Friday, 30 September 2011

Dear God

Dear God,

How are you feeling today? Hope that you're feeling good today. Me? Well, I'm sure you know that things have not been very well of late. Although life is now bearable with a double dose of Xyzal, two months of  continuos attack can be very taxing for one's body, not to mention the soul and mind.

I know that there are people out there who are worse off than me and that there are people better off than me. But I am not happy at where I am. 

I want to be able to go out on a whim and to not worry and having to rush home after a certain time because I do not have anything to eat. I want to have days where when I don't feel like cooking, I am able to go to the coffee shop down the road  to buy a packet of economy rice and just enjoy. I'd want to travel to countries that I have never been before. I would like to eat Char Kuay Teow with all the delicious sauces and ingredients. I would like to pig out on Spaghetti Bolognese and Hawaiian Delight Pizza and not react. I would like to able to go to the toilets out there without running out of the place the moment I step in and having to hold my pee looking for another toilet because the previous one reeked with bleach, Dettol and air-freshener. I would like to live a life where I do not need to freak out when 'smells' waft over to my air-space.

That being said, I would like to thank you for giving me such great parents, though I've scared the shit out of them many times! Thank you for my hubby who helped me out with the house chores, and in taking on my load when I was totally out of action. Thank you for my only sibling who helped in whatever way that he could. And thank you for my son who at six years old is more mature than a 10 year old kid. He helps me all the time and gives me non-stop Herculean-strength hugs and tells me he loves me frequently everyday.

I also would like to thank you for the friends who have been supporting, encouraging and pushing me to go on. Their messages, e-mails and SMS-es have greatly encouraged me and kept me going on when difficult times came.

So God, here's what I want. I want my life back. I won't say that I have not learnt anything during this 30 months. In fact I've learned far more than I've learned in my entire life. Christmas is coming, so I'm asking you in advance for my 'gift'. Perfect health with no meds, no need to carry Epi-Pens, steroids, meds, no need to wear a Medic Alert bracelet or run from smells and can-eat-and-use anything and everything with no reaction whatsoever.

I thank you in advance for my 'gift' and thank you for not stopping me abruptly like some of the GP doctors who asked me in an irritated tone, 'So what is it that you want?!' I'm grateful for your time and in letting me rant out my frustrations.

Forever Grateful,
Girl, Alive

Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Glorious Heavens

Someone once asked me to why I am always taking pictures of the sky above. The only response that I could reply was that the sky above us will ALWAYS be the sky no matter the colour, the weather, the mood, the season or the time. The sky is timeless. The sky is steadfast. The sky tells us of the beauty of this world. And the skies have been here since the beginning of time. And taking pictures of the skies reminds me of how blessed I am to have a second chance to enjoy their beauty.

There are days where there will be storms, hurricanes, typhoons or even blizzards. But after the heavens have vented out its wrath and fury, the sky will return to its glorious splendour.

Sometimes the storm that we see on the horizon never reaches us. And by preparing to face the 'storms' in our lives, we learn many things. We learn how to prepare for combat. We learn how to be vigilant. We learn how to be strong.

And when the storms do come, we stay strong, are strong and continue to be strong. We do not give up. And if we fall down, we get back up. Because the storm will never go on forever. And after every storm, the sun will always come back out to shine. Even though at times it may take awhile for it to come back out! But it will eventually. 

Does this not remind you of an elephant and its trunk?

'The sky is the daily bread of the eye.' - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Container Gardening

My son and I have been gardening in containers for almost a year now. We started gardening last year because there were two months of school holidays. And I thought, 'What better way to spend the holidays by being outdoors and enjoy nature right?'

So for the past one year, we’ve been planting all sorts of flowers and vegetables and have reaped much harvest. We apply the organic method to our garden. This means that we do not use pesticides or insecticides for our plants. We’ve learned that different plants attract different kind of pests. We’ve learned how to care for different plants using different techniques. We’ve learned that crop rotation is VERY important in preventing diseases from killing our plants. We’ve learned a lot during this past one year. I've also learned that certain plants will aggravate my condition. And I've gotten rid of them with a heavy heart. But health IS wealth. And sometimes in life, what we like or love is not good or suitable for us. 

