Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sand and Sea before surgery

I squeezed in a bit of sand and sea time today before leaving for KL tomorrow, before the big surgery

Today was the first time we went to the beach since being back in Malaysia. It felt good to feel the sand under my bare feet. It feels like home for me now.  I've flown over the South China Sea so many times but until today I wasn't in it.
I took a wrong turn and went to the popular beach close by instead but when I realised my mistake, I quickly made my way to our usual secluded beach that was not far away. In this semi-private and not so well known beach, there are no vendors, no hoipolloi. Sometimes there's a few local kids hanging out here and fishermen, but it is usually a small number.

We got there really late, well into the evening, close to dusk. The sea was calm, and there was no rain in sight. It had been raining every day for a while with scattered thunderstorms, but this beach was clear of all of that.

The South China sea felt warm and inviting. I knew I didn't have much time to savour it fully. I was satisfied with just being in it, walking around, barefoot.  

Zoe took great delight in digging for crabs after initially complaining about them running rampant on the beach, squealing at the slightest sight of crab holes.

If you want to stay and play, quit whining and get over it! I said.

And with that...she was let loose!

I love that the first thing she did was write L-O-V-E in the sand. It was cute! 

I had told my parents at the last minute, that I intended to take a short ride to the beach and even though they usually don't enjoy it, they must have sensed that it was important to me to go today. I have no chance of going to my usual Perhentian getaway, so this little outing will have to do me for the rest of the year.

They too came along with little fuss. We took so many pictures today especially after I discovered my camera was capable of some special effects!

Zoe knew her time was running out when the light faded. It was hard for me to leave too.

Because of my surgery, she and I both won't be able to go to Perhentian this year.

If it is for your safety, Mummy, it's okay. We can go next year.

In the moment those words were uttered, I felt such pride. And such sorrow as well. I knew it was a great disappointment for her too, that she couldn't go snorkelling. 

We will swim with the fishies next year baby. 

Soon, darling. We will go to the island we love.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Pet Peeves

Perhaps I have been living away too long. I can't get used to some of the things in my own country. 
  • Uneven steps in the floor everywhere. Hard to explain, but they are everywhere in Malaysia. You just have to look before you step. These can really trip you when you don't expect a less than one inch difference in floor surface.
  • WET public restrooms: From floor to seat. Lack of toilet paper, and the stench of pee. The existence of the "bidet hose" in every restroom just helps make this mess.
  • On the loo theme: shoeprints on the toilet seats
  • People who can't say what they mean, eg, asking questions to allow you to draw your own conclusions then getting frustrated that you didn't draw the same conclusion they were driving at.
  • The "see first" or "see how" attitude that so many people have. How about making a commitment to do something at a certain time or a certain way and sticking to it?
  • Doctors' appointments for each patient that start at the same time and it is "first come first served". Or you're told to come within a certain window, say 9am-12pm and the same "first come first served" rule applies.
  • Drivers who don't drive within the designated lanes. This has also forced me to drive the same way. Some of this is inevitable, I understand, because of motorbikes and trishaws, but even when there's no one else on the road?! 
  • Cashiers always asking if you have small change. For example, if it is $6.20, and you hand them a tenner, they inevitably ask you if you have 20 cents. If I had it or wanted to get rid of the one I had, I would have given it to you!
  • People who's breath I can almost feel when I am at an ATM. Personal space please !! And on that note...see the following two:
  • Blatant queue jumpers or people who are so impatient they push you.
  • Body Odor!!
  • Referring to females as HE and males as SHE. This happens so often it's not even funny!
  • Ridiculous shorthand on texts. OK I'm guilty of a few but some are ridiculous:. "X Wan" - means "Don't Want" 
  • Saying "Don't Worry" when they actually want you to shut up and quit talking. I've caught myself doing it a time or two as well, much to my dismay! 
And the list goes on.. maybe in another post! 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I don't know where to start

I have a date for my surgery. It's finalized.  And it's a mere few days away.

Suddenly it feels like reality hit me. Originally I was just going for consultations, appointments, scans, blood draws, and nothing was certain. Nothing was because every cancer marker was normal. The last cancer marker has not come back, but a surgery date is scheduled. This, is for real. I now have a tangible date.

I would love to go into surgery without a care in the world, but I'm left wondering what my mum is going to do, the worry-wart that she is. Who is going to sit with her while she waits for me outside the operating theatre? What is she going to do for dinner that day? Who is caring for Zoe while I'm away? Are they going to be able to handle her because she can be precocious? Who is going to watch my stuff while I'm in the OT? I can't leave it lying around or trust anybody else with it. I also worry about having to be admitted for more than 24 hours before the procedure. I'm going to talk to the surgeon about it. I'm going to be bored senseless. If the op is in the afternoon, let me come really early in the morning, for Pete's sake!!

