The storm is hitting our face now…

This is the time when people thought it could not get any worse, and it was staring at us in the face: Yes, it could get worse.

It is a testing time for not only the health of millions due to the Coronavirus, it is also a testing time for the zeros in our bank accounts. Value of shares are evaporating, cash are depleting, and jobs are hanging on threads.

Two weeks ago, we thought the worst will be over soon. The share market will go back to being bullish soon; the virus recovery rate will increase and the spread will slow down, there will be a vaccine; life goes on.

But it did not. Life went on, but things are not getting any better. It gets worse in the place where I am now. It was announced that the country will be in a lockdown due to the rapid spread of the virus, the stock exchange has been crashing like no tomorrow even before the announcement. Shares are down by 20-50%. People are getting margin calls. I am starting to see imaginary blood dripping from my mobile phone screen whenever I see a news on the recent market updates. Social media is full of news on Covid and the tumbling economy.

What can I do to reduce the stress and anxiety?

I really need to see things in a different perspective, and not get caught up with all the “what ifs” and “could have, would have”. If I rebalanced earlier on and have a whole lot of cash that I could now use to average down. If only I did not enter the local market in January using margin facility. If I could have finished all my work earlier.

What are the positive things that I can see from this?

Luckily I did not fully utilise all my margin, otherwise I would have reached my margin call last week. At least I bought some time with me deciding not to max out my margin facility. Luckily I still have some cash with me. Luckily I have finished a substantial amount of work that I am supposed to.

I have learnt many new lessons this year, especially on the stock market, and these lessons will stick with me throughout my life. I am also practising some of the lessons I learnt in the previous correction. I am doing what I need to do taking care of my personal hygiene, not attending mass gatherings, washing hands more diligently and practising social distancing by staying at home.

I will just wait out this great storm. Time is the best cure for everything. This shall pass too. Although it is quite a painful one to sit through.

Chin up everyone! We will emerge stronger. Just hang on there a bit longer!

Parasite – review and scenes explained

I heard about this movie from a few close friends but did not get around to watching it. When a friend who continuously shared posts about hating the rich said the reason was because of Parasite, I decided to watch it in the cinema.

Non-spoiler review

Parasite successfully covered many elements of humanity and it has successfully done it in a comprehensible manner. The clear theme of this drama thriller is the inequality between the rich and the poor.

Whilst the movie started as a humour-drama set-up, I was surprised by the cinematic effects that this movie was able to capture. A few of the eye-catching scenes includes:

  • Washed socks were hung on a smaller hanger, in front of a window that leveled with the road surface, enabling the family to see the back alley and thrash that is just above their flat. There is a toilet bowl just beneath the window, showing a crammed toilet space.
  • The front yard of the mansion looks beautiful, whether when there is ample sun ray or when it was raining heavily. An indication that whether the weather was good or bad, the rich gets their best view.
  • The endless fleets of aluminium pedestrian bridge staircase that the family ran to during the heavy rain was a striking scene.
  • The bird eye’s view of the flood from atop, and the scene of the refugees laying on mattresses laid in arrays on the stadium floor were eyeballs drawing. It was like the director paused the audiences from the movie and showed them pictures from a photo album.

Well unfortunately that is all I could say for a non-spoiler review. I have to refer to parts of the plot to elaborate on my thoughts on the movie.

SPOILER – DON’T PROCEED IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED IT

At first I thought that the “parasite” that the movie title suggested was referring to the con-men family. Later I realised that the actual parasite was the housekeeper’s husband who was stealing food and using utilities in the rich man’s mansion. The con men family was at least doing work for the family, whether or not they obtained their jobs via legitimate means. A friend said that the rich man’s family could also be seen as a form of parasite, leeching off the poor, a parasite in the society. The rich man could be selling junk to the society, and those without financial literacy bought into the promotion and advertisements and spent their money to make the rich man the big shot he was then. But could society solely blame the rich man for selling his stuff to the mass? He did not force the mass to buy them. The rich man has many faults but making himself prosperous by selling products that the mass needed was hardly one of them.

