Dear Little Ones (Some Aren’t So Little Anymore)

Once covid wrapped up, I thought life would resume back to normal and one of the “normal” was hanging out with the kids in my life. With a compromised immune system, I wasn’t seeing anyone much less the kids who everyone kept reminding me are germ infested on the best of days. Left to video calls and texts, the kids were constantly reminding me that they were all rooting for me.

I officially became an aunt 20 years ago when my cousin and my best friend had their sons. Along the way, I was very blessed with more and more kids coming into my life. There are a couple more due this year too. So from 20 year olds to new borns, I’m grateful my family and friends trust me to hang out with their little ones and hopefully become the favourite aunt ūüėČ Today one of the these kids, my 17 year old goddaughter got on a plane for Canada to start her next stage of school; and this week’s life lesson is going to come in a form of a letter to these kids in my life. They’ve all heard/read me say this to them in one way or another but the last year crystallised this hope I have for them – Believe in yourself.

Dear Little Ones,

You all came into my life in so many different ways and I’m so very grateful that you all did. In many more ways, you’ve all taught me a lot of things too and in the last year, I’ve been so touched by all your love and support through one of the craziest years of my life. Your texts, calls, cards, letters made feeling sick easier and reminded me how blessed I am with the village that continues to raise me.

As you all grow, you’ll come to this realisation yourselves. Like me, you’re all blessed with great villages that love, support and believe in you. And for all of you I hope this life lesson comes to you sooner rather than later – Believe in yourself.

The world we live in is a crazy one. Social media makes it even harder. There are going to be dark days, tough ones when you feel completely alone, in spite of the village. That’s when this life lesson kicked in for me. In the darkest of moments, when you are left on your own, you slowly learn and in my case with the grace of God, to believe in yourself.

As different as all of you are from each other, I know this is the same – each of you have a unique ability that makes you YOU and when you discover that about yourself, you will be stronger than you ever thought about yourself.

So go forth believe in yourself, trust yourself, find your voice and tell your story. When you’re ready, I’ll be right here ready to listen.

With So Much Love,

Coco/Yiyi/Godma/Aunty Carlene

Don’t Wait

Last year this time, I was one third through my primary protocol and getting a hang of how my body was reacting to all the different drugs. The cumulative effects were also starting to show and my energy levels started to dip more drastically. My eyebrows among others parts were disappearing. My stomach was getting more uncomfortable, enough for me to start thinking about cutting my treatment short.

I remember thinking if fighting to be alive is worth the suffering I had to endure and to distract myself I found my mind going to the future when I assumed I won the fight and could do as I please. I have a very active imagination and through those fantasies I heard myself going, “Don’t wait!” which is a tad strange. Pre cancer, I always thought I had a pretty charmed life and that I was doing all the “right” things already. You know, people and spending time with them are more important than money. Material things are meant to be enjoyed and shouldn’t own you. Work has to be inspiring and meaningful. All these haven’t change but lying in bed with a digestive system that didn’t want to digest and a body that didn’t want to move made me realise there are few things I wanted to do that I didn’t or hadn’t yet. Why? I’m not entirely sure. Some is because I think I couldn’t afford it or shouldn’t spend on it, others I think I was afraid to put myself out there.

As I prepared for this post, I decided that I’m going to start a bucket list of sorts and to kick it off, here’s my top three plans post chemo:-

  1. Write that children’s book
  2. Spend days by myself
  3. Make impromptu and spontaneous getaways

I’ll keep updating this page as life goes along and we’ll see where “Don’t Wait!” takes me. Meanwhile, people in my life and here are a few moments from last year that made it all worth while.

Happy Hoppity Hallelujah

I love Easter. It is my favourite time on the Catholic calendar. I also mentioned in an earlier post how I’ve split my life to BC (Before Cancer) and AD (After the Death of 47 year old me) so it’s seems pretty timely that I sat for the last infusion of my cancer treatment in time to celebrate Easter.

My last session was boring and uneventful. 6 years ago when one of my bestie had her own fight against breast cancer, I prayed for boring and uneventful infusions. Last year, when it came to my turn, I was reminded how boring is so underrated. Coupled with crossing the mid life crisis season, I have very little patience for drama which is a tad funny considering my line of work but I digress.

