From Drug Pusher to Drug Addict to Sobriety

Yes, that’s part of the story of my life! Many years ago, when I was young, vibrant and energetic, I worked as a legal drug pusher – the way pharmaceutical representatives fondly call our job title. I have left pharma for almost 10 years now. A little more than 2 years ago, after being diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis (MG), I went down the path of pharma drug addiction – by necessity! It became a journey of unlearning what I thought I knew and learning a new way of honoring my body. Praise be to God, I am now in sobriety for a little more than 2 months.

In the background is a snapshot of the cocktail of drugs I was on

Having a pharma background has indirectly made me ignorant to the natural healing ability of my body. As I am also not free from confirmation bias, so it was kind of an eye opener to walk down the path desiring total sobriety from pharma drug. It is not uncommon for patient living with an autoimmunity being told that they have to be drug dependent for the rest of their lives. I stumbled upon stories of people who defy the odds and achieve something called a remission, some even successfully reversed their autoimmune condition with the right protocol. In the beginning it was amazement for me and kind of a wishful thinking that I want to be one of those who beat this. As time goes, the more I learned about this amazing God given body, the more I am convinced that healing is possible.

So started my quest for an alternative natural treatment. In the quest for healing, one main attitude that I took on is radical self responsibility for my health – I am responsible for my health, not my physicians. Hence that calls for a shift in the way I treat my body. What comes in contact becomes important be it the food I take, supplements, cleaning agents or even medical treatment I allow in my body. “Are those interventions necessary?, What are the risks vs benefits?” are among the questions I will ask before proceeding with any medical intervention. Thanks to my pharma background, reading products insert and clinical paper is something I am accustomed to. What it comes down to is doing my own research and own my decision as I should be the one who is most in tune with my body, knows my body best – not just following orders from my physicians. Self responsibility is an attitude welcomed by my physicians, it’s much easier to work with me as I do not put the burden of my health on them.

The initial part of the journey felt quite lonely as MG is a rare condition. What’s more rare are people who successfully reversed their condition naturally. The support group I joined are mostly conventional based which is fine as that’s the best known ways. I am grateful that I got support from my family who also believe that natural healing is possible. With heaps of prayer, I met my Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) physician. Acupuncture, chiro work and TCM herbs worked for me. It may not the answer for every MG patient but it’s worth a try. I recognized the importance of radical self responsibility when it comes to healing as I met people who unconsciously embodied their victimhood in their healing journey. Living as a victim will not bring any freedom or victory. We are better off doing the heart work of getting out of victimhood to accountability if we want any progress at all in our lives. Talk to me if you’d like to explore tools to shift from victimhood to accountability.

Has there been bad trial for me? Yes, you bet! Some of the stuffs I tried not only did not help, it worsened my condition. When that happened, I simply stop and keep searching for things that may help. Have I been reckless? Oh yes, indeed recklessness was the main driver towards my sobriety. In March this year, I ventured into mushroom growing at home. It was an awesome experience to able to harvest fresh mushroom at home. What I did not consider was the spores from the mushroom. For any healthy person, those spores are easy peasy to get rid of from their body. For me at that time still on immunosuppressant, I got infected and suffered prolonged cough. Tried all sort of medication and it only just helped the condition a little bit. I knew for a fact, I need to be weaned off the immunosuppressant in order for the fungi infected cough to be healed. Praise God I have at that point started the weaning process. The cough been quite an ordeal and I thank God once I was off the immunosuppressant, my condition started improving exponentially.

A very interesting experience of being off pharma drug was the withdrawal syndrome. My hands and feet were swollen for a month; I shivered at my neck while the peripheries of my body felt crazily warm. To intensify the drama, the prolonged cough finally affected my taste buds. When my taste buds were affected, that’s when things got hard. I enjoy my food and for that simple pleasure to be taken away, I was left in a state of choice again. Do I rise up victoriously or do I sulk in self pity? I chose victory. Well, experiencing drug withdrawal with an affected taste bud has become a reality, I may as well laugh it out. Not in my power to stop that with a switch but definitely in my power to define the experience with an attitude of praise and gratitude. As I continue to praise God for His healing power upon me and His overflowing grace that helped me through; I find peace, strength and courage to persevere in my healing journey.

So today, I am a little less young, still vibrant and regaining my energy; being thankful for the experience I had journeying from a drug pusher to a drug addict and now in sobriety. Thank you for your support dear friends through my journey. It is my prayer that you will also embody radical self responsibility when it comes to honoring your body. May your journey be an exciting one!

With lots of love,
Irene

What I Learnt Through Sickness

The vivid thing that I remember was being overwhelmed with grace in the beginning of the diagnosis of Myasthenia Gravis (MG). When I first started having symptoms, we did some research and were desperately hoping it was something mild and less nasty. The illness progressed really quickly to the point of hospitalization and looking back I now know I was just a day or two away from a full on myasthenic crisis, where intubation would be necessary. We are ever so grateful for the grace and the favor from the Lord upon us that I was just in time.

