The Reflection

I sat down and had a heart to heart chat with my buddy in Singapore via whatsapp. The topic was of course, about my cancer problem. Before long, we were joking about it. Good buddies joke about anything under the sun, probably even to our death beds. They say if you live life without a buddy like that, you would have live for naught. I'm a lucky man.

Bit by bit through the conversation, I recalled what happened to me in the last two years and I began to realise how long I had been ignoring the messages from my body. The conversation did lead to a surprising finding: 

There is a very high possibility I had cancer even before I came to Perth.

Some of my friends back home may recall about three weeks before I left Singapore on a gloomy day of 17th November 2011, something shocking happened to me. 

It was a Monday morning. I was preparing for work as usual. When I made my customary morning pee in my sleepy stupor, I felt something very unusual..erm.. down there. It felt totally blocked as I was flexing the muscles of the bladder to push urine out. I maintained the pressure, careful not to over exert. Then the horror happened. The pressure gave way and I heard a hard splash.

When I looked down, it was a total crime scene. Blood were splattered everywhere randomly. There were thick dark clots among the streams of viscous fresh red blood. There were a considerable amount of blood landing outside the toilet bowl. I was totally awake by then. Who wouldn't? Amazing, I remembered I finished my urination calmly, watching my full fresh blood flowing out until the end. It wasn't a case of blood in urine - I was literally pissing blood that morning.

Before long I was in the polyclinic, drinking a lot of water all the time and checking the state of my urine while waiting. It was considerably more diluted. Over a few rounds, I managed to get the urine lighted tainted with blood, a far cry from the horror scene earlier morning.


My job for that last two years preceding that incident was rather hectic. I was working in a typical local construction company in Singapore. We worked pretty hard. 6 full days per week, typically 10-16 hours per day. There was a memorable (unfortunately in a bad way) period of 3 months I had to sleep 3-5 hours a day on the project. It was an A&A project in Raffles City, where we built a 30 metres truss 4 levels above a fully operational shopping complex. Due to the high risk of endangering shoppers walking obliviously below, our work normally started after 2300 hrs and ended around 0600 hrs. The project manager from the main contractor would began spamming my phone by 0800 hrs the next day. Very often, I had to find sleep in-between the job, many times at the back of my faithful Renault Kangoo. Life sucked.  Thinking back, I would rather wash the plates. If only that $3,000 dish washing job was available back then. Fuck.

That wasn't the start of my bladder issues. There were no shortage of toilets in Raffles City. Unfortunately unearthly sleeping patterns took a significant toil to my health. On top of that, due to the nature of work, I ate terribly. Very often we ate dinner when it was time for supper. We skipped many lunch and ate a lot of processed snacks and drinks to fill the stomach and carried on work. Over time, the body suffered.

The next few projects were typical construction sites. The Marina Bay Sands (MBS) project was notoriously challenging, where relieving ourselves were concerned. There were no toilets in the site. As we were building the ground level shopfront of the entire podium, very often we needed to walk more than 400m (including detours and obstructions) to reach the site office, where the only toilets were. As we concentrated on our jobs, very often we pushed our bladders over limit. That could be the beginning of the problem. We spent 10 months in MBS.

The glorious blood pissing ceremony marked my 2 years with my ex-company. I was already serving my notice by then. At the same time, 1 month before I submitted my resignation, I took up jogging due to the encouragement of my friends. I thought it was paramount that I must rebuild my health, after I felt the toils of the job had taken on me. I could clearly remember how unfit I was when I began. I couldn't even finish a simple run of 1km. With perseverance, I struggled but managed to build up enough stamina to run my first 5km in many years. On a special rainy night, I decided to grit my teeth and push myself to a mental limit. That night, I laid on the running track of the ITE West at Choa Chu Kang, absolutely exhausted after the completion of my 10km run. I remembered looking up to the sky and saw a few small stars. I could recall wishing if only life in Singapore could be like that every day. That there was a time to work, a time to play, a time to rest.