The “subway smell” has been the metaphor for poverty throughout the movie. It started when the rich man sniffed a certain insufferable smell on the dad. Then the rich man’s son also smelled the same smell on the dad, the mother and the daughter. That was when the family discussed if they should wash their clothes with different detergents. Then they realised that it was not about the detergent, rather the small basement flat that they lived in emits this stuffy smell that could not be eliminated unless they moved to another place. The rich man and his wife discussed about the dad, and concluded that he was fine, almost close to bypassing employer-employee territory, but not yet. However his “subway smell” is going to cross territory soon. The dad was hiding under the coffee table when he heard their comments, and there was slight twitch in his facial expression. The subject of the smell re-appeared for the third time when the dad was ferrying the rich man’s wife to shopping. The rich man’s wife was not as subtle as her husband. She opened the window and pinched her nose. The dad has already became sensitive over the topic of smell, and he of course notices this. The last time the smell topic surfaced was the time when the rich man lost his life. He pinched his nose and gave the dad a look when he retrieved the car keys beneath the mad man’s body. In my opinion, that pinching hardly has anything to do with the “subway stench” that the dad was so sensitive about, since the situation was so chaotic, and no-one would be able to detect a wisp of stuffy smell. However the dad took that after everything the rich man was still despising his poverty, so he plunged the knife into the rich man in a rage.

The coldest thing that I heard throughout the movie was when the rich man’s wife told the dad that “the rain last night was a good one”. The con-man’s family lost their home during the heavy rain the prior night. The dad was forced to chauffeur the lady to shopping instead of restoring his home because of the overtime fees offered by the rich man. The flood was of no concern to the rich because they are well protected from the elements. This scene could be seen as the rich’s apathy’s towards the poor’s suffering.

When the con-man’s family gotten jobs from the rich man’s family, they became smug and their attitudes towards the pissing drunk in front of their flat worsen. The son was seen bringing out his wealth rock and one could only wonder what he planned to do with the rock. Luckily the next scene only showed that he and the dad threw water at the drunk. This is an irony about people hating the rich. It is easier to hate the rich than to try to become them. They whine and complain about the rich stealing their opportunities and their lives. If you were that poor because the rich were stealing from you, shouldn’t you be busy working your ass off to not continue being poor instead of whining?

The rich man said he missed the former housekeeper’s dish, and commented that she was fine, except that she ate two people’s portion. This foreshadowed the fact that the former housekeeper was consuming on behalf of her husband living in the basement.

Another one of the biggest irony is during the scene when the son was kissing the rich man’s daughter before the garden party. The teenage girl was asking why the boyfriend was lost in thoughts when kissing her. Why, you say? Your boyfriend lost his home and there were two lurking time bombs in the basement! But then again, how would you know? Little would she know that her life was about to change dramatically.

When the mad man came to the front yard with a knife, all the guests scrambled for their lives, and the sister was stabbed with no obstruction. The rich man has been a gentleman throughout, until this very scene, when he sternly instructed the dad to hand over the car keys. It was very clear that during dire times the rich man considered his family’s life more precious than anyone else’s, including the dying art tutor’s life. He did not even helped to stop the mad man. He just ran away and only tended to his family when his daughter carried out the bleeding son on her shoulders. Could you blame him for being a coward in the presence of a maniac? Humans are selfish, and they will always care for their own family first, so I do not think this is a question of whether rich man is richer so his family’s life is worth more to save, or as a normal human being he was not heroic enough to risk his life saving people that he barely knew. Initially I wanted to come to a simple conclusion that the rich man deserved it because he treated his family and his lives above the poor family’s lives. However I asked this: who else does not? His biggest mistake is not screening through properly before bringing in this family who harbours hatred towards the rich, and he was not discreet enough to not speak nor show his disgust towards the “smell” on the dad.

