The BRAND NEW Piggy Family

The BRAND NEW Piggy Family
The cartoon is by Piggy Daddy who is a full time educator and freelance illustrator. Anyone who needs freelance illustrations, please contact us! :)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dedicated to 爸爸...

I was alone. Mum was downstairs in the food court, Bro was in school stuck with lessons. Hubby was in another school stuck with lessons too. Dad was lying on a hospital bed in front of me. He was hospitalised last night. His eyes were closed, his mouth couldn't close with the cervical collar ordered by the dr. I don't know if he was awake and listening or he was sleeping. Talking has been a problem for him since Tues morning.

While waiting to talk to Dad's dr who has been delayed for more than 2 hrs, I started to browse through the blue patient's file in front of me. The staff nurse has just left it behind for the dr to explain it to me. Keen to know more about dad's condition, I started to browse the notes and investigations. When I saw the biochemistry report, my eyes immediately picked up on CEA. I was familiar with CEA cos when I was still working at CGH's Biz devt dept, I was in charge of marketing CGH's health screening packages. CEA is a cancer marker mainly for colon cancer.

His CEA readings were 15000ug/L (normal 0-5), CA19-9 is 1798U/ml (normal 0-30). CA19-9 is a cancer marker for pancreatic cancer. This I knew only after googling. I was still calm when Bro told me about the growth last night. I did speculate if it can be cancer but I thought maybe it's a benign growth caused by the fall. Nobody knows for sure, nothing is confirmed, I told myself.

But reality sank in as I read and reread the blood test report. Dad has C-A-N-C-E-R. There is no other reason to explain for the high readings. I suddenly choked with tears, overwhelmed by emotions. Why him? Why must this happen when he is already so old? Why didn't we send him to hospital earlier despite mum's nagging? His legs have always been weak due to his long standing problem with varicose veins and venous ulcer, problems that were triggered in his younger days when he was a hawker as he needs to stand for long hours. Is it our fault for taking things for granted? I thought cancer happens to middle aged or the young, how come it can affect someone who is already 83 yrs old? Why must he suffer now? I suddenly understood why doctors usually call for a family meeting when breaking bad news so that at least there is family support. I was so unprepared that I didn't even make sure that anyone else is with me before asking to meet the dr.

Flashback to 17 Feb 2012. Dad had a fall at home in the kitchen while trying to remove his kitchen slippers. The fall left him with a laceration on his forehead. Bro sent him to hosp at night after referred by the GP. The A&E dr stitched up the wound and ordered a CT scan to the brain in case of any bleeding but results were negative so he was discharged him in the morning, much to our relief. But after he got home, he started a steep decline, from being able to walk slowly with his walker, he complained that his arms are numb and painful and cannot lift the walker, soon he was unable to stand.

On 15 Mar, one day after I returned from Phuket, hubby and I drove Dad to see 毛医师 Mum's trusted Tuina physician at Toa Payoh. Dad had just been reviewed at Bedok Polyclinic 2 days ago and x ray showed that there was a possible slipped disc that was affecting his mobility. Specialist appt with ortho dr at CGH was in May, more than 2 months away and too long for us to wait. Mum was getting worried cos Dad has started to just lie on the bed whole day. She wanted us to send Dad to hosp straight but we were concerned that with no acute symptoms, the A&E dr will just observe him and send him back. So, the interim decision was to bring him for Tuina first and see if that will help him to regain the strength of his legs.

Dad could not walk or stand since 11 Mar but when he was lying down on Mao yi shi's examination bed, he could still move his right leg left to right vigorously but his movement for his left leg was minimal. As Mao yi shi massaged his neck and back, he told us that he needed Dad's MRI to understand the condition of his spine so that he can manage his condition more effectively. The x-ray report from Bedok Polyclinic was not good enough. Since I couldn't contact my bro, couldn't make a decision regarding the MRI because first of all, it has to be private rates and secondly it cannot be paid using medisave. Also,it was only the first tuina session so don't know if my dad/bro will decide to have long term treatment at Mao yi shi. Called CGH radiology dept but they will not do any MRI unless referred by dr (at least a GP). And even if we pay private rates (about $900+), the earliest MRI appt is in June.

