Friday, 24 October 2014

Watch Your Back

For the past few weeks, I have been struggling with backache. I slipped and landed on my backside at a waterfall 2 years ago. Subsequently, I injured my back again, carrying some files when we moved office. Diagnosed with lumbosacral spondylosis,  standing or walking longer than ten minutes causes pain at my lower back, hip joints, calves and feet. My sitting posture too has to be upright but relaxed.

Lumbosacral spondylosis is a basic term used by medical professionals to describe common, age-related degeneration in the lower back at the site where the last vertebra of the lumbar spine (L5) and the first vertebra of the sacral spine (S1) connect. This area is especially prone to deterioration because the lower back supports upright posture and many different bending and twisting movements, and also because it supports such a large amount of weight.

Specific conditions that fall under the umbrella term of lumbosacral spondylosis can include herniated discs, bulging discs, bone spurs and osteoarthritis, all of which are spinal abnormalities that run the risk of protruding into the spinal canal and exerting pressure on spinal nerves. The sciatic nerve is often compressed at the meeting of the L5 and S1 vertebrae. Common symptoms of sciatic nerve compression include tingling, numbness, weakness and pain that can spread through the lower back, tailbone, hip joints, calves and feet

My activities have been severely curtailed since. Apart from twice weekly treatments at the famous Dr Chong of Sea Park and cari makan (working), I struggle with daily chores. The basic life chores which I took for granted became an achievement. For about a week, I felt very moody and depressed, I asked myself why I was so blue. Apart from the inactivity, I do not feel comfortable asking for help. I feel more comfortable being the provider and being needed. I was afraid of being a burden.  I believe I share the feelings of many who have problems with mobility.

If we are fortunate and have an understanding family, we have an easier time. We can treat it as a much needed time of rest for our body, Even so, it being a temporary situation helps us to bear with the dis-ease. However, for people who are sick and dependent in the longer term, it can be depressing.

In tough times such as these, how do we cope and live with the daily dependence on others without feeling like a burden? Our aged parents, people in homes, how do they get through each day? What can they do for themselves? Knowing this, how can we make their lives better and easier? 

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

White Tulips for my Mother in Law

My mother in law passed away over the Merdeka weekend. She was 80 years old and had been suffering from Parkinsons disease for the past four years. It  is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. Early in the course of the disease, the most obvious symptoms are movement related; these include shaking, rigidity, slowness of movement and difficulty with walking and gait. Later, as the disease became more advanced, she suffered from dementia and depression.

I was not very close to my mother in law. We were from different generations and backgrounds and so differed greatly in our  ways.  I found her difficult to relate with. The irony was that we were both women and  mothers. We shared the same concerns. Why we were unable to focus more on our similarities rather than differences? I guess we were too much alike. We were full of pride. And I was young and lacked the maturity to do it any differently.

It was in her later years, when she fell sick that I tried to reach out to her. She was more vulnerable and her defences were down. Once a very proud woman, she became a different person. I accompanied her on her first few visits to the hospital  when she was diagnosed with Parkinsons disease and tried my best to be a source of help for her. Through it all, I learned that no matter the circumstances, what has transpired and what grievances we hold, treating another person  in a  human and dignified way actually comes very naturally to us. We are capable of putting every grudge aside to be of support to another person. To act otherwise, we have to really close our hearts and act very steely. And I am glad I was present for her when she needed it

To my dear mother in law, wherever you are, I want to say that you were a fashionista, a gutsy, determined lady. I pray that  love, peace  and happiness follow you wherever you are .

Thursday, 19 June 2014

The Art of Suffering

Of late, I have been busy and preoccupied with one of my cats, Checkers. Shortly after I returned from India, I decided to keep him fully indoors because he was injured again. He had been bitten and hurt just too many times by the neighbourhood tomcat which we nicknamed Dorina. Having been giving many cycles of antibiotics and even surgery for his injuries, enough was enough.

