Friday, May 24, 2019


I didn't get the results of the biopsy till my third follow-up visit on 4 May as Dr Chan was on leave. Frankly, on all my visits I was more interested in knowing when I could stop wearing the compression tights than in the biopsy results. When I found out that male patients had worse issues with the tights as they had to adjust their 'jewels' all the time, I felt I should be grateful that my situation was not as bad as theirs - I had no jewels to protect!

I didn't even ask about the biopsy report. Still, it was a relief to know that the lump was benign. However, Dr Chan advised me to get an MRI done every year for the next five years to make sure everything was okay. Attached to the report were some images of the removed lump and the tissues surrounding it. As they are too graphic for public viewing, I shall not post them here.

The first few days when I was back at my daughter and son-in-law's apartment I had to get used to moving around gingerly with the aid of a walking frame. I have always been a fast walker ever since I gave up driving almost 20 years ago. Lots of practice! I had to remind myself to slow down. I also had to get used to taking prescription drugs. For someone who had stopped taking supplements years ago, I now had to take an array of antibiotics, gastric protectors and pain-killers. 

What was more challenging was having to lug around the bottle of post-surgery drainage fluid 24/7. My granddaughter Hana figured out a way to hook it to the walking frame so I could have both hands free for the frame. At night I slept with the bottle beside me. When I woke up I had to make sure the clamps, green vacuum indicator and the green connector were still securely in place, and to note the level of the drainage. The bottle literally became an extension of my body. Imagine my immense relief when Dr Chan removed it on my second follow-up visit on 30 April. 

Having to wear the panty-hose compression tights day and night remained the biggest hassle. My daughter Moon and Heden, our helper, had to assist in helping put them on for me. I had to wear them for at least a month. With the current hot weather, imagine how warm it was to sleep with the tights on. On top of that, the tights made my feet swell and my right knee too. The latter became bulbous and sensitive to the touch. I later learned that this could be due to seroma - fluid that sometimes builds up in the body after surgery. It had probably collected around my right knee. I had a choice of draining the fluid or letting the body absorb it over time. I decided to just let my body do some repair work on my knee.

For the first few days after I was discharged, I only sponged myself. Showering required a bit of acrobatics and flexibility so as not to wet the dressing too much even though it was supposed to be waterproof. Sorry, no photos to show how I managed to shower and wash my hair. It gave me some ideas on how to improve the design of bathrooms to make them more user-friendly for people with physical limitations. Having grab bars or hand rails may not be sufficient.

Unable to venture out for the first three weeks except to see the doctor, the balcony became my favorite place to hang out. I was there at all hours of the day. From the 12th floor, I watched the birds flying by above the tree-tops. I counted the number of cars speeding by below, and watched with envy people jogging by in the evenings, and wondered when I could start brisk walking again. The sunsets were beautiful, so was the sight of the new moon on the first night of Ramadan. The balcony was also where I did my daily push-ups, heel raise exercises and stretches.  

I had brought along a resistance band from KL. Unfortunately it was a tad too short to do much with it. Resistance bands are color-coded according to the degree of tension. They are great for strengthening the bigger muscles in the legs, chest and back. I highly recommend these bands if you don't have weights at home. They are so affordable and easy to bring along when you travel. My mom had hip surgery after a fall in 2011. The physiotherapist at University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) had demonstrated some resistance band exercises to me so I could help my mom do them at home. Mom recovered enough muscle strength in her legs to be able to walk with a walking frame after several weeks. She was 85 years old at the time.

My last visit to see Dr Chan was on 18 May. By then the stitches had healed well enough for him to declare 'no further follow-up needed'. Music to my ears! I celebrated immediately with a belated Mother's Day shopping spree at Robinson's, courtesy of Moon. 

If not for the surgery on my leg, I would have been in Yantai, Shandong today, speaking at the 2nd World Senior Tourism Congress 23-25 May 2019, in my capacity as VP of the University of  the Third Age (U3A), KL & Selangor. Moon had advised me to decline the invitation as she said I probably wouldn't have recovered sufficiently by then to travel so far alone. She was right, of course.

There are many things I have learned from this episode of my life, but that will be for another blog article! :-)

Wednesday, May 22, 2019


It has been exactly one month since I had a lump removed from my leg. Thank God, it's out. The incision wound is healing nicely, and I am doing fine. Also thank you, friends and SeniorsAloud members, for the concern and wishes for a speedy recovery.

