Monday, 30 November 2015

Mother Forgets

Last Wednesday was PSLE Results Release Day.

Ever since I experienced The Day first-hand as a parent three years ago, I always feel very emotional when I see children going up the stage for different reasons. You can be sure my eyes are never dry on this day.

I remember feeling 'meh' when I read on my Facebook that some P6 students were asking if anyone was going to receive the results with their parents.

I thought,"It's just some exam results. What's the big deal? You are not Primary One kid, you know?"

However, when it came my turn, it seemed all-important that I had to go with Coco.

I even taunted William when he expressed disinterest in following us,"We may go jump off a building together after getting the results!"

There are things that you won't understand or won't do until you are a parent.

So, when the students were led to their classrooms to receive their results, I asked a colleague whose daughter went to a top girls' school,"Did you cry when you got your daughter's results?"

She looked a little surprised,"No. I didn't go to school with her."

I was even more surprised,"Why didn't you? Surely your husband was there with her?"

She replied,"He wasn't, either!" after which she reflected a little and said,"I never saw myself as a parent. I always see myself as a teacher. My students are here, so I have to be here. It never occurred to me that I could apply for leave or time-off to go get the results with my daughter."

I don't know if I had crossed the line, but the colleague felt quite guilty over the matter, and did some reflection over her relationship with her only daughter who has gone overseas for further studies that day. The next day, she came to me and told me she apologised to her daughter for not accompanying her to receive her PSLE results and the times when her daughter had experienced loneliness in her life because she was not there with her.

Another colleague tried to assuage the mother-colleague's guilt by assuring her that not all parents accompany their children to receive their results, citing herself as an example, but I felt it was a weak attempt as they would belong to two different generations of daughters.

This little talk between my colleague and me makes me think about how teachers often neglect their children because of the demands of their jobs.

I used to be a guilty mother when Coco was younger. I forgot about the need to get Teachers' Day presents for her teacher when she was in Nursery and a few deadlines from her schools. I could never be a parent volunteer much as she would like me to. Now I try to be more mother-conscious about the girls' stuff nowadays but it's not always possible to remember or do what stay-home mothers could about their children's matters.

Recently, I have applied for leave for next year to focus more on Baby and Coco. I have quoted my health as the main reason. The boss is very displeased about it. In fact, it is not approved yet. I hope I get it though. I am not sure what the next step is if she does not approve it.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Another Hospital Stay

My Facebook newsfeed is flooded with friends who have gone on holidays. One went to Taiwan, another is in Europe, and yet another - a teacher, is in Spain.

As for my colleagues and I, we are not to leave State till next Tuesday evening.

Life's unfair like that.

The last week was an eight-to-five work week, the kind that requires your presence even when nothing is going to be done.

And my father was admitted to the hospital. If I had visited him at the hospital, you can be sure that I would collapse onto the bed by the time I reached home. It was good for a dieting woman who got to skip dinner without too much effort though.

I first received an sms from my brother saying that my father had insisted on going to a Malaysian hospital when I was at work a fortnight ago.

The bags were packed and his passport was already in his pocket.

I called back and persuaded my father to remain in Singapore. It does not take a genius to know that I had no faith in a Malaysian hospital, much less in one that would not know what my father had gone through the previous year.

I had once visited a cousin at a Malaysian hospital and was appalled at the state of it. My cousin's arm was slashed by a love rival in the city area, or so I heard, and was transferred to a government hospital soon after he was admitted to a hospital. His rusty bed was among at least ten or twenty other beds in a huge hall. Some nurses were doing their stuff at the other end of the hall. A few fabric windscreens existed to shield the view from others when they needed to examine a patient. It reminded me of the 1950s to 1970s medical scenes I watched on Channel 8 drama serials. I was shocked that Malaysia was still so backward in their medical advancements.

I managed to persuade my father to visit the GP (General Practitioner) we just visited the day before to get a doctor's letter before setting off for the General Hospital.

My father had been complaining about general discomfort and weakness after his last major surgery and no doctor or physician or temple or church could help him. I had suggested that he do a full body check-up to find out the problem, thus the visit to the GP the previous day. The GP had proposed to get my father to have a full assessment at SGH since he also could not help my father but he needed some time to pen a letter of reference. But my father clearly could not wait anymore.

At the A&E Department, the doctor ran some tests on my father and diagnosed that he had 'dangerously low level of sodium' in his blood and suspected that he had lung infection so he was admitted to the hospital. A four-bedder room.

After 4 days, my father was worried that the bill might snowball over time since there was no sign that the doctor was going to discharge him, so he walked out of the ward and insisted on being discharged.

