Saturday, 27 October 2012

A Memorable Memorial

I was flipping the newspapers a few days ago when I came across the obituary above.

I don't have special interest in obituaries, but ever since my younger sister told me that she chanced upon her primary school classmate's obituary when she was in secondary school, I would sometimes glance through the page just to see if there are familiar faces. Thankfully, so far I don't remember seeing faces of people I once know. But from time to time, I sigh at the uncertainty of life. Many faces look too young to be on that page.

This obituary is particularly interesting because it is dedicated by a class of doctors. And the deceased looks kind of handsome, and young.

I wondered what he had done to have his coursemates to dedicate a considerable size of obituary to him, but since they are a class of doctors and are supposed to have better judgment than the average Joe, I thought this Dr Richard Teo must have done something memorable in his lifetime.

A couple of days later, a friend shared a link about him on Facebook. It is about a proud and intelligent man who had relentlessly pursued wealth and success, just to realise that he had stage-4 cancer in his prime, and eventually gave his heart back to God before he was called home to be with Him. It sounds like stories in those little Christian comic booklets which seem too good to be true, but it really happened to an earthly man right here in Singapore!

Just in case it disappears some time later, I post his transcript here:

Below is the transcript of the talk of Dr. Richard Teo, who was a 40-year-old millionaire and cosmetic surgeon with a stage-4 lung cancer, sharing at a Dental Christian Fellowship Meeting. He would have liked to share this with you too.


Hi good morning to all of you. My voice is a bit hoarse from the chemotherapy, so please bear with me. I thought I'll just introduce myself. My name is Richard, I’m a friend of Danny’s, who invited me here.

I’d just begin to say that I’m a typical product of today’s society. Before this, I was talking about how the media influences us etc. So I’m a typical product of what the media portrays. From young, I’ve always been under the influence and impression that to be happy, is to be successful. And to be successful, is to be wealthy. So I led my life according to this motto.

Coming from a poor average family, back in those days, I was highly competitive, whether in sports, studies, leadership. I wanted it all. I’ve been there, done that. But at the end of the day, it’s still about money.

So in my recent last years, I was a trainee in ophthalmology, but I was getting impatient, cos I had friends of mine who were going out into private practise, making tonnes of money. And there I was, stuck in a traineeship. So I said, ‘Enough, it’s getting too long.’ At that time, there was a surge in protégés of aesthetic medicine. I’m sure you’re aware, aesthetic medicine had peaked over the last few years, and I saw good money in there. So much so that I said, ‘Forget about ophthalmology, I’m gonna do aesthetic medicine.’ So that’s what I did.

The truth is, nobody makes heroes out of the average GP in the neighbourhood. They don't. They make heroes out of rich celebrities, politicians, rich and famous people. So I wanted to be one of these. I dived straight into aesthetic medicine. People were not willing to pay when I was doing locum back in those days. Anything more than $30, they would complain that “Wah, this lo kun (doctor) jing qwee (very expensive)”. They made noise and they were not happy. But the same people were willing to pay $10 000 for a liposuction. So I said, ‘Well, let’s stop healing the sick, I’m gonna become a beautician; a medically-trained beautician.’

And that was what I did – liposuction, breast augmentation, eyelid surgeries, you name it, we do it. It was very good money. My clinic, when we started off, waiting time was 1 week; 1 month; became 2 months; became 3 months. There was so much demand that people were literally queuing up to have aesthetic work done on them. Vain women – easy life!

So the clinic grew. I was so overwhelmed, from 1 doctor, I employed 2, then 3, then 4 doctors, and carried on. Nothing is ever enough. I wanted more and more and more. So much so that we set up shop in Indonesia to lure all the Indonesian tai tai’s. We set up shop, set up a team of people there, to get more Indonesian patients to come in.

So, things were doing well. I’m there, my time has arrived.

Around some time in February last year, I said, ‘OK, I have so much spare cash, it’s time to get my first Ferrari. So there I was, getting ready for the deposit. ‘OK! There comes my first Ferrari!’ I was looking for land, to share with some of my friends. I have a banker friend who makes $5 million a year. So I thought, ‘Come, let’s come together. Let’s buy some land and build our houses.’

I was at my prime, getting ready to enjoy. At the same time, my friend Danny had a revival. They were going back to church, some of my close friends. They told me, ‘Richard, come, join us, come back to church.’