How did all this begin? About three years ago I noticed a pea size lump just below the skin on my inner right thigh. I saw the GP about it and was told it was nothing to worry about. I felt no pain or discomfort, and continued with my usual busy schedule. Sometime during my year-long studies in Singapore, I could feel that the lump had increased in size. Not wanting to disrupt my studies with possible bad news, I decided to let it be till after I graduated in early August 2018.

However, my calendar was so packed with festive celebrations, family events and social engagements that I finally had an MRI done almost eight months later on 21 March 2019 at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Singapore. The result was not clear-cut. So the advice was to have the lump removed and sent for a biopsy. By then it had grown to 3cm in size. As I still had a couple of events to see to including a hike at Setia Alam Community Trail on 20 April, I opted to have the surgery on 25 April. The date was later brought forward by the doctor to 22 April.

Below is a pictorial account of my hospital stay. It is more for my personal record, but am sharing it here so that my family and friends have an idea what the entire experience was like. Many of them did not know about my surgery till much later.

On Monday 22 April, Moon helped me to check in at 3.30pm. I had to fast from 10am. Surgery was scheduled for 5.30pm same day. (Above) Here I am relaxing with a book and waiting for the nurses to prepare me for the surgery. The room is spacious and comfortable. I like the sofa which offers more seating for visitors and also doubles up as a bed for overnight company.

As I had showered earlier at home, I used only the toilet. The nurses sponged me in bed the next day after the surgery. The published rates for a single room is $688. It is probably the most expensive room I have ever stayed in, including hotel rooms. And I barely used the room facilities due to limited mobility after the surgery.

(Above) Thumbs up and ready to be wheeled to the operating theater. This would be my third operation so I knew what to expect. I had my gall bladder removed in 1989 at Sentosa Hospital, KL, and part of my liver taken out in 2006 at Gleneagles, Singapore. Orthopedic surgeon Dr Henry Chan had popped in earlier to brief me and to assure me all would be fine, and there was nothing to worry about.

It was winter temperature in the operating theater. Freezing cold. I was told I would be given general anesthesia, so I would not feel a thing at all. The last thing I saw before I blanked out was Dr Chan and his colleague Dr Leon Foo chatting away nearby. It was a calming sight. No urgency. No panic. This was going to be a standard procedure without any complications - hopefully.

When I was wheeled back to my room some hours later, I felt no pain, just some discomfort but was alarmed to see a plastic bottle of what looked like blood hanging by my bedside with a tube that ran right up to my right thigh. It was to drain the after-op discharge/fluid. This was certainly not the usual catheter bag of urine. Belle said it looked more like a bottle of strawberry juice or watermelon juice. Cold comfort!

I was able to enjoy a late dinner after which I had to take the first of my many medications. The night passed uneventfully till the next morning when Dr Chan dropped by to see how I was doing. Great, I said. No pain at all, and I had an appetite. I was told that a physiotherapist would come by later.

(Left) My first meal after the surgery - late dinner. (Right): Lunch the next day. A fairly good selection of meals. Just too much use of cling-wrap to cover each plate, bowl and cup. They forgot my onion soup for dinner and I had to remind them as I love onion soup especially if it's not from a can.

(Above) The four meals I had during my two-day-one-night stay. Breakfast was served quite late at 8.30am compared to the hospitals in KL/PJ where the nurses will wake you up as early as 6am to get you washed and ready for breakfast and for the doctors when they make their rounds.

The physiotherapist came in at 9.40am to show me how to take my first steps with the walking frame. She was super patient and encouraging. Unless you are in a similar situation, you would probably wonder why something as simple and basic as walking requires instructions. I learned how to get up from bed without too much pain, with the help of the walker and how to transfer my weight more to my good left leg when I walked.

A hospital aide later came in to do a survey, mainly asking me questions about my stay and the services. As you can see, it was done like flash cards. I gave above average scores for most of the items in the survey.

(Left) A close-up of the tubing and the bandaged wound. (Right) At a follow-up visit two weeks later when the dressing was removed. Hope readers won't find this too disturbing.

My biggest ordeal at the hospital was having to put on these medical compression tights. Aptly named, as it took Glen (the vendor) and one nurse, each working on one leg almost 45 minutes to complete the task without hurting the wound. Glen called it a sweaty workout. Belle said my legs looked really shapely. Certainly not the case two days later. The above photo (left) was taken immediately after wearing the tights. Two days later, my feet and right knee began to swell (right) and remained so in the weeks after.

(Part 2 to follow).