Back to my last infusion, I took the boredom of routine all in and tried to remember everything. Waiting for my turn, getting my stats checked, blood drawn, getting ready in my favourite chair, chatting with Dr. Chan and joking with the nurses. I even got to sit next to an old friend who is starting her treatment … yes, it is that small of a world. And got to see a friend I made through chemo and manage to get to say goodbye. All in all a boring and uneventful session where the people I love are going about their day and the people who love me had nothing to worry about.

Cancer and the drama it brought showed me that when I have nothing to do, cherish it and savour the moment. Look out far away, day dream, imagine and fantasize. Take deep breaths and slow down. The world and society have expectations and a way of how things are done, I can do things differently, it isn’t always intuitive but embracing boredom is 48 year old me trying to get off the hamster wheel and learning to listen to myself.

Help! I need Somebody

Definitely one of my favourite Beatles song and a line I rarely use. I come from a long lineage of strong independent women who rarely ask for help. My Mom and Grandmas were examples of how when the going gets tough, the tough just keeps going. In the last year, as it got tougher and tougher, I was very fortunate. I didn’t even have to ask. Help came in so many ways, some were needed and others not quite but the thought helped keep my spirits up.

That said, when my cousin reached out to me last week as her friend was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and was going to start chemotherapy, she wanted to know how she could help. Which brings me to this post as I reflected on how it’s hard to ask for help especially when you have no idea what help you need. So as an experienced chemo warrior, I thought I’d come up with a list for anyone wondering how to help:-

  • Cooking, I really appreciated that I didn’t need to think about what to eat. I mean I didn’t feel like eating most of the time and it was so helpful to have a little something and someone prodding me every couple of hours to eat. I had a friend who who cut fruits and delivered them to me! Just check in with them on their diet restrictions, if any.
  • Cleaning, I had no energy at all so any help with chores around the house would be helpful. I’m usually quite an OCD but when I was feeling so weak, I was just so grateful that chores were getting done, it really didn’t matter it wasn’t done in my way.
  • Driving to and from doctor’s appointments and treatments. As I come to the end of my treatment and am driving myself again, it was really lovely to just get in the car and not have to deal with traffic.
  • I had a few friends who bought me gift certificates from supermarkets, specialty grocery stores and such. That was super helpful! With so many expenses, it was really one less thing to worry about. One of my cousins even bought me groceries a couple of times.
  • Checking in without expecting a response. I wasn’t always in the right frame of mind to reply but it gave me the warm and fuzzies to wake up to messages from friends and family who were just thinking of me and didn’t need a response.
  • Other gifts that I received which I used were comfy PJs which I wore nearly exclusively, beanies to keep my bald head warm and fuzzy socks as the chemo clinic gets quite cold.

As the memory of feeling so weak starts to fade and become more of a shadow, I want to remember as well supported as I was, I need to learn to ask for help. I really can’t do it on my own and asking for help isn’t about weakness, it’s about vulnerability. And only with vulnerability can you make authentic connections. I’m still working through this life lesson. Going through chemo treatment seems like the catalyst for this revelation. As I know I’ve grown closer to people whom I’ve shared this vulnerability with.

Starting Cycle #15

Turning 47 was a muted occasion. I had 2 chemo infusions by then and the side effects were slowly starting to creep in. I also started my no soya and no sugar diet so there were no birthday treats to be had and I had no energy to protest. While I spent most of it taking it easy and nursing an unhappy tummy, it didn’t stop my family and friends from sending their love.

Don’t ever remember having so much flowers around me. And I have to say, flowers do make everything look prettier. I did say, I’m truly blessed with the village I’m a part of. Fast forward through chemo, WFH, surgery, radiation, more staying in because of a compromised immune system, more WFH, more chemo and immunotherapy; turning 48 is definitely cause for celebrations and so much to unpack.

If the prognosis wasn’t as positive and I had lost the fight to cancer, I’m happy to say I had no regrets in the first 47 years of my life. Sure, I made mistakes, got lazy, wasted time but by and large, I loved hard, worked hard and was afforded opportunities my 12 year old self wouldn’t have dared to think about.