Nothing makes us happier than when new shoots or sprouts emerge out from the ground. And when it’s harvest time, we’ll be grinning like the Cheshire cat! Besides, nothing can beat the taste and smell of home-grown vegetables and fruits. Not even the organic vegetables that you buy from the organic mart!

The Siamese Twin Sunflower!!!
The beautiful Japanese roses

The sunflower that was 6 feet tall!


Cherry tomatoes

An assortment of Siu Pak Choy, Spinach, Nai Pak vege
Choy Sum in pots
Red & Green Okra
Okra on plant
Pak Choy
The three bi-colour corn
Tomatoes fresh from the garden!

One of the vegetable harvest
The beautiful okra flower!

The Red Okras
A red okra turning from green to red!

Lantana (which I had to get rid of) :(
Jasmine flower

Japanese roses opening in the morning sun

Monday, 26 September 2011

The Okra And The Tomato

Once upon a time in a faraway land, lived a very poor farmer. His crops were never successful though the land was not barren. One day, he was finally down to his last two seeds. A tomato seed and an okra seed. He planted them and then knelt down and cried to the heavens to bless him and to have mercy on him.

10 years later

The land was so rich that the rows of okras and tomatoes were endless. The heavens had taken pity on the farmer and gave him the best weather for these two crops.

The okras were the best in the land. They produced the best gumbo that ever existed. Montague was their name.

The tomatoes were the sweetest and juiciest in the land. They produced the best and sweetest tomato purée. And they were called the Capulets.

For years the Capulets and the Montagues warred with each other. The Capulets called the Montagues slimy and thorny. The Montagues called the Capulets fatties and squishy. The Capulets boast of their beautiful red hue. The Montagues boast of their giant beautiful leaves. And so the okras and the tomatoes never got along with each other, until that one fine day.

Okra Junior was growing into a fine young okra. Papa Montague told him that he will make very fine gumbo one day. It was during one of those hot days where everyone was hiding under the giant leaves, taking their afternoon nap when he heard a beautiful sound coming from the other side of the plot. Peeking from underneath those leaves, he saw the reddest, roundest and juiciest tomato he had ever seen in his whole life. And she was luscious! And for the first time in his okra life, he fell in love. 'Hello,' he whispered. Tomato-luscious whipped around and saw an OKRA leaning over, TALKING to her. 'Are you trying to get us killed? Do you know what you are doing?' she whispered back fiercely. 'You're just so beautiful,' he replied. 'Of COURSE! I'm a Capulet tomato, the best of our kind,' she snorted haughtily. Suddenly, the wind blew and rustled the leaves and they both immediately stopped their conversation and leaned back into their positions. But Tomato-luscious kept on peeking over from the corner of her eyes whenever possible.

Over the next few days, they met secretly during the afternoon naps. And then it progressed to meeting during the nights. They had fallen in love and there was nothing they could do about it.

One day, Tomato-luscious told Okra Junior that Papa Capulet had told her that the time was drawing near for her to be harvested. Okra Junior was devastated. He could not picture life without his beautiful tomato. He then asked her, 'Do you love me?' Tomato-luscious looked at him incredulously, not believing her ears. 'How could you ask me such a thing? Have I not risked my life by meeting with you in the afternoons and nights?' 'Then come with me,’ he said. ‘Let's escape together. Though our time together would be short-lived, let's spend the last moments of our life together.' Tomato-luscious agreed in a heartbeat. 'We'll escape tomorrow at midnight,' he told her. As he gave her a kiss, Cousin Tomato awoke from his slumber and saw the despicable okra giving his luscious cousin a KISS! 'You bastard! How dare you touch our Tomato-luscious!!!!!' And both crops were jolted up from Cousin Tomato's shouting.

All hell broke loose when it was discovered that a Capulet and a Montague were together. In the midst of the chaos Cousin Okra accidentally smacked Cousin Tomato from his twig and he went splat on the ground. Everyone gasped! Silence ensued. A Capulet was murdered at the hands of a Montague.

'You all will die for this!' screamed Papa Capulet. And bloody murder ensued. The tomatoes broke themselves from their twigs and catapulted themselves over to the okras. The okras used their large leaves to protect themselves from the onslaught of the tomatoes. And the okras broke themselves from their twigs and charged towards the tomatoes, injuring them with their spines.

