Wednesday, May 12, 2010

2nd Anniversary ++

I just found this in my draft box... Been starting things and not finishing *sigh* must do better.

"It's just been over 2 years since the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It seems like a long time ago...

Although there are daily reminders, e.g. daily medication, tightness in the right chest, shoulder and arm because of the surgery and skin dryness in the same area due to radiation, life is pretty much back to normal. I still have to go for 4 monthly blood tests and checkups and annual scans. I am thankful for good health generally."

Time for an update.

It's now 2 1/2 years since my diagnosis with 3rd stage breast cancer and 2 years since the end of my treatment. Yes, the reminders listed above are still there and I am still thankful for good health.

There are and will always be some annoyances & irritations, limitations & challenges, inconveniences and discomfort that come but they are part of life and living.

I was reminded yesterday as I nagged and complained at the children that it is good to be alive. The fact that I still have children to nag means there is still work for me to do and that is why God is still preserving my life. I ought to be rejoicing!

Studying the book of John this year in BSF has really been a blessing. To understand His glorious majesty and greatness and therefore to also understand the magnitude of His condescension just fills my heart with love for Him. Truly I can lovBlockquotee Him because He first loved me. Praying to persevere in believing, following, obeying, loving, trusting, depending on and remaining in him moment by moment, breath by breath, heartbeat by heartbeat.

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5 - Jesus

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


It's been 3 months since I blogged. A big "Thank you!" to all who continue to check the blog, ask after me and pray for my family and me.

Sorry I have been busy, lazy and had not too much to update. I've now "graduated" to 3-monthly doctors visits rather than 3-weekly. Apart from my daily dose of anti-hormonal drug all my cancer treatment is completed.

As you can see from the unflattering photo - taken with mobile phone in my study area - my hair has grown. I think this is the length of hair I had throughout childhood. The hair grew back curly... but I am thankful for my crowning glory.

I am thankful that my health has been very good. I have been eating well - evident from the double chin. Right now nursing a cold and cough... despite all the precautions I take *sigh*.

Reuben's travelling again - last week to Japan and this week to Australia. The children are all keeping well, 3rd week back at school after 4 weeks of school vacation. I'm back to the swing of things and daily routines

Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God foryou in Christ Jesus. 1 Thess 5:16-18

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Testimony at ARPC

I was privileged to share my testimony (below) at our Easter Service last Sunday, 12 April 2009.

Presents... you usually cannot judge the gift by the wrapping. Some gifts are so beautifully packaged but the contents are a let down. Other times the packaging looks decidedly unpromising but the content turns out to be just the thing I wanted/needed/could use.

Last year I received an Unexpected Gift in Unusual Wrapping.

On Friday 26 April 2008, I was diagnosed to have Stage III breast cancer. It means that the breast cancer cells had spread from the breast into my lymph nodes but thankfully not into any of my organs.

It was just a week before, on Saturday, that I went to see my GP Dr Neo about a firm, irregular-shaped lump in my right breast. Her first question after examining me was, “Why did you wait so long before coming?” “Oops! not good news”, I thought but I was optimistic that it would be okay. The following Tuesday I went to see Dr Yap, a breast surgeon who sent me for ultrasound, mammogram and did a biopsy (took a sample of the lump for investigation).

All through the week, I was praying and getting friends and family to pray and hoping that it would not be cancer but just a harmless lump of fat or scar tissue. Reuben and I went to the surgeon’s clinic on Friday to hear the results of the biopsy. It was cancer – not the news we wanted. God does not always answer the way I want but He gave me the peace, calm and preparedness to accept the cancer.

Dr Karen Yap explained that because the cancer had spread, I would need to see an oncologist to discuss treatment options. Probably I would receive chemotherapy before surgery and then radiation therapy. I remember thinking, and telling her, that it was easier to die than undergo treatment. I was and still am confident that when I die, I will go to heaven where there is no more disease or pain. It’s a definite, secure and certain hope because Jesus promises it to everyone who believes in him and receives him as Lord.