So, bro and I discussed and decided that to do as Mao yi shi suggested so that we don't waste time. He has just stopped walking for 4 days plus and we wanted to keep the momentum of the tuina sessions, hopefully he can walk again. We paid $1712 for MRI of neck and spine & collected referral letter from Mao yi shi last Sunday 18 Mar, then brought him for MRI at Radlink, Paragon on Tues, Mao yi shi is supposed to review the film on Wed and tailor treatment accordingly.

Yesterday evening, I received a call from Bro, saying that he is waiting for GP clinic to open (Dr Chai) cos the MRI report said Dad's spine has a growth and Mao yi shi advised us to bring Dad to see western drs cos there is nothing he can do for him at present. After getting a referral letter from Dr Chai, Bro sent Dad to CGH A&E at 7+pm. I went over to CGH at 8+pm to relieve Bro cos he needs to attend to some matters. Bro came back at 11pm and we left the hosp at midnight after handling the admission procedures. I received the call from hosp at 130am that Dad has finally gotten a bed. After sending RA to school in the morning, I called the hospital and the nurse asked for the MRI films so after picking mum up at home, we went down to the hospital at 930am. I asked the nurse if I can speak to the dr in charge and I can wait for her.

When I finally saw the dr at 130pm, she confirmed that it is highly likely to be cancer. And explained the other pending blood tests and CT that they will doing to find the source. The physiotherapist came to assess his breathing and she ordered oxygen and a abdominal binder to help him breathe better. Another dr asked if she can meet up separately with us. When we went away to a corner, I heard her asking me about DNR instructions. I was still in a daze so I was surprised by how composed I am as I hear myself telling her that it is too early for us to decide when we don't have a clear picture. He has a steep decline for the past 1 month, so we want to make sure we have done our best to try and reverse the situation. Whatever decision I make has to be a joint decision with Bro and Mum. Let's arrange a meeting with the consultant dr after all the results/reports are back.

Born in China, my dad had a hard life. When he was just 13 yrs old, he had already lost both his father and his mother. He was an orphan at an young age and he and his younger sister was brought up by relatives. He came to Singapore when he was a young adult while his younger sis remained in China. His first job was at a goldsmith shop but he quit some years later and started to run his own biz. Though he was a tall tanned handsome young chap who runs a biz at pasar malams and loved swimming at Chinese Swimming Club, he didn't want to get married. He once told me he didn't want to marry because if he marries and have kids, the kids suffer when he pass away because they become orphans like himself.

But a close friend who was from his hometown managed to convince him to consider marriage because he ended up being matchmaded with Mum. He told me their first date was a steamboat dinner and even back then, Mum refused to let him crack an egg into the soup because the soup will be cloudy with an eggy 臭腥味. Mum's family rear pigs so she will not eat pork but she is ok to cook pork. Dad is a beef lover but Mum will never cook beef because she is a Buddhist. I guess Dad must have agreed to follow Mum's dietiary habits and accept her religion for the rest of his life because they decided to get married. Mum was the eldest daughter in a farmer's family of 8 kids and was already considered an old spinster in her 30s when she married my dad. Dad was 9 years her senior. They tried for many years and sought medical treatment before they finally had kids. When I was born, Mum was already 38 yrs old and Dad was already 47 years old. They have always been conscious of being old parents and were embarrassed when customers and acquintances asked them 是你的孙还是你的孩子?

As a typical Teochew man, Dad has always been concerned with 面子. When he had to wear slippers due to his venous ulcer, he will refuse to attend wedding dinner because he cannot wear proper shoes. He felt it was a loss of face and will only attend if we are representing the hosts or the 男方. When he turned 80 yrs old 4 yrs ago when I was expecting RaeAnne, I suggested having a 80大寿 dinner celebration. He only agreed to a family dinner and strictly said no birthday cake. Later on, Mum told me he refused to have a cake because he thinks other people will 'laugh' at him for having only 2 children and 1 son in law at the age of 80, with not even 1 grandchild when most people of this age are already 子孙满堂. I comforted him that he does have a grandchild just that she is still in my tummy. :P