While the battle was raging, Okra Junior was frantically looking for Tomato-luscious. He was afraid that she would be another casualty. 'Junior, I'm here!' Tomato-luscious called out. As Junior tried to reach her, three tomatoes catapulted towards him and smashed him against the ground. Okra Junior broke into half. 'Nooooooooooo!!!!' Tomato-luscious screamed. She rolled towards him and sobbed uncontrollably. 'We were supposed to watch the last sunrise together.' Okra Junior told her to take one of the seeds from his body and in that way, he would always be with her. And Okra Junior died. Tomato-luscious screamed in such anguish and despair that the battle suddenly came to a halt. 'YOU!!!!! All of you killed him!' 'What is wrong with all of you? What is wrong with being different and yet being with each other? Who is to say that we are better or you are better? Look at all the slain tomatoes and okras. Was it worth it? Neither any of us will ever make it to be the greatest gumbo or tomato puree, EVER. We are all going to die here tonight. I hope you felt that it was worth it!’ she cried.

She gently took out one seed from Okra Junior's body and rolled out of the field to the place that they had agreed to spend their last moments together. The Capulets and Montagues came to realize that they have been very narrow minded, selfish, foolish, arrogant and prejudiced. And now there was nothing that they could do about the situation. They will never make it to be the greatest sauces. Papa Capulet and Papa Montegue decided to call a truce and they swore NEVER to harm or to belittle each other ever again. And they all died that night on the grounds of the field. 

Tomato-luscious rolled to the edge of the field and watched the sunrise with Okra Junior's seed with tears streaming down her cheeks. She kissed the seed, split herself opened over a stone and placed the seed in her. 'I love you Junior,' she said and closed her eyes for the very last time.

When the farmer went to his fields the next morning, he was shocked to see hundreds of tomatoes and okras on the ground. Some were broken into half and some smashed open. The ones on the ground outnumbered the remaining ones on the stems. How was he supposed to make gumbo and tomato puree this year? He sat down on the ground with a thud. He was ruined. Suddenly, he had an idea. This year he would combine the okras and the tomatoes together. He would make the best stew ever with the okras and tomatoes. Who would have thought that one day both the tomatoes and okras would be combined together to make such a delicious dish? But it was paid with a very high price indeed.

3 months later

At the edge of the field, a plant has grown over 6 feet tall. It looks like an okra plant but it has red vines on its leaves, red stems and red twigs. The fruit is red in color and when broken apart, it has less mucus than its ancestor. It is called the Red Okra. And this plant is at the spot where Tomato-luscious died with Okra Junior's seed in her.

"Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast' - William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, 2.3

Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Ball That Was Unluckily Lucky

“STRIKE!!!!” And the crowd screamed themselves hoarse and in wild abandon. People slapped the back of the bowler congratulating him and told him that he played really well. The congratulations just kept on coming. Finally, he was able to sit and take it all in. He had WON! He picked up his lucky ball, kissed it, gave it a little polish and kept it in the bag. And the strikes never stopped striking.

7 years later

“That was the 5th game that you had lost in a row!” his manager roared. “What the hell is happening to you? You have never played this bad in your entire life!” He just sat there dejected, with his head in his hands. His manager resigned on the spot and stormed out of the room in rage. He picked up his lucky ball and said, ‘You are not so lucky after all.’ And he threw the lucky ball into the mirror and shattered the glass into a million pieces.


Lucky? I don’t think there is such a thing as luck to winning a game. Bowling can be akin to life. One needs dedication, patience and perseverance. You cannot expect to strike and not end in the gutter without practicing. You need to put your heart into it. The bowler and the game have to be one. You can’t live your life without investing in it. There will be bad games. And you will have bad days. There will be strikes. And there will be rolling-in-the-gutter times. There will be spares. There will be accidental fouls (or on purpose). And you will have failures. And sometimes failure after failure after failure. The one thing is to never give up because your break will come. It may come in 5 years, or even 10. Some may come in 2 years. Some 20. There are NO SHORT CUTS to winning the game or in life. And the constant changing of lanes are never easy. It is a constant challenge. You just have to learn to adjust and adapt.