Undergoing chemotherapy was different - I had heard many scary stories of how sick you can get - and I don't like feeling sick and weak, I fear pain and discomfort. I am thankful that my chemotherapy regimen was not as bad as I had anticipated.

However, I did suffer some pain. There were days when I felt very sick, very weak, and very uncomfortable. There were days when I felt depressed and down about being “limited” and confined by the disease and treatment. The chemotherapy drugs brought on sleepless nights and bad dreams which in turn brought tears and sadness. Remembering my father who died when I was 6+, and whom I still miss dearly, made me cry at the prospect of my children without a mum and husband without a helper.

I prayed fervently that the Lord will give me a few more years. God has answered my prayers, all my treatment went well and the latest tests did not detect any cancer in my body. However as every cancer patient knows, the possibility of recurrence is ever present, like a sword suspended over your head.

Being a Christian does not guarantee me a life of absolute health, wealth and ease or a life without pain, discomfort, inconvenience. But it gives me the assurance that whatever I go through, God has purposed it for my good.

Throughout this cancer experience, I and my family have been blessed. God has given me wonderful gifts and blessing wrapped up in the cancer package:-
  • Facing the prospect of death is sobering – knowing that despite advances in medical technology, death is inevitable. I read of a lady who survived breast cancer for several years, only to be knocked down by a car. I need to be prepared to die at anytime.
  • Facing the prospect of death gives new urgency to life – I prayed that God will give me more years and I pray for life in the years, not just a meaningless existence. I want to live a fulfilling life of adventures with God, a life the bible describes as “life that is truly life”. It has prompted me to check that I have not left undone the things that I should do.
  • I have grown in my faith in God – I know I need to trust Him in everything and I know He can be trusted with everything. Even if my cancer returns, He is in control and I can depend on Him.
  • I have experienced God in a deeper way – know firsthand that He is all I need:
  • He is with me everywhere, all the time. There are many places family, loved ones, friends cannot go with me but God can. He hears my groans and cries when no one else is around.
  • He is powerful. There are burdens no one can help carry; pain that none can bear on my behalf or relieve, but God can and He does.
  • He is the God of the impossible. He gives joy in sadness, hope in futility, strength in weakness, peace in chaos, security in danger, calm in storms, comfort in pain and guidance and assurance in confusion.
  • He supplies all my needs
  • My family has experienced what it means to be in God’s family. We experienced God’s love expressed and demonstrated by fellow Christians. Many prayed for us, visited, fed us, transported us, encouraged us, sent us letters and cards, e-mails.

So, while I would be hard pressed to think of cancer as a gift, I see it as the wrapping in which all these precious gifts from God came.

Romans 8: 28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Children's Church BBQ

Tonight our children's church leaders organised a BBQ for the children (pre-school & primary) and their families. We had a good turnout and God gave us wonderful weather - rained in the early evening so everything was cool at 7.30 pm.

The teachers worked really hard to cook satays, chicken wings, sausages, otak-otak. We also had beehoon, fried rice and a great assortment of salads, snacks, desserts, drinks courtesy of different families. We had a good time interacting with fellow parents and teachers.

Pastor John Wong gave us a short talk on parenting. It was a good reminder that good and godly parenting does not happen by accident. It has to be intentional and deliberate. Some of the points he covered:
  • The world is an increasingly hostile environment for bringing up children, the challenges are great.
  • God gives us children as a heritage and a reward from Him (Psalm 127:3);
  • Children are created in the image of God, with the capacity to know, relate with and love God;
  • The goal of Christian parenting is to raise children through guidance and discipline to faith in Christ so as to glorify Him in every area of life and eventually to pass the faith on to their children;
  • Not to neglect our children but to begin training them from young the way of the Lord so they may not depart from it later (Proverbs 22:6);
  • To constantly instruct children God's word - speak, explain and relate it to every area of our lives (Deuteronomy 6:4-9);
  • To model Christian living for our children - not perfection, but what a relationship with God looks like;
  • Not to be overly harsh and strict, frustrating children and provoking them to anger and bitterness (Ephesians 6:4);
  • To treat our children with the same measure of grace, tender loving kindness that God extends to us.

