Category Archives: health

Joel’s Health Update and My Musing

It is about time for an update. In the past few weeks, if you follow my Facebook, you would have seen several pictures of Joel and I inside an ambulance, at a hospital waiting room or in the emergency. Well, let me explain.

It was April 11, our 2-year wedding anniversary, that Joel was scheduled to have a cysts removal surgery in his anus. Yes. Looking back now, it seems pretty comical to have celebrated our anniversary at the hospital…talking about anesthetic and bottoms. I had thought long and hard whether this would be too much information for you, readers; but since my husband does not care, I hope you grit your teeth and read along.

Two hours passed after Joel went inside, a nurse came out and said, “You could go see Joel now.” I was greeted by this suspiciously jolly husband, who I learned later was still high from whatever drugs they gave him. It was not long, though, before the medication wore off, and the surgical pain rolled in. This was to be expected. The doctor gave instructions on what to do and discharged him. Our friend picked us up and took us home. At that moment, we both thought Joel would recover soon; that within a few days, he would be able to sit and go back to work as usual.


We play this game called “What’s your pain level?” The rule is simple. I ask, he answers. The level is scaled from 1-10. One being the lowest, barely noticeable pain; and ten being the most excruciating, I am going to die kind of pain. The first two nights, his answer was always 8-9. We rarely slept because Joel had to move around every few minutes or so. When he was awake, I was pretty much awake.


Our day at the hospital full of fancy gown and waiting around


Pizza to celebrate our 2-year anniversary? Why not?!

Anyway, three days after Joel’s surgery, I went to work as usual. Everything seemed normal. Since the Easter weekend was starting the next day, and everything would be closed, I thought I would grab a few necessary items from the shop. Just before I walked out of the house, Joel showed a sign of mild pain, but I thought it was the usual stuff. So I left, thinking whether I should buy extra ingredients to make hot cross buns over the weekend.

It was a glorious walk. I could see the sun setting over the mountains range and smell smoke coming from chimneys. I was listening and singing to the song “And Can It Be”, a powerful hymn that talks about how undeserving we are, how amazing God’s grace is and the victory that we get to share in Christ’s blood as I trudged down the hill. In no time, I was lost among the aisles. The shop was bustling with last-minute shoppers and I was just looking at gelatin when my phone rang.

“Mink, I have got a chest pain. I just called the ambulance. They are on their way,” Joel spoke shakily.

I could feel blood seep out of my face. I quickly dropped the gelatin, and ran as fast as I could back up the hill. Though it is just one kilometer away, I could not run fast enough because of its steep road and my short legs. I asked Joel to be on the phone with me so I could keep myself sane, being assured that he was still alive (I know, I am such a drama queen). I could hear him panting and drawing short shaky breath. Fear gripped my heart. When you realized that death is just only one breath away, nothing else in the world matters. Thankfully, the ambulance had arrived; and I breathed sigh of relief. The paramedic gave him some painkillers and took both of us to the hospital.


Inside the ambulance for the first time


All wired up, waiting to find out what was wrong

The results from that day showed no sign of heart disease (thank God), but the doctor suspected it could be his inflamed pancreas or gallstone. However, the result of his ultrasound around his torso revealed nothing remarkable either. So the general surgeon, whom we saw yesterday, suspected that it could be post-op side effect with some clots in his lungs.

With all that said, Joel’s current condition is improving, if ever so slowly to my liking. These two major events; the surgery and the mysterious chest pain, had thrown us some curve balls. In the past 20 days, we have been to the hospital five times, three of those were in the emergency room; paid a few visits to the GP (general practitioner); had a home doctor come over once; and purchased several pre-scripted drugs. When I was at the chemist yesterday, a staff member said, “You are only 15 points away from receiving a voucher.” Reluctantly, I replied, “I am not sure if I should be happy about this, because it means we have spent too much money on medication.” And guess what, I have to go to the chemist again…tomorrow.

Around the same time we were in and out of the hospital, three people whom we knew passed away. I was forced to deal with my fear of pain and death, which I had always tried to avoid dwelling my thoughts on. When dad died, I was only 14. The image of him writhing in agony in bed and lying still in his business suit all pale and stiff after he died have haunted me. His death left a big wound in my heart. Even after so many years, I had never been able to escape from this emergency room that smelled like death.

