Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My Birthday Blessings

What do you know? Today is my birthday.

A year older yet I am not feeling any wiser... but what is for sure, is that I am surrounded by good friends and especially a loving family. I am blessed to have this day.

The day at the office was the same, but the friends made it really special for me. They treated me to a wonderful triple-chocolate-layered birthday cake that tasted divine!

I treated them to lunch at Banquet at AMK while the rest received a bar of Toblerone Chocolate each as a token of my appreciation for their friendship on my special day.

I could not wait to get home from work knowingly find Wifey and Sonny surprise me a birthday cake. I took off work immediately when it ended and smiled all the way home in the bus, thinking about the surprise they had planned for me.

True as expected, the front door took longer than normal to open when I rang the doorbell. Heard their whisperings inside and I saw the flickering of candle light through the peep hole. I love them already!

Wifey opened the door to let me in while Sonny approached me with the lighted birthday cake. The lights from the candles in darkened living room brightened my day all over again. They both broke out with a birthday song as I put my bag down and stood in front of the cake placed on the dining table.

Customary to this family 3 times a year, pictures were taken to immortalize our special days. Through these pictures we can see how we age, unfortunately... but our love and our care for one another binds us even closer every year.

Thank you my friends for the lovely day at the office. I appreciate our friendship throughout these years, especially when times are really bad at this present moment. We may not be working together for very long, but you are the people I will never forget when my time comes to move on.

Thank you my Wifey and Sonny for your love. I will always treasure our family and never let myself be complacent to take any of you for granted. I will always love the two of you and do the best I know how to be a husband and father, and friend.

I wish for us to be together, stay close and strong supporting each other, making this home and our lives as joyful and healthy as we possible can. Always.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Hard To Swallow

That is exactly how I feel every time I think about it.

My Sis called me to inform that Mom told her Dad was feeling unwell. He was complaining of pain in his throat whenever he swallowed.

He cut back on eating for the past two weeks because he was not having much appetite. The vitamins the doctor gave did little for him, but he did keep eating in small portions throughout the day.

We can see that he is loosing weight by the day. His collar bones are showing much as his chest has sunk into his body. The old age is showing so much on him.

What worried Mom and us was when he cut back on drinking water too. Only when Mom persisted to know what was going on with Dad that he told her... with a condition not to let me know.

I was saddened to hear that Dad feels that I am too aggressive to handle his medical condition than think about him, which somehow leads him ending up in the hospital... his worst dread.

I suppose it is true to some extend. I just wanted to arrest the matter at hand as early a stage as possible so that he does not have to suffer unnecessarily if I can help it.

I called Dad's Oncologist to switch his end month follow-up appointment to immediate. I got a slot for the next day from Dr. Lo SK. I called Mom and told her a white lie.

Elder Sis made me promise not to let Mom know that she told me. I told Mom that Dr. Lo was going on a vacation, so she either was pushing the appointment ahead to tomorrow or later which will be next month. I told her I picked the next day knowing that Dad's cough medicine was running low and needed another replenishment.

I really hope that Mom bought the reason, because I just cannot forgive myself if she knew that I lied to her about it.

I took the afternoon leave off work to accompany Dad to the National Cancer Centre on Tuesday, 23 July 2009 afternoon. Mom stayed home, so it was just Dad and me. Dad made us take the train.

His appointment was at 1:40PM. We reached and registered at Clinic A just in time. There was still the Swine Flu screening going on at the entrance of the hospital, but the entry process was not cumbersome, fortunately.

Dr. Lo was as usual calm and smiling, with a listening ear. She noticed that Dad has reduced his weight a further 1.5 KG. She examined Dad to be otherwise in good health. The compaint of the painful swallowing was either a side effect from the radiotherapy, which she suspected, or fungal infection in the throat.

She gave Dad Megestrol Acetate antibiotics for the throat and to numb the pain before meals with Lidocaine. To increase Dad's appetite, Dr. Lo gave Fluconazole. Since Dad's cough is not as rampant and harsh as before, she changed the cough syrup to Rhinathiol Promethazine to supress the phelgm.

One good thing is that Dad's sputum does not have blobs of blood anymore, just little specks of pinkish dots like before.

Dr. Lo informed me that there is nothing more that she can do for Dad except to treat whatever symptom that he encounters. Whatever the treatment will only be palliative. She thinks that because of his age and the advance stage of his cancer, Dad cannot endure further chemotherapy that was stopped after the 3rd cycle when Dad was found to have a blood clot in his heart from a routine CT Scan.