Dad has always been the strong, silent type. Typical Asian father with no hugs nor kisses. Although my dad is not the demonstrative type, sometimes I find him quite stubborn, I know he loves us and the grandkids in his own ways. One of my favourite childhood memories was discovering that he had bought a yellow toy guitar from the market. I found it before he even had the chance to personally give it to me. Another one was when he opened a brand new can of glucolin for me when I was having severe food poisoning. I only took the glucolin once or twice. Once I got well, I didn't like the articial sweet taste. We were not rich and Dad was a canned food hawker. He could have sold the glucolin for a profit instead of wasting it on me, I was very touched then. When I was a primary school student, my grades were good and Dad will reward me with things that I want if I came in first in class. He gave me $200 in cash (big sum of $ in those days), bought me my first pair of binoculars (he got my uncle to help me buy cos he didn't know where to buy it), my first set of 毛笔 and practice books. But unfortunately, his investment did not pay off as I never learnt to write calligraphy cos never had proper lessons.

And in all these years, Dad has been a good husband and father. Because he takes care of the family, gives my mum and grandma a regular allowance, drive us from Alexandra to Tampines visit my maternal grandma every Sunday without fail. He sends $ to his sister's family in China regularly until they were more comfortable financially. Dad has no vices, he doesn't 吃,喝,嫖,赌. He spends his time n $ only on his family.

He has never travelled and does not even own a passport. When he was younger, in his 60s, we were still in uni or just graduated with little resources to sponsor his travelling with his hometown friends who went back to visit Swatow, China. By the time, we got older and wanted to bring him, he doesn't want to go anymore cos his legs are weaker and he does not know many pp in his hometown anymore n has no one to go with. He said he has no urge to travel and is happy in Sg. His only interests is sinful foods esp fatty meats, n parson's nose, reading the newspaper and watching tv and most recently his biggest love is Starhub's Phoenix Channel cos it is Mainland Chinese programmes. I only get to talk to him during Sunday dinners cos that's the only time when Mum will watch over the gals and I get in eat in peace instead of feeding or bathing the gals. To him, I feel more guilt than my mum because he really has not had much luxuries in life.

I wrote this post to gather my thoughts and as an outlet for my mixed emotions to help me think better. I really don't know what is the road that lies ahead for Dad. I don't know how much he knows of his condition, and if we should be frank with him and let him choose his treatment options. After all, he can hear whatever is going on and he is mentally alert. Should we opt for aggressive treatment? Should we treat conservatively in view of his old age? Which decision will I be able to live with the least guilt? What decision is best to him? I don't know. Right now, all I know is this. As much that I am hoping for a miracle for the drs to treat him, if one day, treatment causes him more suffering than the disease itself, I dread having to ask myself this question: Am I ready to let him go?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Revisiting Phuket again 11 - 14 Mar

Yup, we went to Phuket again during this March holidays. Went last yr with MIL when the maid was still around. This yr, it's just us and MIL. It was a close shave cos we almost didn't make it for the trip cos RA had fever continuously from Tues evening (when we picked her up at CC) all the way till Sat am. We flew off on Sunday... She must have gotten the flu bug from hubby who was also down with flu and missed his 1 week reservist after booking in shortly on Wed am.

We went to Marriott Mai Khao Vacation club again. This time, it was a different friend who referred me and I only paid USD250 and they gave me back equivalent of 8000thb when we checked in. The catch is we must attend 90 mins of the presentation. But hey, it's a free hotel stay so I am not complaining.

Day 1
Flew by airasia, very proud that I managed to squeeze all our stuff including MIL's toiletries into a 20 inch luggage. It weighs only 15 kg though we bought up to 20kg. The flight was scheduled at 105pm but took off only around 135pm. As a result, we reached the resort at 345pm (Thai time) and I stopped by the tour booth to sign up for the 3-in-1 Khai island, Maya bay and Phi Phi island tour. The nice lady charged us 1900thb per adult, free for both kids and waived the usual surcharge for Mai khao beach cos it was very far from Patong beach. She also waived our taxi fare from airport to the resort. Much cheaper than if I had booked online from sg. :)

By the time, we reached the resort, it was 345pm and time to check in. No need to wait. Previously, I took jetstar and the am flight was so early that I had difficulty getting the kids to wake up n board the taxi. Then when we reached, it was way too early to check in and the kids got grounchy cos they were tired from their early rise but cannot check into resort room to rest. Lesson learnt. Maximising travel time by taking the first flight out and last flight back does not work well for us when travelling with young kids.