I have been a Christian for 20 years; I was baptised 20 years ago, but it was because it was fashionable to be a Christian then. All my friends were becoming Christians then. It was fashionable! I wanted to be baptised, so that when I filled in a form, I could put there “Christian” – feels good. In truth, I had never had a bible; I don’t know what the bible is all about.

I went to church for a while, after some time, I got tired. I said it’s time to go to NUS, stop going to church. I had a lot more things to pursue in NUS – girls, studies, sports etc. After all, I had achieved all these things without God today, so who needs God? I myself can achieve anything I want.

In my arrogance, I told them, “You know what? You go tell your pastor to change your sermon to 2pm. I will consider coming to church.” Such arrogance! And I said 1 statement in addition to that – till date, I don’t know I’ve regretted saying that – I told Danny and my friends, “If God really wanted me to come back to church, He will give me a sign.”. Lo and behold, 3 weeks later, I was back at church.


In March 2011, out of the blues – I was still running around, ‘cause I’m a gym freak and I always go to the gym training, running, swimming 6 days a week. I had some backache, and that’s all I had, but it was persistent. And so I went for an MRI to exclude prolapsed disc. And the day before I had my scan, I was still in the gym, lifting heavy weights, doing my squats. And the next day, they found that half my spine had bone marrow replacement. I said, “Woah, sorry, what’s that?”

We had a PET scan the next day, and they diagnosed that I had terminal lung cancer, stage 4B. It had spread to the brain, half the spine, whole of my lungs were filled with tumour, liver, adrenals…

I said, “Can’t be, I was just at the gym last night, what’s going on?” I’m sure you know how it feels – though I’m not sure if you know how it feels. One moment I was there at the peak, the next day, this news came and I was totally devastated. My whole world just turned upside down.

I couldn’t accept it. I have a hundred relatives on both sides, my mom and my dad. 100 of them. And not a single one has cancer. To me, in my mind, I have good genes, I’m not supposed to be having this! Some of my relatives are heavy chain smokers. Why am I having lung cancer? I was in denial.


So the next day, I was still in a state of denial, still unable to accept what was going on. There I was lying in an operating theatre in a hospital, for a needle biopsy (for histology). There I was, just completed the biopsy, and lying in the operating theatre. The nurses and doctors had left; told me I had to wait for 15 minutes to do a check X-ray to make sure there’s no pneumothorax (a complication).

And there I was, lying on the operating table, staring blankly at the ceiling in a cold, quiet operating theatre. Suddenly I just heard an inner voice; it was not like coming from outside. It was inside. This small inner voice that I had never felt before. And it said very specifically, it said, “This has to happen to you, at your prime, because it’s the only way you can understand.”

I said, “Woah, why did that come from?” You know, when you speak to yourself, you’d say, “OK, what time should I leave this place? Where shall I have dinner after this?” You’d speak from a first person point of view. You don’t say, “Where should YOU go after this?” Whereas the voice that came spoke as a third party. It said, “This has to happen to YOU, at YOUR prime, because this is the only way YOU can understand.” At that time, my emotions just overflowed and I broke down and cried, alone there. And I knew then, subsequently, what it means to understand that why this is the only way.

Because I had been so proud of myself, my whole life, I needed nobody else. I was gifted with things that I could do, why do I need anybody else? I was just so full of myself that there was no other way I could have turned back to God.

In fact, if I were diagnosed with stage 1 or 2, I would have been looking around busily for the best cardiothoracic surgeon, remove a section of the lobe (do a lobectomy), do preventive chemotherapy…The chances of it being cured is extremely high. Who needs God? But I had stage 4B. No man can help, only God can.

A series of events happened after that. I wasn’t sold after that, because of the inner voice, I became believing, prayers, all that. No I wasn’t. To me, it was just ‘maybe there was a voice; or maybe that was just me talking to myself.’ I didn’t buy the story.

What happened next was that I was being prepared for chemotherapy. I started off with a whole brain radiation therapy first; takes about 2 -3 weeks. In the meantime they prepared me for chemotherapy, supplements etc. One of the things they used for chemo was a thing called Zometa. Zometa - they use it to strengthen the bones; once the bone marrow (replacement) is cured of cancer cells, it becomes hollow, so we need Zometa to strengthen the bone to prevent compression fractures.