Dad looked forward to drinking coffee at SGH's KopiTiam canteen. He likes the coffee there from the very first time I took him there. I have to agree... they do serve good coffee.

Amazingly, Dad was already hungry and finished a whole plate of Tahu Goreng before I could finish my Ayam Penyet or Javanese Chicken Rice.

He told me that it was quite painful for him to swallow his food each time. The pain would be felt from his throat and all the way down almost to the stomach.

Yet, Dad endured the pain and looked happy for some reason. Most probably he likes being out of the confines of the house.

Dad even ordered some sandwiches to go for both Mom and himself to eat for supper!

His appetite seemed good after the consultation. It may be psychological, but it worked for him, so I take it any time.

He looked a little frail nowadays but otherwise was really in good mood and alert today. Nowadays Dad needs to walk with the aid of a walking stick. My wish is for Dad to enjoy life as much as he can, with or without a walking stick.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Sonny Side Up

How time flies! I have so many events to update my blog, but so little time to do it.

Between dreading my work and on the flip-side - enjoying my family life, I have very little time to spend updating my blog and especially surfing my favourite blogs to catch up with my online friends.

First off, here is one back log post I have been meaning to write.

Wifey and I had a wonderful time spent with Sonny celebrating his 14th birthday. The whole day was dedicated and focused on him.

To start the day, we went to watch Terminator Salvation at Golden Village's Tampines Mall Cineplex.

Booked the tickets online which gave us a good seating to watch this action-packed show, but watching a movie on the big screen is never complete without a large cup of Coke each and over-sized popcorn all 3 of us shared.

The show was a-minute-a-thrill type with lots of fantastic CGI all the way. Lots of explosions with a good storyline.

Nonetheless, I have yet to understand why Skynet need to pool all the humans captured in a San Fransisco facility.

All the while I thought they destroys humans when they obliterated earth with the nuclear weapons.

Maybe it is still the beginning, there will be more revealed with more prequels. Anyway, it is always a good show for me when it involves explosions, robots versus soldiers in a sci-fi - CGI intensive setting.

We dined in Bali Thai on the 3rd storey of Tampines Mall for our dinner.

Sonny had a Vampire for a drink and Thai Fried Rice while Wifey and I both had a glass of the traditional mango juice as we surreptitiously devoured our Tom Yam Seafood Noodle.

We had to bag home the rest of the food since the Coke we drank at the movies took much room in our stomachs.

All in all, the day was a wonderful one, specially for Sonny.

Happy 14th Birthday to our young man.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day

To Dad,
Thank you for...
Your strength
Your determination
Your sacrifices
Your guidance
For your family

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Happy Birthday Sonny!

Mama & Ayah wish you
The very best of time & experiences
That life has to offer.

May you always be guided by The Almighty
e in His care as you navigate your journey
In this beautiful life.

Sending all our love and support
To our only & beloved son
Wishing you...


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

While You're Out...

Dear Wifey,

While you are out, I feel quite awkward being home by myself. I function normally at work, but once home, I feel lost. Fortunately I have Sonny with me.

While you are out, Sonny left for his MOE Leadership Camp in early Tuesday morning. Packed with a haversack and a sleeping bag stacked in between the handles of a carry-on bag, he lugged the heavy bags and left home at 6:30am yesterday for his 4-day adventure camp organized by his school.

While you are out, Sonny was enjoying his time there with his schoolmates. I came back from work to find the house dark and totally quiet. It was very still even with the rushing movements of our always-hungry goldfish. The TV shows that kept me entertained but only for a while. The house still feels very still and I hate it.

While you are out, Sonny called asking me to help send his campfire CD he ripped but forgotten to bring to his school last night. I had to send it before they go to the adventure campsite.

While you are out, the postman came with a registered package from UK and found no one home. I got off work at the end of the day and went straight to Tampines Central Post Office to collect Sonny's Game Maker CD we ordered for his good midyear exam results. He should be very happy to find it on his desk when gets back from his camping trip.

You will not believe this, but...

While you are out, the Vice Principle from Sonny's school called me just as I was going to step into the office this morning. Mrs. Low told me that Sonny fainted while doing his morning exercises!

Yes. Unbelievable right?

This is the first time that Sonny fainted, ever!

I had to wait until she called back again to inform that they had called the ambulance to take him to Kandang Kerbau Women's and Children's Hospital. She told me to take my time getting there since her Operations Mananger Mr. Yap was with Sonny at the Children Emergency centre.