Strangely enough, God used the memory of a beautiful old grandma, Nan Raine, who is now with him, to help me make peace with dying. I was in her hospital room, in Tauranga, New Zealand; with a few of her direct families and my classmates. I remembered how frail she looked, yet still remained witty and kept a sense of humor. We sang to her a few songs; one of them was “Soon and Very Soon”.

As we sang “soon and very soon, we are going to see the King,” it hit me how this was becoming a reality for Nan Raine. In the midst of our tears and futile effort to hold on to her a little bit longer, the image of her taking off her “earthly body” and putting on “the heavenly body” standing before our God the King in all His glory overwhelmed me. The picture accelerated my vision past the blurry, soggy, muddled bits of life; and placed me at the foot of His throne. It is so hard to explain, but in this room with the smell of death approaching, I was released from the cage of fear I had been imprisoned in since 14 years ago. Nan Raine had managed to give me a gift of hope and a glimpse of eternity on her last day on earth. This glimpse, however small, is something I will hold on tight when my heart is filled with despair, when the day I will have to deal with grief so immense comes again.

To this day, Joel and I are thankful for our family and friends, who have been so kind to us. We have received all kinds of messages – from concerning to well-wishing to almost rebuking why we haven’t let them know what’s going on. We have also been blessed by our  church family and Canberra friend, who have given me ride to work at 5:30 in the morning, who have come by our house for a chat and brought food and treats with them. This is an amazing season in our lives. We are not quite sure why we have to go through this – the pain, the sleepless nights, the long wait at hospitals, the uncertainty, etc. But, I guess, why not? Perhaps there are other reasons, but one I know for sure – God is using this as an opportunity to refine our hearts and redefine our faith. Every moment is a chance for us to pray and to put our trust in Him.


All the goodies our friends brought us.



Fear of Dental Care

alas…my tooth broke. it looks like a jagged cliff with a pool at the bottom. i have had a huge cavity in my wisdom tooth for over 8 years. and i did get filling once. but the condition got worse and i should’ve gone to see the dentist. but i couldn’t get over my fear.

have you ever been afraid of something or someone when you were young? have you experienced the fear was so intense that the power of it made you cry? some may say they’re afraid of darkness, of narrow space or height. but my worst fear, beyond the fear of rejection, is the fear of dental care.

as far as i can remember, i never had a terrible experience of going to see a dentist. it was all fun with toys to play while the doctor examined my teeth. i still ask myself today why i’m so afraid of them. the only reasonable answer i can get is pain.

i can tolerate pain from falling off a chair, knocking my head against a door or even stabbing my thigh against a nail. but the pain related to nerves makes me nervous. the former pain is mostly unintentional and so i don’t hold any responsibility against it (okay, when i was responsible when i disobeyed my mom’s order to stay inside and finish my homework. that was when i stabbed my leg against the nail). my point is that it’s an accident. and accidents happen!

on the contrary, tooth cavity is my responsibility. i was supposed to brush my teeth every time after i ate a candy or munched a cookie. i was supposed to visit the dentist twice a year. and when there was a problem, instead of ignoring it, i should’ve rushed to the dental clinic right away instead of leaving it rotten inside my mouth for 6 years. the point is i am afraid of planned pain, if there is such thing. i knew how painful it could get having a tooth pulled out. but how much more for the root canal! and how expensive it would be! 

talking about it now makes the inner-me shrinking inside…and a little voice is whispering, “you don’t have to go. it’s okay.” but now it is not okay! there is a thai saying that goes, “unless you see a coffin, you won’t shed a tear.” well, i am just that person. i have seen the coffin. and i am shedding tears.

get rid of that fear and irresponsibility! i am going to see the dentist. how painful it’s gonna be?! many people have gone through more terrible treatment and they’re still alive. and how much it’s gonna cost?! what’s credit card for then?

okay. i just scolded myself over some silly issue. i am going to see the dentist this evening. and i would appreciate your prayer. please don’t take what i just wrote seriously. it was my panicking moment. i took it that bad, huh?

Unexpected Gifts, Seriously?