I have to admit that none of the points above are new to me but consistently practicing them is the challenge. Too many things competing for attention and often parenting becomes reduced to nagging children about very functional things like homework, getting off the computer, bedtime etc.

I loved the early years of my children's life when we cycled, swam, spent lots of time at the park... The days before homework, CCAs, tuition, lessons and competing schedules. The days before they became conversant with MSN, facebook, e-mails etc. I was able to do devotions with each one everynight, read aloud...

Perhaps I've become lazy and these "obstacles" are just excuses... I have to pray and make a new start...

Proverbs 14:26
He who fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge. (NIV)
In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. (ESV)
If you respect the LORD, you and your children have a strong fortress. (CEV)
Those who fear the Lord are secure; He will be a refuge for their children. (NLT)

The Fear-of-God builds up confidence, and makes a world safe for your children. (The Message)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Blood Test & PET Scan

I remember Dr Alan Tan (my good friend Carol's husband) telling me to choose an oncologist I like (i.e. good chemistry) because it's a lifelong relationship.

Although my chemo is over and surgery and radiotherapy done with, I still go to Dr Karmen Wong on average once every 3 weeks. Still receiving Herceptin by IV drip, final dose in April. After that, will see her at least once every 3 months for regular blood tests to monitor the tumor markers etc.

At my last visit in January, I told her about this niggling pain in the right side of my back near the hip joint. Reuben was concerned about it although I thought it could be because I slept in a bad position. Anyway, we decided to bring forward my annual PET from April to February.

So it was that last Tuesday (10 Feb 09) I went to Dr Wong's clinic for a blood test and then off to Asia Medic for a CT/PET scan. The whole process for CT/PET scan takes about 3 hours.

The steps include:
1. changing into the surgical gown, taking a blood glucose test
2. drink something that gives contrast to my guts when they take the image
3. the Dr puts in a cannula into my vein
4. they inject some radioactive glucose into my blood stream
5. I lie still for 45-60 minutes
6. They put me in the machine for 45 minutes to do the scan.

Everything was going well but halfway through the scan the machine broke down! The scan had to be aborted as they could not get it fixed on time. By the time I reached home, it was 3.30 pm - the whole day almost gone! Oh dear, very upsetting! I could not afford to waste another morning in the same week to redo the scan so scheduled for today instead.

I went back to Dr Wong's on Wed to review the blood test and also for another Herceptin infusion. The blood report was not very good. The cancer marker (CEA) had gone up from 3.1 in the last blood test to 6.1 in this one (the normal range is below 4.7 ug/L). In addition the serum SGOT and SGPT (liver enzymes) were also raised.

That made the PET scan more urgent to see if the cancer had spread elsewhere in the body. The whole family was anxious about it, yet we could do nothing but pray for health, for peace and calm.

Today the scan was again delayed by 2.5 hours but thankfully I brought along my bible, bible study material, MP3 player etc for the wait. The study this week included Isaiah 43:1-4 a promise to Israel that God takes care of own beloved children. These words were a great comfort to me as I waited.

To compensate for all the delays, the Dr prepared my report within an hour. I am thankful and happy to inform you that there was no evidence of cancer tumors anywhere in my body.

Isaiah 43:1-4 But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honoured, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


During the 2008 year end school holidays, our 3 older kids Jonathan, Alisha and David attended a 4-day sailing course called "Get Kids Afloat". It was held at the SAF Yatch Club in Sembawang.

The aims of the course: 1. To introduce sailing to school going children; 2. To build self-confidence; 3. To promote teamwork; 4. To build self reliance.

We were nervous about safety but were assured about the small instructor-student ratio; the children would wear life vests; and their swimming competency assessed before being allowed to sail.

We took the kids to Newton MRT station daily where they met cousin Shan and travelled together to Sembawang MRT. A shuttle bus takes them to and from the club. The course was 9-5 with lunch provided. Fees: $210 per child (if I remember correctly) which is great value for money.