If I had my way - nobody will be with me overnight either. But plans have been hatching around me to stick someone with me overnight to "take care of me" because "it is the way it is done here in this country". Somebody has to be with me so they can do what? Hold my hand when I have to pee? (I think I will have a catheter for that) I should be a veteran by now but I still hate being in a hospital. I have stayed as long as one month before. Granted, my husband stayed over almost every night and brought me outside food. I am determined to do this stint as unassisted as possible. I hate to be fussed over. As long as I have my phone and iPad, I think I'm fine. I can keep myself occupied and concentrate on recuperating.

That said, it would be nice to have my mum to sit around with me for a while. I just don't want her to stress over me and I know she will. It will be uncomfortable for her to sit around the whole day, to say the least. And, she will be bored as well. 

I know they all mean well, but I just want some peace of mind knowing that Zoe will be looked after and that I won't be hearing complaints about her later. Find a way to resolve problems without my assistance or knowledge. I just want to see her smiling at me later. For that matter, I want to see everyone smiling at me later. 

Whether this is cancer or not.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

So I jumped the gun but here's the news.

Unknowingly, I jumped the gun. It turns out I am not having surgery. Not yet, anyway.

I saw my surgeon today. He is a gynae oncologist specialising in more complicated surgeries. He is highly regarded in his field and I was referred to him by my mum's classmate who is also a leading gynaecologist in Malaysia. Dr Aziz Yahya is a kind and gentle man who has no airs about him at all. He's warm and approachable, and a straight shooter without being crass like some doctors can be.

My meeting with him didn't change the solution or necessarily the approach towards my surgery. Even though Dr Aziz is skilled in performing surgery robotically (which is his preferred method), it cannot be used on me. My pelvic cyst has a semi-liquid portion and what looks like a solid mass to it. It must be removed intact. They still need to open me up to ascertain if there is cancer.

However, there is a particular cancer test specific to ovarian cancer called OVPLEX that is 95% accurate in determining if I am at high or low risk for cancer.  More information can be seen here:

This multimarker bloodtest for ovarian cancer costs RM900.00 (USD 300) just because Malaysia doesn't have a lab to test for it. I believe it has to do with some licensing issues. Testing has to be done in Singapore so my blood has to be couriered to Singapore for analysis. Furthermore, they need 10 days to get the results back.  As a result, I have earned myself a reprieve. I cannot be in surgery till after the results are back because it determines how Dr Aziz will open me up.

If it is found that I have high risk for cancer, a vertical incision will be made and lots of parts of me will be gone. Lymph nodes, omentum, ovaries, the lot. If I am at low risk, then he will open me transversely, then upon removal of the cyst, he will determine if it is suspicious for cancer. If it looks like I have it, then a frozen section of the cyst will be ordered while I am still on the table and sedated. They need 30 mins to figure it out. If cancer is found, I will still lose the lot and a bigger incision is necessary to remove it all.

There was a lot more to our meeting which lasted almost an hour. I felt really comfortable with Dr Aziz and he explained things precisely and clearly to me. It is the standard to have people stay in the hospital for 4 days following surgery. I was already negotiating to get out earlier if possible, and it was met with a slightly raised eyebrow with a little smile attached. We don't want people to stay in the hospital if it isn't necessary. Or something to that effect. Let's hope I'm out early. But I don't think surgery will happen any time earlier than July 4th, honestly.

My thoughts immediately go to Pulau Perhentian. The doctor said swimming is good. Even snorkelling is good. But then I thought about my mother. She would have a cow if I even mention that I want to steal a day to go to my beloved island. It is a risk. Dr Aziz approved it, with a reminder, as long as you don't do anything too robust! I actually immediately shot it down as I was saying it, but I also really do want to go. I really really want to...even for just a day and a night.

My appointment with the doctor ended on a good note. I left feeling that I was in good hands. I am ready. But as soon as I got in the car with my brother who had taken half a day to be with me, I got on the phone to Shelly and told her the news about the surgery and when it would be. Can you read my mind now? Do you know what I'm going to ask you next?  She laughed her hearty laugh and I was filled with anticipation. She's going to say let's do it!  I'll see what I can do, I'll let you know by Sunday. I have to check my schedule.

So I'm left I get to go? I have 10 days or so to do what I want before I'll be left at a diminished capacity and probably mostly in bed for the following weeks. I will even miss Wimbledon because I will probably be in hospital during that time. Hmmm... And yes, I am selfish. I want to be able to do this.

Friday, June 21, 2013

I5 mins to write

I shall allow myself  not more than 15 mins to leave these thoughts before I head out to see the surgeon tomorrow in KL because it is late and I have to be up to catch a flight in -oh -5 hours!

