Friday, December 5, 2008

Questions From Blog Reader

A blog reader saw the two documentaries about me that I've posted on my blog. She/he had some follow-up questions which I thought were pretty interesting so here they are:

1) Every human fears death. Once they hear the word "cancer", they think there's no cure & death will eventually come. How did you actually react & feel when you first learned that you had cancer?

I was completely taken off guard because my doctor had said the lump was a clogged milk duct. When the surgeon said, "It looks like cancer," I told him I'd like to call my husband to see if he could come and join our meeting to discuss what to do about it. I didn't cry or get scared. I went into information-gathering mode. I didn't know anything about cancer at that point so I didn't even know whether I should be scared.

2) How did you actually overcome your emotions & fears about your illness?

I tackled the problem with knowledge. I got control of the situation by finding out as much as I could about my cancer and learning how best to treat it to give me maximum time alive. I didn't get very emotional, except when I thought about my kids growing up without a mother. I'm not sure I could say I've been very afraid, either. Yes, I'm afraid of the process of dying - the pain and feeling of suffocation when my liver and lungs start shutting down. And then there's the pain and sadness I'm going to put everyone through watching me waste away or worse, writhing in agony. But I'm not religious so I don't think I'm going to Dante's Hell or anything like that.

3) Is there anyone whom you can talk to for advice & encouragement?

My husband Tony and my friend Michelle come to mind, but collectively, most of my friends, family, and even complete strangers through this blog. I also talk to myself a lot (in my head).

4) What are the things that made you overcome the fear of Death?

I don't think I ever really had a fear of Death, just the actual process of dying. Maybe I should. I'll try to think about it more and cultivate a healthy, human fear of Death because I see that it's beginning to bug people that I'm not terrified of dying.

5) What is your Motto & Motivation in Life?

Motto? I need a motto? If I had to have a one-liner that I could call my motto, I'd say it's, "You're stronger and smarter than the average bear so ACT like it!" Motivation in life? To leave this world a better place than it was before I got here, even if it's just a teensy weensy bit, say, in the form of two beautiful kids who will go on to do their bit also. And then their kids do the same, and their kids, and so on and so on until the math works out and the good outweighs and swallows up the bad and we all live happily ever after or at least learn and grow a lot while trying. And if not with kids, with the people we come in contact with and rub off on each day.

6) What do you think is the most rewarding thing that you have achieved or done in this life so far?

Having kids and leaving them with something worthwhile, i.e., this blog and the people who say that I've helped give them strength and inspiration in their own struggle with cancer.

7) What do you think is the most miserable thing in life?

Inhumane behavior, e.g., people who kill in the name of their god, people who hurt children, people who hurt themselves out of self-pity, any behavior that makes me wonder whether human beings really are superior to animals.

Sorry, but there was one more question that I couldn't post because I didn't understand the question. Can you re-send it please?


<*ANGEL*> said...

"Any behavior that makes me wonder whether human beings really are superior to animals"... (Nothing to do with being pitiful though...)

Someone just told me yesterday that all animals are capable of recognizing mistakes they have made and avoiding them in future. E.g., if an ant comes to a corner, he registers it in his brain and avoids this thing the next time he goes down the path.

SUPERIOR human beings, though, are the only animals capable of being NAIVE. They will walk down the same path again, find that corner and think, "If I keep going down this path, one day I will get to that place that I want to go."

Here's a better one... humans think, "If I keep doing the same things, one day, I will get a different result."

That's like saying that you are walking in slippers down a path full of poisonous snakes that attack on contact. And you keep telling yourself, it is ok, if I keep walking, the snake will not bite me. But of course the snake bites... that is the snake's "job"!

Superior? Hahaha...

Nicole said...

You are an inspiration to me on a daily basis. Because of you I'm a better mother, wife, and friend. I'm not a religious person but I do believe in kindness and decency. Sounds silly but in certain situations I've starting saying to myself " What would Shin do" and I'd like to think my actions would have made you smile. Thank you.

Dawn Tan said...

Hi Shin.

Enjoy reading your blog. In the last two days I read all your past blog posts, from 2005 till now. Your words really touch me and make me treasure my life. I have two kids, age 10 and 3 years. What you write makes me scream less and love them more. I just lost my beloved cosuin on 02.12.08 due to breast cancer. I was very close to her and feel very sad.

You take care and keep us updated.

Dawn Tan

Rapid Roy (UK) said...

Hello Shin.

Stumbled upon this blog accidentally,
Do keep up the good work !

Rapid Roy ( UK )

Ronnie Ng said...

The recent death of Lo Hwei Yen, (the Singaporean who lost her life to terrorists in a hotel in Mumbai) has taught me that the chance of death is higher than we normally think.

