adaptation. What can I say, I am a purist.) ((Also, watch this. Just pure magic.)

I had gotten us really good tickets so we were close enough but not too close to the stage. And that gave us a fantastic view of every expression, every turn of the prop, every flicker of gunfire. My two years as a theatre student in JC – and a choir girl – certainly opened my eyes to the wondrous tricks and mechanisms behind the lighting and the props. That Javert death scene was so clever! And I can tell you that it sure as hell ain’t easy to sing and dance and act at the same time! Most people can barely handle one task, let alone excel in all three.

Kudos to the cast of this production – they were perfect for their roles. The actors playing Valjean and Javert stand out, as expected. Their exchanges, their duets were so utterly perfect while the singer portraying Eponine really reminded me of Lea Salonga.

The only quibble we had was with their singing: The actor portraying Enjolras, for instance, was constantly out of rhythm! And he had this annoying habit of sliding into his notes. My mind was screaming at him to hit his note cleanly. But that’s the choir girl in me protesting, heh.

As usual, Cosette irritated the shit out of me. I don’t have patience for whiny women looking doe-eyed and singing about a heart full of love. No, please, STFU. Just get to work, like Eponine, yah? And the man and I agree that Marius never impresses. NEVER. No matter who plays Marius, he always comes across as wussy and not able to hit the high notes well. Okay, maybe with the exception of Michael Ball. Hah – talk about bias!

All in all, I am so, so glad that I splurged on this experience. It was a beautiful afternoon spent away from the boys, away from the noise and grime. I immersed myself into the magical world of the theatre and it was worth every penny.

Of course, immediately after, I swapped my pretty red dress and Gucci slingbacks for Birkenstocks and shorts to pick up the boys. Ah, all in a day’s work.

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The organised chaos

Life without papa

Over the weekend, we celebrated Fathers’ Day. And I wrote a note on Instagram to the man:
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And you know, I don’t think much about my father these days. It’s been almost 29 years. The past is in the past, the present is right here, right now. We’ve moved on in life.

Plus, I was all of six years old. It is easier to forget when your memories are fluid, constantly replaced by newer, fresher ones. And I think in that sense, God was kind to me.

But it’s not that I don’t remember. Oh, how I remember. I remember the little moments. I remember the moment my mother knew that he was dead, as we walked down the hospital corridor. She wailed, a heart wrenching noise that echoed in my young mind and never left. I remember bursting into inexplicable tears at the funeral, despite not quite grasping what death was.

Back then, my mother didn’t have the mental capacity to sit me down and explain what death meant. We just dealt with it in our way – moving on wordlessly, sweeping everything under the carpet, crying into the pillow late at night.

Time passed. It was a tough, lonely childhood. I grew up too fast. I learnt to survive, by putting up a strong, impenetrable shell to hide the vulnerability, the fragility. When you don’t have a father and other kids are questioning why you don’t have a father, you can’t cry about it. It’s a sign of weakness. You act as if you are doing as well, if not better than them, and then you change the topic even as your heart aches at the fact that you are different from them. You learn about privilege and social class. You learn that your studies and your smarts are the only things you possess that can help you get ahead in life – because you have nothing else in your name.

If I ever do think about my father these days, it’s usually to wonder what would have happened if he hadn’t died.

You see, I am not a very likeable person. I was never the sort of kid who was popular or well-liked by the teacher (and probably not now either!). I never say the right things. I can be harsh and judgmental. I cannot tolerate self-indulgence and weakness. And, especially at this age, I am not afraid of ridding my life of toxic people – so yes, I am heartless.

Maybe I’ll be a little softer. And kinder. And more positive, exuding with sunshine. Sweeter. Loveable. Happier. Gentler.

I don’t know. But to understand and accept me is to know just how much life without my father has shaped me.

It’s taken a while but I think I am finally comfortable in my own skin. I know who I am, what I am and I like me for me. I still have issues with esteem – I never get why my boss thinks I am good at what I do, I don’t know if I am clever enough to finally go on and get my Masters – but I am lucky to be surrounded by encouraging and supportive people.

There is no sense of bitterness or resentment at what I had to go through. I survived. And I am thankful I did so relatively unscathed. As an educator, I think I have seen enough to know that it could have turned out worse. But I also know that this ability to live through these tough times have served me well, allowed me to grit my teeth through anything that life has had to dish up.

And now as I see my littles build their relationship with their father, I sometimes take a step back, deliberately. We fulfil different needs in their lives, I know. And I am also starting to understand just what a father does and means to his children.

By God’s grace, we will indeed be parents to our children for this lifetime.

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Happy fathers’ day to my papa, wherever you may be. You were the first man that I knew and loved, the one who still makes my heart ache when I think of you.