I was determined to make my season of healing a season of grace and that mindset became the guide of my search. The journey was tough and at every juncture, I searched for the blessings behind it. My mother was in my house helping me at the early stage and she needed to get back to my hometown for her doctor’s appointment; so my niece helped for a week followed by my sister for another week. Then the lockdown happened. I was a little more than month out of hospital, still very weak and found myself without any help. My attitude was “think possible and do what’s possible”. With the outlook of gratitude, here are some things I learnt (please note that these are my personal opinion derived from personal experience);

Emergency care is life saver
I am alive today thanks to emergency care where I get immediate help and rescue medication. In my case IVIg was administered to bring my body back to a more stable state. I am evermore grateful for my dear friend who helped me in the admission and also my neurologist who is respectful and dedicated to saving me at the time of hospitalization.

Get a medical insurance coverage in case you need it
This is where grace was really abounds. My work as a lay missionary paid me nothing monetarily and so that led me to a decision to put my insurance to a holiday mode. Thank God I get to restart it in time for its use. We are privilege to have private hospitals that can attend to us immediately. The bill was really huge for us and thanks to my medical insurance, I paid only a fraction of it. I got my medical insurance when I was young with the desire to not ever need it and it turned out to be a blessing when I needed it.

It’s liberating to unlearn limiting beliefs and learn new ones
I’ve worked as a medical representative for quite some time and the medical field was one that I looked from a one sided perspective. When I was diagnosed I was told there is no cure for MG and that I would be on medication for life. I know the fact that there is a possibility to depend on drugs for life but I do not like that option. So I start researching extensively on the topic of autoimmunity. The search opened my eyes to a whole new possibility of healing naturally. I learnt not only about autoimmunity but also about cancer. The whole dynamic of the body becomes something I start seeing a whole. It’s like scales were peeled off my eyes that I now am able to embrace the fact that the body is really interconnected. I may have an autoimmune of the nerves but healing my gut would be the gateway to heal the autoimmune.

Understanding the modality of natural means of healing gave me a lot of hope. My research led me to meet my Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) doctor who helped me to heal to the point of wellness. This in turn enabled me to start tapering down the immunosuppressant I am on. This is hope enfleshed and I am so grateful.

Diagnostic tools of modern hospital are helpful
I have a good relationship with my neurologist and I appreciate his care for me. Some MG patients are not as lucky as they did not meet good doctors who are respectful. The diagnostic tools in modern hospitals are really helpful in the navigation of disease management. Yearly CT scan is needed for me to monitor the thymoma, blood tests will give an indication of what’s going on. So for me, even though I am experiencing healing through my TCM doctor, I am still going under the care of my neurologist.

Mental fitness is a plus for healing journey
I am privileged to have gone through my own mental fitness journey in 2021 and now on the journey of advance coach training in this area. Mental fitness is our ability to take on life challenges with a positive rather than negative mindset. It’s the work developed by Positive Intelligence (PQ) and the programme has helped me tremendously in stress management. It is a well known fact that stress is a root cause of many diseases and I believe the it was major contributing factor to me getting MG. Since the diagnosis in 2020, I made it a point to regulate my emotions well. With PQ I was able to identify the source of stress in my life and am able to regulate even more effectively. I learnt tools that helped me to stop the spiraling down of negative thoughts and emotions that often resulted in stress and unhappiness. My PQ journey has seen me being happier and more productive in my work. I run an eight weeks mental fitness journey to as a foundation for clients who desires to achieve their desired outcomes with ease and great happiness. Connect with me to find out more.

Healing is possible when we take responsibility
Self responsibility is so crucial in healing. I take full responsibility for my healing by educating myself on the disease, being discerning on what I put into my body and choosing a healthier lifestyle. Education is what helped me to tap into hope of healing through the natural means and what I learnt is such a treasure on every front. Formerly a drug rep, I know well how modern drugs work. I acknowledge that modern drugs can be quite helpful especially in the beginning phase of getting ill. Dealing with symptoms can be debilitating and having drugs to help control it for a little while helps us get back on track. However, to gain full healing, it would be worth it to look at natural means. In my condition, the drugs I was on just could not bring me to a state of wellness. I thank God for TCM modality that brought me to where I am. Getting to know other people who are sick and stuck, it became apparent to me that they lack the courage to take responsibility of their bodies. They are likely to embody an attitude of helplessness and depended fully upon the advice of the healthcare provider without any question or research. Those advices are great but as responsible adults, we are invited to discern what’s best for us. Nobody knows your body better than you do, in all logic, we should be the “expert” of our bodies. What went missing that we became so disconnected from our bodies? I can answer that for myself – I was not present to my body and I did not know how to love my body fully. Through MG I learnt to reconnect, listen to and love my body the way God intended me to.