I leave with a light and heavy heart -

I feel like I have a pretty good attitude towards this whole thing. I have an upcoming surgery that is certain. What is discovered is uncertain. But what happens happens. I can't change that. Nobody can. I don't believe in God, so nobody can save me. I'm a realist. I am not worried or depressed. I just want to bloody fix things!! Everything else is not in my hands. I can only be happy and have a good attitude and that's the best I can do. I hope that whatever it is in my pelvis is fixable. And if I do have cancer, it is treatable.

Look at James Gandolfini today. He didn't anticipate his end was nigh. Nobody could have. Life is like that. I accept it. It could be this our that that takes you away from everything and everybody.

I am lucky because I have parents, husband, daughter and an amazing brother who love me and unconditionally at that. My family has lent their support, my friends - new and old - have stood by me, and wished me luck. Most of you who know me don't give me "false hope" and say everything will be fine. And those of you who have said that - I know you mean you hope the best for me. And I appreciate it all the same. Love and hugs to all! Massive love and hugs.

To those of you who have heard me speak endlessly about the ups and downs...I hope you don't mind! I talked to you a lot because you listen well. I might have bored you but you were there for me. And I thank you! Those who have heard me briefly, just know that I didn't want to rehash things over and over for everyone. If you read me here, you'll know what I mean.

The heavy heart of course is if things go wrong - my dear Zoe: Mummy's favorite girl. Forever! I hope you always keep a good attitude and remain strong no matter what. Life goes on. There's many things that I haven't had a chance to teach you but I know you are in good hands with Daddy and everyone in Malaysia. Love love love!! Big love!! Remember to treat your family and friends well, and with respect, at all times.

I'm not a fatalist, don't think that at all. But I don't want to leave important things unsaid. Going forward, I'm not sure if I have the heart to add to this, but I more than likely will. I am always looking up and always smiling..

Gigi xoxo

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I'm supposed to slow down

...but I simply can't.

After an agonizing day of pain in my pelvic region from what I can only think is the twisting of my pelvic cyst or torsion (which may not be), and 800mg of ibuprofen later, I finally feel pain-free in the evening.

I quickly take the opportunity to swim. I figure, let's try 200m and see what happens. I haven't swum in almost a full week, I think. I haven't worked out for the same amount of time, and I have been eating and enjoying food over the last week despite the various ups and downs of my health news. So I'm due a good session. And I need to clear my head of the rubbish that's been going in! Let's see if my lower abs bother me.

200m and I am fine, so let's go for 400m. I'm still fine. Let's shoot for 600m. Hmm, I think I'd better stop after I hit the mark, but no, I'm barely breathing hard. Okay. 750m. I'm not only going strong, I'm not really stopping for a break. I am the fittest I have ever been in a long long time, yet I have all these worries about cancer and a small matter of a naughty (biggish) cyst. It doesn't make sense that I think I am fit does it? But I don't feel tired, when many times I get sluggish.

At the 900m mark, I finally feel a bit winded. I'm having to breathe more often. I figure I did a combo of 40% breast and 60% free. And not a slow relaxing breast stroke at that. So at 900m, it makes sense to round it up to an even 1km. I do exactly that and I feel like I'm on top of the world. I did it in 25 mins, which is much more than super fit people need, but for me it is pretty darn good. Exit. Shower.

Feeling fantastic. I hope I don't pay for it later. Thank you painkillers. I hope I get to do this again tomorrow but in the sun. And maybe I won't need as much ibuprofen.

This swim was not really for vanity, but for my sanity.

Several notable things today!

*  My father has severe gas pains and we are extremely worried because he's suffering. We have to give him a suppository which is an unpleasant thing in itself. Finally after some hours, there is some relief and we can all breathe easy.

*  In the meantime, my pain has been one of the worst since returning home. Even with 600mg of ibuprofen, it is barely under control. I lie down in between checking on my dad.

*  The ENT specialist calls me twice but can't get a hold of me. This is the first time during the day when I do not have my phone as my arm extension. I'm having lunch with my mum who is still worried about my dad who is recuperating.

*  My friend also tries to call me four times (while I am without the phone) to tell me the ENT is trying to get a hold of me, but he leaves me a Whatsapp text instead to tell me I'm CLEAR. My nose biopsy is negative!! Hurrah for that, and phew, what a relief!!! And just like that the pain in my pelvic region subsides a little. Maybe the ibuprofen is beginning to work. (I am swimming soon!)

*  I have to take Zoe to the dentist who self-proclaimed, "I'm not good with kids" to have two cavities filled and she screams at the mention of it. Later she declares she wants to use laughing gas but she doesn't want to as well. But I don't want to be controlled by gas! I laugh my ass off because that is the funniest line I've heard in a while; and my nose is clear, so I can afford to laugh!!

