Masks

I hope to attend a course as soon as we don’t have to wear masks anymore. I have fond memories of the basic French class I attended with my Aunt at the Alliance Francaise Singapour 14 years ago. The teacher was witty, lunches at the cafe were lovely & my aunt was superb company. I can’t imagine attending a class and not be able to see how the teacher enunciates and an online class is just not the same. Even though I felt shy and self conscious, attending the class made me feel happier and more alive.

One thing I’m so relieved about, with regards to Covid in Singapore (it’s the Omicron variant now), is that we don’t have to be quarantined in a separate facility if we only have mild symptoms. I read about people being made to share a room with a total stranger because there were just insufficient rooms. That would be one of my biggest nightmares. Well, I may end up being best friends with this person, but I’m too old for a school camp experience. I’d rather not suffer the discomfort.

There was a point during the initial lockdown that I was such a hermit that didn’t leave home for 80 days. It was a self imposed extended lockdown as I didn’t want to infect my older loved ones. I had two involuntary crying jags as it was just so distressing. The claustrophobia and lack of the usual routine. I was so thankful that my nieces FaceTimed me. I usually wait for them to call me because I don’t want to be a pesky aunt. Seeing their darling faces kept me going more than they will ever know.

I’m tired of wearing masks everywhere and it being mandated. On the other hand it is keeping us safe as cases are rising with the open borders. Also just too many people in such a small island (truly feel the crunch in the past decade) where it’s truly hard to safe distance. I’m so jealous when I read about countries like UK who have truly moved on and declared no more mandatory mask wearing etc.

Ironically though, I do wear another kind of mask all my life. An invisible mask to hide my sadness, insecurities and fears. Especially during cancer when I was expected to be positive, but deep inside I felt so alone. I know I should have continued seeing a therapist, but I stopped because I felt guilty about the cost. I only went 2 times mainly to overcome my fear of being in a plane. She used Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and did help me, so therapy works. It’s scary though, because all that you’ve unconsciously suppressed comes bubbling to the surface. I don’t like crying in front of a stranger. It made me so embarrassed as I hated loosing control. The intensity was utterly unexpected. I planned to go for therapy during my chemo as well but it never happened. The best free therapy has always been writing and interactions with thoughtful readers.

I decided that if I start writing again I’m not going to sugar coat things as I hope to be as open as I can. It’s what I seek in other writers. That pure honesty. Everything laid out bare. I will do as much as I can have the courage to. In real life I rarely get that from many people, and when I do, it’s like striking gold. I truly hate small talk (life is too fleeting and time is too precious). Unless I meet resistance, I usually dive right in to things that matter, but not everyone is comfortable with this and then it feels like a one sided affair. After a while I pull away and stop sharing too. I also wonder if I’m odd for being so open. Perhaps all cancer patients tend to overshare when you’re faced with the possibility of loosing everything very soon.

I am thankful for friends I have never met in real life. People on Instagram who have similar values or who have gone through hard times (loss of a loved one, grief, anxiety, cancer) or who just happen to share the same interests like a good book. I hope I get to converse with you again, in this space. I know I’ve been away for some time. This has been mainly due to technical web design related frustrations which I’ll talk about in another post once I muster the energy.

Posted in Covid, Midlife Musings, Singapore Living | Leave a comment

Covid Times

I’m trying not to go stir crazy as I’m sure everyone in the world is right now. To put things into perspective, my anxiety is nothing compared to those afflicted with covid19, and their families, the frontline workers including healthcare staff (like my cousin), workers in sanitation, food delivery people (whom I’m so grateful for) and just anyone who can’t work from home and still has to physically report to work. Most of all, the workers in the dormitories. I feel a mix of sadness, anger and shame as a Singaporean. This disease is not an equaliser at all, but rather glaringly the opposite. The socioeconomically disadvantaged are suffering more. Especially those struggling in low paying jobs or without a permanent job.

I am being stricter with myself than required as I don’t want to contract and then pass the illness to loved ones. As such, I haven’t left my home in 26 days. So I think you can understand how I might be going stir crazy. I try to immerse myself in a routine which includes reading, writing and reintroducing myself to the piano. I also try to stretch and walk at least 2000 steps within the home. I know it’s far from the 10000 steps they say you should do, but its pretty good for unfit me.

I don’t know why I have this need to be productive & have been waking up at 4am and sleeping at 10pm. I am definitely sleep deprived as I see dark patches emerging around my eyes. It’s the only time I have some peace and quiet. Otherwise, as someone who suffers from situational claustrophia and panic attacks due to PTSD, I really wouldn’t be able to hang on to my sanity.