We should constantly remind ourselves of such a possibility, or we'll be led to the "Christmas Turkey Syndrome": the turkey is fed daily, and each day further reinforces its belief that life is going very well... until the few days before Christmas comes...

Anonymous said...

I can't help wondering - are you this good a person because of a decently good childhood? I always believe that how each of us turns out has a lot to do with our childhood, how we were treated as kids, family culture, etc.

I often look at people like you and feel envious for being such a genuinely nice person, to have that goodness oozing out from your heart so easily, to care because you WANT to, and to be so authentic. I wish I could have that, but I dont, not naturally anyway.

I had a crappy and pathetic childhood, not much happy memories to call my own, an emotional abusive mum and a physically abusive dad with serious anger issues. I was the bully in school and then became the victim when people saw through my weaknesses, and was picked on horribly for many years.

I am all grown up now, and appear very well-adjusted and fortunate (I have a good husband, lovely healthy child, good roof over head, maid, etc.) to many people including close friends. But deep down, many times I do not WANT to be nice, or be kind. Deep down, I don't give a friggin darn about the environment, very sadly. I want to WANT to care more deeply about people and Earth like you do, but I don't. And I hate it. I want to be a NATURALLY nice person, ywim?

I think it has a lot to do with the anger issues I am still dealing with. I just cant let go. Yet.

Your blog and heartfelt thoughts make me smile, and I hope that if I try hard enough, one day I can be just a little like you. : )

Shin said...


Genuinely nice person? Goodness oozing out of my heart? Are you kidding? People who actually know me would laugh at that description of me.

There's not a day that goes by that I don't have to mentally slap myself to keep me in line.

Read my post, "Jekyll and Hyde" and you'll have some idea. (Type in those words in the SEARCH field at the top of the blog page.)

I think I had a pretty good childhood. But somebody else could look at it and say that it was miserable. I won't go into details, but I can easily see somebody describing my childhood with the exact same words you used to describe yours. But I wouldn't. I think I had it pretty good.

At least you WANT to be a better person. Some empty souls don't even have THAT much.

And let's face it. Sometimes it's just more fun and interesting to be a bitch. Sometimes... ; )

K said...

Somethng else I am very curious about, not sure if it's any of my biz or appropriate though, haha!

What's your personal style like, in terms of dressing? Are you into fashion at all? Do you go mad over nice purses/clothing like a lot of women do? Or, at least did you used to?

Sorry if my questions seem strange. Feel free to ignore them if they do.


Shin said...


A friend once said, "Shin, you don't have to worry about your clothes going out of style because they were never IN style."

I'm mostly a jeans/trousers/shorts and T-shirts kinda gal. I prefer comfort and function over frilly and trendy. In fact, I tend to avoid trendy fads.

I prefer classic styles. Ann Taylor used to be a favorite, but then she started using synthetic fibers and getting trendy.

I used to like Coach (sturdy leather that lasts forever), but they started making tacky knock-off looking bags.

I still have clothes, shoes, and bags from twenty years ago. I own about ten pairs of shoes and four bags - that includes golf shoes, sneakers (trainers) and a diaper bag from when the kids were babies. I don't shop much.

LeeHJ said...

Dear Shin,

I am a mother and cancer patient like you (I was diagnosed with lymphoma in May this year). I've a daughter who was born in the same year as Toby (Sept 2005). I came across your blog on the documentary that was aired on Channel 8 earlier and started reading it and enjoyed it very much. You are a brilliant writer. Thank you.

Each time I read your blog, I'm reminded to spend quality time with my family, especially my little girl. Like you, I can't bear the thought of her growing up without a mother, ME! I can't bear to leave her. There are so many things that I would like to do together with her. After being diagnosed, I often pondered my mortality. But there's nothing much I can do really about my cancer.

I just learnt from my doctor that radiotherapy comes with long term side effects such as breast cancer or heart problems. Therefore, one can never be cured of cancer. For now, I can only try my best to be a good mother and do everything possible for my little girl with the time I have left.

Thank you once again for sharing with us your thoughts.

Take care.

Yenping said...

Hi Shin,

This is Yenping.

Thank you for posting my questions as one of your blog entries. Three more questions:

1) What do you think is the most important key essence throughout your life? (Key Essence as in, for example, some people think that time is equal to money for them. Hence, they can't afford to waste much time.) So what's yours?

2) If you were to leave this world one day, would you tend to look back at your life with regrets? And Why?

3) Do you think everything in life is pre-destined & fated?

Shin said...


1) I'm still not sure what you mean by "key essence". Do you mean the most important guiding principle in my life? If so, I'd have to say self-reliance.

2) Yes, I look back at my life with regrets. Why? Because I've done things I wish I hadn't, and I have NOT done things I wish I had.