They were taught how to handle a boat, read wind direction, adjust their sails to "catch" the wind, etc. They also learnt to capsize their own boats and then turn it back upright again. The children enjoyed themselves very much and I think at the end of it enjoyed a sense of achievement.

Allowing them to undergo some of these life experiences for themselves is beneficial to their growth as persons and also in their experience of God. Alisha recently recounted her sailing experience in an essay she wrote at school. I asked for her permission to post it here.

"I could feel the heat of the afternoon sun against my skin. The wind pushed my sail boat further and further from the shores of Singapore. It was during the December holidays. My brothers and I had signed up for a sailing course in Sembawang. It was four days long and started at nine in the morning, ending at five in the evening.

On our second day, we had to sail solo unlike the day before when we sailed in pairs. Not being a confident sailor, I was constantly afraid of knocking into other boats, capsizing and drowning. Hence, this was a big challenge for me.

The brisk wind pushed my little boat far from the shore and the buildings in Johor Baru loomed larger and larger. Suddenly, dark grey clouds appeared in the sky, followed by large splotches of rain falling from the clouds above. Strong gusts of wind urged my boat onward. I saw in the distance several brightly coloured pink and blue boats capsizing one by one. I feared I would be next.

Vivid images of me drowning in the vast sea replayed in my mind. I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong, but I was drifting away from the group of people I was sailing with. Frantically, I tried to control my boat and head back toward Singapore.

To add to my worries, the tiller extension of my boat broke. I was on the verge of tears as I tried to keep my boat upright. My boat tipped side to side, threatening to capsize. I cried out to God silently asking for help. Within minutes, I was sailing on course back to where I had started.

As I was unrigging my sail boat with my brothers, I thought of how quickly God had answered me when I called on him for help. I was reminded that God had control over everything. After this experience, I know I can call and rely on God."

Psalm 50:15
"... call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honour me."

Friday, February 6, 2009

Frenzy of Activity

Just discovered this entry in my draft folder, started on 10 January (2 weeks to Chinese New Year)... Since then I've been busy, truly a frenzy of activities and have had no time to blog.

We usually don't celebrate Chinese New Year in a big way, just a reunion dinner with our extended family (my mum & siblings, sometimes with Reuben's parents if they are visiting). Usually I make some pineapple tarts (I cheat with pineapple jam from Phoon Huat).

This year, since my sister Lilian and her husband Perry were coming to visit from Seattle, with 18 month old Caitlyn, I thought I'd make a bit more effort. My mum who's been in Seattle since September 08 also came back with them.

My helper Uswatun and I made pineapple jam (she did most of the shredding, cooking and stirring) - 10 pineapples worth of it! From 8 kg of pineapple pulp and juice and 2 kg of rock sugar, we produced 4 kg of pineapple jam. When you think of it, that was a lot of water which evaporated! I prepared 8 batches of pineapple tart pastry and then I got into a frenzy of baking.
In total I made 600 over pineapple tarts (i counted!). Every single pastry lovingly cut, crimped, given a coat of egg wash, filled with jam, topped with tiny pastry stars and then baked. Don't they look pretty?

Making CNY cookies quietly on my own is actually quite therapeutic. Making it with the children is a bit more chaotic but a fun family activity as you can see. I remember as a child, mixing, rolling, cutting, baking mountains of dough each year with my mum and siblings after school. I thought it would be nice to give my kids that same experience... and try to recreate some of that "CNY atmosphere" for them.

It requires effort, patience and is tiring but I want to create memories for my kids... Of course not just passing on recipes but even more importantly for me, passing on the faith. Helping my kids experience a real and vital relationship with God through Jesus Christ is my topmost priority although often the business of daily living threatens to overwhelm my attempts.

Psalm 78:3-6 (CEV)
3 These are things we learned from our ancestors,
4 and we will tell them to the next generation.
We won't keep secret the glorious deeds
and the mighty miracles of the LORD

5God gave his Law to Jacob's descendants, the people of Israel. And he told our ancestors to teach their children,
6so that each new generation
would know his Law
and tell it to the next.