Although I used to prefer fiction I have now included self-help nonfiction. Here are some of my reads so far:

  1. Atomic Habits by James Clear
  2. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
  3. On Writing Well by William Zinsser
  4. Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser
  5. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
  6. The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking
  7. Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl
  8. The Body by Bill Bryson
  9. The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Update: Thursday, 27 January 2022

So much has happened since I unburdened my heart with the above in a private unpublished entry. I felt too self conscious to publish it then when so many were suffering. I often hesitate when I feel I might be misunderstood. I quite regret not documenting more of the covid journey, but I honestly never expected it to last as long as it has. I never stopped writing though (pen on paper) so I could perhaps transcribe what I’ve written in my diaries.

I also had so many technical issues with this blog, that felt truly overwhelming, for not so technically inclined me. I’ll share more in another post.

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Hello Again

Feels like such a waste that I haven’t written here in a year. I used to love writing on my blog. It just flowed. But lately I’m been commenting more through short form and visually on Instagram. Appreciate the connections there which include people I’ve known through blogging. The nicest folks and I am so grateful to know you kind souls even though we’ve never met and you don’t know what I look like. Thanks for excepting me in spite of my reticence to show my physical self.

I’m doing so much better now. Regained my stamina and hope to go further in terms of physical and mental abilities. I’m just satisfied if I’m less fatigued and am more alert and productive. I always feel so guilty when I’m not productive. Ironically the only time I felt truly liberated in terms of societal norms was during chemo when I felt it was ok to be less productive (basically watch a lot of travel and food shows on tv and nap). My brain was too much in a state of fog to read. Since then I’ve regained that ability. I’m an extremely slow reader, but I’m detailed. I check every word I’m unsure of and reread for clarity if needed.

I can’t believe that I’ll be 50 this year. It’s horrifying. I know I’m expected to say I’m so grateful I’ve made it to 49, but I’m far from the model cancer patient. I’m vain and I don’t like how I’ve aged prematurely. I miss my old perfectly arched dark eyebrow and lashes. I’m forlorn at my thinning, bald spots on my scalp. It’s awfully indulgent to say perhaps, but it’s the truth. I wish I could be more evolved but sadly I’m not. I’m a huge work in progress even at this late stage.

As always I am grateful for joyous moments with cherished ones, and look forward to living more in the present with them & creating great memories.

Posted in Singapore Living | 6 Comments

Feeling Extreme Anxiety & Worthlessness

Been feeling especially insecure lately. Exceptionally down emotionally. Don’t feel like a worthy human being. Or at least in this world that values superficial things and status. This world where bullies thrive and aggression is rewarded. I just want peace and often feel myself being swept away in the currents. I don’t know how else to be. I accept that I’m passive although I secretly wish I could command respect and have value one day.

When I’m depressed and anxious I find dining with someone you can talk to honesty from the heart (my partner in this case) while partaking in good food truly comforting. I find it impossible to cut off carbs or dairy and there is no real scientific evidence that it helps, but yet all the bombarding of information makes me feel guilty. I constantly feel guilt and it’s exhausting.

What I do feel sure of is that mental health in my case is more critical. I feel deep in my gut that past traumas from the time I was a child including later traumas have led to a lowering of my immunity and the cancer to spread. The cancer is a physical manifestation of my pain. I always knew the day would come even as a child. At the moment it seems under control and I don’t want it rearing its scary head again.

I need to try my very best not to let the negative voice constantly echoing in my head win. If I can regain my confidence and not constantly feel like I don’t deserve to be here or like a burden and of no value, it will help me so much. Ironically I stopped feeling like a waste of space when I was going through treatment. I felt like I had a role at least and when it was over I went back to feeling useless.

Please don’t be alarmed by this post. Articulating my thoughts helps me and I hope to look back on this post when I am in a better place emotionally and see that there are ups in life that will triumph over the downs. I also want to reach out to fellow anxiety sufferers so that we all don’t feel so alone. Posted this on Instagram and felt like publishing it on my blog too.

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My 3rd Cancerversary


Not sure how WordPress works anymore as I haven’t written for so long, everything feels strange. I was discouraged as I spent so much time on deleting spam and updating the tech stuff.

Just want to write to offload some feelings. A bit of the fear is back as I threw up in my partner’s car earlier. Are my intestines acting up again? I feel something not quite right within. Perhaps it’s just intense stress from my mum being hospitalised. Glad she is on the mend as it’s all the matters to me.