3) No, I don't believe in fate or destiny. That would take free will out of the equation and leave us with no accountability or responsibility for our own actions.

Emily said...

Hi Shin.

We hear this often in the movies, "dying with no regrets". Can you say the same? Would you spend the rest of your time trying to undo the wrongs you have done? Should we live like there's no tomorrow?

Shin said...


The questions you ask are the topic of a blog post I've been planning to write so I'll address your questions then.


Emily said...

Just want to share this piece of info which I read in Reader's Digest (Nov 08, pg 37).

Breast cancer survivors who don't respond to the anticancer drug herceptin may soon have a new weapon: A vaccine called NeuVax.

According to researchers Texas, the vaccine gets the body's immune system to attack cells with HER-2/ neu, a protein found in the majority of breast cancer patients. While Herceptin suppresses cancer in women with high HER-2 levels, it does not work in those with low levels, leaving this group of women with few options.

In a study of 163 patients, those with low HER-2 levels who received NeuVax injections following surgery, chemotherapy & radiation cut their odds of getting cancer again by half, & none of the women died during the study. The phase 3 trial of NeuVax will involve more than 700 patients. The vaccine may be available in 5 years.

Percia said...

Hi Shin.

Just dropping a note to say that I happened to see Josie and Toby at Parkway today and they are as lovely as the photos you posted on your blog..:)) Nothing to do with your current post but I just couldn't resist telling you about your two cuties.

Wendy Lee said...

Don't you have regular check up before that?

Shin said...

Wendy Lee,

I'm not sure what your question is referring to. Check-up? Before what?

Poi Poi said...

Hi Shin,

One of your answers caught my attention:

"I was completely taken off guard because my doctor had said the lump was a clogged milk duct. When the surgeon said, 'It looks like cancer,' I told him I'd like to call my husband to see if he could come and join our meeting to discuss what to do about it. I didn't cry or get scared. I went into information-gathering mode. I didn't know anything about cancer at that point so I didn't even know whether I should be scared."

The first sign of a plugged duct may be a small, hard lump that's sore to the touch, or a very tender spot on your breast. Some women also notice redness on their breast. You might also feel achy, run down, and feverish, which could be a sign that your clogged duct has become infected.

I'm a victim of infected clogged milk ducts which then evolved into full-blown super painful mastitis. I thought I was going to lose my left breast at that point. Cancer never crossed my mind. But now because of you, I have learnt more about cancer and am more aware of this disease now.

1) I'm curious to know whether you ever breast-fed Josie or Toby?

2) Would you like to elaborate more on why you didn't suspect something was wrong when you felt a lump on your breast?

3) And most important, did you find out what the symptoms of clogged milk ducts were?

Thank you.

Take care & regards,
Poi Poi

Shin said...

Poi Poi.

Good questions. Here are my answers:

1) I breast-fed Josie for eight months and Toby for five months. I had to stop Toby at five months because that's when we discovered the cancer.

2) I DID suspect there was something wrong with the lump on my breast. I told my doctor THREE times and each time, she told me it was a clogged milk duct. Her response was completely understandable. Pregnant and nursing women have very lumpy breasts and when a woman is nursing, the lump is almost always a clogged milk duct. My doctor later told me that she followed the protocol, but felt that after the second time I told her about the lump (which didn't go away after two months of massage as directed by her), she should have sent me to a breast specialist.

Since my experience, I've heard from almost a dozen women who went through the same experience - i.e., a cancerous lump diagnosed as a clogged milk duct - including one woman who was a doctor herself and waited nine months before she realized it might be something other than a clogged duct.

Another reason I didn't suspect something serious was sheer ignorance. I knew NOTHING about breast cancer. To me, it was this vague disease that only unhealthy Caucasian women with big breasts got; nothing to do with a fit, thin, small-breasted Asian woman like me. If stupidity could kill...

3) Yes, I knew the symptoms of clogged milk ducts because my doctor told me and I did my own research. That didn't help me rule it out and think about something more serious like cancer, though. Also, I'd had clogged ducts when I was nursing my first baby, but those lumps always went away after a few days of massage and standing under a hot shower. That's why I kept going back to my doctor to tell her the lump wasn't going away.

Anonymous said...

Angel & gt

Wrote on your blog about ants... and whether humans are superior to animals...

We're not superior to animals, we ARE animals, but we just have a bigger brain. Unfortunately due to having a bigger brain we have lost a lot of instincts which would have protected us in the past. Ants must have tiny brains due to their diminutive size but they continue to amaze us humans with their intelligent behavioural patterns. Humans are sometimes thick (George Bush for one) because they don't understand that by destroying the planet systematically we are also destroying ourselves, because we are also animals and need a cosy environment to live in.