I reached the A&E in time to catch Sonny being wheeled into the consultation Room 5 by Mr. Yap. An nice and soft-spoken Indian lady, Dr. Rilly Ray told us that in spite of Sonny being unconscious for a good 25 minutes and his complaint of chest pains earlier, the X-rays of his heart and lungs revealed no abnormality.

His blood test showed all was good too but his blood sugar level was a bit low... the main suspect for the blackout. His vital signs were checked to be all good too, but Sonny appeared tired-out. With his messed-up hair, he sat sloughed in the chair while the doctor was explaining things.

Dr. Ray gave Sonny a 41-day MC to avoid any strenuous physical activities even after the school reopens. She advised that Sonny takes his breakfast before starting each day.

Sonny told me that they were doing morning exercises before cleaning-up and breakfast... somehow, coupled with last night's activities, it proved too strenuous for him.

Sonny sleeps at 10:30PM every night and wakes up at 6:00AM every morning. He usually has a quick breakfast of a hot cup of Milo and a piece of bread before he leaves for school and has a proper one at school during morning break.

His biological clock goes like... well, clockwork on weekends too. It is routine for Sonny everyday.

Most probably, he was deprived of sleep last night. They all went to sleep about 12:30AM after a strenuous, army-like regiment day of activities. They woke up at 5:00AM this morning to do more physical exercises before breakfast.

It took a toll on him. It must have been too much, too sudden, a shock to his body and his body reacted to it by shutting down. He said that he felt breathless. With mucous coming out of his nose, he had to breathe through his mouth instead but it did not relieve the symptom. He then blacked-out.

He also felt his body was just too heavy to move when he woke up this morning... a symptom of fatigue. His body was cramping up from the shock of physical exertions and lack of rest.

While you are out, Sonny told me he wanted a hot cup of Milo before we left the emergency room. We sat and talked some more about his day there and the event that led to his blackout.

Sonny sounded disappointed because he could not continue with the camping. He wanted so much to be a part especially at the campfire. He wanted to experience and was excited about the waterman-ship. He wanted so much to enjoy the whole camping experience with the lot friends there. He had been eagerly waiting for this week to come.

If it is any consolation, he got a taste of its first day. A tough day one.

While you are out, Sonny is sleeping in his room now, catching-up on his sleep and obviously recuperating.

Interestingly enough, the ambulance service, the medical tests, the doctor's consultation and the medicines - Paracetamol and Methyl Salicytate Liniment from the pharmacy did not cost us a cent. Most probably the school is taking care of the bill.

I did not ask further when the hospital staff said that there was no payment needed.

While you are out, I do not have the heart to tell you of this incident immediately. Since it is not serious and Sonny is safe home with me. I would like you to enjoy your stay as much with your Mom at her place in KL, Malaysia. I am sorry I deprive you of this incident, I just want to spare you unnecessary worries. I will tell you once you are home.

While you are out, I did all the house chores. Well, not all, but it renewed my appreciation of you nonetheless.

I successfully made coffee with our coffee maker, make the beds everyday. I feed our visiting cat before and after work and water the plants daily. I even totally cleaned the fish tank.

Oh yes, while you were out, Sonny washed and hung the laundry before I got to it. When I got home a day before he left for his camp, he was folding the clean clothes and ironed some for me.

We have an awesome child, dear Wifey.

That is as much I can tell you today, while you are out.

Wishing you come back home soon as we both miss you so much already. Love you.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Waiting For You

I saw Wifey waved in the cab as it moved away and disappeared when it turned the corner.

Now Sonny and I are left at home to fend for ourselves without a woman's touch.

Wifey is on her way to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She is accompanying her elder sister and her two children to KL. Her sister's eldest son is getting into a college there which is fortunately quite near to where their mother is staying.

They will get to see the facilities at the chosen college where our nephew will major in IT. They will definitely have a wonderful time spent with their mother doing some sightseeing and shopping with her while they are there.

I received a text message from Wifey late afternoon to inform that they have reached the Tuas Link - the causeway before entering Malaysia.

Her elder sister is driving them all the way to KL. The journey will probably take them about 4 to 5 hours.

Hoping they will reach their mother's place safe and sound. Wishing them lots of good times being in the company of their mother whom they see only once a while nowadays, since she moved from Singapore to KL over ten years ago.