Stress may also be building up as I missed my last monthly tumour marker checkup mainly due to the cost factor. I feel guilt over the cost. Anyway, I’m not feeling totally confident as I was before the throwing up incident. Hope it’s unwarranted nerves and I’ll get the clear again on Thursday afternoon.

It’s ridiculous that I can’t rid myself of these intense feelings of guilt which isn’t helping me feel well. I can’t afford to have this type of unnecessary stress. Tried one minute of meditation with an app my cousin D recommended called Headspace. I need to do more of that. Grateful for the time I’ve been having with her and the little ones.

Thankful also for fulfilling another item in my bucket list or more something my dad wished for but never got to do. (A big regret of mine) A trip to Britain. Had a major throwing up incident on that trip as well but at least I made it.

No one realises the struggle of invisible illness. I need to advocate for this more as I’m sure many go through a similar anguish. That you may look perfectly well on the outside but that you struggle on the inside, in my case with chronic fatigue and intestinal issues. Chronic fatigue is so hard to explain and often I’m sure people think I’m just lazy. To me it’s a big injustice and frustration to be thought of that way. My mind and heart want to do so much but often my body can’t cooperate is the best way I know how to explain it. It’s like a constant intense jet lag and your brain is in a fog always. You are able to process conversations perhaps some hours after you’ve had them or only able to process the answers to questions then. Your brain is just not as sharp as it used to be and the deterioration has happened only since you’ve had chemo.

The most scary thing to me is the deterioration of my eye sight as reading, writing and photography are things I love so much. I can’t imagine life without books, journals and photographs. And I love nature and scenic places. My power has gone from 100 as a 6 year old when I was first diagnosed to 1100 (-11) before chemo to 1300 (-13) now. The optometrist has advised me to stick to my current power though to minimise on migraines. Keen to hear from others with severe myopia and astigmatism.

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My Fears

I feel choked by fear and I felt that by writing it down I’ll be able to loosen the grip. Haven’t written in a while, but have been very active (more like addicted) on Instagram, using that tool to share snippets of my thoughts as well.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t let fear rule me, but often some things are out of your control. This cancer journey plus my inherent insecurities do that to me. I fear that my time is limited considering how much I want to do and that too scares me. I feel like my body is holding me back or perhaps it is more my fear that I will ‘break’ something in body or worsen things if I do too much. I never had this kind of fear before the cancer diagnosis and I don’t like it.

My good friend E encouraged me to write a book which she and I, know I have in me but I think she has a whole lot of confidence in me than I do in myself. She felt that I should share my knowledge of how the cancer has affected me, but truly I don’t feel like an expert. Although that’s rather silly of me as there are several things that are good to know beforehand to make the journey easier and I know them now. Simple things like having an item of your own with you during chemo like a soft shawl. Even more importantly, the signs not to miss in order to catch the disease early. I still can’t quite believe I’m a stage 4 cancer patient as some days, in between my doctor visits, I don’t feel at all like one.

I have overwhelming fears about my tumour marker CA125 rising and as a result fearful procedures that follow including the dreaded MRI and surgery. I try not to think of any of it and pull myself back into the present moment focusing on the loves of my life and how much there is to live for and enjoy right now.

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My Revelation on Instagram

I bit the bullet & revealed myself, sort of, on Instagram. My real name is Shanti & I love the fact that in Sanskrit it means peace. I dislike confrontation or conflict, am always seeking peace. I’m rather a passive soul.

Just uploaded a picture of me at age 2 smiling at my beloved Papa who was photographing me back in the seventies. He loved me so & I miss him so much, especially during this cancer journey.

I really do want to get back to fitness & be there for my nieces. That’s my most ardent wish. Hope you’ll join me on Instagram too as I post more frequently there under Singapore Actually.

I appreciate so much all the followers and their love and support on Instagram. Really boosts me on my journey back to health.

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Feeling Optimistic

My oncologist confirmed a week ago that I have stage 4 endometrial cancer. She also mentioned that my tumour type shows I’m not a good candidates for immunotherapy which is a concern. I have what is called microsatellite instability.

I was not as steady about it all as I am now. I was gripped with fear. It took time to digest. I’m going with my instinctive feeling that things will be ok and the fear just eased.

I’m feeling optimistic as second line chemo has not caused a scary side effect that my oncologist was concerned about – hallucinations. Somehow being such a control freak, not being in control of my mind seemed to be a hard prospect to handle. Another concern of hers was my bladder bleeding, but so far so good. I’m hospitalised during chemo and given bladder protecting drugs. It’s a big downer to me to be hospitalised as I tend to get bed sores being confined to the hot rubber bed but I’m so joyous the day I’m discharged. Makes you appreciate your home sweet home even more.