After two weeks in the house, he was visiting the litter tray very frequently, straining to pee. One evening, after a long day at work,  I came home to find him vomiting and terribly sick. An emergency case, we rushed him to a vet at 10.30 pm,  where he was diagnosed with FLUTD (Feline Lower Urinary Disease, cathetherised and warded. After a week long stay, he came home, 1 kg lighter and dehydrated. I brought him to my regular vet. who was surprised thatt my cat had been cathetherised without a drip. Sigh. I was told to force feed him daily to help him gain weight.  He seemed to be improving but relapsed a week after his course of antibiotics finished.

He is now still hospitalised. I feel pressured to make a decision as to whether to put him under the knife. Urethral obstruction—when the cat's urethra becomes partly or totally blocked—is a potentially life-threatening condition and one of the most serious results of FLUTD. When the urethra is completely blocked, the kidneys are no longer able to remove toxins from the blood and maintain a proper balance of fluids and electrolytes in the body. If the obstruction is not relieved, the cat will eventually lose consciousness and die. A surgery called perineal urethrosomy (PU) addresses that problem. The surgery involves removing much of the penis and the narrow portion of the urethra, thus making a new and wider opening to relieve obstruction. Side effects of surgery can include bleeding for up to ten days after surgery, narrowing at the surgical site, urinary incontinence, and a greater incidence of other kinds of bladder diseases. This is quite a major surgery and is only recommended as a last resort.

I would like to save him  from potentially life threatening situations in future but this would involve a drastic surgery. I am now hoping that with a change in diet, medication plus urinary supplements, he can be problem free. But who can predict the future? Since he started getting sick, I had been stressed out. I now realise that I  have been out of balance. I have been suffering at my own hand.

Listening to a talk by Thich Nhat Hanh, I see how apt his words are for my situation, The wise monk teaches the art of suffering. He says that when we know how to suffer, we suffer much less. If there is pain in our body or in our mind, we must not allow fear and anger to take over. Otherwise, the pain is multiplied. A simple headache can become both a physical pain and mental torture by imagining all the worse case scenarios.

In my case,  it was the fear of  making the wrong decision for Checkers. It was the fear of watching Checkers suffer or die because of my decision.  I put so much pressure on myself to get it right. I didnt stay in the present moment. I just allowed my mind to be a playground for fears.

I see more in a cat than just another animal. I see precious life. And it is life that I am striving to preserve. We all feel pain and suffering whether humans or animals. I feel for them. Yet, after going through a big round again, I arrive at at the same conclusion. What's new???  I hate to admit it but many things in life are out of my control. I don't make the decisions about life, death and suffering. Much as I would like to see the world relieved of suffering, I have to be realistic. This situation is yet another which teaches me acceptance. And it is in acceptance that I am relieved of my own suffering. I feel better already.

Checkers drinking milk with his orange brother called Caramel.

Friday, 30 May 2014

A Long Journey Home

I wonder how many of you out there believe or take an interest in numerology. It is said that each number carries a certain vibration. The year 2014 adds up to the number 7. The number 7 is connected with spirituality. Thus 2014 is the Year of the Divine and a good year for spiritual pursuits

I have been attending a spiritual course since  last August. In March this year,  I went for a 11 day retreat in Nepal. This was followed by another retreat in India in April.  I have indeed felt a shift in my perceptions ever since I embarked on this course. I feel I am getting closer yet still quite far away from achieving the enlightened understanding and peace with life.

I have been searching ever since I was a child. Unbeknownst to me,  I was deeply troubled by the many unanswered questions within me and the dualities of this world  The difficulties in my life have been the sparks which set me on this journey to search for the truth. It is a journey which I am only beginning to  appreciate. I sought  achievements, looked to  people, been to faraway places and  experimented with religions. What was it for? Ultimately, it was to fill the void within. It is this void which drives the search.

I have looked so much to the externals. Yet, what was it that made me assume I could find it from the external world? I didn't even question this illogical logic. And I am certain that I am not the only one to have walked down this mistaken road. We have been brought up to trust others and to look for the answers externally, first from  our parents, then our teachers and society. Without being conscious of it, we have been conditioned to seek love, approval and validation from external sources. And it is a path we pursue till we suffer disappointment after disappointment. One fine day, when we finally get the message, we understand that this long journey we have sent ourselves on, only leads back to home.

This home resides within ourselves.