The dad used to tell his son that it is fine to not have a plan because life never follows the plan. If you never had a plan in the first place then there will be no failure since there is nothing to benchmark against. He does not have a plan, however his son did harbour a plan. Ironically it was this very plan that caused the demise of the family. The dad did not have a plan, and yet in the end he murdered a person. His son had a plan and the plan destroyed the family. So what does this mean? Should there be a plan or not? Could it be just because one is poor, whether they have a plan or not their lives would be screwed? Maybe the whole family would be saved if the father had a plan instead of letting his son execute his own undisclosed plan?

The ending was the epitome of a major twist. The letter was never sent out and could never be sent out. The dad was still able to communicate via morse code, it was his family who are in grief because they could not let him know that they received his message. This brings me to the last point, which I find that both the maniac and the dad to be dregs of the society, since they hid away and avoid responsibilities when misfortune happened. They brought great pain to their families. It was also the dad’s man slaughtering of the rich man that caused the collapse of the whole family.

Overall this is a great movie, and one that gives a great deal for one to think. What do you think?

Audrey – The perseverance of a single mother with lupus

Audrey is a strong, independent and self-sacrificing single mother of two daughters who has come a very long way to where she is now. When I first heard of Audrey’s sharing, I felt that I could resonate with her on many levels. Especially on the part of her being a dedicated, hardworking and committed employee. I was very touched by her determination to persevere through all her hardships, and thankfully now everything turned out well.

About 13 years ago, Audrey’s life was saddled with marital issues and torrents of responsibilities that arisen from the conflict. Her then-husband was having an extramarital affair and she was forced to leave her house after a few years with both of her daughters. She was struggling to make ends meet, and the very thought of losing her job crippled her. She always put her two daughters, aged 6 and 3-years old as her priority, and she felt that keeping her job is the only way she could cope with the financial distress as a result of the separation.

Audrey and her beautiful babies

Audrey was incredibly versatile, making the switch from a full-time housewife back to be a qualified early childhood educator, to being a chartered secretary to cope with the rising commitments for single motherhood. She is truly one tough cookie who never bow down to fate and give up. She morphed into a stronger person and took up the challenges head on.

As a single mother, she was working long hours and had to deal with her health issues as well as raising her kids alone. She also had to oversee the construction of a house on her parent’s land after she was made to leave her matrimonial house as a result of the divorce.

These throngs of challenges and stress has exacerbated Audrey’s health problems. Serious skin rashes were her first symptom of SLE (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus). She had to face the results of the SLE diagnosis alone, and the barrage of other adversities happening at almost the same time. Health problems has come as no stranger in SLE patients’ lives, but the variety of Audrey’s health issue really shocked me, as I could not phantom how strong one’s will have to be to pull through all these physical and mental pain.

Her SLE has moved from skin involvement to chronic kidney involvement, which is also known as Lupus Nephritis Class V. She also had a myriad of other health issues, such as shingles, high fever, stage 3 hypertension, swelling in the body, excruciating joint pain, heavy menstruation (menorrhagia), hair loss, memory loss, skin thinning, frequent urination, constipation, diarrhea, dry skin, dry mouth and lips, stretch marks, moon face and dry eyes. She is a frequent visitor in hospitals and wards and had to go whenever SLE acts up. She is also on various medications in order to treat the symptoms of the attacks.

Two of the health issues brought a rude awakening to Audrey. Now when she looked back, she realised that both events could have grave consequences.

One morning in September 2014 when she was working in the office, she felt a sudden sharp tightness in her chest and she was experiencing cold sweat, difficulty in breathing and dizziness.  Amid this she fell unconscious. Miraculously after several hours she woke up and continued working. She only went to the Emergency Room the next day. She was immediately admitted to the hospital as her blood pressure was very high. Subsequently it was proven to be a heart attack and she could have just left the world if not for her will to survive. When she shared with the counselling group, everyone was shocked at how work could make her neglect her life. We could all feel her deep fear for losing her job.

Audrey being hospitalised after her heart attack

Another time she accidentally twisted her ankle and did not bandaged it nor did she take much time to follow-up with the doctor. She feared that those actions would cause her to lose her job, as she has already taken quite a lot of sick leave due to her SLE attacks. She worried that a bandage leg will further impress upon her employer that she will not be able to perform her duties and responsibilities. It did not help that the human resources department asked her to convert her medical leave to annual leave. She was under duress and tremendous pressure to not seek proper treatment on the twisted ankle. She was physically and mentally exhausted that she did not have the energy to argue with HR, and so she just did as she was told, and continued working the usual workload.