One of the side effects of Zometa is that it can cause osteonecrosis (bone death) of the jaw, and I had to have my wisdom teeth removed. Years ago, I had my upper wisdom teeth removed, cos it was giving me trouble. The lower ones didn’t give me trouble so I said, “Forget it, just leave it.” So of cause, Danny volunteered to remove it for me.

So there I was, lying there in a dental chair, asking myself, suffering all the side effects of radiotherapy, and now I have to go through wisdom tooth surgery. As if I’ve not had enough to suffer! So I asked Danny, “Eh, bro, is there any other way? Can I not go though this?” He said, “Yes, you can pray.”

I said, “What’s there to lose? Ok lah, pray lah!” And so we prayed. And we did an X-ray after that. Everything was all there, all the appliances and everything. And lo and behold, the Xray showed that there was no wisdom teeth in the lower jaw. I know most people have 4 wisdom teeth, maybe some have none, but to be missing one or 2, as I understand – I’m not too sure, as I understand – is not that common.

Still I was, “Nah, I don’t care about that.” To me, as long as I didn’t have to take out the tooth, I was happy. At that point, I still wasn’t sold on prayers. Maybe it was just a coincidence – for whatever it’s worth.

I continued meeting my oncologist, asking him, “How long do I have?” I asked him. He said, not more than 6 months. I said, “Even with chemotherapy?” About 3 – 4 months, he said.

I couldn’t grasp that. It was difficult to come to terms. And even as I went through radiotherapy, I was struggling everyday, especially when I wake up, hoping that it’s just a nightmare; when I wake up, it’s all over.

As I was struggling, day after day, I went into depression, which is the typical denial, depression blah blah blah that you go through. But for 1 reason, I don’t know why, there was this specific day that I was supposed to meet my oncologist. At about 2pm, I felt this sudden surge of peace, comfort, and in fact, a little happiness. It was just overflowing. For no rhyme or reason, it just came about 2pm, as I was getting ready, dressing up to meet my oncologist. So much so that I whats-apped all my friends that, “Bros, I just feel so good suddenly! I don’t know why, it just came!”

And it was only days, or was it weeks after, that Danny revealed to me that he had fasted for 2 days for me, and he was bargaining with God, and fasted for 2 dyas, and he ended his fast at that exact same point, about 2pm thereabouts, that this surge of sensation came to me for no rhyme or reason. And I didn’t know that he was fasting for me. And when he ended the fast, I felt that sensation!

Whoa, things were getting a bit too coincidental. I was starting to buy a bit of the story, but still I wasn’t sold. As days passed by, I completed my radiotherapy, about 2 weeks plus. Getting ready for chemo, so they let me rest for a few days.

See, the mortality rate of lung cancer : Lung cancer has the highest mortality rate. If you add up breast, colorectal (colon) cancer, and prostate cancer (the top few cancers in Singapore for men and women), if you add up the mortality rate of these 3, it still doesn’t add up to lung cancer. Simply because, you understand, you can remove the prostate, the colon, the breast, but you cannot remove your lungs.

But there’s about 10% of lung cancer patients who do pretty well for some reasons, because they have this specific mutation; we call it the EGFR mutation. And it happens, only 90% of the time, in Asian ladies who never smoked in their lives. Me, first of all, I’m male. 2ndly, I’m a social smoker. I take one a day after dinner; weekends, when my friends offer me, I take it as well. I’m a light smoker, not a social smoker. But still, my oncologist was still not hopeful for me to have this mutation.

The chances of it happening for me was maybe 3-4% for me to get it. That’s why I was being primed to go for chemo. But through all the intense prayers, friends like Danny, people that I don’t even know, it turned out that, during my waiting for chemo, the results came back that I was EGFR positive. I was like, “Woah, good news!” Cos now I don’t have to undergo chemo at that time, because there’s this oral tablet that you can use to control this disease.

Just to share with you some idea – this is a CT scan – thorax – of my lungs, before treatment.


Every single dot there is a tumour. You can see all the mets (metastasis) there. This is just one single plane. Literally I had it in both lungs, and I had literally tens of thousands of tumour. That’s why the oncologist told me, even with chemo, at most 3-4 months.

But because of this mutation, they have this oral medication. This is what happened after 2 months of treatment. As you can see over here; this is what God can do. And that’s why I’m still here having this opportunity to share with you. As you can see over here, the difference between before and after treatment.

