Flames and Fury

In a heart-shattering swoosh

Yellow orange flames appear

Out of thin air, fiery magic: swisshh!

Time stands still, frozen in fear

Eyes hypnotized by spreading flames

Raging and consuming all in its path.

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Thoughts a pounding

Heart beats racing

Screaming from within

Baby’s confused cries pierce

Muscles spring to action

Taking flight, flames die out

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Charred remnants fill my vision

Oh dear anxious heart be still

What-ifs scenarios, mind’s revision

A continuous loop sends down a chill

Enough! No more dwelling in fear.

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Friend’s reassurances fall on deaf ears

Husband’s comfort efforts fall to naught

I run to God’s Word to cast off all fears

Desperate for a calm amidst my inner raging storm

Trading in My Fears for Faith in God

As I hold our precious daughter in my arms, struggling with her elongated arms and legs sliding out of my grasp, I jiggle her up and down as I rock her to sleep to the whirring rhythm of our ceiling fan.

There is a humongous mountain of unvoiced fears hovering at the back of my subconscious. Fears of the unknown, a looming new stage of life in front of me.

I have been a stay at home mom for the past 16 months that stretched on endlessly, yet flew by unbelievably. I have never spent a night away from our baby. Being a “stay home mom” became my identity, my purpose, my pride, my joy, my peace of mind. I had my daughter under my watchful gaze 95% of the time and I did my best to maintain a nurturing environment for her to develop, grow, and learn.

I believe it’s time for my daughter to start school so I can have some breathing space and productive use of time. I have been stubbornly on the thrill of freedom I will soon experience when my daughter starts day care even if for just half a day each week day.

Since December of last year I have been taking slow but steady steps of personal and career development..I recently realized I need space and time to really lift some enterprises off the ground.

As I cling tightly to our young toddler, I cling unto faith that God is in control. In this instant, I could either pray, or poke the mountain of fear and have it all come crashing down on me to drown beneath the weight of it all.

One of the names we gave our daughter came from us entrusting her into the care of God. I had to literally say it out to God again last night: God, I am handing our daughter into your care.

I prayed that God will assign the right care givers. I prayed that God will give her heavenly immune system and protect her from illness and disease . I prayed God will take control of every detail concerning her future (Jeremiah 29:11). I prayed that God will place her in His angels’ care so when she falls, she will not dash her foot against a stone (Psalms 91:11).

I would have prayed for longer but I couldn’t ignore the ache in my arms anymore. Plus our little angel was snoring peacefully.

One more prayer God…or two…

She has been waking up whimpering or crying for the past week. So I prayed that the peace of God that passeth all understanding would rest over her. God grant your beloved child sweet sleep.

And lastly God, help me to pray every time I am tempted to over think things and give into worry and fears. Help me to be a prayer warrior and intercede for every area of my life, my marriage, my child, my ministry and my career. Amen

Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” ~ Isaiah 41:10

Originally wrote this article here

Bringing a Smile to Mommy’s Face


One of my greatest pleasures as a mom is that my baby girl thinks I am the funniest human ever. My smile is contagious and her face lights up when I’m happy. When she sees me happy, she starts giggling and doing her jiggly dance.

Happy baby, happy mama

It works both ways as well. My heart swells with joy when I see our Angel enjoying a first time experience, or giggling or flashing me her dimpled smile.

Everyday, I learn so many new things about human growth and development. One of them is that babies are born with high emotional intelligence. It amazes me!


Just because a baby may not understand what one is saying doesn’t mean one shouldn’t talk to them properly. I have discovered that babies understand facial expressions and they are able to develop facial expression preference. It is possible that their favorite expression is when daddy and mummy smiles at them.

I wonder how many of us, myself included possess a child-like desire to do the right thing, live holy and do everything we can to bring a smile to God’s face?!

