We often take good health for granted – until a medical crisis arises. I suffered constant migraines and each time I went to see the doctor, he would change my medication. After a year, I decided to go to the hospital for a more thorough check-up as I feared there could be something sinister lurking beneath my skull.
My worst fears were confirmed when the doctor found a pituitary tumour. Back in those days, hospitals did not have sophisticated equipment to conduct diagnostic tests on patients. A craniotomy was done, stretching right across the frontal part of my head. This was followed by 10 doses of radiation.
I was very weak and lost my appetite after every round of radiation. I suffered prolonged post-operation pain in my skull. I was hospitalised three times for post-operation observation and after nine months, the pain subsided. I thought that was the end of my medical woes.
Just when life was looking good, the company I was working with embarked on a retrenchment drive. I had to look for a new job and found one. I went for a routine medical examination – and was in for a shock when the doctor suspected a cancerous growth in my breast.
I was on the verge of being retrenched, with housing and car loans to juggle, and this had to happen.
A biopsy confirmed my fears and I underwent a mastectomy to remove the cancerous breast and the lymph nodes. The removal of the lymph nodes had a side effect on my left hand. It became bigger than the right hand due to the poor drainage of lymphatic fluid after the lymph nodes were removed.
One morning, I woke up with a raging fever and my left hand was swollen and inflamed. I was hospitalised for five days. The doctor diagnosed it as lymphoedema cellulitis. I was told to be careful and not lift heavy objects or over-exert my left hand. I was advised to wear a compression arm sleeve on a permanent basis.
A year later, I had a cut on my finger and knowing the sensitivity of this hand, I quickly applied some medication to the wound. It did not work. The next morning, my whole left hand was swollen. I was in hospital for seven days as the inflammation was slow to subside. I have to exercise extreme caution as even a mosquito bite on my left hand, can lead to disastrous consequences.
I took up a new job, and everything seemed fine for the first few years. However, work soon started to get hectic following a restructuring exercise in the company. I often felt a spinning sensation in my head and had frequent bouts of nausea.
One day, I had a panic attack and could not breathe properly.
I was rushed to the hospital and a brain scan showed excess cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. I underwent transnasal endoscopic surgery to drain away excess fluid. I was operated on twice within a week as fluid continued to flow through my nose after the first operation.
I had to stop work for health reasons. Without a job to sustain me, life seemed empty. As the months wore on, I slipped into depression. I withdrew socially as I found it difficult to interact with others. I would shake and tears would flow when I tried to talk. I could not speak or write coherently, and I suffered frequent panic attacks. I was under the care of a psychiatrist for six months.
Through the support of family and friends, I slowly recovered. But another challenge was in store for me two years down the road. I had blurred vision in my right eye and was diagnosed with bilateral sixth nerve palsy, a disorder associated with the dysfunction of cranial nerve VI. I had surgery performed on my right eye, and my vision soon returned to normal.
Ten months later, the problem returned. This time, the doctor recommended that a prism be fitted in my spectacles as the eye cannot undergo too many surgeries.
For a few years, the hospital seemed to be my second home. When I lay down in the emergency room, waiting for the doctor, I prayed that God would give the attending doctor the wisdom to correctly diagnose and treat my condition.
Besides these medical crises, I also have to live with irritable bowel syndrome and chronic insomnia. I have sought various treatments – both western and traditional – but found little respite. I’ll be happy if I can get four hours’ uninterrupted sleep every night.
I’ve learnt to draw strength from God as I go through life’s trials. Though I may walk through the darkest valley, I shall not fear for I know that God will be there to comfort and guide me.