Having our first dinner alone, Sonny and I can already feel that we miss her presence here. Sonny preferred instant noodles instead of ordering pizza or KFC, so he made each of us a cup and had lots of green veggies thrown in, to at least have some nutrition in out bodies tonight.

At least lunch out today, before Wifey left was wonderful. We got to check out a new "makan" haunt called Madison's at Tampines Central Community Centre... a short, 5 minutes walk from our home.

The Tom Yam Spaghetti that both Wifey and I had were good, but the Mushroom Spaghetti that Sonny ordered was totally delicious. Somehow, the ones others picked are always nicer than mine...

Watching the TV alone got me so bored this afternoon.

Sonny is stuck to his online XBox Halo game. Now that he is on a 1 month school holiday, an all out payback time is due for being away from the game console for so long studying for his midyear exams.

Without Wifey breaking into a conversation beside me on the sofa, our favourite shows somehow were dull and not much interesting tonight. I am missing her already.

I am waiting for her to call me once she reaches her mother's home. Wishing for her safe return home soon... just us boys for now.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Dad's On Radiotherapy

Today is Dad's second day of radiotherapy.

I am so fortunate that my boss is understanding and had granted me the two consecutive afternoons off of work so that I could accompany Dad for the treatment in SGH Radiology Centre.

At least the Swine Flu or H1N1 Virus screening process at its entrance in Block 2 at basement B1 was not as strict as entering the wards at Block 4. It was really troublesome to visit Dad when he was warded for a week there.

The screening was a simplified version. A temperature check on one ear and a sticker with today's date given when Dad's appointment card was handed for appointment verification.

The mood in the waiting room was quite depressing to be in after a while. I saw most of the same people I saw yesterday. Everyone there really looked sick no matter how much they tried not to show.

Bald heads both women and men, both young and old. One tall and very thin man, probably in his early 30s had a terrible looking large tumor on his neck. He made loud gurgle as he breathed. At the base of his throat bore a large scar from an operation done previously.

I did not mean to stare, but it was painful to see such a sight. Yet I felt that young man has more desire to live and fighting spirit that I give him credit for. He came alone, panting and walked slowly, but he was there to get better on his own terms.

I felt sympathetic towards each and every patient there. I know that it is the least of their concerns. They are fighting the battle every minute of the hour, no such thing as rest days in between. True courage is what each of them has.

As I looked at Dad, sitting and waiting for his turn, I thank The Almighty that he is not in constant or any pain. The lung cancer he has, has already metastasized.

The doctors reports done during his recent hospitalization found that while the initial 3 tumors had grown in sizes, there are many more new tumors detected. A few are now in his right lung.

Whatever cancer treatments that have been done from the very beginning till to date is only palliative... but it worked well for Dad until it had to stop for a more urgent condition.

The 3 cycles chemotherapy that got stopped abruptly had somewhat prevented the first 3 growths from getting bigger or for new ones to appear. A blood clot detected in his heart after an X-ray done was the cause of Dad's pains in his left shoulder region. Chemo stopped to make way for anti-coagulation Warfarin to start to prevent a chance of getting a stroke.

Without chemo for the past 2 months made his cancer cells grow rampantly. Dad developed breathing difficulties and had more visible clumps of blood in his sputum leading to his recent hospitalization.

Dad's radiotherapy took quite a long time on the first day. I saw the X-ray warning light outside the shielded metal door lit 5 or more times yesterday. Each time it lit for about 3o seconds.

Today, it lit only once but for over 3 minutes or so. My guess is that the long exposure was done to the largest tumor whereas yesterday, the short bursts were targeted on the other smaller ones especially in his left lung.

Maybe it is the power of suggestion, but I take it as a positive outcome anyway.

When asked, Dad replied jovially that it gave him instant relief. He said that he could breathe a little better than before the first treatment. It could probably be true.

I know I want it to be true too, very much. And maybe so because he did even cough once in the cab on our journey home. An encouraging sign. A very good one, in fact.

Dad said that he slept much better last night too. Just a day after his first treatment. Though he was aided with the Oxygen Concentrator to breathe while he slept, he said he could feel the difference than from the past few days since his discharge from the hospital.

Dad will now rest for the next two days. There is no treatment on weekends. It is a good time for his body to repair any damages the radiation had inadvertently done to the healthy tissues around the tumors.

Dr. Yeo, the Radio Oncologist will see Dad on Monday, 8 June 2009 when Dad goes for his 3rd radiotherapy session.