HERE ARE FEW WAYS WE CAN PLEASE GOD OR BRING A SMILE TO GOD’S FACE:

1. Have faith in God

The number one way we make God happy is when we believe that God exists and seek Him with all our heart (Hebrews 11:6).

2. Fear God

To fear God means to reverence Him and everything in our life is done to please Him (Psalms 147:10-11).


3. Live a holy life

God calls us to be holy, just as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). We shouldn’t use our humanity as an excuse to behave as we wish. A desire to live a holy life springs up when we believe in God’s existence, fear Him and gain a deeper understanding of who God is. One way to live a holy life, pleasing unto God is to honor God with our bodies. Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).


Smile on me, your servant; teach me the right way to live (Psalm 119:135).


May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace. Numbers 6:25-26

I wrote this post originally for Christianmommas.com

I first wrote this article here

I survived my 1st year of parenting!

And just like that, it is now a day to our baby girl’s first birthday and I want to scream to the entire world “I survived my first year of being a mama!!”

I imagine myself drenched in sweat, weary from countless nights of interrupted sleep, dirt under my fingernails from all the poopy diapers I have changed, standing victoriously on a mountaintop. Yes I am on top of the first mountain in a whole range of mountains, but for now I want a pat on the back, an award for participation. A personal moment to say “girl, you did it!”.

This time last year, I was on one of several beds in the labour ward. Anyone who has any experience with Nigeria hospitals will imagine or know first hand the trepidation I felt. I had to constantly use exercise my faith so as not to be overcome with worry . All I knew was that as long as I had a natural birth, by the grace of God, I and my baby will be in good hands.

I was divinely favoured to have a relatively pleasant and easy labour and delivery story (no need to bore you with my tales of the inadequacies of the healthcare system here). With simple child-like faith, I believed for a relatively stress-free labour experience and I was beaming (like a child who opened their Christmas gift to find it was what she has asked for and doubted whether she will get it) when I found out I was 2cm dilated with pain-free contractions. There were some challenging moments as time when doctors insisted I go for a C-section but honestly the whole experience was divinely blessed with God’s grace.

Our child has been a blessing from the moment of conception, to labour and unbelievably easy pushing part of the delivery. I literally pushed and grunted and our baby slid out.

Within first few minutes of her birth, a song of praise burst forth from my lips. Mind you, the words was more or less whispered under my breath as I was exhausted and beyond famished. As they were stitching me up, I turned my head and watched in awe as they cleaned up this pale skinned, raven haired little human with olive oil.

The struggles and anticipation of the previous nine months and the grueling ordeal of labour were already fading into memory.

How do I condense all the struggles of a rookie mama into a paragraph? Or two? The journey of bonding with our precious baby was no walk in the park. It is assumed that because a baby grew inside of you for nine months, you will form a magical bond that will detect whether they are hungry, tired or need to go poopy.

In the first several months, the process of trying to figure out why your baby is fussing goes like this:

Changed her diaper, check. Nursed her like five minutes ago so she can’t be hungry. She just napped like 30 minutes ago. Probably she is feeling the heat? Is she feeling uncomfortable because of the immunization shots she took yesterday?

Oh I look back with fondness at how frazzled different stages of the past year made me. From mommy and baby struggling to latch properly, figuring how to nurse baby girl in public like it’s no big deal, to learning how to survive the crowded immunization clinic days. Dealing with immunization aftermath like fevers, swollen tenderness and fussiness. Teething periods. Introducing solids. Progressing through purees to semi solids to beaming in pride as baby girl ate a whole banana by herself.

Oh and the moments when as a parent I beamed with pride and urged our baby girl to perfect a milestone or new skill: holding things with her fingers, grasping, rolling over, pulling herself forward, crawling, pulling up, standing, cruising and so on.

Right now we are helping our daughter learn how to perfect her balance and walking. As parents we are always teaching and encouraging our children to improve or perfect new skills and talents but there are so many lessons our little ones teach us to. I recently did an article on lessons I have learned from observing baby girl learn to walk. (Read here)

I honestly don’t know what my second year as a parent will hold but that’s what makes being a first time parent be so much fun.