How would I know so much, you ask? I was that lucky ball. After he threw me into the mirror and left me lying in that dark corner, injured, he left. He had abandoned me. I knew it wasn’t the ‘lucky’ ball’s fault. I felt it in his fingers for years. It started with a slight twitch. And then the tremors. The struggle to keep his grip and the struggle to keep me steady as he bowled me onto the freshly oiled lane. The sudden jerking instead of the smooth delivering hook that he always had. Parkinson’s. It came upon him like a thief in the night. But he lived in denial.

The cleaner who came in to clean the place saw me, picked me up and told me that it wasn’t my fault. He told me stories of how he used to bowl when he was young, but he never had the courage to go pro. People told him he had that Midas touch. But fear won over. The fear of failure. The fear of rejection. The fear of not knowing what would come next if he stepped out of his comfort zone. And he regretted that decision for life. Now in his spare time, he coaches young kids who want to learn how to bowl but who could not afford to do so. And me? I guess I am just ‘lucky’ because I get to be part of the lives of the young, talented and eager-to-learn kids as they learn how to bowl. I get to feel them grow in their grip, in their hand position, in their delivering hook and in their confidence. And to me, that is as good as a ‘strike’!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Understanding People with Idiopathic Anaphylaxis for Dummies

1. Do Not Stare!
  • Did your mother never teach you that it is rude to stare? Wearing a mask does not necessarily mean that I am sick. I am merely protecting myself from the combination of the chemicals that is wafting around in the air.
  • I am protecting myself from YOUR germs and viruses.
  • Me eating from the Thermos does not mean that I am a cheapskate who can't afford to eat from the restaurant (my family ordered and is feasting away at the food by the way). Don't give us that disgusted look. Don't judge before you know the story. Or need I stamp the word, 'ALLERGY' on my forehead?

2. Do Not Ask Stupid Questions
  • "Could it be it's all in your mind?" Who in their right mind would 'pretend' to suffer from 'idiopathic anaphylaxis' and be home-bound, drugged up and not live a life of a normal person?!
  • "Maybe you need to be MORE positive?" If I'm not positive, I would not have lasted 30 months, mind you.
  • "Are you sure you are not imagining all this?" Let me tell you what IMAGINATION is. Imagination is skinning you alive and hanging you on a 10 foot pole and leaving you out there for the vultures to feast on you. Now THAT'S imagination!
  • "Maybe you are not praying enough?" "Maybe you need to have MORE faith?" "Have you been reading enough of the Word of GOD?" Just because I don't punctuate my every sentence with 'Hallelujah!' or 'Praise the Lord' does not mean I do not have faith or I don't believe. I believe in God. I don't believe in the commercialization of God. Period.

3. It Is Not About You
  • Don't take it personally if I move back, cover my nose or put on a mask because of your over-powering perfume. For me, it's like walking into the gas chamber. I can even taste your perfume and it translates into a chemical taste which burns my mouth, tongue, lips and throat.

4. Don't Say Stupid Things
  • Don't tell me, 'You certainly don't look sick! Are you sure you're that sick?' Seriously, who would in their right mind be out if they are LOOKING sick?! Of course I don't. It's my good day. Do you think I would be out if I looked sick???? I would be in bed, drugged up when I am SICK. Certainly not out shopping in a mall!
  • Don't tell me that my life is so pitiful, so sad, so terrible and so horrible that I can't go anywhere, eat like a normal person or live like a normal person. Of course I know that! It's like telling a cancer patient on chemotherapy 'You're going bald.' Duh!!!

5. Learn to empathize.

The following four points are for doctors, nurses and people in the medical line.

6. As a doctor, don't tell me that you don't know what is wrong with me, is afraid to dispense medicine and yet keep me in the hospital for 'observation'. Pass me to another doctor who understands and can treat me. Don't sit in front of me and stare into space for eternity and only respond when I interrupt your 'deep thinking' by telling me 'I don't know what to do with you.'

7. When a patient arrives at the ER telling you that he/she is having an allergy attack, don't tell them to have a sit first or register your wife/daughter/mother/god-mother/great grandmother first and then take your own sweet time discussing with the other nurses about the previous patient who almost died. Surprise! Surprise! Now isn't it surprising that your previous patient almost died with your immaculate service?

