Posted on 07.7.2021 | 05:17 PM
To Carry On With Normal Living
“You are too young to die!” Those were the words from her doctor when Joanne Sim, 49 was diagnosed with end-stage kidney failure 25 years ago. She was also afflicted with lupus since she was 19. Lupus is a long-term auto-immune disease where her immune system attacks her own tissues and organs. It was also this same disease that caused her kidneys to fail.
Upon her diagnosis, Joanne lost her will to live. Her father was the sole breadwinner of the family, working as a cement truck driver then. There was not much to go around the family, and now with the additional strain of her medical bills, she was at her wits’ end.
Joanne was only 24 then, and her doctors refused to give up on her. She was also blessed with the help from a dedicated medical social worker, who referred her to KDF. Smiling at the mention of the medical social worker, she recalled, “I still remember Crystal, who was my medical social worker then. She was fast and professional, and helped me get a spot with Alexandra Hospital-KDF for subsidised dialysis treatments immediately without needing private dialysis sessions in between.”
Subsidised dialysis helped ease the financial burden of Joanne’s family. She worked as a private tutor and lived life one day at a time All that changed when during a usual check-up by visiting doctors at the dialysis centre, she casually mentioned that she had been experiencing some throbbing pain on her right breast. This sounded alarm bells for the visiting doctor, who immediately scheduled a mammogram for her.
“I still remember the exact date clearly, 29 April 2016.” Joanne remarked sombrely. That was the day she was diagnosed with Stage 0 breast cancer. Luckily, it could be treated with surgery. Heaving a sigh of relief, she quipped, “I am very thankful I did not have to go through chemotherapy at all. I did not want to lose my hair!”
Even with her brush with breast cancer 5 years ago and various ups and downs, Joanne had the unwavering support of her husband, Kwang Ming, who is a primary school teacher. “Before we got married, I told him many times that he should leave me while he can. But he always said that God forbids him to leave his loved ones just because they are sick, and he has remained true to his words.” The couple, who are both pious Christians and teenage sweethearts, have been married for 24 years.
“To carry on with normal living” was a phrase used in receipts issued to KDF patients in the earlier days. KDF continues to stay true to the commitment of providing high quality treatments at low cost to underprivileged patients in hopes that they can still lead a dignified life.
“I remember seeing this phrase and that gave me a lot of will and motivation. Once I complete my dialysis sessions and step out of the centre, I want to still live like a normal person!” Joanne exclaimed with much laughter. Today, she continues to be a private tutor, and takes joy spending her rest hours shopping or going for a walk. “Now that Kwang Ming is on his school holiday break too, I cannot go shopping after my session because he will be here to pick me up!”, she chortled.
Over the years, Joanne has made peace with her illnesses, but still grapples with conservative mindsets. “Even till today, my mother still wants me to wear a long-sleeved shirt to cover my needle scars and forbids me to have my photo taken as she does not want her friends to find out of my illnesses. However, I have come to terms with this.”, she remarked.
As long as Joanne is able to carry out her daily activities and routines as per any normal person, she is willing to take on any other challenges that comes her way. “I’ve actually just celebrated my 25 years with KDF too! On 29 May!” Joanne proudly proclaimed. As an individual suffering from chronic illnesses, such positive attitude was indeed rare to come by.
Right now, her greatest wish is to be able to further her studies and achieve a bachelor’s degree as she was not able to do so after her A-levels while managing lupus.