I intentionally choose my diet, lifestyle and what kind of medication I allowed in my body. Healthcare providers had encouraged me to take certain drug for prevention of some disease. My response was to check on the recommended drug; is it necessary? What are the contents of the drug? What potential side effect would it bring? Would the mechanism of action injure me due to my condition? What is known about this drug? Is it even ethical? These are some of the questions I would bring to the table of discernment whether to take any additional drug. In my discernment I would tap into grace of the Living God and connect to my instinct for decision. When it concerns life, I think it’s important to go beyond our rational mind to our intuition. All these requires a sense of self responsibility. This body is a gift from Christ and it is my responsibility to take good care of it.

God heals the way He pleased
One of my first response when I got sick was to pray. I invited family and friends to join me on a 54 days rosary novena with the intention of my healing. I secretly wished I would be one of those who received healing instantaneously. However, in my case God is pleased to heal me according to natural law. It’s a process that I go through with some days being great and some being really crappy. I learnt to be grateful through it all. This is a journey of endurance and trust training. I certainly see my trust in the Lord increase steadily. Do I still cry when it’s difficult? YES I do! I also experience recovery from the negative emotions way faster and with every hurdle comes greater trust. I am learning as St. Paul taught us to find contentment in all circumstances (Philippians 4: 12).

I hope my little nuggets of learning is helpful for you. Wherever you are in your healing journey, the burden feels lighter if you have someone who walk alongside you. Should you be considering a coach, I am here. My prayer for you is that you find fullness of life in the midst of your circumstances.

With lots of love,
Irene

Recounting 2 Years of Healing Journey

The recollection of events that happened 2 years ago is still vivid in my mind. It sometimes felt surreal that we’ve been through such drama, especially now that I am in a much better state physically. Just a few weeks ago I shared my grace of healing with a Myasthenia Gravis (MG) support group, one response that I got was pretty astounding: “that’s crazy, you are one lucky person!”. Indeed I am really blessed to have found healing through Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

I can count so many blessings that came out of my healing journey; one of them being my openness to unlearn what I thought I know to be the “right” way of viewing sickness and relearn to connect to my body through natural means. As a former drug rep, this is a sanctifying journey and I am just simply amazed at the grace of openness that I was able to tap on. Because of MG I enrolled myself into all sort of health education programs and the irony is that I finally understand a little bit of the principle of TCM through an English speaking American program despite growing up more deeply rooted in Chinese culture (I only speak a few Chinese languages but am unable to read or write Chinese scripts).

Acupuncture has been attributed to being quite helpful for MG, with that knowledge I started praying and looking for an acupuncturist from the very beginning of the diagnosis. I finally found one after more than a year of searching when my friend shared his experience with his TCM who also does acupuncture. Meeting my TCM doctor was an answered prayer. I only wanted acupuncture to supplement my current conventional medicine regime but I was given more.

At my first appointment, I found out that my TCM doctor did his masters in autoimmunity, hence he was totally unsurprised by MG with thymoma. Another assurance came my way when I met his wife who had MG with thymoma 17 years prior. That gave me a lot of hope as I know then the doctor I found knows what he’s dealing with as MG is a rare condition. I started off with just acupuncture as I wasn’t sure about taking herbal meds on top of my current conventional regime. After consultation with my TCM doctor, his advice was to take the different meds at an hour and a half apart.

It was Aug of 2021, I started experiencing slight worsening when I finally met my TCM doctor. Came Sept, I lost my dearest younger brother and that bout of emotional stress threw me to the floor of MG flareup. I was so weak to the point of having difficulty in swallowing water. So at that time, I restarted steroid and pyridostigmine to help control the symptoms. Both my neurologist and TCM doctor had great empathy and were really supportive.

By early Oct, I started herbal meds with weekly therapy that involves cupping, chiro work and acupuncture. Within 3 months, I showed signs of improvement to the point of wellness. One example would be computer screen time. At the peak of when symptoms was relatively low on conventional drug treatment, I could withstand computer screen time up to 10 minutes and then my eyelids will start to droop. By that point, my whole body would feel a tiring sensation like an out-of-sync-electric-current numbness that runs through my body. I would need to lie down for at least 20 minutes to recover. After 3 months of TCM treatment, I can withstand computer screen time up to an hour before I started feeling my eyelids. I only need to take an eyelid rest by closing my eyes for about 30 seconds and then I am ready to continue with my work at the computer again. That’s a massive difference and I can only praise God for His grace that led me this far into my complete healing.