8. Do not ask me whether my Medic Alert bracelet is an amulet and whether 'Medic Alert' is in Thai language. Shall I  take the Hydrocortisone 250mg and Puriton and jab myself while you go figure out what language 'MEDIC ALERT' is in?

9. Don't snicker or snigger in my face when I tell you that I am allergic to chemicals. Your ignorance and arrogance = death for your patients.

10. Since this is a lesson for dummies, let me offer you some tips on how to deal and interact with people like me.

If you do not know what to say to me:

  • Ask me how I am. I will tell you. In a short and sweet manner.
  • Tell me that I look good/healthy and NOT 'You certainly don't look sick, you know,' dripping with sarcasm.
  • Tell me that I have your prayers and support. I will say thank you from the bottom of my heart.
  • Tell me to continue fighting and continue being positive. I will say thank you.
  • Don't bore the living daylights out of me by whining to me about your sad, depressing and pathetic life and that you wished that you were dead because you broke a fingernail or because you've been promoted from a size two dress to a size three or because your boobs have begun to sag.
  • Do not tell me that I should have MORE faith and try to have another child. This truly pisses me off. Are you going to take over my position as mother and raise my child up if I die as a result of a leap of foolishness?

I welcome genuine and sincere questions from people who want to know more. I despise people who ask questions to shoot me down or dismiss my condition like it's an 'imagined' condition or who pretend to listen and then ask me the same questions over AND over again. 

To all fellow people like me, feel free to add to what I may have missed out. Let's keep on fighting and stay strong my fellow friends!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The Journey Thus Far

I wrote this while I was going through a very, very tough period during the month of August. I would like to share this with you here.

29 months. That’s roughly 870 days. A total of 20,880 hours. Which is equivalent to 1, 252, 800 minutes or 75, 168, 000 seconds. Time which is enough to have 3 babies and yet have an extra 2 months. In 29 months, a baby would have learned to eat, smile, turn-over, crawl, walk, run, talk, hum, sing and do a multitude of tasks. For me, 29 months has been a journey of waking up everyday wondering whether it would be my last, whether some chemical would trigger another episode from hell, whether my body would overload and go into overdrive or silence in my head, bowels and senses. 29 months of taking one day at a time. 29 months of pushing my body daily to overcome this condition. 29 months of roller coaster rides. 29 months of wondering why I was spared from death to face so many challenges everyday.

These 29 months can be likened to being enrolled in the school of hard knocks. It’s like standing, getting slammed by a bullet train, getting up again and standing up and trying to be strong again. And then the cycle repeats itself.  It’s like the scene from Matrix where Neo fought with Agent Smith in the underground train station. One can never know when or the direction of the next blow or kick is coming from or what ‘form’ or ‘person’ Agent Smith will take. Or when the attacks are going to cease or escalate. It’s a continuous fight everyday. I just can’t wait for the day where I am strong enough that when the attacks come, all I have to do is to just raise my palm and the bullets will stop in mid-air and drop to the ground. And all the attacks of Agent Smith will be futile and I can overcome and destroy ‘my Agent Smith’.

In these 29 months, I have learned how to survive in a chemical world when it was chemicals that almost killed me. I have fought and lost a lot of battles. I have gone through a lot pain, frustrations, anger, denial, defeat and depression. I have asked myself countless times, ‘Am I a failure?’  ‘What kind of life am I living?’ ‘What’s the point of cheating death and living in pain?’ And then one day it struck me. Who said that people like me who struggle with life are failures?  And then I thought of the people who fight for their lives daily like me but who are worse off than me. People with incurable diseases. The girl who is allergic to water. Or the boy who is allergic to air and who has to live in a bubble for the rest of his life. And the girl who goes into anaphylactic shock when exposed to cold or cool temperature. These are people who live victoriously even in their imperfect circumstances. These are the people who persevere to be a shining light in this world even though their lives are engulfed in darkness many times.

People in general tend to applaud for the people who overcome their hurdles triumphantly. We tend to not give credit to those who are still in the midst of fighting their battles. I beg to differ. I think people who are in the midst of fighting their battles, who persevere even when they are down trodden, who refuse to let the darkness blind them are to be applauded as winners. They are the champions my friends. Why? It’s because they refuse to back down from the fight. They refuse to wallow in self-pity. They go on day to day ‘living’ their lives. And by living, it’s not living by waking up, going through the motions of the daily routines and then going to bed and repeating the whole cycle the next day and the day after that. They live their lives everyday not knowing whether there will be a tomorrow. And they make an impact with their lives EVERYDAY. They shine like a beacon. They affect others to live their lives to the fullest. They encourage, motivate and help others to ‘LIVE’ when they themselves struggle with the simplest thing in life.