At that point, I said, “Well, it’s to be expected, isn’t it? The medicine is good.” I’m still not buying the story. Well, the guys prayed for me and the tumour markers started to come down. 90% of the tumours were wiped out, and the tumour markers came down to more than 90% over the next few months.

But still, you know, once you have the clinical knowledge, you know the statistics. One year survival, two year survival; having all this knowledge is not a good thing. Cos you live with the knowledge that even with all this, the cancer cells are so unstable, they keep mutating. They will overcome and become resistant to the drugs, and eventually you’re gonna run out of medication.

So living with this knowledge is a huge mental struggle, a huge mental torture. Cancer is not just about a physical struggle, it’s a huge mental torture. How do you live with no hope? How do you live with not being able to plan for the next few years? The oncologist tells you to bear with it for the next 1 – 2 months. So it’s a lot of struggles as I went through: March, then April. April was my lowest point, in deep depression, struggling even as I was recovering.


And one of those days, I was there in bed, struggling in the afternoon, asking God, “Why? Why do I have to go through this suffering? Why do I have to endure this hardship, this struggle? Why me?”

As I fell asleep, in my dreamy state, a vision just came, that says Hebrews 12:7-8.

Now mind you, at this time, I had not read the bible. I have no clue what’s Hebrews, I don’t even know how many chapters there are. Totally clueless.

But it says Hebrews 12:7-8, very specifically.

I didn’t think too much of it. I just continued sleeping. Then I woke up, and I said, “What’s there to lose? I’d just check it out lah!” Danny had bought me a bible; it’s still quite new. I said, “It’s ok, just try.” So I flipped to the Old Testament. Hebrews to me sounds like something ancient, so it should be in the Old Testament right? So I flipped through the Old Testament. No Hebrews there. I was so disappointed.

Then I said, “Maybe New Testament, let’s have a look!”. WOW – New Testament, there’s Hebrew’s!! It says Hebrews 12:7-8. It says, “Endure hardship as discipline as God is treating you as His children.”

I said, “WAH!! Where did that come from?” I was getting goose pimples all over my body. I said, “This can’t be, right?” I mean, what’s the chance of somebody, who has never read the bible, to have a vision of a chapter of a specific verse, that answers my question directly?

I think God called to me directly as I was there sleeping, struggling with it, asking God, “Why do I have to suffer? Why do I have to suffer this?” And God says “Endure hardship as discipline as God is treating you as His child.”

At this point, the chance of that happening is even lesser than my EGFR being positive. There’s just no way; there’s so many millions of thousands of verses in the bible, how can I just conjure up something like that?

So at that point, I was sold I said, “YOU WIN! YOU WIN!!”

Ok , I was convinced. And so from that day onwards, I started believing in my God. And the last time I heard that inner voice was the end of April. And that inner voice, same thing, in the afternoon, as I was sleeping (this time I wasn’t struggling, just going to sleep). In a dreamy state I just heard Him say, “Help others in hardship.”

It was more like a command, rather than a statement. And that’s when I embarked on this journey, helping others in hardship. And I realised that hardship is not just about being poor. In fact, I think a lot of poor people are probably happier than a lot of us here. They are so easily contented with whatever they have, they’re probably pretty happy.

Hardship can happen to rich people; it can be physical hardship, mental hardship, social, etc. And also over the last few months, I started to understand what this true joy is about. In the past, I substituted true joy with the pursuing of wealth. I thought true joy is about pursuing wealth. Why? Cos let me put it to you this way, in my death bed, I found no joy whatsoever in whatever objects I had – my Ferrari, thinking of the land I was going to buy to build my bungalow etc, having a successful business.

It brought me ZERO comfort, ZERO joy, nothing at all. Do you think I can hold onto this piece of metal and it’s going to give true joy? Nah, it’s not going to happen.

True joy comes from interaction with other people. And at a lot of times, it is a short term pride, the past. When you pursue your wealth, Chinese New Year is the best time to do it. Drive my Ferrari, show off to my relatives, show off to my friends, do my rounds, and then you thought that was true joy? You really think that those guys who sold you your Ferrari, they share their joy with you? And your relatives, wow, they share this joy with you? In truth, what you have done is just to illicit envy, jealousy, and even hatred. They are not sharing the joy with you, and what I have is that short-term pride that wow, I have something you don’t have! And I thought that was joy!