God does not only hear our prayer but answer them in the most amazing, unexpected ways.

this morning, i was just moping on my bed…feeling a little dejected about being sick. i am not used to it. i mean, since i came up to chiang-mai, i had barely got sick. i had to go to the hospital once to get my eyes checked. that, and a few other times i had minor headache or stomach ache. and i just wished that something good might happen today.

a child-like prayer. i did not even say it out loud or seriously prayed about it. just a wish in my heart.

but God likes to throw us a big surprise. He delights in making us shriek with laughter and joy when we see the opened presents.

my colleague, kwan, called me before noon about our trip to china next week. then she asked me if i wanted anything for lunch or had any craving…because she would bring me those. i was deeply grateful and overwhelmed by the kindness and thoughtfulness.

before one o’clock, she and 3 other friends from compassion, came by my apartment to bring me a box of maccaroni and a huge bag of grapes!  their presence and prayer were like drops of rain on dry land.

i could not ask for more.

then i talked to my mom and the guy from church. they told me that they were going to pray for me. that was another blessing from our Father. just the “it’s okay if you cannot make it tonight (to the prayer meeting). we will be praying for you.” was more than enough. if i could, i would rather be there at the prayer meeting with all of my friends and church family…but…God wanted me to rest. and so i am at rest.

in the evening, i took a walk around the river and also went to get some food. the sun already set and the sky turned navy blue. then i caught a shimmering spot up in the sky…and i thought to myself, “ha! that must be just a lantern people floated again.” but when i carefully looked at it, it was a diamond in the night sky…sparkling silver. there were other stars present tonight as well. i could not remember the last time i gazed at the sky and had to catch my breath.

the beauty of God. stunning. magnificent. and yet…soothing.

thus, i say a prayer of thanks to the Lord God our Father…for all He has done…for how humble He is despite His greatness.

to care enough to fill a grumpy sick woman’s day with gifts, laughter, heart-warming prayer and incomparable beauty is what YHWH does, seriously?


Sickness Woe

there are a couple of things i do not like about being sick:

1. going to the hospital usually takes an extremely long time. i was there at 10:30 in the morning and left at 2:30 in the afternoon. the doctor wanted to be sure i did not get the dengue fever. thus, i had to run the blood test. having the needle poke into my arm was less painful than i expected. anyway, the test result took 2 hours.

2. being sick when you live alone is no fun. last night, i was trying to sleep all the while missing mom and sisters. not only do i have to take care of myself but the other chores i need to get done e.g. doing dishes, laundry, filling water bottles and getting food. i know i do not need to do all these in one day but it would be nice if i did not have to worry about it too.

3. everything in my body just hurts and groans. and sleep comes so difficult. last night, i felt like i was floating on the sea…i dreamt about crazy things…i knew it that i was not having a deep sleep. i went to bed at 9:30pm but i got REAL sleep when the clock hit 3:30am. brutal.

4, the expenses is just sky-rocketing. it was as i expected, about 3,000 baht. ‘~’ i thank God that i can reimburse the bill with compassion. what happen to those who cannot afford?! but again, the consulting and seeing the doctor was reasonable but the blood test was the reason why it costs so much.

my fever is 37.9 degree celsius high. though it may not look that bad, it feels terrible. and all i wish right now is someone to be by my side and a good dose of uninterrupted sleep.

so…i do not have the dengue fever at this stage. but the doctor is going to run some more blood test just to be sure. and he will call me again in 2 days.

at least it is good that i can stay at home to rest for a few days. i thank the Lord for this.

please continue to pray for me.

Need Help!

i didn’t get to give blood today. not because i chickened out again. but because the nurse said that teoy already got some from others yesterday evening and won’t need the plasma until after the next chemotherapy, a couple of days from now. if we donated this afternoon, it would last for only 3 days…and we won’t be able to donate our blood for the next 3 months. so we’d better keep it for emergency….whenever teoy needs it.

thank you for your prayer. this morning, i came across my friend’s facebook status that is quoted from mark chanski,

“should I need to endure my worst nightmare, God will be there, to uphold me so i don’t collapse or breakdown in despair…’therefore we will not fear’ (Ps 46:2)! this enables me to eye yonder furnace with a holy calm, to say as i draw potentially near to it, ‘It is well with my soul'”.

