Looking back to move forward

What a year 2018 has been. So much has happened.

    Both my parents retired in February as they turned 67.
    Following their retirement, they decided to busy themselves with redecorating our old flat. That really needed to be done as the house was really dusty and cluttered full of stuff that we had literally stuffed into every nook and cranny we could find. The paint on the wall was dull and even mouldy in some parts. The built-in furniture was old and creaky. The grout on the toilet walls was black. We had a number of broken tiles on the kitchen walls… the house was on the verge of being unliveable. However, since taking the decision to renovate, months of stress ensued (mostly for them, since I left home after a brief period of packing up my own room)… mum was particularly stressed out by the cost (almost S$60 000 as we had to pretty much change up everything!), the packing, searching for a place to stay for 6 weeks, finding storage space, and sourcing a reliable moving company. I, on the other hand, felt the stress via the phone and the internet, as I was constantly sent pictures of  various bits and bobs to make decisions on… the colour of the room doors, the design of the toilet door, the shape and colour of the door knobs, the type of granite for the kitchen worktop etc etc etc. However, the months of emotional agony was worth it… We have now moved back home and it is beautiful! The walls have a bright, fresh coat of paint, the floor is shining, the kitchen is gorgeous, and we have cleared out a large amount of trash that we never bothered to/ couldn’t bring ourselves to throw out (we are all hoarders in this family). Our house feels so much more like a home now.
    In May, I went for my last ARCP and received an outcome 6!!!! It was lovely to walk into ARCP and receive that handshake from SMercer saying “Congratulations, well done. It was lovely having you on the programme.” It seemed almost a bit of an anticlimax though… to have it all finish like that after 7 tough years of training. It felt like there should have been more of a bang and a fanfare… Nevertheless, it is really nice to be freed from training and all the paperwork/ rules that I had been subject to. Now, I can work wherever I want in whatever sub-specialty I want. I can become a permanent fixture in just 1 particular hospital’s anaesthetic department and start building relationships, trust and teamwork in that one place… free from having to rotate & start anew every 1, 3, or 6 monthly. I can even go home if I want!
    Post CCT, I have since started my new job in paediatric anaesthesia. I now work in a wonderful hospital with lovely colleagues who have been extremely supportive through mum’s illness. I am learning lots daily and getting better at handling little children. I still cannot believe that looking after sick children is now what I do everyday (willingly- given that I chose to apply for this fellowship). Just think back on those first days in 2015 when I was absolutely petrified of having to cannulate a child, and when a 10kg fit & well 1 year old child made me sweaty and scared. Think back on those days when I hated children cos I was terrified of them and all they did was cry whenever they saw me. Today, I actually enjoy looking after these young ‘uns. I love talking to them and their stuffed toys, I enjoy blowing bubbles in the anaesthetic room. I love seeing their angelic sleeping countenances, or their drunken faces when they wake up from the anaesthesia. Of course, I STILL cannot cannulate a neonate (God help me!) and am terrified of sick babies and all those with airway issues… but hopefully these things will get easier with time and experience.
    On 20th August, we received the worst news- mum was diagnosed with biopsy-proven lung cancer. The days that ensued were particularly challenging- I should just describe the latter part of 2018 as being filled with fear and anxiety. Everyone in the household was hurting, yet nobody wanted anybody else to know. It was really hard for me to receive the news whilst overseas, unable to share in their grief or offer any comfort and support to them. I cried a lot during that time. Nevertheless, the whole ordeal led me to fasting for the first time. It made me pray so so so much more than I ever have. I grew closer to SH (one of my best friends in the UK) as she shared in my grief and prayed for me every time I broke down from the burden of it all.
    Amidst all the worry of mum’s diagnosis, I studied for the European Diploma in Regional Anaesthesia. I sat the EDRA part 1 in Dublin on 12th September and surprisingly passed, receiving a score of 74.6%! It was a really tough exam, much harder than I was prepared for having only gone through the Masterpass book once. There were so many questions and topics that I had never even come across before, so there was a fair amount of educated guessing/ blind guessing involved. I am hugely thankful for that little shimmering light of positivity at a time of pretty intense darkness. The EDRA congress was also wonderful in that I gave my first oral presentation at an international conference. I also learnt so much from real regional anaesthesia experts who would hold my hand and say “hold your ultrasound probe this way, angle it that way, look for that structure, aim for this nerve.” It was all in all an intensely satisfying experience.
    I also applied and received my Indefinite Leave to Remain this summer. It was an expensive £2000 to have a premium appointment that gave me an outcome on the same day. Admittedly I had left it a little late to take my Life in the UK test, and then left it even later still before I began the application process. I needed to have a valid visa prior to my new job starting in August, and I obtained my ILR only 2 days before the start of my new job! But oh, what a relief it is to finally hold on to an ILR. Now, I am free to leave this country (for a bit) to experience work perhaps in another environment.
    In November, mum underwent her operation and had the damned dirty thing removed. The pathology results showed that all the cancer was removed and no further adjuvant therapy is needed. PRAISE THE LORD, some light at the end of the tunnel.
    In December, I FINALLY completed and passed my Recognition of Prior Learning essay to convert my medical leadership credits into education credits… which essentially earned me the PGCert in Medical Education! Praise the Lord. The essay had been on my mind for a full year, SH had been praying for me to write it since January! After 12 long months of procrastination, eventually being given a deadline, having the essay returned to me because I had not adequately addressed one of the learning outcomes, and a lot of writing about stuff that I had no interest in, it is done. Welcome to a few more letters after my name!
    Through the year, I have also lost 8 kgs through exercise and mindful eating. Bodypump classes at my local gym helped me with weight training. Badminton sessions with SH every Saturday kept me doing cardio weekly. Myfitnesspal was also a true God-send of an app that helped me keep my calories accounted for.