There wasn't stopping me after I hit my first 10km. I began to increase my run and eventually ended up doing 15km twice or thrice a week. It was an enthralling experience for a health wreck a month or so ago. The general weight loss and muscle building was welcomed. What made me happy was that I regained my sharpness in the mind and interest in life. That was too late though, as far as my bladder was concerned. My last 15km was on a Saturday, 2 days before the blood piss ceremony.


The GP in the polyclinic was not comfortable with me. They were accustomed to coughs, flu and fever. Not blood pissing. So I was referred to a specialist in NUH immediately. Before long, I was sitting down waiting at the urology specialist department in NUH, with ah peks sitting alongside looking curiously at me. Yeah, why? Young man cannot have peeing problems? Blood hell, si ah peks.

The young doctor looked at my case and got me to do an x-ray. When I returned, he told me based on the x-ray, he could not find any problems.

"What were you doing before you have this problem?"

"I ran 15km two days before. Any problems?"


"I think it could be the run. Long runs like this could cause the bladder walls to be damaged due to constant rubbing and that could result in bleeding. As your bleeding has stopped completely, there shouldn't be any cause for alarm."

That was the end of my treatment in NUH.

A few weeks later, I noticed a little blood in my urine but it went completely clear the next morning after though I completely stopped running at the advice of the specialist. I put it at the back of my mind and enrolled in the crazy final weeks before our migration to Perth.

We could have picked it up in Singapore, but we didn't. I could have peed in a bag instead of walking 400m to the nearest toilet. As my friend Stephen said, “早知没黑衣” (In hindsight, there would be no beggars)

We knew very well what happened in the next 8-9 months. We were helpless. I had no friends, not a single soul in Perth. My wife was 5 months pregnant. We had limited funds to get by. The survival instincts took over and I picked up any work I could find. Metal grinding and cutting wasn't that bad. On hindsight again, the hours didn't do my condition any favours. Wait - did I think I had a condition? No. The specialist in NUH said I was fine. The hazards of the job were mostly physical. The two eye surgeries to remove metal splinters from my eye was frightening, but it went well without any side effects. A welding accident left a permanent 3 inch scar across my right thigh. That too, didn't impair me in any way. The constant vibrations on my arms did cause massive damage to the joints of my fingers that still hurt slightly till today, though it seemed to me they have gotten better by the months, as compared to the days I couldn't even clench my fist without pain and had to sleep with hands below my head so I would not move my fingers accidentally in my sleep. These were superficial. They paid me well for the trouble almost 89k per annum for the trouble.

Why were we paid decently even for just being a trade assistant? That amount of money included overtime. There was an obscene amount of overtime we were offered. It was optional but I went head on with it like a raging bull, with the birth of my first child as motivation. On top of that we were paid 20% more than the day tradies because we were working that 3.30pm to 2am shift. Two critical factors here probably did my condition no favours. The night shift and the working environment. Despite the mask and filter I wore faithfully every night, I noticed it was not impermeable. I could recall washing the insides of my nostrils every night to clear the sooty mess. Being hungry at 3am in common. I would be filling my stomach with junk food while waiting for my hair to dry. More than half of the posts of this entire blog came from nights like those. When I had my fill, I went to bed immediately.

I have Alvin to thank for the lead that linked me to my current job. Micky probably saved my life by strongly advising me to take a pay cut and take up the current job, which I was hesitant at one stage. Other than less money, there isn't anything I can fault about this job. This was the best job I have ever taken up so far in my career and the only job which I can truly declare I enjoy tremendously. My hours are humane now at 7am - 3.30pm. I'm contented and happy.

When one is sick, there is no one else to blame but himself because it is everyone's responsibility to take care of his own health. Sure, if the specialist in NUH raised the red flag, it would be jolted me to put full attention on my health much earlier. My tumor would have been destroyed by having a suitable diet and rest before it escalated to this stage. Ultimately my health is my business and I am taking full responsibility for the problem now. I believe with awareness, conviction and the willingness to take up responsibility, I would be able to reverse my destructive health habits and restore it back on track.

No comments:

Post a Comment