In June 2017, the Orthopedic informed her that she did not just twist her ankle, but her Achilles tendon has completely ruptured with little chances of revival. The specialist refused to operate on her because of the high tendency of SLE patients to get infections as they were on immune-depressant medications. She was referred to a physiotherapist. She was depressed as she contemplated the possibility of her being limp forever. She questioned her decision for being so self-sacrificing in order to secure her job and that she has neglected her health. She also found that the nephrologist that she was following up with was not professional and did not refer her to an orthopedic despite her updating the doctor diligently on her state of health.

Audrey’s swollen feet and ruptured ankle tendon

In the second half of 2018, after an avalanche of SLE attacks and family issues that resulted in emotional turmoil, Audrey’s two daughters pleaded that she stop trying to be strong, as they do not want to see her body to eventually succumb to SLE. They said they are now grown-up and could start working to shoulder the household’s financial commitments. Audrey considered the fact that two of her SLE acquaintances whom passed away due to complications from the attacks and decided to take her daughters’ advice by quitting her job. She spent six months resting at home and saw gradual improvement to her state of health. She has seen a reduction in joint pain and her state of mind is now more relaxed. She reflected to her earlier years when she was busy chasing her goals, such as working full-time to support her professional certifications, helping her family, supporting her marriage and children but neglected her health.

She believes that everyone should focus on their own health before sacrificing their own health and time for work or help others. Nothing is forever, especially if you are no longer alive, then nothing else matters. She considered herself fortunate as after struggling for more than 13 years, her babies had grown up to be well-behaved and academically excellent daughters. She will do her best to continue moving forward, hope for the best and take life one step at a time.

Audrey and her two beautiful daughters, grown up now after her 13 years of struggle.

Gardening taught me more than what I expect to learn

I find myself an extreme creature of randomness. Sometimes inspiration just entered my mind because of either something I read, or someone I stumbled upon, and it grew into something I never knew it would become. The biggest randomness that happened to me was stumbling upon this financial independence blogger, Mr Money Mustache’s website, and doubled my networth within three years. Not that it was that much to start with, but still, it was amazing.

Another one of these randomness was gardening. My mother, my aunts and uncles all had green finger, and loved their plants very much. Apart from the part where I asked my boyfriend to help my mom pluck weeds to prove that he could get his hands dirty, I normally shy away from the garden.

About 3-4 months ago, I read about something called Aquaponics, which means plants and fish living within the same ecosystem, with humans rearing the fishes, and the fishes in return giving their waste to the plants as their nutrients. This is an urban farming method that is gaining popularity as this reduces pesticides and toxins in fishes since their environment is largely controlled by humans. It is also encouraged by the local ministry of agriculture considering the fact that our country is having an agricultural products import deficit, meaning we mostly import our food from other countries, although we ourselves are majorly an agricultural country.

I eat broccoli and some other vegetables almost every day. So I figured, this does not seem to be too bad a plan. My balcony only had two decorative plants anyway. The worst is that the plant might die, and I will end up with no plant. No biggie. (I was sadder than I thought when they died, which is something that I did not know back then) I started to kind of eat vegetarian at home, so I cut out the fish part.

Too much water is worse than not enough water

This is a very painful lesson indeed. But it was not me who over-watered the plants. It was the rain. Whilst I was away on holiday, it rained heavily everyday, but I had no idea. It never dawned to me that I should ask my housemate to move the plants indoor. Then I saw despite the fact that the soil was wet, the leaves on several seedlings are turning yellow. I wonder what happened so I googled the reason why leaves turn yellow. Contrary to popular belief, there are many reasons why plants turn yellow, lack of water is not the only reason. It seems when plants are overwatered, the root starts to rot, and once that happens, there is no reversing of that effect. The only thing you could do is just watch them die. The words “fragility of life” comes into mind. Well I actually dug out two of the seedlings and moved them to drier soil. It actually worked for one of them.