Today I am on yet another milestone journey – the last leg of immunosuppressant dose reduction prescribed by my neurologist. The last appointment in Dec showed how much I improved clinically and that somehow gave him the confidence to propose the beginning of the dose reduction. I am ever so grateful at the mercy God is showing me. His mercy that enveloped me from the beginning of the journey. His grace that led me to decide to make this a meaningful season. I’ve learnt so much through this and it has certainly changed me in the way I view life, the world and the way I honor my relationships. My heart is filled with gratitude towards everyone who jumped in support of me and my family during the most difficult time. I am praying for you daily as I thank God for the healing I received.

Being able to turn any circumstances into blessing is indeed a grace I received and happy to tap on. One of my way of blessing others is sharing my journey and what I learnt. My next post will be focused on what I’ve learnt through my healing journey. When I prayed for healing, I was expecting an immediate miracle. God, however has a different thought (Isaiah 55: 8-9). In His mercy, He allowed me to experience the fullness of loving myself – transforming my mind, teaching me patience, forming me in His love and my trust in Him. I experienced a miracle that manifests itself in the ordinariness of life, the power of natural remedies and the effectiveness of life long mental fitness training. Praising God in my own transformation and looking forward to share more with you.

With lots of love,
Irene

Turning Misfortunes into Blessings

I used to be a person who proclaim certain ways of eating some food as being food crime. How could someone possible put rice on pizza? Or what a strange way to eat chips with ice cream! There were heaps of comments that I would make as I was a picky eater. Then the ultimate funny thing happen when I actually started liking the very food crimes I used to judge. It started when I ran out of ingredients to cook the conventional way. What’s the best next option in that case? Creativity kicked in and I started experimenting making food in ways that was crime for me. Those turned out to be the most fun experience as I managed to turn a challenge into a blessing.

Seeming misfortunes happen all the time because our plans do not always turn out the way we want it. The matter here is our response towards those incidences. Some are small matter that can be easily turned into something good and some are heavier stuffs that need time and space to make sense of. Big stuff like the diagnosis of Myasthenia Gravis for me was not a pleasant thing that happened. I certainly did not choose that misfortune. However, I have the power to choose my response to move forward to make this a meaningful season in my life.

The experience of making the best of the worst that happened reminded of the song, This is How We Overcome. It says: “You have turned my mourning into dancing, You have turned my sorrow into joy”. Such powerful way of turning the worst scenarios into a blessing – turning to God almighty for help. Even your deepest hurt can be turned into a gift to the world. That brought me to a principle I learnt in prayer school that says: “Your deepest hurt becomes the launching pad of your greatest calling”. More often than not, this is hard to comprehend as deep wounds like childhood trauma often scars people deeply. So much so that some chose the destructive path.

Tragic childhood trauma like an abuse is indeed very detrimental to the person. It confused the child and sent wrong messages to the child which in turn destroyed the true identity of the child. It takes a lot of work and heaps of courage in the part of the victim to rise up to victory – reclaiming their true identity as a beloved child of God. We know for a fact that none of us are immune to trauma whether inflicted by a trusted person, teachers, schoolmates etc. Treating ourselves with great compassion and taking the courageous path of healing with trusted companions have proven to be a path towards great victory. Putting these misfortunes in its right place bring out blessings that would otherwise be hidden.

In my current season of immersion in Positive Intelligence (PQ), I see a connection to this concept. The author of the book, Shirzad Chamine shared his childhood wounds were indeed blessings in disguise. It took him heaps of work to be where he is today, a deeply compassionate person who is directly blessing me with this programme. The inspirations drawn from this program is beyond what I imagined. Being an active gift and opportunities seeker in all circumstances is a powerful gift to self and the world we live in.

Dear friends, what are you facing today? I pray that you are given the grace to turn EVERY circumstances into a blessing. My father’s death which was a tragic event has taught me so much about life precisely because I choose to grieve with gratitude. This blog is one of the beautiful fruit coming out of that season of grieving. Be encouraged dear friends to be conqueror that is capable to tap in the grace of God – turning misfortunes into blessings. In the event that you need some help in getting there, feel free to contact me for coaching information.

May you be blessed!

With lots of love,
Irene

For the Love of Food

Food is a great means of unity, celebration, expression of love, reconciliation, happiness and heaps of other things. For me food is my source of creativity. I am a person who refers to recipe and method but never really follow the exact measurement or method. Most of the time, I prefer to modify the recipe to suit my taste, the needs of my family as well as availability of ingredients.

Recently I felt inspired to try steaming fish the way restaurants did. It was a pleasant learning experience because in the past, I could not be bothered doing a few steps process. I like things simple and easy. However, my past way of steaming fish never produce truly satisfactory taste. With the newfound knowledge, I immediately hooked on to the method and started creating all sort of sauces for steamed fish. It was such fun experiments and I look forward to Fishful Friday just so I can create new dishes every week.

Creating food being therapeutic has been a great help especially when changing diet is a neccesity due to the autoimmune diagnosis. Eating healthy can be tasty and enjoyable. All that is needed is a dash of creativity.