*  I had chided a close friend in America who repeatedly assured me that everything was going to be all right. I just simply don't want to be promised things that no one can promise. Is that asking too much? So she writes a long message lamenting her life with an uncaring and almost certainly bipolar and untreated husband. She said my situation with my health is bad, but her only way out is if she were gone from this earth. And that at least my husband does not treat me like hers treats her.  Here is my response to her:

Hey, you need to do what makes you happy and not pin your happiness on your family or your husband. I know how you feel right now but you have to really just try to be the happiest you can be. By yourself. For yourself. Be happy every day. Think happy things that make you happy and that make you smile. And just smile all the time. And you see you will feel better. 

I am not losing hope my friend. I am a fighter and always will be. I just don't like to hear things that no one can promise. That's all. I am still hopeful that I don't have cancer. But if I do, I will face it and fight it bravely.

So please my friend, don't think unhappily even if your life is. Look up, be up, and be smiling even through pain. You will see that it helps.  

Love you, Sending you lots of hugs. Even in my weakest moment, I shall not be weak. And I am here for you! PS. Don't be upset any more, and please don't drink so much.

Resisting the urge to...

1. Disregard my pain and go swim so I can just clear my mind and think
2. Calling the Doctor to ask where my biopsy results are
3. Talk to people I want to talk to in case I bore them with my health scares
4. Get on the treadmill and/or lift some weights in case my bloody cyst gives way and I become an emergency case!
5. Walk at my usual pace
6. Overstress about the future
7. Overthink things
8. Not eat again. I should eat..
9. try to take care of everything that is mine myself and let people help me.
10. Tell people off who say "Don't Worry, everything will be fine".

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Malindo Air

Malindo Air is one of the newest airlines to compete in Malaysian airspace. Their slogan: "Not Just Low Cost". The aircraft from Subang Airport to Kota Bharu was exactly the same as the usual Firefly aircraft, not sure what model that is though. Two seats on each side. And even though Malindo boasts more leg room, I highly doubt it. I can't be sure, but it did feel a little tighter for leg room. The seats however, were comfortable, but not exceptionally large or special. The seatbelts seem to be a lot longer than other airlines though.
It's tricky to look for your seat number. You have to look right up
to the brightly lit light above the overhead compartment
Usually, the journey starts with the airplane reversing and taxiing to a certain point and then you will gradually speed up and take off. With Malindo, this part of the journey was extremely short. We reversed, made a slight turn to the left and then suddenly we were speeding down the runway and before you know it, we're in the air.
Am I in the Enterprise?

The pocket in front of you is up top
so don't  bother to look downwards
where they usually are
The lighting in the aircraft upon take off (and landing too) was nice. Dimmed cabin, with blue lights and even dimmer fasten seatbelt signs. I really felt like I was in the spaceship Enterprise! At any minute I would expect to see Jean Luc Piccard and share a hot cup of Earl Grey with him. Hmm, wouldn't that be something? Anyway that fantasy didn't last long.

Plain Water!
Immediately after take off, service began. Beverage choices were tea, coffee or "plain water". The snack was a golf-ball-sized cup cake. I had a little chuckle to myself when the girl in the aisle across from me spilled her water. The water comes in a clear plastic bottle with a foil top and a straw. I push the straw in, no problem. When I went to pick it up, it spilled all over my tray and my iPad. Naturally I wasn't amused. I found out too late that the plastic bottle is not sturdy so the water spewed like lava from a volcano.

Another thing is - beware of the pocket that is located high on the seat in front of you. Open your tray table before putting anything at all in it. I had put my iPad in it without checking and later saw to my horror that there was a used napkin at the bottom when I opened my tray table.

View of pocket with tray table open.

We landed as easily and without much notice as we took off. The pilot clearly is into speed! No need to really have a gradual landing, mate. Just take us down and speed down the runway as if it is endless. It all turned out well. It was definitely speedy. We got to the Malindo parking spot and alighted extremely quickly. For RM109, I'd take it again but I'd watch out for several things, like I said!

The flight attendants barely looked at the passengers getting off and didn't bother to say goodbye, but hey, who cares? I guess no one, as long as they keep their costs low.

I'm just glad to be home again, in one piece!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Nose Cancer? Getting a biopsy.

continued from previous post

Following the news of nose cancer, and the stunned reaction of all of us - me, my brother who was there, and family and friends..I decided to just go have lunch. Let's go and eat sashimi. It will put me in a better mood! Perhaps..