And he went home on a Friday.

On Sunday, he woke up with a swollen mouth and neck. His tongue was so swollen that he could not even eat! So back to the hospital he did.

Infection of the floor of the mouth, the doctor said.

This time, my father requested us to put him in a C class ward so that he did not have to worry about the bill. 

And by then, that a $200k medical bill was a reality had stuck in our mind. We signed him up for the nine-bedder ward.

So my father stayed in the hospital for another week. In the course of the week, the doctor diagnosed that he also had SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus), an autoimmune disease which was very rare for an elderly. But it explains why none of our parents have Hyperthyroidism, another autoimmune condition, but at least three of us do.

The good news is: he was discharged yesterday :)

Another good news is: my biopsy report states that my nodule is benign, meaning not cancerous or malignant. However, that was within expectations. I had read up online and the articles concurred that nodules with thyroid problems are usually non-cancerous.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

After Meet-the-Parent

I feel shameless as a mother. 

I have not taught Baby this year, at least not conscientiously.

I stopped her Math enrichment in the first half of the year when she didn't feel like going.

I stopped her Chinese enrichment in the first half of the year when she vehemently refused to go for lessons.

If you ask me what I have taught her, I can only tell you I have got her to rewrite the Chinese characters at the back of the Chinese textbook and got her to complete a few Math papers.

What have I done with her for English? The only thing I did with her was going to the library with her and reading to her, sometimes.

I have not made her do an English paper, or got her to write a composition - because she didn't want to write.

I have wanted her to enjoy her first year of formal schooling, and I wanted to see how she does without external intervention. I wanted to see if she would do well 'naturally' with just her teacher teaching her.

But when the form teacher gave out the 5 invitation cards for the top performers in class, I actually felt disappointed, shamelessly disappointed.

I knew without parental support, it's almost impossible for a child to be among the top 5 performers in class in this school, but yet, I felt disappointed.

When I came home, I felt bothered. I couldn't sleep. I kept playing my Bejeweled Blitz because I couldn't make peace with myself.

Then I decided to exit the bedroom to watch some TV. I saw her report book on the dining table and flipped it open. And I realised Baby didn't do that bad after all.

You see, the school has printed the result slip such that her Overall results are shown first while her CA2 and SA2 come after that! I had zoomed into the last page because usually that is the page that matters most since it almost always indicates the 'final' score. However, for some reason, this time, I looked at her Overall Percentage and realised that she actually comes very close to the top 5th. The form teacher had revealed to the last few remaining parents that the top 3 performers had at least 92%. I would gather 90.7% wasn't too shabby a score - a score that's without much help.

I actually felt a lot better when I figured that out. I had felt lousy after going to the Meet-the-Parent briefing in which the form teacher met the parents as a class. One of the parents spoke to me and mentioned that her child had 85 for English. I had thought Baby had done really badly as generally the class did badly for their SA2 English because of the sudden increase of weightage for the writing component which they were not adequately prepared for.

When I examined the Overall scores closely, I realised Baby had done better than some of those children who had gone for enrichment classes throughout the year. 

I feel strangely relieved but still feel guilty that I had not helped Baby. 

I realise that as long as my children are studying in a Singapore school, I will not be able to detach grades from their studies, no matter how much I hope they can enjoy their childhood. I am not an enlightened parent who is able to ignore grades as long as my children enjoy learning. I had thought that since I am a 'seasoned' parent, I would not mind when my child is not one of the top 5 performers. 

I am a Singapore mother after all.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

A Nice (and Experienced) Doctor Helps

My neck feels bruised.

The biopsy was done relatively quickly although the soft-spoken doctor spent some time examining me, going through my ultrasound scans and giving me the options of whether I would go ahead with the biopsy. He also addressed my concerns about a possible wrong diagnosis.

An acquaintance had a wrong diagnosis done at a restructured hospital, having the test showing that her nodule in her thyroid was cancerous. She heeded the advice of the doctor and had her thyroid removed just to be informed that it was actually not cancerous! The absence of a thyroid means that she needs medication to help produce thyroid hormones and she has to suffer the consequence of taking pills for hypothyroidism for the rest of her life.

The doctor assured me that the doctors in private practice are more careful and would not hasten to remove a thyroid at the first suspicion, and so he allayed my fears of having a wrong diagnosis and removing my thyroid for his convenience.

The local anaesthesia was injected very quickly with a little bit of pain. Taking a blood test is comparatively longer and more painful.

After that, the doctor did three separate extractions from my nodule.

Each time, I could feel the tugging sensation which reminded me of the caesarean surgery I had when my gynaecologist pulled Baby out of me.