– womanly dominion

it was exactly what i needed to hear at the moment, and all my fear were gone. thank you, becky. 🙂

anyway, i got to see teoy and his mom for a brief moment. his face was less swollen and he could sit up now! he even tried to answer our bombarding questions although he looked almost ready to go to sleep again.

one thing i found difficult, though, was coming up with something to talk about with a sick person. being ill is miserable. and no matter how hard one tries to be cheerful and hopeful, the effort lasts for only 4 seconds. then it comes to the point of silence, smile, say a prayer and say goodbye.

we asked teoy:

“how are you feeling? better?” – nod

“where’s your mom?” – “went out.”

“did you eat dinner yet?” – nod

“what did you have?” – “chicken.”

“do you like reading cartoons?” – silence

“where do you want to go after you get out of the hospital?” – eyes closed. silence.

this was actually better than the last time when he didn’t even acknowledge that we were there. but it was very emotionally challenging. when we walked out of the hospital building, somehow our souls were sucked up by the darkness there. it’s never been a pleasant place.

but i’m not gonna give up trying seeing how teoy’s mom is the only one who’s taking care of him now (his dad got sick and had to go back to the village). i’m planning on going to visit and help keeping watch so that his mom can have some rest.

here’s where i need your help: any ideas to entertain a sick 7-year-old boy? any thoughts or cool activities? please help me help this boy. what are things i can do to brighten up this boy’s day?

thanks in advance!

Blood Donation

we got a phone call from taii, a father of toey, a child who is admitted into the hospital because of leukemia, this evening. toey is a 7-year-old karen boy who had a twin brother that died of the same disease a couple years ago. we don’t know how the boys got it since their parents or natural family members never have cancer.

i have visited teoy three times. i saw him first and second time in the icu and the third time in a children ward. his little body looked even more tiny when he lied on that big bed of white sheet. the last time when he was out of icu, he was so cranky and annoyed that even his parents couldn’t please him in any ways. it was understandable. a boy shouldn’t even be in the hospital at such age. he should be in school, play soccer with his friends, explore his neighborhood and enjoy life. yet…sickness is a curse that we’re all born with. it just depends on when it’s gonna happen to us.

teoy’s parents are people of faith. the first 2 weeks toey was transferred into the city hospital, they abandoned their farm work at home to be by their child’s side. being in a hospital is, honestly, tiring and depressing. and in my context, being in this hospital means waiting around in a white neon-light common area, using shared bathrooms with other patients’ relatives to clean and wash and sleeping on a wooden bench. no private room. no conveniences. they endured it because it was their  child. every time i went, they looked almost ready to collapse. but the father said to me once, “mink, i don’t know why God allowed this to happen but He has a good plan, including this too. i just have to trust Him.” then he quoted a verse from psalm…i think. you gotta see his face when he learned that his son got better. i haven’t seen any broader smile.

anyway, the phone call was to inform and ask for help. toey’s number of blood platelets got very low this morning, and his face got swollen. he is in desperate need of blood plasma. taii asked us if we could go to the hospital and donate blood, whatever type it may be because the hospital will make exchange with the “o” type later on.

when someone like this needs help, wouldn’t one respond in immediate willingness?

well, my dilemma is that to donate blood, it means i willfully allow a sharp and thick needle to go through my layers of skin and into my vein. and that…i am scared of. like many others, i have never liked shots. my 1st memory i can remember of getting  injections was when i was in g.3, in my buttock. ugh. that was painful.

this type of fear gives me a tight knot in my stomach and i feel like i can’t breathe and ready to pass out. that only comes from imagining myself in such situation. i haven’t even tried. 

the 1st time i visited teoy, i willed myself to go so far enough to fill out the blood donation form and got a blood test. but because of an hour lunch break, it got me more time to ponder on the pain…and as a result, i chickened out.

now, with desperate plea from the father, wouldn’t i at least give up a bit of my own comfort to release someone else’s pain?

tough call.

in a way, i’ve already made up my mind. i want to give blood for teoy. but fear still holds me back. i shouldn’t spend time pondering whether or not i should do it. i should just mindlessly walk into the hospital and get it over with.

yes. think of Jesus….He endured so much more…for my sake. how can i not do it to the least of these?

please pray for teoy and his parents in this time of sickness. pray that God would give them hope and strength to carry on each day by relying on His grace. pray for me that i’d be willing to offer what i can to help this family…and other staff too…that they will feel burdened to donate blood tomorrow.