I recently came to realise what a great gift is this expression of creativity. It was a difficult morning and I was starting to beat myself up for not being a perfect parent. I knew “being a perfect parent” is a lie, I had that intercepted so those negative emotions did not drag me further. As I was trying (and struggling) to gain better perspective, I decided to create a new dessert for dinner. It resembles milk pudding from my hometown but I have never been able to get any recipe. So with a little bit of imagination of the taste I began my experiment. Praise God it turned out well.

The effect of that 20 minutes of creativity was beyond just yummy dessert, I was able to clear my mind and start seeing things from a better perspective. I was able to show empathy towards myself and to express my loving concern towards my child. My level of happiness increased so was my overall wellness.

I recalled my days in the mission centre where celebration of life was emphasized. We will work together to create a beautiful atmosphere for celebration. The most elaborated one would be an Agape Meal that typically involved good food, well decorated room, well dressed people and heaps of honouring – a setting that enabled expression of creativity in so many ways. I remember having fun cooking, baking and sometimes trying things like decorating and flower arrangement. That kind of excellence has become my lifestyle though not as elaborated. We recently celebrated my husband’s birthday and it happened to be a Friday. I was jumping with joy as that was an opportunity to express myself creatively. I steamed a large fish and made a marble milk pudding as the “cake”. It was a joyous occasion filled with love.

Some of my food creation

The experience of having my mind cleared and filling my love tank through creative expression has demonstrated to me its importance. Creative outlet does something great to our being. It helps us to connect deeply to our true self and hence enable us to appreciate the being who’s made in the image and likeness of God. The direct impact is the release of stress and clarity of mind. In our fear saturated and highly stressed out world, creative expression becomes a remedy to bring us some sanity.

Dear friends, I pray that you are encouraged to make time for creativity, however you like to express it. May you find joy in the little things in life that fill up your love tank. Make sure you also empty your stress tank regularly. Have fun expressing yourself creatively.

With lots of love,
Irene

The Power of Affirmation

Recently we recorded a podcast with the title The Cry for Affirmation, that turned out to be such a powerful and healing experience for me. The past year has been focused getting my body back into a new optimum and we are also aware that the past year has been tough for most of us. Isolation has been especially hard for me due to my natural preference of being around people. Little did I know, I slowly lost sight of my true self. I have not surrounded myself enough with people who live with a lifestyle of affirmation. So happened word of affirmation scores high for my love language.

With the challenges of the lockdown that rendered us to react rather than respond also has activated the survival part of the brain big time. Reacting to every announcement made became a constant fight or flight response. Not only it is stressful for the body, it also has the ability to rewire the brain in an unfavourable way. I was constantly tired, unmotivated and found myself settling for the small things. We have managed to find ways out of those episodes of reactions.

God is truly generous in providing resources like the availability of communion, books, courses as well as master classes that I can learn from. We dare to dream bigger with each hurdles we overcame. It has been a slower process when we are isolated. Going back to coaching is also a great blessing and now being part of my friend, Justin’s podcast Don’t Just Talk Lah, I am provided with a platform to give. All these works are possible also thanks to my body’s healing progress. I have the attitude to give as I am, although still not 100% healed yet as I occasionally get mild symptoms.

The recording of the affirmation episode helped to dust off the dirt that covers the whole true self. I have somewhat become less affirmative through this challenging year. Being affirmed through the recording, I was so energized and decided to live that more fully again. So I started affirming my daughter for every little things she did well, even to the detail of her listening to my instruction. She was glowing with joy with my new attitude; so was I and my husband.

Challenges ahead when met through the truth of own goodness can produce wonderful results. When we choose to overcome problems and deal with sin through the lens of our inherent goodness, we are elevated to a place of higher praise. I believe that is a place of freedom and happiness!. After all, if negativity has ability to rewire our brain unfavourably; positivity ought to do the favourable rewiring.

Dear friends, if you are in a place of uncertainty or are embarking on a new venture, do surround yourself with people who affirm you or hire a coach to achieve better results. A coach will help you see new perspectives when you are met with blockages; hear you out and affirm you in your journey as well as celebrating progresses with you. May you be blessed in your venture and remember you are worthy of happiness and joy in life.

With lots of love,
Irene

Celebrating Progress

I recently learnt that healing is circular instead of linear; that was quite astounding for me. There’s great encouragement and wisdom in that school of thought. I found myself experiencing setbacks in the midst of progress periodically. Those moments can be discouraging but when seen through the lens of a circular healing journey, it’s quiet empowering. Setbacks just meant it’s time to take a pit stop and evaluate. It becomes a circle of learning more of myself and the condition. With every circle of learning, I also come to appreciate myself and the whole journey more deeply.