Since it was quite late in the day and the kids are too excited to nap, I booked a local taxi (700thb) to bring us to Tesco Lotus at Talang town. It was a 25 mins drive but I thought it's a good idea to stock up our fridge at the local bigger supermarket instead of just Turtle (mini)Mart at Turtle village since it's just our first day. The resort has a fully equipped kitchen n housekeeping helps to wash the dishes the next day so I love to cook there. ;) RL was too tired and KO in the cab haha.

There was a KFC, a food court and other small eateries but we chose Fuji Japanese restaurant. MIL obliged though she doesn't like to eat Jap food. :) Cheap and good as recommended by my friend who just went to BKK. The big sashimi boat only costs sgd $20. Only thing is some of their food is too sweet eg. chawanmushi and salad. Woke RL up before we finished our food and she drank some soup from the dobinmushi (teapot soup) n ate a bit of grilled sushi (triangular type).

Bought a spilling basketfull of food stuff at Tesco including fresh mushrooms, sausages, eggs, instant noodles, pork, cabbage, oil, 2 pairs of shoes for the gals and it only costs 999 thb (around $40). Cheap! :)

Day 2

I woke up the earliest to brew coffee and prepare bf. Scrambled eggs and pan fried sausages. The fermented meat sausage I bought tasted the weirdest but luckily the scrambled eggs and the cheese sausages were a hit with the gals. After BF, quickly went to the hotel lobby where our local guide was waiting to drive us to the jetty at 8am. It was a 1 hr drive and we reached the jetty at 9am. Luckily it was a 3 decked boat and not a speedboat that some other tours were using cos a bigger boat means it's more stable and a less choppy ride for the kids.

We reached Khai island about half an hour later. All of us had to don life jackets and were transported via a smaller longboat to Khai island. The gals cried and fussed when forced to wear the life jackets.

Khai island was the highlight of our day trip cos I promised RA that we will feed fishes at the shallow water by the beach (she is still very afraid of 'deep deep water', hiaz). We did see beautiful fishes and fed them with the bread bought from the boat but it was tiring work. That's cos both hubby and I had to carry the 2 gals (RL refused to touch the water) and RA did not dare to venture any deeper than her knees' depth. Duh. too bad I can't snorkel cos I didn't bring my swim wear and it's also difficult when I have to help look after the 2 kids.

But at least I bought a nice cool and refreshing coconut, 2 perfectly grilled super yummy sweet corn and a ship like sand toys for RA to play to occupy the rest of our 1 hr at Khai island. :)

Next, we went to Maya bay at Phi Phi island. This boat ride is very long and the gals fell asleep cos Phi Phi island is closer to Krabi than Phuket. We didn't disembark at Maya bay cos it was just 1 hr and meant for swimming or snorkelling. We did see lots of fishes from the windows of our boat and was happily feeding our remaining bread to the fishes below until a Caucasian jumped off from the top deck and splashed salty water into my mouth. -_-

Another 15 mins later, we reached Phi Phi Don island, the bigger island with a bustling town. There were lots of tour booths and souvenir shops there so I stopped to buy some shell souvenirs for the gals, a sleevless t shirt, a coin pouch, and a fridge magnet though MIL kept saying there are more shops behind, dun buy first. :P Actually towards the end of the road, there were more seafood restaurants than souvenir shops. We didn't have time to eat seafood. It was too early for dinner too cos it was just 330pm local time. We did buy 2 choco chips bread sticks for the gals and a chocolate donut for myself. :)

After a super long boat ride back and another 1 hr drive back, we reached our resort at 6+pm local time. Decided to make use of my vouchers and had buffet dinner at Zest cos it was Asian theme and suited MIL more. Buffet costs 900+thb per adult. Kids are free. Food was so so, not fantastic, and a good choice since we were tired to go out for dinner after a long day and the kids were hungry esp. RL. :P

RA soiled her panties and our clothes were stained with sea water at Khai island so it was good thing that we could use the washing machine and dryer to wash the clothes.