Hopefully the doctor can give encouraging news on Dad's progress, even though it may just be a little too soon. However minor an improvement it may be, it is still good news to me.

Between my two Elder Sis and Younger Brother, they will accompany Dad on Monday through Wednesday for his remaining sessions.

It will be anxiously waited what Dr. Yeo has to tell on Monday, but the final "verdict" will be on the following Monday, the one to confirm the effectiveness the treatment has on Dad and what to do next.

A good indication is when Dad is no longer breathless, else Dad may need to go for another fraction of 5 sessions again.

The treatment is meant to ease Dad's symptoms... to prolong his life with us and nothing more... but we are thankful to The Almighty for the time nonetheless.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Dad Is Back

Got a call from SGH today. Though I expected the radiology doctor to call, I did not expect it to be so early in the morning.

Dr. Teo from Radiology called on my cellphone at 9:30AM. I was ready at my desk with pen and paper in front of me jotting down important information about Dad's medical status and the treatments that will ensue.

"Your father has advance cancer... " he explained, "the chemo didn't do much for him." My heart sank, but I listened intently still, hoping for something he would say that would shine a light again for Dad's path to recovery... at least extend his life.

The doctor suggested radiotherapy. Something I was waiting for them to actually do already, but I know time was needed to diagnose and confirm before taking the necessary steps for his treatment.

Yet, it seems to take just too long to get to this point... a point Dr. Lo, Dad's Oncologist had suggested we when Dad had to stop his thrid chemo cycle because of the blot clot in his heart.

She suggested radiotherapy if Dad developed breathing difficulties, or having more than just little pink specks of blood in his sputum, while undergoing anti-coagulation treatment with Warfarin.

The good thing is, Dad is discharged today.

It really made Mom so happy, she wanted to fetch him home from the hospital. 3rd Sis obliged and accompanied our wheelchaired Mom by cab to the hospital just before noon.

The bad thing is, Dad will need daily radiotherapy for about a week or two.

That will mean, he needs to commute between home and the hospital daily for the sessions. He also needs aid, breathing with oxygen while he is at home.

Dr. Teo sounded confident that the daily radiotherapy sessions will "melt" away the cancerous tumor that is growing in Dad's left lung.

It is hoped that Dad will regain much of his lung expansion capacity to be able to breathe without the aid of oxygen after the treatments.

Dad had to undergo a "dry run" of radiotherapy session this morning, just before he was discharged. His first session will be this coming Thursday, 4th June 2009.

Since he will have 5 sessions of a higher dosage of 20 Gy each time, the treatment is knowingly palliative without the need say... given the stage he is in and his age.

So Dad will have a fraction schedule starting in the afternoons from Thursday and Friday this week, rest on the weekend, and then resume the balance sessions from Monday through Wednesday next week.

Younger Brother and I will take half-day leaves for the days we accompany Dad for his radiotherapy treatments. I will be sending him for the first two days, while Younger Brother takes the subsequent three sessions.

It is heartening to hear that Dad will not suffer anything severe as a side effect from the treatment. Dr. Teo assured that apart from a slight discomfort when swallowing, the skin where the radiation is exposed to will be a little sore, but definitely slight and bearable.

He may experience tiredness a few days after the course, but is to be expected when the body is repairing itself from the damage caused by the focused radiation exposure.

Younger Brother took the whole day off today. I met him at the hospital entrance coming back from the CareLink Centre. Elder Sis did the discharge process with the nurses while Mom accompanied Dad at the ward.

We reached home and settled down quickly. Dad had his portable Oxygen Concentrator set by the delivery man from Pan Medical Supplies 10 minutes after we arrived home.

The rental and delivery arrangements were done between the by the hospital's ward and CareLink staff upon my signing off, before greeting Dad to take him home.

The breathing aid costs S$180.00 for the first month and S$4.00 per day subsequently or about S$120.00 monthly thereafter. There is no canister or tank to replenish, as it converts normal air to oxygen.

Only the filter water will need replacement each day of use, while the filter sponge at the back will need cleaning monthly.

Dad will need this until he can breathe on his own again... hopefully the one week treatment is enough for him to feel better again and independent off the breathing aid.

Everyone is happy that Dad is at home. My cellphone was ringing of the hook with SMSs and calls... yes, it is a cellphone, no hook.

We will continue our prayers for his condition to improve fast and for him to be his own "can't keep still" self again. We will never stop thanking The Almighty for the opportunities given to us each second we are with our parents.