Now with this second chance of sorts, it’s yet another opportunity to truly live the authentic life I often ponder about. What does that mean and how would it look like? In 2021, I thought my life and I guess the world in general was going to be split between pre-covid and post-covid. Now, for me it’s going to be BC, before cancer and AD, after the death of 47 year old me.

48 year old me has the same unbridled passion for leaving the world better than when I entered it. Just now more considered … it isn’t all cancer, it’s got a lot to do with getting older and hopefully wiser from the experiences life, including cancer have given me. In my attempt to live an authentic life, here’s my checklist:-

  • listen to myself
  • be honest to myself
  • show up for myself

Before I can authentically listen to others, be honest to others and show up for others. BC was learning, I’m hoping AD is about applying. From the famous words of my favourite drag queen (I do love drag queens)

If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?

Amen!

Earth Day

I wonder if anyone pays attention to Earth Day anymore or if they ever did. I remember when recycling was the thing to do and now everyone talks about¬†upcycling. For me, it’s all about trying to simplify. It wasn’t always like that. I’m as much a consumer as anyone else and I’m not sure when but one day I did realise there are a lot of things I have that I don’t really need. Just a lot of things I want. Then came the harsh realisation that if I didn’t buy all the things I wanted … I could probably have had a¬†down payment for my dream car.

It was about 5 years or so ago when I was walking around Beijing with my then boss and asked him if he wanted to buy his wife something. He began to tell me how he and his wife have come to an agreement that they only bought things they needed and if they came home with a purchase of something they already had, they had to get rid of the old item¬†that needed to be replaced by the new purchase.¬†Like a light bulb that went off in my head, I thought to myself I like that and I’ll try it out.

Fast forward to 2017 and I’ve mostly stuck to that rule. Couple of things I’ve learnt:-

  1. I never ever have to buy bags. My family and friends always seem to get me bags and I never run out of them.
  2. White pieces of clothes are the ones I replace the most. Maybe I should invest in a bib. Everything else seem to last. Again family and friends have me covered on that front too.
  3. I don’t ever buy pyjamas anymore because I just¬†recycle/upcycle older clothes to chic sleepwear ūüôā
  4. I spend a lot of money on FOOD. Being vegetarian is not the most cost efficient. Add organic and that’s the bulk of my budget.
  5. I like spending money on people I love. I don’t consume much for myself anymore but I do like buying things or experiences (especially when it’s shared with me) for my family and friends.

So I haven’t quite saved enough for my dream car but¬†I’ve figured out that I don’t really need it anyway. On¬†this Earth Day like every other one, I smile a little, give thanks that I’m blessed with amazing people in my life. We’re not perfect but we’re there for each other. I couldn’t ask for more and this week, my theme is more of the same – remind the people I love that I love them!

Meant To Be

Do you believe in fate? That things are meant to be? Couple of weeks ago, I gave up my Coldplay ticket in Singapore to a friend. No fuss, I did want to go but he wanted it more for someone else and asked. I said ok and I was actually ok. Though I do like Coldplay and would have liked to go and see them. Fast forward to April 7, I arrive in Bangkok for a weekend getaway with a couple of friends and guess what I find out? Coldplay is playing in Bangkok on April 7! So I went, if we could find reasonable tickets, we’ll go and we did!

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After a crazy ordeal of collecting our tickets, which we weren’t sure were legit or not till we were seated in the stadium, and navigating to the venue on foot, we got there just in time for them to come on stage and start the show. I’m definitely a fan of the earlier albums, the first one in particular but it was still a very enjoyable show with the band coming across sincere and like they were genuinely having fun. More than that, I got to share the concert with one of my dearest mates who isn’t my typical concert buddy but I think that will change now. So do you believe that some things are just #meanttobe? I’m already sold on the concept … though a very logical part of me fights it a lot. Getting to watch Coldplay in Bangkok with Resh was just meant to be.

Honestly, I couldn’t imagine going through the ordeal of navigating traffic, taking trains when there’s no cabs, walking and walking and walking, waiting an hour¬†for a cab that on the app said was only 9mins away with someone who wouldn’t call it quits and brought out the best in me despite the highly stressful situation. It open a side of each other we already knew but I guess with this experience solidified the fact that we do complement each other in the way lifetime friendships are built. That’s why I had to give up my Singapore ticket and come to Bangkok to watch Coldplay instead.