Loneliness (or a bigger container) could kill a plant

My most prized broccoli plant, one that grew into the largest amongst my other seedlings which survived through my two weeks’ holidays did not survive after I transplanted it to a bigger bag. I was guessing perhaps that big bag made it felt lonely, since there was so much space, and it was far away from its friends before the transplant. Its leaves were too heavy for the stem to carry that it fell sideways. I tried to put a straw to straighten the stem. It just prolonged its inevitable death. I told myself, it’s ok, just continue buying broccoli from the supermarket.

My head is too heavy

Later I stumbled upon a more logical explanation. Unless the seedling is really matured, otherwise transplanting it to a bigger pot or place will loosen the soil, and since a bigger pot can hold more water, it is likely to dampen the roots and cause the plants’ roots to rot.

Planting is like parenting

Definitely a strange revelation considering the fact that I do not have children and am not sure if I would like to have them.

After learning that too much water can kill the plants, and the fact that plants need sunlight to thrive, I was thinking how could both be achieved, and this was what I came out with.

A transparent umbrella! Maybe there is indeed something called the best of both worlds?

My boyfriend said I protect and care for them too much. I should just let nature take their course. Look at weeds, they grow well, although no-one cared for them. It was an epiphany that parents probably felt the same way as I do. As much as I have done what I could, and the results was not as what I hoped it would be, I could not just give up on the seedlings and move on. And why, you ask me? Could this be love? Unreciprocated efforts? I still could not put a finger on this.

Parents could do anything for their children, even if it means giving up their lives. I know to many, mints are the easiest to grow. It was not as easy for me. I got a few grown mint plants and stems from mom several times, and they never lived into the wild bushes I thought it would, since everyone says that they are like weeds. I bought some fresh mints from the market and tried to plant them. Surprisingly one of the stalks actually survived and little buds of leaves started to sprout. Look how the left “parent leaf” lived on long enough so that the tiny buds could survive. Once that goal is achieved, it just dropped dead.

Well I might be romantising this mint growth progress but what I learnt from this is, never ever cut off all the leaves and expect that the stem would be able to do the work for you. That stem is just like the blood transfusion system, if there were no nutrients, there was nothing to transport, and death is just a matter of time.

Parents giving their all to their children

Shit happens.. and sometimes you just have to cut losses

Well not before you put up a lot of fight!

Gross! I know

The first thing I did was locating the culprits that gave my Spanish spinach these hideous bites. So apparently it was not just one but two, and maybe three of those caterpillars. It was a cringey experience removing these caterpillars and their droppings. There was nothing that I could do but to cut off all the leaves that the caterpillars has “graced”. In fact I have chopped off quite a fair bit. I could not stand the hideous looking chewing marks, and caterpillar poo.

That’s all I can remember. I am still learning every day. My plants are a solace to me when I come back from work. The first thing I do everyday the moment I stepped into the house, was to take a look at how my plants are doing. Are they growing steadily? Are they dying? Did they have enough water? Did I do what was needed? How can I improve on my planting skills? I guess I will have to wait until a garden of greenery that I have always wished for will just appear one day when I am not looking and checking in.

Till then, just plant on!

Surviving two strokes- Darleen’s story

I met Darleen during a counselling training session. It was the first session where everyone shared their lupus life stories, on how they were first diagnosed with lupus, fought hard to regain their pre-lupus life, and be able to volunteer counselling help to new patients. Darleen is witty, direct and straight to the point. She is a strong and courageous woman, despite her petite size and demure appearance.

In 2000, Darleen had very high fever, swollen ankles and feet, as a result, she could not walk and she did not know why. She was taken to the hospital and was diagnosed as having Sjogren’s syndrome. Back then, it was all new to the doctor. They only gave her medication to relieve the pain she was suffering. Sjogren’s syndrome, like SLE, is an autoimmune disease. This means that your immune system attacks parts of your own body by mistake. In Sjogren’s syndrome, it attacks the joints, and glands that make tears and saliva. This caused her a dry mouth and dry eyes.