Please share stories about your experiences with me too! What was your most challenging and rewarding moment in the first years of your child’s life? Is it easier the second or third “child” around? 🙂

Two Lessons From Observing My Little Human Learn to Walk

My Daughter’s Walking Adventure

I imagine that like myself, most parents cannot wait for the moment their baby learns or starts to walk independently.

My daughter first used her playpen as a safe space to test the limits of gravity as well as practice her pulling up.

The moment she could pull herself up at 7 months, she would stand for like 20 minutes (yes, I timed her once). Later, she proceeded to holding on to edges and going around her playpen in endless circles. Before long, she would try going from one edge to the other, toppling down over and over, smashing her face into the netted mesh on the sides of the playpen. I know she took her first steps in the play pen long ago. But I am not sure that counts as walking ….

Interesting enough, when she was in the living room, she would turn into the most cautious of little princesses; holding on daintily to furniture and cruising, choosing to stick to the safety of crawling from furniture A to B.

I was ecstatic when at 10 months+, she finally got bold enough to venture a few steps between the center table and sofa. Our baby girl then started her journey proper in learning how to walk.

Lesson 1: Walk by Faith

A few days ago, I read a verse in the Bible that talks about how Christians are to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). This verse made me think twice about the concept of walking because for the first time in my life, I have closely observed a little human learning how to walk.

First of all, what is faith? The Bible says that Faith is when one relies with absolute confidence and assurance even though we haven’t seen it physically with our eyes yet (Hebrews 11:1).

So how does one walk in faith?

When my baby girl started to walk, her eyes developed laser sharp focus for the closest piece of furniture at hand and toddles as fast as she can before she loses her balance and falls down splat on the marble tiled floor. How do we apply this to walking in faith?

As I meditated again on the aforementioned scriptures, I realized that I can hold on to God’s word in my faith walk like my daughter holding on to the furniture in her walking adventure. I can cling on with all hope to Scripture verses as God’s promises for me. God says He will never leave us nor forsake us.

So when I go through a situation that seems so unbearable, when I feel so overwhelmed and there is no way out, I can lift my hand up to the heavens and toddle forward in faith holding on to the scriptures for motivation to move forward through the open space of turbulent uncertainty (John 16:33).

Lesson 2: Develop Those Faith Muscles

In just a week and a half, our baby improved so much in balance, confidence and number of steps she could take at a time. She practices walking relentlessly everyday till she is exhausted or hungry. Her leg muscles are strengthened and her balance improves with each practice session.

How do we develop our faith muscles? Faith comes by listening over and over to the Word of God (Romans 10:17), spending time with God’s Word and also exercising and walking, holding onto God’s promises. Not allowing what we see in the physical to keep us from walking in Faith.

As a new momma struggling to get through different routines throughout the day on barest minimum sleep, it can be difficult to maintain our quiet time. I imagine that even veteran mommas with several children, juggling work, PTA meetings, and church ministry activities will even struggle more to find few moments of quietness.

Thankfully, we have many modern technologies and the internet to help us out with that. We can listen to Christian messages on several different platforms, from TBN, FaithTV and other satellite TV channels, YouTube, Instagram and our different apps for listening to audiobooks.

A great and seriously underutilized resource is the YouVersion Bible App. For those of us who struggle to be motivated to read through the Bible in a year, I recommend their Bible devotionals.

I have been enjoying the “Bible in one year 2019” reading plan as it has an audio read along version that’s amazing to follow when my hands are a bit busy or I am nursing and want to listen to God’s Word. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. It has detailed commentaries and practical applications of the assigned readings for the day and it will proceed to go through the chapters assigned but only in certain versions like NIV.