Michael J. Fox is one of the winners whom I applaud. He was such a talented and brilliant actor. And to be struck with Parkinson’s disease at such a young age and at the peak of his career must have been a terrible blow for him. But yet today, he thanks Parkinson’s for saving his life, as it was a turn-around-point for him. His life was spiraling down with his drinking addiction. And when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s he drank even harder and fell into depression and it affected his marriage and his relationship with his eldest son. He said that it was during a lucid moment that he realized that his life was in his own hands and thus turned himself around. He said, ‘In fact, Parkinson’s has made me a ­better person. A better husband, father and overall human being. Life delivered me a catastrophe, but I found a richness of soul. I owe it to Parkinson’s, no doubt about that.”[1] And today he continuously contributes to the research of Parkinson’s and continues to encourage fellow patients even though his disease has progressed. And to me, this man is a winner.

Another person whom I applaud is Christopher Reeve. Yes, the original Superman who wore his undies on the outside. Paralyzed after a riding accident, the man who once ‘flew’ high up in the sky became a quadriplegic. The accident had separated his head from his spine. He fell into depression, contemplated with suicide, and went through operations to re-attach his spine to his head, and painful rehabilitation. Though he could not walk ever again, he was a winner because he spent his remaining years of his life helping and encouraging patients who were in the same situation as him. Though he never walked again, he regained back some motor function, and was able to sense hot and cold temperatures on his body. And that was impossible for someone in his situation. He also battled allergies and asthma since childhood. And he reacted severely to the many medications that he had to take after the accident. In Kessler, he tried a drug named Sygen, which was theorized to help reduce damage to the spinal cord. The drug caused him to go into anaphylactic shock and his heart stopped. He believed he had an out-of-body experience and remembered saying, "I'm sorry, but I have to go now", during the event. In his autobiography, he wrote, "and then I left my body. I was up on the ceiling...I looked down and saw my body stretched out on the bed, not moving, while everybody—there were 15 or 20 people, the doctors, the EMTs, the nurses—was working on me. The noise and commotion grew quieter as though someone were gradually turning down the volume." After receiving a large dose of epinephrine, he woke up and was able to stabilize later that night.[2] Though he died at the age of 52 and did not walk again, he was a winner because of the decision to live life at its fullest even in his despairing and depressing condition.

For me, though I’ve been hit, smacked, smashed, knocked down continuously in this month of August, I hope that I will rise above my challenges and setbacks and be a winner even in my losses.

We Are The Champions – Queen

I've paid my dues
Time after time
I've done my sentence
But committed no crime
And bad mistakes
I've made a few
I've had my share of sand kicked in my face
But I've come through

We are the champions, my friends
And we'll keep on fighting ‘till the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
'Cause we are the champions of the world

I've taken my bows
And my curtain calls
You brought me fame and fortune and everything that goes with it
I thank you all

But it's been no bed of roses
No pleasure cruise
I consider it a challenge before the whole human race
And I ain't gonna lose

We are the champions, my friends
And we'll keep on fighting till the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
'Cause we are the champions of the world

Saturday, 17 September 2011

The Day I Met Death

The sensational news of the 33 miners stuck for 2 months plus in a hot, humid tunnel 2,050 feet underground in Chile captivated the attention of the world. And for the first 17 days, they were completely cut off from the world above them. No communication whatsoever. And nobody above ground knew whether these 33 men were alive or dead. The amazing part is that they survived for 17 days with Death breathing down their necks. Their determination and sheer will to survive is astounding. This experience will stay with them forever. Their lives will be transformed. I hope that they will progress and not regress. To give up in life after overcoming death would be such a waste.

It has been 30 months now since I met Death. And these 30 months have been life-changing for me. It has been nothing but difficult and challenging, but the journey of self-discovery, of seeing things in a whole new perspective or learning to live again has been necessary. It has taught me how to make lemonade out of the lemons that life has thrown at me. Or rather to make compost out of the shit that was thrown in my life. 