So what we have is basically a short-term pride at the expense of somebody else. And that wasn’t true joy. And I found no joy at all on my deathbed, thinking of my Ferrari – to hold on to it, sayang it?!?

True joy I discovered comes from interaction. Over the last few months I was so down. Interaction with my loved ones, my friends, my brothers in Christ, my sisters in Christ, and only then was I able to be motivated, able to be uplifted. To share your sorrow, to share your happiness – that’s true joy.

And you know what makes you smile? True joy comes from helping others in hardship, and because I’ve gone through this, I know what hardship entails. In fact, there’re some cancer patients who tell me a lot of times, people come up to them and tell them, “Stay positive. Stay positive.” Yah, right. You come in my shoes and you try to stay positive! You don’t know what you’re talking about!

But I have the licence. So I’ve been going out to meet other fellow cancer patients, to share with them, encourage them. And I know, because I’ve been through it, and it’s easier for me to talk to them.

And most importantly, I think true joy comes from knowing God. Not knowing about God – I mean, you can read the bible and know about God – but knowing God personally; getting a relationship with God. I think that’s the most important. That’s what I’ve learnt.

So if I were to sum it up, I’d say that the earlier we sort out the priorities in our lives, the better it is. Don’t be like me – I had no other way. I had to learn it through the hard way. I had to come back to God to thank Him for this opportunity because I’ve had 3 major accidents in my past – car accidents. You know, these sports car accidents – I was always speeding , but somehow I always came out alive, even with the car almost being overturned. And I wouldn’t have had a chance. Who knows, I don’t know where else I’d be going to! Even though I was baptised it was just a show, but the fact that this has happened, it gave me a chance to come back to God.

Few things I’d learnt though:

1. Trust in the Lord your God with all your heart – this is so important.

2. Is to love and serve others, not just ourselves.

There is nothing wrong with being rich or wealthy. I think it’s absolutely alright, cos God has blessed. So many people are blessed with good wealth, but the trouble is I think a lot of us can’t handle it. The more we have, the more we want. I’ve gone through it, the deeper the hole we dig, the more we get sucked into it, so much so that we worship wealth and lose focus. Instead of worshipping God, we worship wealth. It’s just a human instinct. It’s just so difficult to get out of it.

We are all professionals, and when we go into private practise, we start to build up our wealth – inevitably. So my thought are, when you start to build up wealth and when the opportunity comes, do remember that all these things don’t belong to us. We don’t really own it nor have rights to this wealth. It’s actually God’s gift to us. Remember that it’s more important to further His Kingdom rather than to further ourselves.

Anyway I think that I’ve gone through it, and I know that wealth without God is empty. It is more important that you fill up the wealth, as you build it up subsequently, as professionals and all, you need to fill it up with the wealth of God.

I think that’s about it. It’s good to share. Thanks.

Friday, 26 October 2012

The Extraction

We went for the extraction on the much 'anticipated' day with trepidation.

I think I must have been more nervous and traumatised than Coco was before the pull-out day.

In the days running up to the extraction day, I kept debating with myself if there was a need to pull out good teeth. I surfed the net to look up a braces forum and read the threads on whether extraction was necessary. Most regretted not extracting their teeth and those who extracted did not miss their 'good teeth' as after braces were done, the rest of the teeth fell nicely in line with the jaw, or the gum.

But I felt really bad to get Coco to pull out her teeth when I myself am freaked out by tooth extraction anytime. Blame it on the traumatising wisdom tooth extraction 7 or 8 years ago!

Before the extraction, Dr Shawn Goh asked me if I had any concern or questions.

I told him frankly that I had sought two other opinions and the third orthodontist had mentioned that the dentist should be pulling out the fifth teeth on both sides instead of the fourth teeth as intended by Dr Cheng, although pulling the fourth teeth would be fine as well.

Dr Goh was very nice about it. He did an examination on Coco's teeth and rationalised Dr Cheng's decision on the original planned extraction.

So we went ahead.

Dr Goh injected anaesthesia twice on each of the sides before proceeding to extract the first tooth.

I didn't ask but Coco was probably shocked by the pain of the anaesthesia needle. She made 'uh uh ...' sound and lifted her legs as she was injected. I felt so bad that she had to go through the trauma.

She had to suffer the fifth needle when she complained of pain as Dr Goh was about to extract the second tooth.

After the extraction, she said she kept telling herself that it was the last needle after each injection but each time she was shocked that the next injection was waiting for her. Poor girl!