Dear mommas and sisters, as we spend more time listening to the Word of God, and walking in faith, it won’t just feel like we are stumbling through life’s challenges anymore. As our faith muscles strengthen, we should, like Peter be able to take firm bold steps over the raging stormy waters in our life, our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of our Faith.

P.S: As most of us mommas struggle with exhaustion and function on little sleep, we can start walking by faith by believing God concerning his promises that God is our strength, and that we can do all things through Christ who strengths us (Philippians 4:13)

I originally wrote this article for this site

Training my 10-month old baby girl





“You people are late, you have spoilt her, you should have started training her before 6 months,” my Nigerian dad said from the head of the sturdy oak dining table a few days ago.




Then began my attempts to defend my parenting abilities “well daddy, she only recently began to understand “No”. She just turned 10 months… there is still plenty of hope for discipline.”




After that, I don’t know what possessed me to explain how she is already showing signs of a strong will and how she clenches her teeth and sometimes squeezes her eyes shut when I am derailing her exploratory efforts with “No” and finger wagging.




“Great, you just confirmed what daddy is saying!”, I mentally chide myself. Am I supposed to spank a 10-month-old?




Anyone familiar with the Nigerian parenting style will sympathize with me. I have been exposed to many homes with varied styles of parenting and I know the result of a total lack of discipline.




It’s almost inevitable that the visit to my parent’s place during the weekend of the (failed/postponed) Nigerian presidential elections gave me an opportunity to reflect on, decide and actively implement how best I want to raise our child with my husband. After all, we did promise in front of God and our church to raise her in fear and knowledge of God…..



Partnering with God in Parenting




Often we are so tempted to Google everything when it comes to the unknown and we try to equip ourselves with medical and expert advice gathered from research studies. My Google dependence soared to new heights from the moment I got pregnant. However, God is the one who created our precious ones. He alone knows all the gifts, talents and abilities He has deposited in our children.


For rest of this post, click here



















When we allow our Health Challenges to Define us

Since I was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous #Leukemia #CML when I was 17 years old, over a decade ago, I remember my life seemed to revolve around hospital appointments, blood tests, scans, bone marrow aspirations. I had to consciously plan my day so that I have at least one full meal and ensure a bottle of water and chemotherapy (#gleevec) tablets are packed in my bag.

Where before I was an over-achieving student, my body now slowed me down. You know those all nighters spent cramming for an exam, or writing that paper, or preparing a presentation? From then on, I would be plagued by constant fatigue, flu/cough and struggling with chemo side effects like vomiting and diarrhea.

To everyone else, I maintained my bubbly, cheerful, friendly, energetic persona but now I was coming late to class, begging lecturers for extensions on deadlines and so forth. And my once forbearing and diplomatic persona was not so lenient anymore.

I wasn’t the typical #cancer patient. I wasn’t deathly pale (though I was far lighter skinned compared to before my diagnosis and chemo treatment) and sported a full head of raven black hair. Plus I didn’t have to go to the hospital for chemo treatments when mine was concealed conveniently in my bag to take “on-the-go”. I looked just like every other student. I remember one lecturer going so far as to say I was using my illness as an excuse. Hmm. I will chalk that one up to ignorance. Then came another mid-semester drop out. Each time it got harder and harder to return back to my studies.

I am sure you can relate to how such physical and health limitations begin to define us in such a permanent way. We don’t even realize when it becomes a part of who we are. I had gotten admitted to medical school just after I was hospitalized the first time I was diagnosed. I got to defer admission to medical school, but after my health took a hit my first year there, my doctor didn’t allow me to resume.

I relocated closer to my parents and would still pursue my dreams of being an emergency/disaster response doctor for several years to come in one pre-med course after another. Each time, I would transfer over to what I thought was a less intensive course.

I had to look for another degree to graduate with. It took me 9 years from when I graduated high school to obtain my college (university) degree. I had to leave behind my career dream a long time ago. I graduated with a management degree in Human Resource Management

Now, even in #remission, I’m afraid to push myself so I don’t break down. I can’t seem to find something to be passionate about, due to this deep-seated fear that it will not work out. I keep expecting one bad break after another and when good things happen, I am beyond grateful.