I called a good friend who has some connections with some medical specialists and told him that my GP was going to scope my nose and do a biopsy to check for cancer. A red flag was raised immediately.  Is he a specialist? No. What if I can get an ENT specialist to see you today? Would you go? Hell, yeah, if I can get in today because I have a ticket to fly home to Kelantan tomorrow. (I don't want to stay here and be away from Zoe). Let me see what I can do.

Not 15 minutes later, a call back confirmed an appointment for me at 3pm. I trekked down to the Subang Parade area with my brother who is driving in KL traffic while on a conference call with me holding a laptop for his reference. Insane...

I am greeted by smiling faces at Dr Puravi's clinic that is on the first floor of a row of shophouses, next to an Eye Clinic. They were clad in purple blazers, all of them. Many of them!! A girl with what look like burns on her face asked me,

What's your name, why are you here?

Gigi, I have nose cancer. Here's the report.

How long have you known?

The scan is from this morning, I say calmly with a wry smile.

A look of sympathy flashed across her face.
From the way you are talking, it sounds like you've known for a while. But it's just this morning? You mean today?

Yes. The scan was done this morning. I am OK. I have taken it all in already. I am ready.

Registration continued and I find out the only guy behind the counter is from Kelantan. A connection is made immediately as we started speaking our local dialect, a form of Malay very unique to our area and it commands a lot of respect when Chinese people don't sound like Chinese people trying to speak Malay. The girl with the scars who had warmed to me instantly is even more in awe now. You don't speak like a Chinese.  I laughed, acknowledging the compliment.

The Indian doctor showed up shortly after I arrived. He is bespectacled, tall and slender and slightly balding. He has kind eyes.

I was second in line. The patient before me is an older woman who has had two bouts of nose cancer and is back for a check up. She had arrived about an hour ago and was just tired of waiting. Complaining loudly because she waited so long, she went in to see him. My brother is still on his conference call.

Eventually it was my turn to see the doc. He sat me down. He'd already been briefed by my good friend about my condition and diagnosis from earlier in the day. He stepped me back through some history and I have a better grip on telling my story since I have had to tell it several times already. This time I'm doing things chronologically. I walk him through. He explains that in his experience a lot of times these things that show up red in the PET/CT scan are not cancer but something else, but he will look at me.

After explaining different parts of the nose and pharynx to me, he ushered me to a chair where he can examine my nose with what looks to me like a 6 inch probe  with a camera on the end. He said Look at the screen and showed me everything inside my nose.

I don't think you have cancer. In my experience, this looks to me like an ulcer. You have narrow nasal passageways, enlarged adenoids and tonsils....blah blah blah...

But please take a biopsy anyway, just for my peace of mind.

Are you sure? I really don't think it is.

I am sure. I need to know. And really for my peace of mind. The radiologist said that he was nearly 100% sure I have nose cancer.


Several of his assistants busied themselves and loomed over me. He sprayed some Afrin into my nose to numb me for the procedure. I had to wait for a few minutes before it was done. One nostril was probed with the 6 inch thing from earlier and the other was probed with slim looking pliers. Snip! He pulled something out and decided it wasn't enough. I wasn't relaxed enough and he couldn't get a good sample size for biopsy. Another stronger numbing agent was introduced.

This is going to taste really bitter.

I can take it. Let's go.

The spray was incredibly bitter and as he sprayed it in my nostrils, I tasted it in my mouth and it trickled out and also down my throat. Yep, it was bitter.

Wait 10 mins, and then spray more Afrin. And then, let's have another go at it. Dr Puravi instructed his assistants.

I started to bleed from my nose and cough up some blood clots. And apparently it was totally normal.

Before long, I was up for another try. As the probes reentered my nose, I started to cry involuntarily. The tear ducts are so close to my nasal area that this was bound to happen. And the thing bloody hurt. It was super uncomfortable to have to breathe through my nose (which is already small!) with a probe in one nostril and a pair of pliers, albeit a slender pair, in the other. Still I breathed through my nose, took a deep breath through my mouth and SNIP!  Remember my high pain threshold? Still intact, but still bloody awful and painful.

A big chunk was taken out for biopsy. I've got a huge sample size, the doc declared. I am given a handful of tissues and blood started coming. I tasted blood in my mouth as well. Totally normal.

I get out of the chair with a smile and thank him. All his assistants have kind faces and they are all constantly smiling reassuringly. I sat down opposite the doc and he gave me a bit more advice on what to do going forward. After all was said and done, I told him I was really happy to have seen him on such short notice, and that he had amazing staff who were so incredibly kind and always smiling. He looked a bit perplexed, like no one had ever bothered to say something like that to him. He just nodded his head and smiled, not sure how to respond I guess.