But her wounds healed quite fast.

She stopped bleeding within a day and she only complained of a bit of pain in the first two hours. After that, it was just soreness for about two or three days. She had her favourite scallop porridge for those few days though, so no complaints!

Where to go:
Dr Shawn Goh
The Oral Maxillofacial Practice
38 Irrawaddy Road
Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre
Tel: 67371649
Charges for extraction: $60 per tooth
Medication (painkillers, gastric pills, mouth-wash and dental stuffing): $36.75

Thursday, 25 October 2012

A Bracing Journey

Earlier this year, I had read up on forums about orthodontists. Coco had told me, some time late last year, that her school dental nurse had commented that she had a 'huge over jaw'. I am no expert in dentistry but I could guess what she had meant. It made me worry when the well-intentioned nurse repeated her concern before Coco left the dental room,"Your over jaw is huge."

I was worried that her upper jaw might become more protruding as she grows into adulthood and a check on the internet told me that she would need a jaw surgery instead of braces if it continues to protrude right into her twenties.

I read up the forums for recommendations and reviews. In the end, I decided on Dr Alfred Cheng, an orthodontist with a clinic at Mount Elizabeth Hospital.

The first consultation was free. Dr Cheng was patient and would answer any questions we had.

He confirmed that Coco has a protruding upper jaw and that braces would help to push her upper teeth back while bringing forward the lower teeth, thereby better-align the teeth. But when he said two teeth had to be extracted, it scared us and we could not make a decision there and then. He said that there would be very little difference made if no extraction was made and he would rather not do.

He advised us to think about it first and we could always return to him if we really wanted braces done.

Upon stepping out of the clinic, Coco asked me if she could have braces for just the upper teeth. So we went back and asked Dr Cheng. But he said no. In fact, he said the lower teeth has to be treated first, for what, I did not ask.

We stepped out of the clinic again. And Coco said,"Let's do it."

So we went back to the clinic, the third time, and told Dr Cheng that we would have it done.

A nurse did the x-ray for Coco. And after a more detailed examination and some photo-taking, Dr Cheng issued a letter for Coco's teeth to be extracted at Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre.

A friend asked me a question,"Is it too early for Coco to get her braces done? I mean, she is still growing. Would her jaw continue to grow and protrude after the braces period is over?"

I was worried, again. This time - over two issues:

1) Is it too early for Coco to do braces?
2) Is there a need to pull out good teeth?
I went in search of a second opinion to enquire if it was too early for Coco to do braces.

My friend recommended A-line.

Dr Tan at A-line said that his daughter was in Primary Five this year. He got her to do it very early this year, and he would have done it for Coco one year earlier, when she was in Primary Five, if she were his daughter.

He confirmed that it was not too early to do it. In fact, he implied that the treatment was even a little delayed.

Then he said that he would try not to extract her good teeth as there was a good chance of the 'bone moving in' since she was still growing. I am not sure which 'bone' he was referring to but I had assumed it was the jaw bone.

However, he mentioned that he would extract the teeth if there was no sign of improvement after eight months.

Coco did not want to wear braces for eight months just to be informed that there was no improvement.

So we went to the third orthodontist, Dr Tan of Embrace Dental.

His advice was very straightforward:

1) It is not too early to do braces.
2) Extraction is necessary as there is overlapping of teeth in the upper row as well as to make space for the teeth to move in.

It happened that Dr Tan was Coco's classmate's father and he did not charge us the usual fifty-dollar consultation fee out of goodwill!

If not for the $535 deposit that I had paid at Dr Cheng's clinic, I most probably would have got Coco done her braces at Embrace Dental as Dr Tan was equally, if not more, patient in explaining which teeth ought to be extracted and why. He also told us that on top of an overjet, the condition of Coco's upper teeth, Coco also has a crossbite, meaning one of her upper teeth at the side is protruding so much it prevents the movement of her lower jaw. That was one thing that Dr Cheng did not alert us to, but I would not rule out the possibility of him knowing it but not telling us, given us that we already had too much on our plate to worry and think about at that point.