One thing I am free from however is living life as a if I am a ticking time bomb. This “tip-toe” kind of living when one believes they are living on borrowed time. When I got diagnosed, I was acutely aware that my cousin suffered from #leukemia for several years before dying at age 18. For so long I went through life one day at a time. I couldn’t even picture myself graduating, not to talk of getting married.

When I finally graduated university, after several interruptions and relocations, it was a huge breakthrough and victory God gave me as this wonderful man blindsided me with a ring on my finger. I didn’t even know where to begin wedding planning because I never spent a moment browsing social media for my dream wedding gown or wedding gown receptions. Time to take a leap of faith.

I have had amazing breakthroughs (miracle conception, pregnancy & journey into motherhood) since getting married and mentally am working through and moving beyond all that now. But I wanted to write down and attempt to capture how totally hopeless life can seem, or how one’s diagnosis can colour everything about one’s life if they choose not to actively take charge of their diagnosis and more importantly their emotional and mental state of mind.

Instead of letting our health challenges define us, or be the boss of us, why don’t we take charge? Arm ourselves with information, seek help, get proactive in selecting a team to help you overcome. It is said what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. But even if it purportedly will kill you, will it hurt to go down with a fight and a champion’s smile on your face? Better yet, why not be determined to beat the odds and be part of the 0.01% that do survive?! Never underestimate the potent value of just a little Faith

Are you struggling with any issue, not something as ominous as cancer but issues like asthma, body image issues, eating disorders, a bad wrist/back, anything that serves as a limitation? Are you so nervous to talk with people that it is really affecting your mannerisms and happiness? Even if you have technically or physically gotten over an illness, are there still lingering issues affecting other areas of your life? Please I would love to hear your own story and where you are at the moment in your journey.

P.s. about The coffee pictures in this post … 😀 Maybe I just want you to remember that cup of coffee you left sitting on your table and come sit and read my thoughts. Come have a little chat with me

Woohoo 2019, Hello WordPress!

My adorable chubby cheeked 9 month old baby girl lies asleep in my arms, gently snoring after a nursing session. After 9 months of this motherhood thing, I expertly multitask, taking advantage to type my first blog post of 2019:

I had initially thought life would return back to “on track” 6 months postpartum… Baby girl will turn 9 months exactly in 4 days and I realize I will need to take determined steps and probably make further sacrifices on sleep to make that happen.

It’s so tempting to remain in this comfy, heartmelting bubble of home building as a stay at home mum, putting everything on hold to be there every step of the way for their first year. Nursing one’s first child, showering their feathery cheeks with endless butterfly kisses, oohing and aahing over everything they do, watching them first roll their way into exploring the world, to getting excited about introducing solid foods. Fellow mums will understand my puree vs. Baby led weaning dilemmas, diaper emergencies etc

So thrilled with each new milestone. From the moment baby girl mastered sitting, she started crawling forwards (she used to push herself back for the longest time was so hilarious!). A week later, she was already pulling herself up to stand. And now expertly crawls, climbs, jumps, cruises holding onto anything she can grab onto.

We moved into our home when she was 3 months and with one project after another plus keeping an eye out on an energetic mobile 9 month old…its hard to keep track on how time flies!

She is still knocked out in the cradle of my right elbow, so I have managed to type up my first blog post since I was heavily pregnant. I have been so shy to share this blog with classmates, friends, associates who have known me in person because only some friends know the health challenges I went through as I didn’t want to be defined by them. What pushed me to restart my blog ASAP in 2019 is because of Andrea, my first blogger friend who encouraged me when I was so hesitant on WordPress.