I was truly impressed by his demeanour and calmness, his willingness to not gloss over everything and his patience to explain to me exactly what was the matter with me and how to treat what I had, assuming it wasn't nose cancer. He really changed my day around from the 100% nose cancer declaration I had got in the morning. I felt like I had some real hope when I left his clinic. But I will wait to celebrate when I know the results of the biopsy.

I wanted to tell him but I feared that my being so honest would embarrass him or make him think I was just trying to flatter him unnecessarily.

Those of you who read me here and know me will know that I am not into flattery, in whichever direction. I don't like to be flattered (when it is clearly untrue) or lie and flatter others. But I wasn't sure how he would take my sincere and heartfelt comments. So I left it at just complimenting his staff.

I now hang on to the next few days while I wait for the biopsy results with some hope that I really don't have cancer. I hope I really just have bad inflammation of my nasal pharynx area.

PET/CT Scan - what was my experience today?

My family doctor wants to be thorough about things so I was told to go to this place in Bangsar on Jalan Maarof - called Austral-Euro Diagnosis to get a PET/CT Scan to see if there is cancer. Even though cancer markers were taken, only 2 were obtained, not the usual 4. So this scan is supposed to see everything?  Really??

I get there 8am in the morning, I'm early. There's already 3 or 4 patients in front of me. They register me, get an IV catheter going and get a brief medical history while they are at it. I am then ushered into a tiny room with a comfortable chair and a place where I can put my clothes. I am given 1.5 litres of water to drink. In the meantime they push some clear radioactive dye I suppose in me through the IV. I'm to undress and just wear my underwear and a robe. All my accessories are off - earrings, rings, and phone!!  I'm left alone in that tiny closed room with a ventilator to contemplate what the scan's going to show and to drink my water. Not my idea of fun. And that took a long time. The mind wanders you know?

After that, I'm told to pee several times to get as much liquid out of me as possible so my bladder is not full of water and they have to scan me again. They shuffle the patients from comfy chair to comfy chair in a waiting area outside the scanner room to indicate your turn. The closest chair to the scanner room is up next. Musical chairs. Fun? No. A better way of doing things should happen here.

Everybody sitting out in the waiting area is really almost naked under the robes, and the robes are pretty short. I don't really fancy looking at these fellas who are out there with me. And thankfully everyone has the decency to just close their eyes and think about what's ahead.

I am quite claustrophobic so that was my biggest concern. Turns out the machine is not really that bad. It is open on both sides and they shuffle you back and forth so you are never quite covered all the way, nor do you feel like you're entering a closed tunnel. The attendant tried to strap me in and I told her, Look, I am claustrophobic so please don't do that! So she makes sure that I will hold myself  on that little tray they slide in and out of the covered area, and not fall off. Arms over my head and off I go. There's a little sticker that reads Laser Beam, do not look directly into it.  Or something to that effect. I just close my eyes and try not to fall off. The whole scan takes barely 15-20 mins. I almost fell asleep!

After I came out of the scanner room, I promptly got dressed and waited outside to hear my results. The procedure was as simple as that.

As to whether my results were good - No. I didn't hear what I wanted to hear - which is that everything was clear. I was told that I have something that looks like cancer in my pelvic area but that it was not clear - 50-50 chance, the doctor said. And that he was almost 100% sure I had nose cancer, and that it needed to be treated with radiotherapy and chemotherapy immediately. But it is very treatable, he added.


My brother was waiting outside. Prior to the scan, I'd told him - Don't freak out, no matter what the results are. Or I will as well. He did well composing himself. He didn't freak out. I didn't freak out. I was stunned. And then I started making calls and sending texts. I told people I had it. Because who says nearly 100% sure if they don't know? And a PET/CT scan is supposed to be the be-all and end-all that shows you every goddamn thing. I told people - I'm not afraid. Whatever it is, I will deal with it. Let's fix it. In my head, logistics of how things were going to happen just weighed me down. I should go back to America. I shouldn't. What?! I need to get it done soon...blah blah...all in my head - I was hashing this out.
I thought about Zoe. Even in moments of weakness like these, I shan't be weak. But I couldn't help feeling that I was fighting Goliath. I kept thinking about Zoe. I made my husband promise me that he will always keep the connection with my family if I weren't here. I was thinking all the things that were worse case scenario. It would be foolish for me not to. Yeah it is good to be positive, like I always strive to be. But I still have to think for Zoe, if for nobody else. What happens to her without me in the picture?

I felt so lucky that I had my brother with me. It wasn't a planned thing for him to be with me. He had work to do today. But he chose to come and it was a great comfort to me. Truly. And I'm not just writing for him to see either because I know he reads me here. It was just having someone there to help maybe take it in alongside me. And to drive me away from this place! ASAP!