At the mere mention of the word 'death', many would cringe, touch wood, change the subject abruptly or even say, 'CHOY!' But it is 'death' that I am going to talk about today. By encountering 'death', I was rudely awakened from my slumber and I learned to live all over again. And honestly looking back at all the years that I have lived, I was never alive. I was like the living dead. A person with a living body, but with a dead soul. Are you one of those living dead? Just barely scraping through each day of your life. Dragging your life through each day waiting for the next to end. Or living a life with no passion, purpose or joy.

March 2nd 2009 was just like any other day for me. Waking up, going about my normal routine which was looking after my child, preparing meals and normal house chores. The first encounter happened during lunchtime. After chewing the peanuts from the chicken and peanut soup for the umpteenth time, a very strong foreboding feeling washed over me. I knew something was terribly wrong but didn't know what it was as this had never happened to me. I immediately went to my mother and told her that if I collapsed, my Epi-Pen was in the cabinet next to the TV. The foreboding feeling then left and I didn't give it much thought after that.

Dinner time came and I drank the same soup again! This time the reaction manifested physically. My lips swelled to the point that they would put Angelina Jolie to shame! And by the time I reached the hospital, my blood pressure had plunged, my throat and tongue had swelled until I had difficulty talking. I was given steroids and anti-histamine and was admitted for two days. Two days of continuos steroids and anti-histamines. I was discharged on Wednesday morning and was rushed to the ER again on Wednesday night. I kept reacting, (to what I didn't know at that time). This time the ER doctor sent me home saying that 'I looked fine and was fine' even after we told them of what had happened on Monday. I was very lucky that we did not meet this doctor in the wee hours of Saturday morning.

On Saturday at 1.30am, the worst allergy reaction struck. I was very stoned and groggy from all the medication, but a voice in my heart told me not to sleep. I think if I had slept, I would have died in my sleep. I felt that my heart was failing. My whole system was shutting down and I was going into shock. I was blacking out. I woke my husband up and he jabbed me with the Epi-Pen and once again we rushed to the ER. This time I knew that I might not return at all. I slipped into unconsciousness in the car and then suddenly I wasn't in my body anymore. I moved into this dimly lit tunnel and Death embraced me. I was in Death's arms and it was leading me to go deeper into the tunnel. The coldness that Death was can never be measured with all the eons of winters on this earth combined. As I moved into the tunnel with Death, I heard my husband’s voice calling me from a distance. He kept on calling my name, asking me to go back and that our son needs me. I looked back and in an instance, I was back in my body.

By the time we arrived at the ER, my veins had collapsed and they had to prick anywhere and everywhere to get a vein. I was lucky that the ER doctor that night had also experienced an anaphylactic attack and thus understood what allergy was and the seriousness of an allergy attack. When they finally found a vein and when the steroids and antihistamine coursed through my veins, I felt such relief. I could breathe. I could feel my heart returning to normal. And I knew that I was safe, for now.

I was admitted again, pumped up with medications and I was pricked by the daytime vampires, night time vampires and afternoon vampires constantly. Blood for this test, that test and every test that was imaginable. Up till today I still bear some scars of the needle marks. They remind me of how much I've been through and the things that I've learned throughout this journey.

The following months were hell. Someone had to be with me all the time. People who have had anaphylactic shocks were susceptible to having recurrent attacks. And when that happens, we could just collapse. And with no one around to administer the Epi-Pen, it would be fatal.

