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[Breathe. Live.] “You’ll want to wake up and think about tomorrow”
11 January 2015

Featuring the work of photographer Bob Lee, the four articles in Breathe. Live. showcase the strength and grace of our patients. They let us catch a glimpse of their everyday lives, and share what keeps them going.

Cheerfully waving and greeting the staff, Uncle Abdul Latip is clearly a regular at Singapore General Hospital. He supplies useful nuggets of information as we walk down the hallway – the nearest toilet, best place to wait for a taxi, where to take the shuttle bus.

“I used to be terrified of going to the hospital. My body would overheat, and my legs would shiver. I needed someone to accompany me, even when I was bringing someone else to the hospital! Kan cheong also not so bad!”

Now, however, Uncle Latip has become all too familiar with the hospital.

It started with fatigue, visits to the hospital, and finally, a collapse at work.

Uncle Latip was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, the most common blood cancer after leukaemia, in 2011. Multiple myeloma begins as a cancer of the plasma cells in the bone marrow. These malignant cells then move to the bone, forming multiple tumours.

“In the beginning, I thought, ‘Why is this happening to me?’

“But I’ve realised: the cancer is in my blood, circulating around my body. So when I think of it this way, I wonder, should I feel sad? It’s already there. It’s not like a washing machine where you can clean your clothes, dry it out, and it will dry. So you have to accept it.

“I believe God never punishes; God always does good things. I thought, okay, this is God’s will, so I took it easy. Day to day, taking it the positive way.”

Uncle Latip went through surgery to replace his entire spinal vertebra with metal implants. He candidly pulls his shirt up, giving us permission to take a shot of this surgical wonder.

Immediately after, he asks Bob if he could take a look at the photo. “Wah, so my back looks like this!” he exclaimed – he’s never before had a complete view of his back.

After his operation, Uncle Latip’s back still hurts, especially on cold days. Sometimes, standing up after sitting for a while takes effort because of stiffness. But he has been able to handle regular day-to-day activities, such as taking public transport to his medical appointments, and has even been making day trips to Johor Bahru with his wife.

Uncle Latip has also been a cheerful attendee at our day hospice. “At the day hospice, what the others want is what I want as well. We want happiness, we want to talk to others. So whenever we go there, we enjoy talking, having fun, and joking with each other.”

Although the doctor had given him a prognosis of 25-29 months – “that’s two years plus, very good already!”- it has been about 3 years, 8 months since Uncle Latip was diagnosed.

“I was scared of death, and was not prepared yet. So I asked God to give me a chance, to give me time to do whatever I want to do, to do good things. At home, I can pray five times a day, instead of thinking of working, working and working.

“Some people have to sit down on the stool when they pray. I thank God that I still can kneel when I pray to Him.”

We ask Uncle Latip for a few words to share with other patients.

“At the beginning, when my doctor was talking to me, I would start to cry, in the beginning, thinking about what would happen to me. All I want now is to die with my family with me. If you give me $100,000, what can I do? You want to makan? How much can you makan? You want to enjoy? Drink?

“If you want to enjoy, you think about what is life. You’ll want to wake up and think about tomorrow and see what you can enjoy.”

 Look out for more of our patients’ stories in the upcoming issues of HCA Connect! Read about Vivian in the same [Breathe. Live.] series, in the previous issue of HCA Connect. If you’d like to send in words of encouragement to Uncle Latip, drop us an email at communications@hcahospicecare.org.sg .