No matter what, don't anybody give me false hope. Some have said, everything will be OK. do you even know that? You can't say that. So don't say that. I like it upfront and honest. Don't promise me something that can't be given. I'm a realist and I don't live in la la land!  I almost have to laugh despite the dire news. Just so people realise how ridiculous they sound.

To be continued.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Shells on the beach

Beautiful soul, welcome to my life
I am so glad you have arrived
Like walking on broken shells on the beach
We sauntered unknowingly into each other's colourful lives
Our lives filled with unspoken pasts, present lies and future secrets.

She has been to hell and climbed out of it,
Fighting for every moment of sanity
Clawing at sand hoping for a grip
Always hoping but inevitably she would slip
Back into the abyss
Darkness around her

In her despair she found love
She buried every sadness and each painful memory
Wishing that the happiness she found could blanket her world
Immersing herself in family, work and other pursuits
She thought she escaped her past
But did it last?

For many years she would fight the pain
Every night and day it would remain
No sleep for many days
Dark rings under her eyes
Staying in a daze each waking hour
Hoping the despair would disappear
Or even dissipate

I don't know how we found each other
An undeniable affinity existed from the beginning
We walked different paths to where we are now
And the paths never really crossed before
Our connection came through the understanding of loss and pain
And our need to be free of the things that hold us back
We are new and fresh
Yet it somehow seems like we have known each other forever.

I hope that one day she will be free of suffering
I don't know how that will happen or when it will
I know she also hopes for me to be happy
And free from the physical ills that have shackled me
A few days of bliss with her and
I know I love this one very much.


Eventually it will be clear skies again my friend
Beautiful soul, stay and play!
Let's chase cars together.

Monday, June 10, 2013

High Pain Threshold

If there's one thing I have in common with my favorite champion, Rafael Nadal, is that we both have high pain thresholds. He talks about enjoying suffering so that he can achieve all that he has in tennis.

And by the way, what a fantastic Roland Garros for him in 2013. A crazy first week where he left us on the brink every match, and the semi-final against Djokovic that was such a nail-biter. And, in the Final he was able to close out David Ferrer 3, 2 and 3.. I'm so happy. He made my day yesterday when he won his 8th French Open. Funny how that covers up all your worries even if just for a day.

Okay, maybe I don't enjoy suffering as much as Rafa does, but there is something to be said for a little pain to make you feel alive. I don't necessarily enjoy suffering but I can take it. I can take quite a bit of it before I start really complaining. Contractions at childbirth took the cake when I tried to go without an epidural.

Pain to the point of curling up into the fetal position is not my idea of fun. However, that seems to be the running theme this week. I'm still not exactly sure what is causing my pain, but I know I have a pelvic cyst that begs to be removed, as soon as possible.

Consulting over the phone with some specialists, I know this:
1. I have to get it surgically removed, no matter what.
2. I can't wait or suppress it with painkillers or other medication
3. if I do nothing, it may a) rupture and therefore become an emergency to get it removed or b) become choked of blood supply and cause necrosis which in turn also becomes an emergency
4. I have to get a biopsy of the other ovary
5. I could have adhesions to other parts that may need to be released
6. I could have internal haemorrhaging of the cyst already
7. I could have ovarian torsion - twisting of the cyst which causes the pain - which is what I personally believe I'm suffering from now.

I first heard of the term high pain threshold from my mum. She described herself as having this, and always would chide us for not being able to put up with a little bit of suffering or pain. As I grew older, I found that I was more and more like her. I would be able to put up with a lot of pain. I'm not sure what her perception of me is now but I sure feel like I inherited this from her.

Don't get me wrong, I don't like to be in pain. As a doctor told me tonight, "We want you to have a better quality of life."  No shit. I want that too. Who'd rather live in pain than not? I can't think of a single person. Okay, maybe my mum would rather sit and wait around than consult a doctor..but is it worth it? I wonder that myself. I'm left contemplating whether I can push this off till I return to my other realm, where I don't have to pay for surgery (not as much as here anyway) and enjoy the remainder of my summer - the summer that I planned to actually be free of illnesses and just enjoy my life before returning to work in the fall. I didn't intend to be recuperating and healing the whole damn summer.

But it seems I can't be waiting around. I need to get this done. The general consensus is "Oh Gosh, Gigi, get it done." So I'm hoping that in the next few days, I will get a reasonable surgeon to operate on me and fix me. Once and for all. I don't want to be healing from cuts in my abdomen again, for a long time. Or better yet, ever!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Swim again?

So I defy doctor's orders and go swim. I'm supposed to "forget about exercising and dieting" for now. hahaha...what doctor ever says that?? I've never heard that from anyone, let alone a doctor!