Day 3

The adults had bread and the gals had milk for BF with instant coffee (this is what happens when I don't wake up early to cook BF). Brought the gals to the swimming pool with the kids slide, while I went to Turtle village to buy carrots and shopped at Esprit. Blur me, forgot my camera at Esprit changing room and rushed back after discovering it. Luckily the staff at Esprit kept it for me. By the time, I came back, the gals had already finished swimming (MIL said cannot expose them to the sun for too long esp RA who has just recovered). There was baby elephant by the pool but the gals were too scared to go close to it for me to take a good pic. -_-

Asked hubby to bring the gals back to shower first cos I wanted to swim since I was hot and sweaty. Didn't manage to swim for long cos the water at the adults pool was salty and made my eyes smart since I did not wear any googles. :P

When I went back, we started preparing to fry bee hoon cos the gals were hungry. MIL brought chicken stock cubes and MSG but the frying pan was too shallow for us to fry bee hoon properly. MIL had to fry the ingredients separately (first cabbage and carrots, next the pork strips with chopped garlic, then lastly the bee hoon). The bee hoon was a bit bland as expected cos we did not put stock cubes nor MSG into it. But it was good for kids.

While the gals ate, i fried an adult version bee hoon using leftover tom yam seasoning from last night's instant noodles supper. Less healthy but tasted better. keke.

While washing up the dishes, I realised that it is now or never for me to use my remaining 5000 thb at the Mandara spa cos we have to attend the marriott presentation at 330pm and I will have no time tonight cos need to settle the gals dinner.

Reached the spa a bit late at 140pm cos had to wait for the free shuttle bus to bring me to Mandara spa at neighbouring JW marriot resort. Finished the 2 hr spa package only at 4pm. By the time, I got to the presentation room, the sales staff wasn't very happy with us for being late. I asked for the gal again so that I can at least hear her out. Didn't want them to think that we did not keep our promise. She was on her way to go home. Shucks! If I had known, can just act blur and leave with hubby.

But anyway I heard her out for 1 hr, conclusion is for the minimum pts (12,000 per yr) we need to pay $19000+ sgd and we can pay over 3 yrs (interest free), but got to pay 25% deposit first. Monthly installment is $400+ and we can use marriott facilities for the next 44 yrs. If we pass away before that, the remaining yrs can be utilised by our kids. It was tempting if I am still working but with my unstable pay and the gals' $1k cc fees per month, I really don't dare to commit. Plus the sales gal made the mistake of telling me that if I signed up last yr, the fees would have been 25% less, all the more I 'buay gam wan' to sign up lar. Wrong move for her.

After we came back, cooked a simple soup using remaining cabbage, mushrooms and pork. Then we went to Coffee club at Turtle village cos hubby missed the cheap and good thai food. I bought a pair of shorts and a blouse and a t shirt from Esprit for 1280 baht. Then went back to Mt Sapola to buy some stuff cos the Anantara club staff gave us discount coupons and I had been eyeing this shop for a long time when it opened to Tampines 1 but found it too exp in Sg.

Day 4

Early morning call for everyone, quick bf of bread and milk then it's off to the airport for our 950am flight back to Sg. By the time, we cleared customs, it was the last call. Flight was on time and we pre ordered our meals (pizza, nasi lemak and sandwiches) and reached Sg at 1245pm. Reached home at 2+pm. Would have been earlier if I had known that we could have brought the gals through the manual immigration counter beside the automated clearance. Signages not big enough, instead we wasted time queuing up with the rest of the foreigners. Duh. :P