In an older post, I elaborated the importance of celebration. Living celebration through my healing journey from Myasthenia Gravis (MG) has been a great experience of affirmation. We started celebrating from the moment we’ve got a confirmed diagnosis as we finally knew what we are up against. When I was discharged, we celebrated with a good meal. I remember vividly how nervous was I when I finally started driving again. Thanks to the lockdown, the option at that time was me driving out to collect donations of expressed breast milk (EBM) for my child. We were blessed to have generous donors who helped us through those early months of fully breastfeeding our child. I knew my limit very well at that time, so there were great planning involved – with full gears of sunglasses and hat plus praying really hard for an overcast morning. I came back within an hour with new supply for the baby and feeling victorious. We celebrated that big time as it was real progress and such a great milestone.

Then came the time when I started on the steroid dose reduction, it was a happy day and great celebration. After a few months and was almost off steroid, I started having regression. It was quite discouraging but I did not allow that to stop me. Pushing through with a good mindset and a strong network. I was still experiencing a fair bit of symptoms back in Dec 2020 but we decided that my birthday is a good day to celebrate. Every initial disappointment after the doctor’s visit was being treated as an opportunity to find a better remedy for me.

Having friends that introduced various natural remedies to me is a true blessing. I am glad people are open and they know me well enough to be confident that I take responsibility for my decision whether to try the remedies they introduced or not. The values that I believe in and live by has also been a navigating post for me. I cannot imagine missing out on good remedies just because of being a scary blamer that absolutely nobody dare to recommend anything. Being daring to try stuffs (some of which did not work) is certainly something worth celebrating.

Celebrating progress keeps us going and it makes the journey pleasant. Dear friends, I encourage you to be creative in your celebration keeping in mind that this is not just a reward system. Celebrating yourself is directly celebrating the One who made you. Think about it, who gave you the grace to see goodness in the midst of darkness? Who enable you to work through your issues? Who is the happiest when you are happy? My answer to those questions: none other than God. I wish you a great time honoring your Creator by celebrating you.

With lots of love,
Irene

Healthy Mindset Makes Healing a Great Journey

A very important but seldom talked about element when it comes to bodily healing is mental health. We are a whole being, therefore mental health is vital for any healing journey. It was clear to me one of the biggest aggravator of Myasthenia Gravis (MG) in me was chronic unmanaged stress. Hence managing stress and regulating my emotions became a primary goal. I learnt to let go of a lot of unnecessary worries, grudges and heaps of things not in my control. I began to set better priorities and strengthen my boundaries all the while learning to live with MG as well as learning to mother.

What helped me to stay on the course was an overall healthy mindset. I am determined to beat MG and thrive in my life. I know well the reality may be difficult at times, not denying it in a bit. It was tempting to get into a pity party when symptoms hit hard. In all honesty, symptoms are discouraging and hard to live with. I felt like I want to get over and done with it fast whenever it hit me. However, there’s a hard reality that my body needed the time and conducive environment to heal. So, bouncing between “yes, I got this” to “I just want to give up” were common occurance especially in the beginning. I am so blessed to be surrounded by people who support me in this journey, constantly reminding me who I truly am.

Those reminders were fuel for me. Every time I felt beaten, I face the giant instead of running away from it. I allow myself to acknowledge how I felt and also decide not to stay in that low state for too long. How do I rise above the feeling of defeat? – that has been a question I asked myself over and over again. Friends, this is where it is so important to have someone (or a few people) you trust that you can share your life with. I have a few people that I share deeply with; just being able to talk to someone who love you for who you are, is healing. It would be extra awesome if the one you share with is able to just listen and ask you meaningful question. Effective questioning practiced by coaches has power to unlock certain perspectives that would otherwise be blind to us.

In our fast paced world, so many of us lack the time to even be present to ourselves. Some of us due to childhood trauma may not even know how to regulate our emotions. When I was on the peak of taking steroid as a means of MG disease control, my emotions were so messed up. I cried for small matters and it was hard to even regulate my emotions properly. Thank God my husband was really understanding and supported me through those tough times. This is where having some tools in hand would be helpful. When we feel a certain uneasy emotion, it is important to take a pause. A simple way that I practice is to first name the emotion, then ask Jesus how would I like Him to minister to me at that moment?. These kind of pauses helped me to calm down. With a calm mind, then I can tackle the source of those uneasy emotions. From then praise will rise. In the same way, I think it is also good to take a pause when good emotion arises – just taking time to thank God for the blessings and share that moment with Him. I am pretty sure God loves celebrating with us.

Whatever journey we are on, the path would sometimes be smooth and sometimes there are potholes on the road. Whether it be a nicely paved road or some bits where we are met with holes, always remember to look up – I bet the view is beautiful. Dear friends, I wish you a great adventure in your journey. If you find it particularly hard at this moment of your journey, reach out to someone – a family member, a true friend, a coach or a counsellor. Please share your life in all sincerity because it is normal to want to be known by someone. Indeed it is very good for our mental and overall health if we are able to allow ourselves to be truly seen and heard. I leave you with this quote and pray that you are blessed in your journey.