Addresses and charges:

1) Dr Alfred Cheng
    Alfred Cheng Orthodontic Clinic
    Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre
    3 Mount Elizabeth #03-03
    Tel: 67355635
    Nearest MRT: Orchard
    Metal braces: $4066

2) Dr Tan Lam Seng
    A Line Dental Braces Clinic Pte Ltd
    1 Coleman Street
    #03-01 The Adelphi
    Tel: (65) 6837 2722
    Nearest MRT: Cityhall
    Consultation charges: $21
    Metal braces: $3852

3) Dr Tan Kok Liang
    Embrace Dental
    360 Orchard Road #01-14
    International Building
    Tel: (65) 6235 6325
    Fax: (65) 6735 1505
    Nearest MRT: Orchard
    Metal braces: $4200 - $4700

Friday, 12 October 2012

Mummy, My Friends Think You Are Cool!

Coco's school has lined up a series of post-exam activities for the P6 children.

Tuesday - Science Centre
Wednesday - Snow City
Thursday - Zoo
Friday - West Coast Park

I had charged the battery of a pocket digital camera for her and asked her to bring it to Snow City since it was her first time there. It would be good to capture some moments with her friends for the remaining primary school days as well. However, she told me the camera was not really allowed as Snow City had its in-house photographer to take pictures for them, which of course they had to pay for if they wanted the prints.

When I asked her to bring the camera to the zoo on Wednesday night, she said,"I don't have friends anyway."

I got a shock of my life and asked her what she meant by that.

She said that she did not have friends in the class anymore. By 'friends', she meant 'clique/s'. When she tried to join a clique which comprised of her ex-best friends, one of the girls rejected her by saying that the group of four was 'full'.

I sensed that she felt dejected and disappointed, and I knew just how important friends are to her at this stage of her life. And it would be quite a shame to spend the remaining primary school days without friends you can laugh with.

I also recalled how she had asked me to be a parent volunteer at the zoo a couple of days before. Perhaps it was because she wanted some company, or at least my presence could give her some solace of sorts.

I decided to go to the zoo. I met her after she came out of the auditorium at which an instructor gave the kids a briefing on their hunt for information at different parts of the zoo.

She told me she was being 'thrust' into a group, which incidentally was the group which rejected her as part of the clique.

I went along with them and helped look for information to fill up the quiz booklet.

Along the way, the girls were thirsty and I treated them to some bottled drinks which priced at $3 per bottle!

After the activity, Coco's group won the third prize, much to their surprise. So I offered to give them an ice-cream treat which cost $4.90 per scoop!

One of the girls did a calculation and showed me that I had spent $44 just to stand treat.

After the ice-cream treat, the girls went to fall in at the assembly point. Coco could have gone home with me straight from the zoo which was just a 20-minute taxi ride, but she told me she would like to take the bus back to school with her classmates. I knew she had friends again.

When she came home, I asked her,"Were your friends nicer to you?"

She replied,"Yes. They think you are cool and generous!"

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Blown Out of Proportion

We have all read about Amy Cheong saga over her 'racist' remarks about void deck weddings, that are, incidentally, synonymous with one of Singapore's major races' tradition. 

In brief, she had written two posts about void deck weddings on her personal Facebook and peppered one of them with the 'F' word, supposedly to demonstrate her exasperation at the noise generated by a wedding near her house or flat. A police report was lodged against her by a member of public and she was fired from her assistant director post with immediate effect within less than 24 hours after her last post went up. She posted it on Sunday evening, by 12 noon the next day, her service was terminated and her post was advertised on her ex-employer's website in the afternoon just a day after the Facebook post went up.

I honestly feel that things were blown out of proportion.

I seriously don't think that she had maliciously meant for her remarks to be 'racist'. It was just a demonstration of frustration about what she could not stop. Don't we complain about the ge-tai and auction noise during the Lunar Seventh Month too? Why isn't there anyone who lodge a police report about people who speak out against 'Chinese noise'? To get fired just because she had posted her feelings about some noise - that to me seems really narrow-minded. Wouldn't counselling do fine? I am aware that she had made reference to the particular race's wedding practice and dissed them for spending 'only $50' on a wedding and suggested that divorce rate is high because of such, but that was said in a moment of angst. To say that she was at risk of creating social unrest or divide or racial disharmony is over the board.

Furthermore, the posts were done on her personal Facebook. I wonder who she had added to land her in such trouble.

I think it would be naive to think that Singapore is racism-free. We have to admit that there are underlying currents of racism - from race to race. Even within our own race, we discriminate different dialect groups mentally, but that doesn't mean we are unkind to one another. Isn't that what tolerance is all about?