All in all, it was a good holiday. RaeAnne enjoyed it so much that she cried and fussed when we had to come back. She asked me why was the trip so short. Hubby said she finds it short cos we did not spend much time at the resort compared to last yr when we only took a short half day tour to Island safari for elephant rides and monkey shows. Duh... looking forward to our Taiwan trip in June, kekeke.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Fever, flu and cough/runny nose

This week was supposed to be hubby's reservist week and we arranged for MIL to bring RL home after CC on Monday while I bring back RA. Who knows hubby had severe flu since Sun and was on MC on Mon and Tues. RA started fever on Tues evening when we picked her up. Gave panadol syrup 4 hrly but fever kept spiking up before the 4th hr. Wed morning, hubby had to go back to camp and I had a 10am monthly meeting to attend. RA's temperature when she woke up at 830am was 38.7 deg. She was grouchy and complained of headache. Decided to give ibufen since fever was above 38.5 and it will be a few hrs before she gets to see dr.

Really tempted to just bring her to ILs house and ask them to bring her to see dr while I go for my meeting. But I worry cos I know they avoid bringing the kids to see dr and I am not sure if they can get RA to take the med if she is grouchy and uncooperative. They may just let her sleep off the fever and missed the medicine timings. So, in the end, decided to bring her to see dr myself and skip the meeting. After all, what's the point of being a property agent with irregular pay if I have no flexibility? I got no boss to answer to and no need to take leave anyway.

Gp think it's not HFMD and told me to continue to give panadol syrup 4hrly. Told him it's spiking up too fast and he gave suppository if fever hits 39 deg. He is against ibufen cos he said once you give oral ibufen, if fever does not come down, you have to wait 4 hrs before giving other med and wait 8 hrs before giving suppository (same drug gp as Ibufen). Told him suppository is difficult to administer and I am very sure my babysitters (ILs) will not give suppository even if fever hits 39. He told me you just have to be firm.

Hmm... Easier said than done. Even when the doc asked RA to lie on the consultation bed cos he wanted to demonstrate on how to put in the suppository, she run to the other side of the room and was so scared. How to tell your ILs to be firm and be the bad guys to catch the screaming kid and stick something into the butt? They already find it a chore to feed med. I am quite sure it's something I have to do myself. Anyway, it only reaffirms that I made the right decision to bring her to see dr myself. I had another meeting at 2pm so left ILs house after feeding RA panadol syrup at close to 1pm.

RA's fever still spiked up very often. Last night, I was meeting banker and bro from 830 - 1030pm. After that, I was doing research and following up. Hubby gave her ibufen at 930pm and when she woke up to pee, the temperature was already 38.1. So, I had to feed her panadol syrup at 4am cos I only slept after that. What a long night...

This morning after just 4 hrs of sleep, the phone rang and it was FIL. Telling us that RL's cough did not get better and pls bring her to see dr. Hiaz, with hubby who was still dizzy and suffering from bodyaches and a grouchy RA who just woke up, fever up again, I really wonder why ILs cannot help to bring RL to see dr when the GP is just downstairs from their house.

Oh well, no point wondering cos in the end, it was me who had to quickly feed RA med and go to GP clinic at 830am to take a queue number for RL. No point bringing RL there to wait because I know the doctor will only come around 930am. Went to bring RL from ILs place and reached clinic at 10am. Only plus point is being able to hug my cute little Mei Mei after having not seen her in more than 48 hrs. We had to wait again cos we missed our turn. But kept RL happy playing with iphone camera.

Gp said she sounded ok but gave med for cough and runny nose. We only left at 1130am cos first GP was chatting with me about his daughter's A level results (C for econs, the rest are As) then he forgot to write a prescription for a cream for my piles (side effect of having 2 kids). RL was hungry and restless by then. When we reached ILs house, MIL asked me why so late but bo bian, no one else to bring RL back while I wait for the med. :P

38 妇女节

9 yrs ago, hubby and I had our first date on 8 Mar 2003. I still remember it was a Sat and we met at Sakura halal restaurant near my old workplace. I ordered Thai red ruby and he ordered Longan Ice. Now Sakura is gone, replaced with another restaurant. Time flies and we have stopped celebrating this date since the kids came along though I have not forgotten. :P Happy belated dating anniversary Dada!