Beyond Barriers: Dear God, please stop this pain

  • Living
  • Thursday, 21 May 2015

Pilgrim's lot: Life often takes us through uncertain paths. And though we may end up in the darkest valleys, we can draw courage and strength from God.

We often take good health for granted – until a medical crisis arises. I suffered constant migraines and each time I went to see the doctor, he would change my medication. After a year, I decided to go to the hospital for a more thorough check-up as I feared there could be something sinister lurking beneath my skull.

My worst fears were confirmed when the doctor found a pituitary tumour. Back in those days, hospitals did not have sophisticated equipment to conduct diagnostic tests on patients. A craniotomy was done, stretching right across the frontal part of my head. This was followed by 10 doses of radiation.

I was very weak and lost my appetite after every round of radiation. I suffered prolonged post-operation pain in my skull. I was hospitalised three times for post-operation observation and after nine months, the pain subsided. I thought that was the end of my medical woes.

Just when life was looking good, the company I was working with embarked on a retrenchment drive. I had to look for a new job and found one. I went for a routine medical examination – and was in for a shock when the doctor suspected a cancerous growth in my breast.

I was on the verge of being retrenched, with housing and car loans to juggle, and this had to happen.

A biopsy confirmed my fears and I underwent a mastectomy to remove the cancerous breast and the lymph nodes. The removal of the lymph nodes had a side effect on my left hand. It became bigger than the right hand due to the poor drainage of lymphatic fluid after the lymph nodes were removed.

One morning, I woke up with a raging fever and my left hand was swollen and inflamed. I was hospitalised for five days. The doctor diagnosed it as lymphoedema cellulitis. I was told to be careful and not lift heavy objects or over-exert my left hand. I was advised to wear a compression arm sleeve on a permanent basis.

A year later, I had a cut on my finger and knowing the sensitivity of this hand, I quickly applied some medication to the wound. It did not work. The next morning, my whole left hand was swollen. I was in hospital for seven days as the inflammation was slow to subside. I have to exercise extreme caution as even a mosquito bite on my left hand, can lead to disastrous consequences.

I took up a new job, and everything seemed fine for the first few years. However, work soon started to get hectic following a restructuring exercise in the company. I often felt a spinning sensation in my head and had frequent bouts of nausea.

One day, I had a panic attack and could not breathe properly.

I was rushed to the hospital and a brain scan showed excess cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. I underwent transnasal endoscopic surgery to drain away excess fluid. I was operated on twice within a week as fluid continued to flow through my nose after the first operation.

I had to stop work for health reasons. Without a job to sustain me, life seemed empty. As the months wore on, I slipped into depression. I withdrew socially as I found it difficult to interact with others. I would shake and tears would flow when I tried to talk. I could not speak or write coherently, and I suffered frequent panic attacks. I was under the care of a psychiatrist for six months.

Through the support of family and friends, I slowly recovered. But another challenge was in store for me two years down the road. I had blurred vision in my right eye and was diagnosed with bilateral sixth nerve palsy, a disorder associated with the dysfunction of cranial nerve VI. I had surgery performed on my right eye, and my vision soon returned to normal.

Ten months later, the problem returned. This time, the doctor recommended that a prism be fitted in my spectacles as the eye cannot undergo too many surgeries.

For a few years, the hospital seemed to be my second home. When I lay down in the emergency room, waiting for the doctor, I prayed that God would give the attending doctor the wisdom to correctly diagnose and treat my condition.

Besides these medical crises, I also have to live with irritable bowel syndrome and chronic insomnia. I have sought various treatments – both western and traditional – but found little respite. I’ll be happy if I can get four hours’ uninterrupted sleep every night.

I’ve learnt to draw strength from God as I go through life’s trials. Though I may walk through the darkest valley, I shall not fear for I know that God will be there to comfort and guide me.

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