With lots of love,
Irene

A Year On Living with Myasthenia Gravis

It was a bright and beautiful morning but the symptoms of muscle weakness has been worsening. We were planning to go back to my General Practitioner and then head out for our delayed Valentine’s lunch afterwards. As we arrived at my GP’s clinic, we decided that I would go in to check if she could see me (it was first come first serve with a limited number basis pre covid era). Unfortunately she could not see me, so I walked out to wait for my husband to drive by. When I saw him, I took a step down to the road and fell flat on my face. My husband saw someone fell but was shocked to find out it was me. I could barely lift myself up. That incident propel us to go to the hospital that very day.

For a year now, we are very grateful that the protection of God was upon me and still is holding us tightly. Just days before the incident, I saw my chiropractor for a different issue and told her what happened. She checked me and found that my muscles were fine. She also told me if things worsen, go to a neurologist because that would likely be nerve problem. Looking for a hospital with a neurologist was made easy thanks to a dear friend of mine who worked in that hospital. After checking in to the hospital, a brain MRI scan was ordered immediately to rule out stroke. No stroke but Myasthenia Gravis (MG) was given as a preliminary diagnosis. My neurologist needed to confirm the diagnosis through a nerve test and that was only available on weekdays (it was a Saturday when we checked in). We decided that we will go home and get back to the hospital on the following Monday for outpatient consultation.

My condition worsened to the point that it was difficult to breathe and that got us to decide to admit me the very next day. The difficulty in breathing freaked everyone out. My neurologist initially thought he could treat me as outpatient but when he saw me the following Monday in the ward, he ordered the nerve test to be done immediately and rescue medication to be administered right after the test. The nerve test result baffled my neurologist so was the ultra high autoantibodies level. MG is so variable that he could not predict what would happen to me, his only hope was that I respond well to treatment and hopefully I can get into a remission.

Ever since my diagnosis, I have learnt a lot about MG. The variability and uniqueness of each patient’s condition are just simply mind blowing. The more I learnt the more I am in awe and grateful for the goodness of God. I was literally days away from a myasthenic crisis. If I had been a few days late and got into a crisis, I would have needed intensive care and intubation would be necessary because MG also affect voluntary muscles including those for breathing. Those thoughts brought tears of gratitude and just filled my heart with praise of God. He is really good to me. My autoantibodies level was 200 times above the minimum trace level, an 8cm thymoma was present and the nerve test was horribly failing. Who could have saved me from the worst if not God?

From the beginning of my journey of healing I’ve sensed the Lord assurance of His presence and love. He meant this for His glory and for my good. Living with MG has brought me to a place of even higher praises where I learnt about surrendering in victory. I name this a process of spiritual healing that affects my physical healing. One of the greatest victory is my ability to let go of my burdens. A dear friend of mine lovingly reminded me to let the One who loves me most carry those burdens I was carrying. From the beginning, I’ve recognized stress as a harmful trigger to my symptoms, what I did not recognize was how much stress I put myself through. Motherhood was new, I did not realize the years of living in the lies of the world has dampened my ability to connect to my natural maternal instinct. The rejection of genuine womanhood in my surrounding has chipped away my own natural womanly instinct. It was stressful when most of the voices around me were literally telling me what I’ve done wrong as a mother. I began to shut everything down and was determined to reconnect to my heart again on top of all the stress of new motherhood. Not only that, I was also malnourished but I just did not realize it back then. When my body could not take it anymore, it broke down to bring me to a place of clarity again. I regretted my lack of care towards my own body and I apologize to my body, made a promise that I am going to take care of me seriously.

We took so many actions to give me the best chance to beat MG in many aspect like changing diet and lifestyle.  Even our prayer life changed for the better. For this post, I’d like to focus on the blessings of prayer. I initiated a 54 Days Rosary Novena for my healing on 19 March 2020, the Feast of St. Joseph. I was daring enough to ask for a forever remission to happen on 19 March 2021. My prayer journey with the support of numerous people has blessed me tremendously.

I’ve improved so much and am now on the last leg of steroid dose adjustment (I am still on high dose of immunosuppresant). The most stubborn symptom that remain is ptosis. Throughout the year of good days and bad days, I’ve remained positive and hopeful thanks to the grace from prayer. Then finally in mid Jan, I started experiencing more symptoms free days (I’ll share more about it in the next post), my boldness to hope for a full remission also increase.