In 2008, one year after Darleen was married, she had a miscarriage. Since she had difficulty conceiving, and both she and her husband wanted kids, they went for a medical check-up. She was diagnosed with Anemia and Thalassemia too. This diagnosis and miscarriage brought much stress to her and resulted in SLE attacking her body again. In Darleen’s case, it attacked her joints. Her joint pains were so severe that she had to use crutches.

In 2013, after she came back from a road trip with her husband, he noticed that something was unusual about Darleen’s demeanour. She was taking longer to open the house grill, and the right side of her face was already drooping. She was sent to the hospital, and her blood pressure was so high that she was immediately admitted. She was diagnosed with a massive stroke, with a huge blood blotch in her left brain. Doctor said it was a miracle that she survived. But she didn’t know then and only heard about these details six months after her stroke stabilized as her husband was concerned about her mental well-being that he did not dare tell her the truth. She was diagnosed with Systemic lupus Erythematosus (SLE), SLE is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacked the organs of a patients’ body instead of intruders. She was then discharged within a week.

Yet within a few days after her discharge, her family realized that the position that she was sleeping was unnatural, fearing that the stroke relapsed, they took her to the hospital again. Darleen was once again, diagnosed with a second stroke, which affected her right brain. The hospital discovered that the blood thinner prescribed to her did not work, and her prescription was changed from Aspirin to a much stronger Warfarin until this very day.

The double stroke has cost Darleen a six months downtime. After the stroke, she had severe difficulty standing, walking, gripping items and there was weakness in her whole body. She had speech impairment, resulting in her words coming out in slurs. Her husband was her strongest support in her journey to recovery. And with the support from her family too, her recovery was tremendously fast. Her husband made sure that she did her daily physio and facial recovery exercises, and even requested that Darleen’s niece help out when he was not around by letting her held onto her while she walked the staircase every day. She recovered in six months’ time.

Darleen was down to 42kgs after she had the double strokes.

Darleen went back to work two weeks after she was discharged, despite the temporary damage that the stroke has brought to her, and she considered this one of the gravest mistake in her career. Soon she was making so much mistakes that her employer started saying demeaning words and giving her tasks that she could no longer accomplish. She was overwhelmed by stress, and the SLE started the attacks again. She could not concentrate, and she made even more mistakes. She had another miscarriage in 2014, and she decided to quit her job.

It was a really tough time for Darleen’s household, as her husband tried his best to make ends meet and nurse her back to health all over again as she lost all her self esteem and confidence. They were living on their savings. After another 6 months, Darleen decided to take up a customer service job but it lasted her only nine months.

In June 2015, Darleen’s husband fell sick and was hospitalized. She quitted her job and took care of him for approximately 1-2 months. Unfortunately he was diagnosed with cancer Stage IV. He went through a biopsy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and he did not became better. After 2 month, he passed away.

In memory of Darleen’s loving husband.

This time, Darleen’s whole world came crashing down with her husband’s untimely departure. She went into a deep depression, and did not work for two years. After some time, she figured that she could not stay in the pit forever, she started to go for camps, help with church work, doing numerous social work to keep herself busy. It was her strong will and her faith in her religion that helped her through these trying times. She owes it to her family and friends for the encouragement and ‘pushes’ she needed.
Now she is ready to help other new patients again. She believes that one should never give up, despite the punches that life throws to anyone. She has the following advice for fellow lupus patients:

  • Never give up. Fight with all that you have got
  • Remember you are in control. Not the Wolf
  • Learn to accept your condition
  • Get regular exercise and stick to it. Walking is the easiest way to start and maintain
  • Maintain a healthy diet. But don’t deprive yourself from eating your favourites
  • Limit sun exposure
  • Maintain a stress-free life. Know what stresses you up and try to stay away from it
  • Get enough rest
  • Always look your best. When you look good, you feel good.
  • Have a positive mindset
  • Prayer helps. Have faith. Visit places of worship more
  • Have fun. Go out. Keep yourself busy
Darleen now.