So much has happened healthwise, I took a real leap of faith ever since I became pregnant with our precious miracle and I need a whole book of blogposts to document this faith journey. In summary, have been off my chemo meds since becoming pregnant and stayed off to breastfeed and give our baby the healthiest start possible in life. With all the stress of full time motherhood + not having a full night of uninterrupted sleep in 9 months, I have never broken down And never been this healthy and strong since my diagnosis. God has been so so faithful. In so so many other areas of my life. I know I have been social media quiet for the most part in 2018 but it has been so so busy adjusting to been a new wife, a mama, moving across town, managing a bigger home., owning two dogs for first time and still managing to go on The sewing machine to create matching outfits for baby girl and I..

I know I feel like Oliver Twist with nagging sense of dissatisfaction with so many dreams bubbling inside of e yet to be realized but if 2018 could produce miracle of life and health… My career, hopes, dreams and unutilized talents should be no small feat to become a reality in 2019 right?

Happy new year to you dearest reader, have an amazingly fabulous and blessed 2019!

P.S I DID IT!! She just woke up now hitting publish!!

Teen dealing with life change: CML, Processing and 2nd Opinion

I just did not know how to process this abrupt halt to life as I knew it. I had worked so hard over the past 2 years for this IB Diploma, accepted by European and UK universities. I had handed in all my papers, research papers, clocked in my CAS 150hours outside of school time, finished two years worth of coursework. And I was supposed to stay home, play sick while I was supposed to prepare for final exams?

The only place I could go to was the Beijing Teaching hospital and I had to wear a mask to protect my fragile immune system. Thankfully I didn’t have long to mope about at home, bolting myself behind my bedroom doors so I can have the freedom to mope and regret this new life turn. To those at home, I tried to maintain my cheerful attitude but couldn’t help to snap out at being treated so vulnerably.

I tried my best to reach out to a few of my closest friends to share the real reason why they aren’t seeing me in classes. Also my friends in my previous school whom I am bonded with more closely had come to visit me in hospital to meet a brave and smiling face. I didn’t know when I was initiated into the world of dark humour as a phone call to a friend who had relocated to Hong Kong proved. I had tried to crack jokes and shine a positive light on things when her laughter suddenly turned to sobs. Oops…my jokes might have gone too far. 

My close friends started to see me as this strong warrior where inside I was falling apart. The world as I knew it had changed. I mean everything was exactly the same, but just the thought that my future was snatched away from me without a single heads up…..

At the age of 17, I could still rest in the safe comfort of my parents doing all the worrying and researching and finding out my available treatment options. It was through my experience, I realised how blessed I was. My dad found favour with his bosses who pulled strings to get me immediate medical attention worldwide. Even in those moments of silent tears, heart wrenching sobs and shouting into my pillow or wadded up towel “WHY GOD??? WHY ME??? WHY NOW?? WHAT DID I DO WRONG?? ARE YOU PUNISHING ME FOR BEING BAD???”

I listened to Christian songs, I clung unto with dear life to verses my parents shared with me to encourage me: 

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord , “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

 

 That means, God did not give me CML to punish me, no matter go through, we shouldn’t see it as bad karma or universe hates us, or there is no God. God is good, and God is love. Many times, I would struggle with how if God is good, bad things can happen to a girl who tried her whole childhood to be on her best behaviour, loved God and wasn’t afraid to tell her friends about God and even risked social exclusion. I would cry and cry in my room, the only place I could honestly deal with my situation, and after each time, it was as if invisible arms cradled me close and soaked away all my tears and negative feelings weighing me down. I would feel comforted, and the truth of God’s word would be revealed to my mind, reach deep down into my soul. I was assured, over and over again throughout each consecutive year that anything that happens to us, God will work it out for our good in the end:

And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose.

