• Nathira Salim

Eyes Opened

Welcome back to my blog peeps!

Today is my chemo day, my 2nd day on Abraxane ( who the hell cares about the name right? Well I do!) and I thought of opening my eyes to my surroundings a bit,

Pic taken a beautiful location in Keppel Bay, and yet I didn't spend time to look around and enjoy the moment.
Forgot to look up

I am not sure if this is normal, but ever since my cancer diagnosis, whenever I am going for any hospital appointments, I am only focussed on myself. My head is usually down, and my thoughts solely focused on myself, eg: "I can't breathe with the mask on", "Why do I feel one kind?", "When will this be ever over?" you know? Thoughts like these are usually on my mind. I am also usually with my hubby - so we would be talking, and I am in that cocoon, ignoring the rest of the people around me. Even when I am in chemo (where hubby cannot accompany me due to Covid restrictions), I will quickly close my eyes when my meds are given and quickly get to sleep. When done, I will quickly put my shoes on, and rush out, and be whisked away in the car back home. I don't get to stay around and look around. Not that I don't have that opportunity, I just don't.

This is how my day of chemo goes when there is blood test to be done:

I will spend like 2-3 minutes waiting to register at the front desk for the patient declaration to be filled in manually. They only gave the QR today, so my next visit will be shorter I hope. Once that is done, I will proceed to the 2nd floor to register for the blood test. There usually will be a nice Malay lady who will greet each patient with a loud and cheery "Good Morning!" and will help with registering on the self help kiosk. Once registration is done, I will go in and wait to be called by the counter located on the left side of the room. Usually - I will be called in within 5 minutes on non peak hours and maximum 10 minutes on peak periods. When I am called, the lady behind the counter will do something on her monitor and will stamp "Urgent" on my blood count prescription. From what I have gathered, she will check my name and ID and check my insurance and arrange for e-filing with the insurance . This is what I assume, but not sure. Max - 10 mins of waiting time here.

I will then wait to be called in by the lab techs. There are like 4 cubicles, each occupied by lab techs who are busy drawing blood out from the patients. When its my turn, I see the lab techs, patiently take out their gloves they have been wearing, put on a hand steriliser, clean their hands methodically and then wipe down their table, and the cushion where my hand will be with a alcohol swab, and then discard that gloves to put on another brand new gloves, and then start taking out the swabs, bottles and needles necessary for my blood work. I am actually impressed with the ladies you know. I have been going for my blood works weekly, and I have to admit, I don't really know the needle has been inserted until they tell me its done. I am usually looking elsewhere. This blood work process takes less than 10 minutes. But waiting to be called will take somewhere around 10-20 minutes. Observation: Most of the tech ladies are Malay and I have noticed some ladies in their late 40s to early fifties drawing blood. Very professional and nice ladies. Everyone on the 2nd floor are nice, polite and they don't seem to do this for show. They look like they are genuinely happy to serve,

I will then proceed to the 3rd floor where the chemo is done. Again, there are some nice ladies and a guy waiting at the kiosk to help with the registration. They will always smile and greet you with their most beautiful smile, I know because I feel welcomed there. They don't treat you otherwise at all. I will get myself registered, get the slip and then get my height and weight checked. Once this is done, I am actually free for the next two hours.

If my hubby is driving, we would drive somewhere near the city to have some quiet time. If not, we would head up to Blk 4 and have something local like mee siam and kaya toast, or if that place is too crowded, we head down to Coffee Bean for expensive coffee and butter laden puffs ( usually not preferred). Theres place to eat at the Heart Centre ( opposite to the Cancer centre), as well - depends on the mood actually. So today, I noted the food, and the place around. Even though Covid security has been laxed over at some shopping malls and eateries, I note that hospitals such as SGH, NCCS and NHCS are still being strict with their screening process. I am so proud that they are still maintaining the protocol without being lazy. It is a hassle of course, but truth be told, its been a year since we have been on this Covid protocol. We are used to checking in and filling out out patients declarations forms by now. Kudos to the hospital and their staff.