I have nothing but admiration for Darleen and how she handled life’s adversities. The most touching thing was that despite all life’s lemons, she still decided to lend out a helping hand to patients. This really makes one think twice when they have a complaint to make about life.

With Darleen’s positive attitude in life and high spirits, I believe that she will go a long way. I hope that her lupus will treat her well, and I wish the very best for her and lupus patients all alike!

Ai Vee’s journey with her ‘grumpy lupus’

Ai Vee is one of the most cheerful patients that I have ever met. When we first met, she had this cheeky smile on her face that I thought she was one of the counsellors. I did not think that she was a lupus patient like me afterall.

Ai Vee was diagnosed with lupus eight years ago, where it first started with rashes on her face and limbs. She went for check-ups and she was told that these are dermatology conditions, such as psoriasis or eczema. The rashes normally come and go, not until that fateful year when she was in college. A change in environment coupled with mounting pressure during studies has caused her symptoms to exacerbate. For close to half a year, her legs were swollen, and her joint pain was so excruciating that she could not walk up the stairs, open bottles, and cope with day-to-day matters.

Ai Vee with rashes on her face.
When Ai Vee’s lupus was extremely active.

One day she slipped, fell down and became unconscious. It was then she was finally diagnosed with Lupus Nephritis Class III. She was bed-ridden for a few days, and had to go through intensive medication to control her active lupus. She had to defer her studies to the subsequent semester because her body just could not cope with the attack and the overwhelming pressure from her studies.

Her creatine and protein readings fluctuate since she was diagnosed, and it took two years for the readings to stabilise, ie gone back to the normal readings. Fluctuating readings meant that lupus is still actively attacking her kidneys and therefore their functionality have deteriorated. During her time in college, due to a weakened immune system since she had to take medication to suppress its attacks, she has caught on numerous diseases, such as shingles (some called it snake-skin disease), fever and flu whilst on medication. She also contracted E-Coli, bacteria in the intestines and had to go to hospital everyday to receive injections. It was painful and there were no oral medication available. Ironically, recovery was harder with the medications.

She used a cute and befitting description for her lupus: grumpy. If this is not called positivity, I don’t know what else is.

Since she was diagnosed before college, I asked her how did she manage with job hunting when she graduated. She had gone through twenty over interviews to finally land her first job. She had to inform the interviewers about her illness. Some of them had a hard time understanding how the disease attacks, and the extent of impact it would have on her on her productivity, and their decisions were therefore affected. I really admire her perseverance and maturity to handle all the rejections. As a fellow lupus patient, I know for us, it is not an option to stay strong, we just got to be strong and push on.

Ai Vee looking chubbier due to the effects of steroids she had to take to manage lupus.

I have also learnt one useful thing from her. Whilst the insurance companies will not allow lupus nephritis patients to enter into a policy if they did not sign up for insurance before they had the disease, it appears that the company insurance still covers expenses incurred during follow-ups, if you are hired as a permanent employee. She has switched jobs since she got her first job, and the medical expenses are still covered.

I asked her how does she stay positive with the fact that this illness brings so much inconveniences and pain to her life. She says the mantra that kept her going on was not about family or friends but her own desire to see the future possibilities that lie ahead her. “I still want to see what other happy things will happen to me in the future and I am motivated by the wish to travel around the world.” She believes firmly that the best motivation to be positive is having a strong urge to see herself become better. I echo that, and I believe that only by putting yourself as the foremost consideration will you have all the willpower to pull yourself up.

Ai Vee’s lupus has now stabilised, and she is currently in remission. She manages her stress level from time to time, maintains a balanced diet, and do simple exercises, such as walking often. She is grateful for herself and everyone else who is supporting her throughout her journey. She is now a para-counsellor in the local lupus association and helps encourage lupus patients and family members by sharing her experience and hearing them out. I am working alongside with her the same association, and I am so glad that we could help other patients go through the acceptance and self-empowerment process. Best wishes to her.

Ai Vee’s lupus has stabilised and is currently under remission.