ROMANS 8:28 AMP

I listened to Lynda Randle’s song “God on the mountain” over and over, repeating those words with every shred of faith I had accumulated over the years of my childhood “For the God of the mountain is still God in the valley, when things go wrong, He’ll make them right. And the God of the good times is still God in the bad times, the God of the day is still God in the night.”
Insert YouTube clip

So many Christian songs ministered to me and I played certain tapes from my childhood Kid’s praise and Sunday School sing a long over and over again. There were countless times I felt no one understood, it felt like the end of my life as I knew it. More scientific research on the internet brought more hopelessness as the only cure to this CML (Chronic Myelogenous Leukaemia) was a bone marrow transplant, then again, one might not always survive it with a 50% chance of graft Vs host infection.

When my parents shared with me that my dad’s NGO had arranged a short term trip for the whole family to travel to Thailand for a second opinion, hope rose within me like a sleeping giant. Perhaps these Chinese doctors were wrong….perhaps what I have isn’t as terminal as CML. Even if I did have it, between my parents and two siblings, I should be able to get a genetically matched donor for bone marrow cure right? 

Five suitcases packed, we traveled to Bangkok, Thailand. After meeting a highly recommended doctor in my field, I went through another series of tests and confirmed the initial CML diagnosis. Each member of my family were also tested as potential donors. 

In between waiting for test results, we explored the city around us,and I took comfort in similar cuisine to my motherland of Malaysia, explored night markets and got some beautiful fabrics for wrap skirts. Watched movies back at our room, and tried to browse the net in the internet cafe next door. Parents insisting on a healthier diet, my initial protests aside, I settled in to enjoy their tropical fruit, fruit juices…their fruit selection so similar to my motherland of Malaysia:

The results back, but none of my parents and brothers were a close enough match to be a good donor for a bone marrow transplant. 

How my life was changed forever: CML

Chronic-Myelogenous-Leukemia Cartoon

It has taken me over 11 years to tie myself down to a chair and attempt to chronicle my journey. Been an sporadic diary keeper throughout my early teen life, pausing every now and then to jot down meaningful events in my globetrotter childhood, one sole event pushed me into the healing world of words, ink, pen and paper.

My procrastinating excuses, delay tactics and seemingly justifiable reasons for my caution of sharing my personal life on such a public platform aside, it seems this cartoon graphic has finally given me the inspiration I need to release this story. My mouth twists with a sad, humorous smile at the comparison between the lightheartedness of the cartoon and how the depiction of the cancer really turned my life inside out.

This is my story:

The main feature that had defined my childhood and teenage years was our family moving countries every 5 years on average. My dad’s work with an NGO provided an exposure for my young mind to the poverty and health needs of the developing world as I paid attention to experiences narrated over a restaurant table between my dad and friends and colleagues. Cushioned from this reality, in subsidized housing and top schools in the country post, means my younger self was somewhat protected from the slums we passed everyday in India, to the war-ravished buildings around us in Rwanda, and the SARS outbreak in China. My empathetic growing heart though registered everything keenly and I concluded my most tangible way to help was becoming the kind of NGO medical doctor that works on mission trips and in free clinics.

My years as a student flew by, studying as hard as I can, not joining in the usual teenager shenanigans and distractions. Made it into the International Baccalaureate program, the 2 years flew by in a busy schedule of Model United Nations (MUN) conferences and trips; service oriented projects, visits and fundraisers as well as academic workload of papers, G4 projects, and the big extended essay (research paper).

 

 

In February of the year I was to graduate high school, the crossroads into really beginning my life, I came down with food poisoning and a daily increasing pain in my left side. Refusing to stay at home, and carrying around bottles of water and banana as my main food substance, I doggedly attended classes and rounded up my academic works.

I endured it for a month, been treated for food poisoning, it turned into constipation and treatment for constipation swung me into an extreme case of diarrhea. The pain was not in my right side, so school nurse ruled out Appendicitis. When the pain in my left side got too much to bear, I would rest for a period or 2 in nurse office, waiting for the tablets of Ibuprofen to kick in and grant me even if just a little relief.