Perhaps she should have kept her thoughts to herself, but losing her job and getting lambasted publicly, with her picture splashed all over the internet, is too severe a punishment.

I am not sure if it shows that we are too uptight a people. It reminds me of the time an expat friend asked me why the locals looked at him with a weird look while other foreigners could chuckle at his joke. I told him,"Next time, end your joke with 'Just kidding' so that the locals know that you are just joking."

Honestly, even typing this post makes me feel apprehensive. Would it result in a public backlash at me just because I hold different, 'weird' opinion about the matter? Perhaps it's precisely I know my opinions are 'weird' that I prefer my thoughts to be kept in an attic.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

I am not Xenophobic

I resorted to putting up a not-so-friendly note at the common rubbish chute a few weeks ago when my *ahem* not-so-proficient-in-English neighbours refused to - or more accurately, were too lazy to - place their rubbish into the chute. Instead, they left them lying around the chute area. At the time when this picture was taken, there was another packet of rubbish TIED to the pipe next to the chute, and yet another leaning against the wall opposite the chute!

It was not the first time that this happened.

It started getting too frequent for comfort when our neighbour decided to increase their tenancy. Let's see ... there are four ready-made rooms in the flat, and not too long ago, they created two more rooms in the living room using partition boards.

They probably forgot to educate the new tenants on the need to throw away their own rubbish, and so the note had to go up.

I was not too optimistic about the note being up there for too long. I had reckoned it would not even survive a day of being put up. Surprise, surprise ... it is still up there today. And it has served its purpose well. Ever since it went up, the chute area stops having bags of rubbish around it. Even when there are rubbish, they are always bulky items that cannot be thrown down the chute.

I don't care if they are upset with the note. They probably are, but for the sake of not antagonising the note writer, which might result in him or her reporting the outrageous tenancy rate in an HDB flat to the authority, they have complied to the practice of throwing their own rubbish since.

My PSLE takeaway

PSLE ended, officially, yesterday, with Higher Mother Tongue as the last paper.

The biggest takeaway I have from this PSLE preparation is how callous children can be, for the sake of demoralising other children, whom they probably view as 'rivals' or 'enemies' all of a sudden.

Suddenly, everybody is a composition expert, dooming their friends' English Paper One by commenting that their friends have written a 'ridiculous' storyline, or that their stories are 'out of point'.

Suddenly, everybody is super-clever, because every single paper is 'super easy'.

William had a student who is the top boy in one of Hokkien Huay Kuan schools. He was worried that he might have gone out of point for his Chinese Oral Conversation. When he voiced his worry to his classmate, the girl who went in after him for the Oral Exam told him that she heard the examiners discussing his marks, and agreed that he should get 38/50 as he had gone out of point for the Conversation segment.

For weeks, the boy was affected. He was worried that it was true. Fortunately, the boy was accepted into a choice school via DSA so he could do his PSLE without further worries.

I thought that must be an isolated case since the girl must have viewed the boy as a rival.

How wrong was I!

When Coco told her friends that she wrote about a plane crashing into the library building which resulted in an explosion and fire, they commented that the story was 'ridiculous' and that she was 'going to fail'.

She was so affected that she cried just before her English Paper Two.

And she didn't tell me until after her Maths paper the next day.

I asked her to tell me how she wrote it, and upon hearing the way it was written, I assured her that it was alright, and that the language expression is more important than the actual storyline itself.

I had come across more ridiculous stories and did not fail those stories for even Content, much less the whole story.

Then when I went into kiasuparents forum, quite a few children or parents were worried that their compositions or their children's compositions could be out of point, with some being told by the children's friends that theirs were indeed out of point.

I got so riled up that I had to log in to say that the story was perfect for the title. Who are those people to comment that others' stories are out of point?

I am just very disheartened that children these days can be so callous. I am sure for the same kind of worry, children twenty years ago would have comforted or assured their friends that it was 'creative' or at least 'alright' instead of attacking their friends' morale and demoralising them for the remaining papers.

Did their parents teach them such 'tactics' or 'strategies'?

Didn't their parents teach them not to open their mouth if nothing good is going to come out of their mouth?

What sort of parents do they have - I genuinely wonder?

Nothing could have prepared me for this. What kind of generation are we raising? For the sake of their own benefits, they emotionally attack the meeker peers. What happened to the friendship they share on normal days?

I shudder to think what would happen when these children grow up.