The doctor was very kind. He understood the fear his patients experienced. He explained,"I will tell you before I do something." "I will count to three before I insert the needle. I am not inserting the needle yet ... I am inserting the needle after I count '1, 2, 3'."

He would also explain that he was inserting the needle another time to get the sample, or he was doing it the third time in a different direction to get extra sample for more accurate results.

He would ask if the insertion was painful and which one was more painful.

Only the first jab to inject the local anaesthesia was a quick shallow bite. Other than that, the other three jabs were not. However, it leaves me with a bruised feeling at the neck now. The tiny wound is covered with a little round plaster and I should be able to remove it at the end of the day.

Upon paying the bill, the clinic assistant informed me that the biopsy was not a day surgery. It was just an outpatient treatment, so my wish of having the costs covered could go up in smoke. :(

But at least I can get this biopsy out of the way.

The Journey to a Biopsy

It's 10.05am.

I am waiting for a biopsy to be done.

It's a lonely feeling walking to the hospital, imagining how the doctor would carry out the procedure: prick a needle into your neck and extract a sample of the nodule in your thyroid.

Is this how all patients who need to go for a biopsy feel?

Is this how middle-age single women feel like when they need a surgery or biopsy, with no one by their side?

I understand that the actual procedure takes just five minutes, but when it's painful, even a split second feels like an eternity.

I have requested for local anaesthesia though. I hope it works.

My prayer for the biopsy: painless and quick, in that order.

My endocrinologist has detected a nodule (a solid) in my left thyroid 6 months ago. When she suggested a biopsy, I got a shock of my life and refused to discuss more. I did my own research and read that when you have hyperthyroidism, a nodule in the thyroid is likely to be non-cancerous, so I went about my life happy for the next 6 months.

However, half a year later, it was still there, so the doctor suggested the biopsy again 'to rule out the possibility of a thyroid cancer'.

I also found out that this procedure could be classified under 'day surgery' and my insurance would cover the cost as well as the costs incurred for treating my condition up to the previous 6 months. That comes up to more than $2000, excluding today's biopsy.

So here I am.

Pray for me that the procedure will be a pain-free one, and the test comes out well.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

A Tribute to Stanny Beauty

I have always had sensitive skin for as far as I could remember.

Even as a child in primary school, after playing 'ye-ye' or 'zero-point', my cheeks would grow as red as tomatoes. I remember how I got a shock when I saw my reddened cheeks in the toilet mirror. I thought something was wrong with me.

So, in my teens, I started to have these rough little bumps on my cheeks after using some snowy Hazeline moisturiser. I thought they were pimples.

My father took me to a skin doctor in Katong and he diagnosed that I had sensitive skin. Besides giving me some pills which he never explained what they were for, he asked me to stay away from the sun and slept early, not to go to beauty salons as they would not know how to treat my skin and use only water to wash my face.

That was when I was 19 or 20.

For the rest of the years, I struggled with my facial skin, trying out different products hoping that the bumps would go away. However, the more I tried, the more bumps I got. Of course I stopped going to the doctor as his treatment did not help me, and I reverted to using facial foam as it was impossible to cleanse the face of oil if I had used only water.

20 years later, my face was just about covered with bumps, and makeup was not helpful in covering them up. I could feel that my makeup was not 'sticking' to my face. It felt 'separated' from my skin.

Of course, for so long, I never felt good about my skin. Sales assistants for facial products would approach me and they would cruelly point out that my skin looked 'tired' or needed help. Even my own Malaysian cousin who runs a beauty salon would stare at my skin and remark,"Why do you look so '残'(haggard)?" Their merciless sales pitch only drove me away from them. If they would say such derogatory words to me on our first meeting, what else would they say to me if I receive treatment from them? And of course, what the doctors (I had seen at least one more doctor for my skin) warned me about beauty salons had stuck in my mind. One even said that those beauticians may promise you lots of things but they would do nothing for you if they 'destroy' your skin. Highly educated, professionally trained doctors versus lowly educated, briefly trained beauticians - who would you believe?

However, this year, my Malaysian-born-and-bred beautician sister-in-law, Stanny, had quit her job at a beauty salon and opened a small start-up on her own.

She is never pushy, and never commented on any of our skin.

I showed up at her salon's opening day to give her my support. She said I could try one facial session to see how it would go since I had sensitive skin. She also did not want to impose treatments on me in case it was not suitable.

So I did. Stanny recommended a hydration treatment for me as my skin was clearly lacking in hydration.

She commented that I indeed had sensitive skin as the moment she trimmed my eyebrows, my skin turned red immediately. Most people's would not.

