Thursday, October 9, 2008


This is to satisfy the curiosity of many whom only wonders about my job in HOSPIS. Nope not gonna maintain this blog for long. I am just too lazy. Only to please certain parties for now ;) Alright consider it ‘LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT’ for me when it comes to HOSPIS. Trust me when I say so, since this metaphor hardly ever applies to me in real life. So for you who doesn’t already know, HOSPIS is a place for patients seeking palliative care (improving the quality of life in layman terms). Yes although the bulk of the patients comprise of cancer patients, there were the rare few like AIDS and a hypoxic encephalopathy infant. For the mobile patients they attend the day care once a week either on Tuesdays or Thursdays. Each session sees about 12 to 16 patients. For the infirms, home visits are conducted by HOSPIS’ medical team.

As I strolled into the day care today at 10 sharp, I was greeted with warm hellos by the other volunteers. One of the patients, a 90+ elderly Chinese lady, diagnosed with breast cancer walked up to me and wiggled her finger at me.. “Dr. Wong, Where were you last week? I want to see you each time I am here”. She hugged me. She speaks fluent English by the way. Another patient, a 70+ Indian man diagnosed with colorectal carcinoma peered at me and said “ Hi sweetheart. I miss u ”. ( I was not at the day care for the past 2 weeks. The first week I was away for an awareness campaign on behalf of HOSPIS. The second week I was in Penang.) If one hadn’t known better, who would have guessed that behind those vibrant faces these people are succumbed to an illness or rather the word ‘ cancer’ that our society do not dare breathed off let alone talk about it.

A new patient joined us today. A 37 years old Chinese lady diagnosed with right breast cancer stage IV. She had her radiotherapy 2 weeks ago and was so weak that she was unable to get up from her wheel chair. Raymond our physiotherapist decided to shorten the physiotherapy routine and instead had an ice breaker in between. Each patient was to share with her what it meant to be diagnosed with cancer and their coping skills. There were about 16 patients today and the few that I remembered shared these:

Patient 1, a young gentleman with nasopharyngeal carcinoma stage IV: has been 19 months since diagnosis and he said “ I no longer ask why, I accepted it and I am a happy man now “.

Patient 2, a 60+ Chinese lady diagnosed with pseudomxyoma peritonei stage IIIB (only the third in this country) said “ If Jesus doesn’t want me back home yet, he will heal me down here, so y worry?”

Patient 3, the 70+ Indian gentleman diagnosed with colorectal carcinoma with 2 histories of strokes and 1 bypass said “ I am happy as long as I have my beer, chocolates and pretty girls,” he winked at me. hehe..

Patient 4, a 70+ Chinese gentleman diagnosed with advanced prostate carcinoma said “Fight it. Don’t let the illness defeat you ”.

Patient 5, the 90+ Chinese lady diagnosed with breast cancer said “ oh, I Have cancer?? I forgot”. hehehe.. she is an absolute darling.

Well of course not all patients are as optimistic. Some are saddened by their faith and can only wish for attention from their loved ones which we the volunteers can hope to provide. But the one thing in common in all these patients is the simple fact that each looks forward to the one day of the week, the day that they spend in HOSPIS day care. However the number patients are increasing to the extent that they would soon only be able to cater for every patient once a month. A little physiotherapy soon follow suit and it was immediately taken over by Derek with his qi qong session. The Indian gentleman is allergic just to the word exercise. He would lounge in his favourite chair sipping apple juice from his wine glass. Smirk! Does anyone know anything about lymphatic massages? Hailed from Sister Maureen, this was definitely not taught to me in medical school. It’s a 40 minute massage of the upper limb that helps drains the oedema back for breast cancer patients. The favorite part of my job?? The manicure/ pedicure sessions plus a little make up tips from me for the female patients. Everyone has a right to look good. Gone were the days where cancer patients would mean sallow complexions, pallor, cachexia or balding. No No No…

Hmm.. the activities last tru an entire day. There are BINGO games, chatting and massages. Doctors, nurses and pharmacists attend to patients while all these activities are going on. Pretty cool.. They get their medications then, problems addressed and urinary catheters changed.. (yes they get wheeled out not changed in public!!!) For instance today I was pratically walking around with a BP set in the midst of a BINGO game. Explains some of the high readings..

Hmm.. as doctors have we sat down and ask a patient what he/she wants? Not that we can blame the doctors. They are so busy buzzing from one patient to the other. Sometimes you would be surprise it’s not cure that they are expecting. Why ask for the unachievable? All they are asking is the company of another soul. A little TLC goes a long way. What do you think?

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