I'm still in a wee bit of pain despite the painkillers I took a couple of hours ago, but I'm in desperate need of some thinking time. I had been pushing through the pain and the fatigue for the last few weeks, doubling up on treadmill and swimming so I am not using my thyroid problem as a poor excuse for lying around. Come to find out, maybe it's not my thyroid that is making me tired. Well, who knows? A combination of everything? Who cares, until tomorrow? That's when I know something for sure.

I wonder if my arms will be sore tomorrow. I do have pretty good upper body strength to carry me through my laps with little use of lower body strength. Using my legs causes more pain. I think I'd rather stay away from that. Lying curled up, fetal position on my bed for hours on end is not really that fun. Been there, done that. On top of that I can't even fall asleep and the mind wanders. Worse for wear.

I did OK. I felt refreshed after the swim. I swam alongside Zoe's lithe body, admiring her slenderness, her free spirit, her ignorance to the stuff I was going through. I wondered how long it would take me to heal from the impending surgery and when I would swim again because that's the one thing I absolutely love to do. Swimming. It is good for my psyche. And it is good for my body. Especially when I can swim under the sun. It does wonders for me. I wondered how Zoe would do under the care of my parents. Less lip, more respect, please, little one!

Tomorrow. I'll know more tomorrow. For today, let's just be happy. And hope there's no more pain tonight.

Just when I thought...

I got my appetite back full swing..I lost it just as easily as it came.

I was free of illnesses and ready to be live my life unencumbered, I get hit by another thing.

I could plan a trip to Perhentian and definitely be able to make it, I'm hit by the realisation that I won't be making it this year. How am I going to tell my tour operator that I'm cancelling on him again, yet another year, yet another health related reason??

life is short, it seems to be even shorter than short! Life flashes right by. Before you know it you're wondering what are the most important things to you and what you have left to do.


So I walk into the doctor's office with an idea in my head. This doctor is known for prescribing "nothing". Just go home, wait it out. Do nothing. Don't take pills, don't do ANYTHING. Just wait. "I don't have enough info when you say you have pain, let's wait and see what happens"

Anyway - I walk in and the first thing I say is, "I need a scan. Right now. I have pain. Every day."
Surprisingly, there were no questions asked, I was ushered straight into the ultrasound room.  I sit patiently in this tiny dark room, waiting for him to show. I see this stain on the mattress, and strangely I don't give a crap. He shows up shortly afterwards and with not much fuss, just gets right down to it after I explain my pain. Pelvic area. On and off pain.

Not even a minute into it, he confirms that I have an ovarian cyst. A pelvic cyst. But then he scans other places. Kidneys, lungs and heart. What followed happened so quickly but this is what I recall:

You have to have it out. 

What if I don't?

Don't ask me that. You have to have it out. And get a CA125 blood test. 

Wait a minute, you suspect cancer?

I'm not a salesman, I don't try to tell you nice things. My job is to think worst case scenario. 

That's all right. I can take it. Just tell me straight. You suspect cancer? Can you see it?

Get to the lab and get the blood test. Oh you know what, I'll take your blood and I'll see that I get the results by tomorrow. Then I want you to get down to KL and get a full scan.



That's day after tomorrow. So I have to have surgery?

Yes. As soon as possible.


Friday, June 7, 2013

I was just thinking..

There have been several distinct stages in my life, and within those stages maybe different realms.

The first stage was my childhood through teenage years. The second was when I was learning to be my own person when I left home to study overseas. The third was when I inadvertently got married while I was still growing up. A fourth was when I realised I had grown up and was married. A fifth perhaps when I was gaining experience working, and hoping to start a family. A sixth started when I was pregnant and then gave birth to Zoe and taking care of her full time for many years. And now, when she's herself growing up and when I am taking back some of my freedom that I had lost taking care of her full time.

I'm still not exactly sure if the stages are well defined, but they seem like they are quite distinct for me.

Taking back some of my freedom may sound really exaggerated. Actually I merely mean that sometimes, I am able to step out of being mum to Zoe to being just myself.

Acting as mum to Zoe can be really tiring sometimes. It's trying to find the right balance of being caring and militant. It's trying to manage expectations and hopes. It's trying to do the right thing all the time just because you want to be a good example.

I have to let my hair down every now and then. I'm sure there are mums who don't. I'm sure there are mums who are always mums and they lose their own identity unless it is associated with their children. I actively don't want to be that sort of mum. I realise and love the fact that I will always be Zoe's mum and will love her eternally and unfailingly unconditionally. Yet, I also have a strong need to be recognised as an individual independent of connections to others, be it spouse, family, child or friend. And perhaps it is because of that need that I am the way I am. You can call it selfish or even arrogant. You can hate it or like it. I call it being the only way I know how to be. And that is to be me.