All the test results came back negative. That was certainly good news AND bad news. The good news was that there was nothing wrong that they could find with me. The bad news was, what was it that happened to me then? What triggered the attacks? More trips to doctors, hospitals and tests and yet still NO answer. The only answer was in the years of experience of Dr.Yadav, Malaysia's only immunologist allergist. Even his tests came back negative. But because of his years of experience and the vast knowledge that he has, he believed strongly that I was salicylate sensitive. Salicylate is a component in aspirin. Salicylate is practically in everything. It is in food flavouring, sauces, food colouring, additives, spices, herbs, food preservatives, and even in fruits and vegetables. Salicylate is used in shampoos, soaps, paint, creams, toothpastes, detergents, mouthwash, lotions and etc. You get my drift, they are in EVERYTHING! How was I supposed to live a 'normal' life or even stay alive when everything had salicylate? My diet was reduced to fresh food: chicken, fish and a selected few fruits and vegetables. And the only thing that I could cook them with was salt, sugar and sunflower oil. No outside and processed food AT ALL! For months I was just eating the same food; day-in and day-out. Even the smell of belacan, durian, petai, detergents, shampoos, soaps or even hair-creams would trigger an allergy reaction. Because of the fear of anaphylactic shock, I had to go for a colonoscopy anesthetic-free. The doctors said I was too high-a-risk. When I'm in pain, I have no painkillers, NSAIDS, or even Panadol. Doctors tell me the same lines all the time, 'You're a doctor's worst nightmare because you're allergic to EVERYTHING!’ ‘Try not to fall sick.’ ‘I don't know what medicine to give to you.' And if I had to try a new medicine, as there are no more options, I would have to be admitted and be placed on high-alert, in case I react to the medication.

I became very depressed. I fell into a very deep abyss where only darkness ruled. I was very frustrated, angry, bitter and became a recluse. I am very, very blessed to have a strong and loving family. Without them I would not have survived those extremely difficult days. There were days so bad that the neighbor's detergent could trigger a reaction so terrible that all I could do was curl up on the bed and just pray for all of it to end. Smells that triggered migraines from the depths of Hades and severe burning sensation on my tongue as though it was sprayed with acid and then dipped in salt, experimentation with new foods that caused loose bowels until I thought even my entrails would be expunged permanently, attacks so bad that my husband and I actually went to the hospital to wait just in case I dropped dead.

I was beyond fed-up with everything. I was on anti-histamines and steroids everyday. And when the attacks came, I would have to double or triple the doses. I was so stoned from all these anti-histamines. It came to a point that I lost my soul. I lost myself. I didn't know who I was anymore. I couldn't even function as a person, as a wife, as a mother or a daughter. One day, I decided I had to take charge of my life. I did not cheat death to end up with a life like this. Of course it was so difficult at first. I had to experiment with new foods bit by bit. If I reacted to the new food, I had to go back to the 'salicylate-free' diet and when I am out of it, I had to try again. I had to learn to cook, to make food in new ways. I had to learn to make my own chemical-free bread, cookies, biscuits, cakes and etc. Basically I had to learn to make everything that I put in my mouth. I had to flee many times in shopping malls when someone's perfume suffocated my air space. I had to forgo many outings and gatherings. And whenever I go out, I have to cook my own food and bring it out. I had to keep my house 'chemical free'. I hate it when people give me looks of sympathy, or said, 'WAH, everything also cannot eat, so poor thing! What kind of life is that?'

It was during these 30 months that I've learned to be resilient, to know which battles are worth fighting for, and which ones to let go. I've learned the important things in life are in our hearts not in things. I've learned to live a life free of fear. What is to fear? I have met Death. I've learned the meaning of love. I've learned joy. I've learned to never give up. I've learned to appreciate. I have rediscovered my passion in life again. My vision of life and what life is can never be the same.

It took me 30 months to reach where I am today. Of course some days are 'Moderato', some 'Adagio', some 'Allegro' and some 'Pesante'. I have days where I throw hissy fits worse than frustrated toddlers. I have days where my mood is like of a woman with PMS and menopause combined. There are days where I keep walking into a brick wall. There are days where I feel like I’m clawing my way up a steep, icy mountain with my bare hands. But I take a day at a time. One hurdle at a time. In this period of 30 months, I have had relapses. I have also had long periods of time where I did not react to anything. Today I can eat so many more types of food (and reaction-free) compared to 30 months ago. I can even eat foods with a small amount of salicylate. Of course I have yet to try eating 'outside food'. That is my next goal.

To the people who are reading this, do not wait till Death comes knocking at your door before you realise the life that you've been living has been a farce, a facade. Live your life with passion. Get your priorities right. Ask yourself, 'Why are you alive? What is it that you want out of your life? What do you plan to achieve in/with your life? Are you working towards your dreams? Are you happy and contented with who and what you are?' Live your life before it’s too late.

‘Life is something that everyone should try at least once.’ – Henry J. Tillman

‘There is no wealth but life.’ – John Ruskin