In addition, I have also improved tremendously in my brush lettering. I can now do bouncy letters, flourish my letters, paint floral wreaths, and have even tried my hand at foiling. My work is by no means wonderful, but the progress is very visible and I am extremely proud,

OK, enough reflecting on the events of the past year. How did I fare with keeping my 2018 resolutions?

  • Joy in the workplace. I want to enjoy my work more and feel less stress, fear and frustration→ Maybe? Not sure. I do enjoy going to work most days, but I think my intrinsic being is just built for stress, especially with neonates and sick kids!
  • Improved brush calligraphy skills→ Pass (as above)
  • Better eating habits and more exercise, hopefully accompanied by noticeable weight loss→ Pass-ish. I have lost 8kg this year and dropped a dress size. However, I am still quite a little way from my weight goal. I am not massive, but I want to be fitter and more toned.
  • More travelling→ Fail. I don’t think I travelled to any new places this year… except Dublin for an exam.
  • More friends and deeper friendship→Pass-ish. I don’t think I have made more friends this year, but my relationship with SH has certainly grown deeper through weekly play and pray sessions (badminton followed by prayer). We share about almost every aspect of our lives with each other and have prayed together in the gym, the library, the garden, by the roadside…
  • Love and relationship→ Major fail. Major fail every single year. I would love to have love, but almost don’t dare to wish for this anymore.
  • Prayerfulness and complete trusting in the Lord Jesus→ Yes. I have prayed so much this year through hard times. Even when the going got tough, I thank God that He has stayed with me throughout and helped me trust him through it all.

What do I hope for in the new year? Well, my motto for next year is to:


Fluid and flexible: Be all things to all people. Receive change with a smile- don’t sweat over it.

Be cool and refreshing: Help others feel alive and inspired simply by being present.

Be strong, powerful and fierce, yet capable of calm stillness

More measurably, next year I hope to:

  • Practice more brush lettering and experiment more. Get so good that I can start a business selling cards and prints.
  • Learn Chinese calligraphy
  • Pass the EDRA part 2
  • Lose more weight, at least another 8 kg!
  • Listen to more music. Be more receptive of more music genres by more artists. Dance to the music.
  • Go to concerts, musicals, theatre performances. Basically, immerse in the performing arts that you love but have neglected for years.
  • Make a plan– am I going to do another fellowship? Get a consultant job? Maybe move back home? Certainly get registered with the SMC.
  • Rejoice and give praise to the Lord through every circumstance. Don’t forget about Him even in happy times.

Here’s to a joyful and fruitful 2019!

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