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In the greater scheme of things, there is a plan, reasons for why things happen or who comes into your life. Even the bad stuff, there is a reason. Someone out there makes it all happen, someone bigger, someone who knows more, someone who has a plan. My role is to surrender and trust.¬†To be grateful. To keep an open mind. I don’t have to understand when it happens but it’ll eventually be made clear. Like with the Coldplay concert, I get why I had to give up my Singapore ticket so easily. I was meant to go, just in a different city with a different friend ūüôā And possibly start a new tradition!

Here’s to things that are meant to be! Just let go and trust is my theme for the week.

 

39 and a Half Years Old

6 months more to go and I’ll be yelling, “Hello 40!!” ¬†Still a work-in-progress and with half of the year gone, it’s clearer today that honestly all you need¬†to get through mistakes you’ve made is a sense of humour and time. ¬†I always say this that I’m really lucky with my family and friends. ¬†At this stage in life, I’ve come to realise there are toxic friends and in some sad cases, there are toxic family too. ¬†You owe it to yourself to rid all toxic relationships. ¬†It’s hard, very hard but filling our life with love and positive support gets you through any problem. ¬†Lucky me, all the love I’ve surrounded myself with over the last 39 and a half year has reaffirmed how a sense of humour is the key to getting over suffering. ¬†Also why I married my husband because he can make me laugh.

6 more months before I turn 40 and to usher that in, I’m off to Bali with my wonderful friends who’ve shared their love, laughter and pain. ¬†All of whom will turn 40 before me and showed me that age is truly just a number and laughing over spilled milk is the best way to get over it.

 

Lunch Time Dates

I love lunch time dates!! ¬†They give me a break in the work day and make me smile like no other things can. ¬†So when Raewyn’s Mum asked me over for lunch, I jumped at the chance.

I had such a blast with Raewyn that I can’t wait for the next date. ¬†The last time I saw her was at her one month.

The picture on the left is from her party and the picture on the right is from today ūüôā Look how she’s grown and into a real sweetie too. ¬†She let me cuddle her, play with her, we even made funny faces together and let me take numerous pictures of her. ¬†Isn’t she such a sweetheart?

It’s really easy to see why too. ¬†Her Mummy, Tess is one of the gentlest soul I know. ¬†I can’t wait to see this little one grow up into the fine lady I know she’ll become. ¬†Till then, I can’t wait for our next lunch date little one ūüôā

Lunch Time Toddlers

The last time I caught up over lunch with this little young’un was nearly a year and a half ago. ¬†That’s pretty much half her lifetime. ¬†Though I’ve seen her since then, namely during her Godma’s wedding and prep, it’s a long over due lunch date :p

She’s a little girl who’s a big sister now. ¬†Just about 2 weeks ago, she welcomed her baby sister Mikayla into this great big world. ¬†I love little sister pairing. ¬†Guess I’m kinda bias because I’m one half of a sister pair. ¬†Back to the Belle. ¬†She may look like her Dad but she’s definitely got her aunt/Godma’s gene strong in her too.

Over lunch, her Godma and my dear friend, Gen said to me, “It’s like I gave birth to her.” I totally get it, this pseudo parenting that is slowly but surely getting more and more popular. ¬†We don’t actually carry the babies and don’t fully adopt them but the love and connection is just as strong. ¬†Here’s when I realise the saying that it takes a village to raise a child, makes so much sense. ¬†Nothing replaces the bond a parent has with their child, it¬†gives every child the fundamentals that they need and why good parenting is so damn important. ¬†Aunts, uncles, grandparents, godparents, teachers, mentors, adult friends, they all play different roles that fill these children’s wells with more love, support, life lessons, guidance, direction and examples that they can reach into when life gets tough. ¬†And life will get tough but they’ll keep learning from us. ¬†Just like how we’re better from our parents’ generation, they will be better than us.

There is much hope for the world so have a happy Monday everyone as I take another shower to cool off from this humid heat in Singapore.