The hospital has mix of nurses, docs, student docs and nurses, admin staffs, normal staffs, canteen staffs, patients, would be patients, children and so on. Many of them on the move in the morning. Rushing to go to where they want to go so they are on the run all the time, Life is on a standstill for me - and when I look up and check out the world - it has not stopped for the rest. That is the essence of life. I see the drive of youth and energy today when I saw a group of new doctors having breakfast and laughing together when discussing about work. It brought on a positive vibe. That was all the people watching I could do. This is Singapore - I can be slapped for just staring, Not that I have been slapped. - but it could happen. Just saying.

Brekkie takes like an hour and a half and I cannot sit in one place for more than an hour anyways. So hubby and I will head back to NCCS where we will then go on to our separate destinations - hubby back to office or work and me back to the 3rd level to check in for my chemo.

When I arrive, the waiting time to be called in is somewhere from fifteen minutes to half an hour. I have ever waited for more than forty minutes because I was late for my actual appointment time. So word of advise - be 15 minutes early for your blood work.

When I am called in , I will be given the token which I have wrote about earlier and then walk in to the chemo room.

I have described how the place looks like before. Let me describe the people this time. Maybe I have not been noticing before, but I have not seen the same patient twice in any of my treatments. The nurses and staff are constant, only the patients are not. I have to admit, I only scan through the room when I walk in, not actually taking in their face or anything. So in the little glances that I have taken, from the best of my knowledge, I have not seen anyone familiar and majority of the patients there are pretty old - like maybe in their fifties to early seventies. Most of the time - my neighbours are Chinese really old ah mahs, or aunties in their fifties with wigs. I have seen one Indian uncle and auntie once. One or two Malay uncle and aunties a few times. But most of the time, there are Chinese people and also mostly elderly. Today - I was given Chair number 1 - which was the most corner seat on the left. No neighbour on the right, but an elderly Malay auntie on my left, who I didn't get to see (curtain around her). I only knew she was a Malay when a Chinese nurse did her best Malay to communicate with her. Two elderly Chinese couple were opposite me. Pretty old as well. I think they were thinking why I was there. I was thinking why this is racially not balanced. Where are the Indians and the Malays? Hubby said, Indians are predominantly diabetes prone so we can expect to see them at a different department maybe for diabetes and kidney failures. I am not sure and I cannot say for the Malay people, because I don't know. What I don't know for sure, I should shut up. Hubby could be right, and I should check on it. But I am not interested about it now. So when I am free, I will look into this.

Because of the new meds, my time there is now limited to less than an hour. I come in, get my blanket, sit patiently at my chair, go through the insertion of cannula, medicine, message my hubby to pick me up in 40 minutes, lie down for 30 minutes, and in that 30 minutes of time I will ask God to grant me patience, and strength, and help the meds to kill all the cancer cells. I will also ask God to help me get through today and the daily grind and to give me peace to endure this on a daily basis. And every time before I end my small prayer I will let God know that I know I am on borrowed time and that if He wants, I am ready to leave this physical plane and move on to finally meet Him. I will not complain nor ask for more time. I am His and He knows best. I thank Him for the time here and for the experiences I have here and be grateful.

Thirty minutes passes by in a jiffy I tell you. The moment I surrender to God, the nurse will come and tell me, I am good to go. The nurse takes less than two minutes to remove the cannula, and I will take less than five minutes to put on my shoes, pack my bags, put on the mask and whiz out from the chemo centre and rush down to the car drop off point. Hubby will be there most of the time on the dot, or I might have to wait max ten minutes. In twenty minutes time give or take, I am back home.

Thankfully now - chemo time is shorter. I get a burst of energy just by going out for a while. And when I am back, I have the energy to work on my Bujo for the month and also for my blog. Moral of the story is - I should open my eyes more. How can I remain so engrossed about me and my self? Right? Right. I should focus on the others as well.

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