By middle of March, I had handed in my paperwork, my 150 CAS (creativity, action, service) hours logged in, G4 projects done, philosophy and extended essay handed in. I learned from this experience how one’s mind and will can accomplish unimaginable things, pushing the body beyond normal physical endurance.

 

On the night of which I had handed in my medical school application at school that day, I gave in to the pain, crawling on my knees to meet my parents in the living room, I admitted it was time to try the local Beijing teaching hospital.

My dad drove me and my mum to the emergency room and the rest of the night passed in a blur of semi-consciousness and I was roused only to give blood and poo samples. My dad had to go home to my brothers, while my mum stayed with me following up on tests and the lab results, her hushed conversation with the doctors in Mandarin Chinese filtering in brief moments of consciousness.

In the morning, I could tell the news was bad as my mum and doctors kept dodging my questions or downplaying their answers. Two days later, they finally let on that due to my abnormally inflated white blood cell count of 255,000, the doctor suspected it was Leukemia and that it was similar to what my cousin had. All I could process was that my cousin had Leukemia for several years in his teens and died a year ago at 18 years of age. Not willing to process that bit of information and how it would apply to me, I tried to show interest and ask what needs to be done.

A bone marrow test later brought the doctor’s verdict and the diagnosis that still affects our lives 11 years later: Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML).  An excruciatingly painful locally anesthetized bone marrow extraction had confirmed the CML diagnosis.

My first thought: what about sitting the final exam needed to get my IB diploma? What about the rest of my school year? Graduation? Most importantly…what about medical school??? I was too young to be living with a death sentence. I know how poor my cousin’s quality of life had been while living with the diagnosis. I still had so many hopes, and dreams. I wished I could save the world, but I could only impact one life at a time. Enough about saving the world….what about saving myself? Being the optimistic smiling child, I looked for the bright side of everything. Perhaps my type of Leukemia was somehow better than my cousin. Mummy, what type of diagnosis did my cousin have?

Having no time at all to deal with my diagnosis, I did my best not to throw tantrums while stuck in the hospital. From my endless questions to the doctors and nurses, it seemed I wouldn’t be out anytime too soon. My mum, who had always been the softer parent, and whom I had taken for granted before, now surprised me with such strength, resiliency and endurance as she went up and down the big hospital looking for delicious food to tempt my appetite, then going back to those stores to get my favorite century egg rice porridge (皮蛋瘦肉粥).

With my 24/7 drips of all the nutrients my body had lost over the past month, I was soon springing on my feet, feeling energetic and restrained within the four walls of my room. I was eager to be out of the hospital and feel more “normal” at home. Borrowing another patient’s laptop, I eagerly logged into my mail, waiting for a response from any of the schools I had applied to. I got a positive reply a week later: I had gotten accepted! Hope rushing into me, I talked to my parents and they asked me to email them about my medical condition and if they can defer my admission. The response was heartwarming about me taking care of my health first, there will be a space waiting for me after my treatment. I dared not to think how long that may be…

Two weeks later after I was first admitted, after beginning treatment of hydroxy urea and other tablets (I stopped counting at 25 tablets…), I was finally released to go home.

Once home, I had access to the internet and did some research. Ignorance about CML made it into a killer beast and I know that knowledge is power. Perhaps I can empower my naive optimism into something more realistic.

At home, I was fussed over by my mum, and since my immune system was low and at risk, was made to stay indoors as much as possible, with restricted visitors. Frequent hospital visits, daily pill popping, hand sanitizers, face masks and changes to my diet eventually became the new normal. I was later switched to a new drug called Gleevec (imatinib mesylate).

Glivec_400mg

The whole family had to go on a trip to Thailand for a second diagnosis, to confirm the validity of the initial diagnosis. The only cure for CML is a bone marrow transplant from a compatible donor, and after which, chances are the body may reject the bone marrow. I held on to this thin hope, we packed five suitcases in hopes one of my family members would qualify to be my donor. I would have my family around me while I go through my transplant and recovery.

Story to be continued…