Meanwhile the current climate of what’s happening in the world is pretty chaotic. We see a greater need to pray even more fervently. By Divine Providence I stumbled upon a video talking about consecration to St. Joseph by Fr. Donald Calloway. I’ve wanted to do it last year but MG was just overwhelming (plus another major drama of my brother’s hospitalisation), so when reminded about, we made a decision to do it this year. I wanted to consecrate on 19 March 2021 and my first action was getting the book early Jan but it was on restocking list that may take up to 5 weeks to arrive. We bought it in faith hoping that it’ll arrive on time.

Praise be to God, we got the book on time and when I realise the significance of the date to begin the consecration journey, I was awestruck. It begins today, 15 Feb – the anniversary of that fateful day I fell flat on the road. Wow!!! The love of God through our Spiritual Father, St. Joseph moved my heart to praise Him. I felt so loved and it’s like St. Joseph is assuring me of his prayer. How awesome is that!!!

I am feeling hopeful!
Photo Credit: Karen Soh

Dearest friends, I pray that you are blessed by my story. I believe our personal story is a unique and exciting one when we see it from the perspective of the One who love us most. May the coming Holy Season of Lent brings grace upon grace in your life and may your story be one that bless the people around you.

With lots of love,
Irene

The Sorrowful Face of Christ

Image source: pxfuel.com

Many of us would agree that the year 2020 has been a real mixed bag on high speed. Everyone is affected in one way or another. It has been really heartbreaking to see people losing their livelihood and my biggest personal heartache is the lost of communal worship. It’s really complicated and the complication somehow pushed me to a book on my shelf – Consoling the Heart of Jesus by Fr. Michael Gaitley.

I was desperate and how blessed am I, due to that desperation. Given my daily rhythm with an active toddler, I did the retreat very slowly. One small chunk daily with the time I squeezed in during my daughter’s nap. The grace I received has been so abundant and I am just living in gratitude daily.

My daily connection with Jesus has been really rich ever since my DIY retreat. As the title suggests, consoling the heart of Christ becomes my daily “work”. I just come to the suffering Christ as I am in all my being – the mixed bag of my virtues and vices; offering him my little bit of presence as His friend. This in turn raised me up to praise His goodness.

So this particular December day was a tough one. My symptoms worsened and things were just not how I planned it. I was frustrated! Somehow grace comes flowing while I was nursing my child. I was sort of forced to stop with everything and just pray. And then there I went again, complaining instead of consoling but somehow grace overshadowed me. I decided to just be still and gaze upon the wounded and suffering Jesus. As I gazed on, I saw a pattern in me that needed redemption.

The pattern of my complain was an accusative one – my accusation that God did not answer my prayer. It has been a struggle of mine for a long time. Instead of judging me, Jesus brought me to the reality of His “neediness” – wounded, scarred and in need of a friend. I was quite struck by that image. That in turn brought me back to Feb 2020 when I was first diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis (MG). After being discharged from the hospital, I created a fund raising page with an intention to create awareness mainly because prior to my diagnosis, I have never heard of MG. I gave a face to MG and at that point of time, it was also very important to raise enough money and to raise more awareness about this autoimmunity. I wasn’t thinking much back then or rather I did not have much capacity to think at that time.

During that grace filled time of prayer, Christ showed me what kind of face was I wearing back when I was first diagnosed – a needy face and probably quite sorrowful too. I was in need and I did not hesitate to reach out for help. I see the generous face of Christ in the people who supported me financially and through prayer. Little did I know back then, I was also a face of Christ – the needy and poor face of Christ. It was like scales came off my eyes and I felt humbled.

My mighty able self does not like to be needy, always prefer to give than to receive. Bu here’s a reality: there will be no giver if no one is willing to receive. Jesus humbled me to my knees and I realized that I have never wanted or like being a sorrowful and needy face. I also do not enjoy being needed, which is such a big lesson after the birth of my child. Now I am given the grace to embrace being needed and being needy with healthy limits.

Being the needy sorrowful face of Christ is also a beautiful face of Christ, a face to be desired. Sharing this reflection with a dear sister of mine led me to realise something deeper. Have you ever wonder why we have an affinity towards helping the poor? In the past helping the poor gives me a mood boost, always leaving feeling better after an outreach to a poor village. But deeper than that, our conversation left an even more profound reason – the poor face of Christ is the touchable and reachable face of Christ. I acknowledge that our preachers and community leaders are also faces of Christ but sometimes they are not reachable or touchable. I remember a sharing from a friend about his community leaders who are an amazing couple but being the leaders, my friend felt at that time, it was so hard to even talk to them. He literally felt they were high up there, too good to touch although that was not be the case. This revelation left us both so deeply encouraged. I am so grateful for the this beautiful lesson the Sorrowful Face of Christ taught me.

Dear friends, oftentime we are called to be both the Loving and Giver Face of Christ as well as the Needy and Sorrowful Face of Christ. Both are to be desired! Whichever we are called to at any season, I pray that we are given grace to carry that face lovingly. May you enjoy being the ambassador of Christ.

With lots of love,
Irene