She explained to me that the little bumps I had were not pimples or acne as what the doctors had diagnosed. They were clogged pores, or what beauticians would term as 'rice grains'. The lack of extraction and treatment had caused them to build up over the years.

She extracted the large and obvious ones in the first session and in the subsequent sessions, in the interval of three weeks, she extracted most of them, big and small.

After five sessions, my skin certainly feels a lot smoother now. Each time after a facial session, I feel more confident in her skills and my skin. It really does my self-esteem a lot better.

Besides the treatment, she has asked me to stop using cream-based moisturiser as it clogs pores. Instead, she recommends me to use water-based serums which she carries in her store. So far, they have worked well. They do not cause the tiny bumps to reoccur like creams or lotions do and they hydrate my skin as 'serums are made of very small molecules, so the skin absorbs them quickly and deeply' (as what I have googled).

As Stanny Beauty is a small start-up, Stanny does not have a website yet. However, she does have a Facebook page which potential customers can contact her at.

Stanny has always been interested in facials and her first trip to Singapore was to attend a comprehensive facial course. In our private talks, she revealed that she had spent more than S$10k on her courses alone as these courses at recognised institutions progress in stages. Some of her coursemates took up Stages 1 and 2 while she went all the way to Stage 4 or the final stage in order to have a full grasp of the beauty line.

I asked her if she had ever been tempted to try out treatments at reputable beauty salons like BioSkin, which is currently advertising on TV like nobody's business. She quipped,"That was the first beauty salon I worked at after graduation." In fact, the female boss who is starred in her own commercials was the one who interviewed her. However, she had her own beliefs about facial treatments and she left the salon 3 months after she started working there.

She also doesn't believe in making potential or existing customers feel lousy or inferior about their skin. She once had an employer who insisted that her beauticians should show their customers how sorry the state their skin is at before the start of any treatment so that they would know how miraculous the treatments are later on. She didn't stay at the salon for long either as it contradicted with her belief in building good relationships with customers.

Another thing that draws most of us to Stanny Beauty is Stanny's nil pushy sales tactics. Unlike most beauticians who do sales pitches during the facial treatments, Stanny does not sell her products during the treatments. She understands that it is very stressful for customers when beauticians do that. She would only recommend products after the session if you enquire, and even then, she does not make it sound like your skin would shrivel up and die of dehydration if you don't buy them. It is entirely up to you. I often feel empowered with more knowledge but never obliged to buy. I only buy what I need. As of now, I only have a bottle of serum which cost $100 which will last me for a few months.

Most of my sisters and I have become Stanny's customers after experiencing her good service and products. My third sister and her friend have switched to Stanny's because she does not push sales and gives good advice on skin care. My fifth sister has two facial treatment packages with another salon. However, upon seeing that my skin condition has improved quite phenomenally, coupled with the fact that her cleansing package has aggravated her skin, she is considering switching to Stanny's as well after she has finished utilising her package.

You would know how critical and skeptical my sisters and I are, especially of family members and what they do. So if we ever say something nice about something, it would be rare but definitely worth checking out eg. my elder sister used to work in Hewlett Packard and she mentioned that it was a good company and its printers are 'very good'. I have no doubt that it must truly be a good company and its printers must be superior machines since she had asked my brother to apply for a job there when he first graduated and she uses HP printers.

If you have been reading my blog, you would know that I am crazy enough to advertise for free when services or products are fantastic and I would shoot it down like crazy when I experience lousy or sucky service or products.

And I have been to Stanny for 5 x 3 weeks, which means a good four months. If I had meant to advertise for my sister-in-law, I would not have waited for so long. I wanted to see if it really works and provide a truthful write-up.

After interacting with Stanny during my sessions with her, I feel that she is very passionate about facial treatments and she is very knowledgeable about them. Those doctors turned out to know nuts about treatments for face! And worse than that, they gave the wrong advice!

I feel very safe with Stanny. Each time she wants to do something new with my face, she would try it once and would only continue if it does not cause an allergic or adverse reaction.

I don't feel so self-conscious without makeup now, and with makeup, I can feel that it is making contact with my skin. It does not feel like it is separated from the skin anymore. I can even touch my own skin and feel happy about it. It used to be rough and 'thick and hard'. Now, it is smooth and tender, no longer rough and bumpy! I used to hate looking into the mirror to examine my own skin, now I can look at it and feel comforted that the condition has improved dramatically.

I will definitely recommend Stanny Beauty to anyone.

Where to go

Stanny Beauty
Facebook page:
Orchard Plaza
150 Orchard Road
#03-75 Singapore 238841

Sunday, 11 October 2015