I only had bone ache around the shoulders, lower back and spine 3 days after the nuestala booster jab that was given in the abdominal area to boost my white blood cell count. I’m lucky to have a skillful oncology nurse to administer it to minimise the pain. At least the expected side effect of the bone ache must mean my bone marrow is working to produce those white blood cells.

I know it’s silly to feel sadder about loosing my hair again, plus my eyebrows and lashes & I am hopeless at makeup. There’s this worry that it won’t grow back because my lashes and brows never grew back as dark or long as they once were. Miss that. It was so much part of my identity. Dark defined brows that I never needed to groom or never felt like I needed to anyway. My hair came back totally silvery white, with the black only coming back a bit later. I’ve never once coloured my hair and I don’t want to start now especially considering the dyes could be toxic and plus the recurring cost.

I have lovely simple pleasures like my books and journal, but my greatest joy are the little ones in my big family.

I’m also dreaming of travel to the beaches of New Zealand or the scenic lush greenery of England, Ireland or Scotland. America is on my mind too although the long flight is the one thing that puts me off. Always wanted to see the majestic sequoia trees and the Parks and coast of California. Just some landscapes that are filling my daydreams. It’s always nature and cold weather that make it worthwhile to endure the hassle of travelling.  Wish I could go hassle free this time.

 

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Trying Not to be Scared

Honestly I can’t tell if it’s better or worse not knowing the staging of my endometrial cancer. Perhaps it’s better not to know. The Doctors have admitted that my situation is so rare that there are some things they just don’t know. What they can tell me is that it’s locally advanced endometrial cancer. The bad part is that part of the cancer cells point to endometrial sarcoma as well, that means the tissues are involved.

The thing that scares me the most is that the tumours spread not only to the ovaries but to some place far off, my small intestines.

Wish I could know for sure that the cancer cells are eradicated but I guess that’s what second line chemo is for. Not encouraging to hear that usually with second line chemo you are already showing resistance to it. And I’m told there will be a standby treatment of Immunotherapy. This is experimental treatment with lots of unknowns.

I am also fearful that my oncologist says they have to watch me for hallucinations with the new chemo drug Ifosphomide. Loss of control truly scares me.

Ok had to get that all out if my system & focus on living and dreaming big. I’m dreaming of being able to carry and read to my nieces again. I’m dreaming of being able to be fit again and run around with them.

I’m also dreaming of travel to places in my dreams like the English countryside, the lush green of Ireland, the beauty of California, her majestic sequoia trees, the Ocean and the pristine air and snow of the Swiss Alps.

One of my favourite trips was to Boston and mainly because it was my first time experiencing snow. Fresh falling snow and thick cover on the ground. I was so mesmerised. I also fell in love with New Zealand’s South Island and would love to explore more of her stunning beauty, perhaps the North Island with those breathtaking Lord of the Ring scenes.

These are my topmost dreams and I can’t wait for them to be fulfilled once I’m done with chemo in May 2018. Meanwhile I will keep fantasizing and visualising all the possibilities.

 

 

 

 

 

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Fighting Cancer A Second Time

I never thought I’d be here again, but here I am fighting cancer a second time. I was so heartened to read all the kind encouraging comments in my absence. Thank you to all the kind souls out there –  you truly give me strength.

I was shocked to discover that I had a recurrence. I had just been regaining my fitness and got into a new routine when my second annual pet scan revealed a tumour near my small intestines. Also my CA125 scores that had been very good, 4 or 5, way within the normal of 35 and had given me hope. However this time it had spiked to 119. Still I had hope that it was an anomaly.

Since then I feel like I’ve surmounted the Everest, undergoing my third cancer related major surgery. I am so incredibly thankful that I didn’t need a stoma as my colon wasn’t affected, just my small intestines of which 14cm was removed & the healthy parts stitched back together. Resected.

It’s now been 2 weeks since surgery & I am home recouperating. So happy to be out of hospital after an 8 day stay. I never do well in hospitals and always my recovery is rapid once I’m home. Home sweet home – nothing beats it.

I have to confess, I’m more hopeful in the day time, but worries come to me at night when I’m alone in the dark. So what better way to cope than to start writing on my blog again & connecting with all the kind people around the world. You truly keep me going.

By the way my name means peace & I hope writing will afford me more peace of mind.

 

 

 

 

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