Take Care, and Watch The Diet

I mentioned earlier that health was one of the issues behind my hiatus late last year. The past few months have a number of people in my social circle confused and maybe just a little annoyed with my rather drastic post-hospitalisation change in diet. I’m hoping to clear the air once and for all with just this one post.

I got my second blood test results last week. Besides the high (bad) cholesterol reading (touted to be the cause of the pancreatitis), I now also have diabetes.

Given my family history of the ailment, it’s not a big surprise. Whether it was a result of the pancreatitis or not, is just niggling after an inevitability. Nonetheless, the news hit me pretty hard. Didn’t help that I didn’t like the doctor, either. Poor lady must get this kind of response a lot from the way she announces things:

Doctor: “Well, Mr Tay, your diabetes is confirmed. So we’ll put you on a course of oral pills for the next 14 weeks so your body is more sensitive to the insulin… uh, Mr Tay, are you all right?”

Me: (staring hard into nothing in particular) “No.”

Doctor: “Why?”

Me: (staring at her) “Well, it’s not like you just gave me good news now, is it?”

Yes, like I said. I didn’t like the doctor.

Subsequently, I decided to test the ground by telling a select number of people what I had, just to see how everyone (me included) would react.?One friend went, “Crap. Take care, and watch the diet.” Another went, “Must be the diet.” A colleague at work seemed rather lost for words, so she started talking to me about food. Another friend started talking to me about essential oils and natural alternative sweeteners (which I am actually taking into serious consideration), but by friend number 2, I knew where the trend was going.

To be completely blunt, it sucks to be reminded about what caused my downfall in the first place. So I understand completely that you only mean well, but you’ll excuse me if I leave your well-wishing comments online if they consist of the word or connotation of “diet” or “eat healthy” in it, just so the people who have read what I write here will know you didn’t read this post thoroughly (or at all). You might want to take note of this if you want to communicate the same to people who are suffering from diabetes, too.

***

The day I got diagnosed, I asked the doctor for a medical certificate for the whole day; I was no longer in the mood to do much else, much less work. But I did want to do one thing.

I spent the rest of that day with The Wife, talked with her about it, got a light pep talk from her, had a late, light, vegetarian lunch, then picked up Xan from school and went to a nearby park where we gave him a little picnic meal, and hung out at the park playground. It turned out to be a good day. I had everything and everyone I wanted in life with me, so I must have done something right. And they reminded me what I was living for, so I know I must do it right.

A Different Thaipusam

Courtesy of Theeban Gunasagar, via Nathan Raj
Courtesy of Theeban Gunasagar, via Nathan Raj

Saw this image on my News Feed yesterday. I used to live in an apartment along the Thaipusam procession route, and as much as I spent many Thaipusam nights in sleepless wonder at the amount of celebratory cheers, when you see how the participants move tethered with their kavadis, earthen pots and other beautiful elaborate body piercings, you know the music is a compulsory part of the procession, in order to keep them going with such energy and love from one end of their voyage to the other.

This morning as we were driving through the Selegie/Middle Road junction and watching some kavadi carriers walk by, I told the Wife (who is also very familiar with the celebratory sounds of the procession) that instruments were no longer allowed. She didn’t believe me.

To prove my point, I rolled down the car window. Save for the low buzz of traffic, silence.

It feels like every day, I see and hear things happening in our home that takes a little bit more of our soul away from us. No wonder we’re not happy. No wonder we struggle with identity. No wonder we’re no longer one united people.

More references:

Hindu Endowments Board (HEB) Thaipusam 2014 Guidelines (note Section B, point 3)

A 1989 Straits Times newspaper clipping about enforcement of the Thaipusam “no music” rule

A 2011 TOC article on the explanation of HEB’s Thaipusam guidelines offered by the government

A 2011 blog post on Singapore 2025 with more details on how this rule came about and ground reactions to its enforcement

Alfian Sa’at weighs in on FB, with a lively discussion in comments to boot

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Know a Hoax When You See One

Read this carefully. The Blogfather is about to teach you something.

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Now, for the lesson.

The very first thing that should trigger alarm bells is when someone says “a friend’s friend family” or “my sister’s friend’s colleague’s son” or “my girlfriend’s dog’s previous owner’s landlord’s mother’s granduncle’s gynaecologist”. If it isn’t first hand info, it probably isn’t real.

Second, not a single person involved in the story was named. If it isn’t verifiable, it is even less probably real.

There are always three consistent elements to fake stories. It always takes place in a real and familiar establishment (in this case, Legoland, though which one in the world isn’t specified). It always involves a very trivial slip (the friend’s friend family – ah, never even say if mother father or granduncle’s gynaecologist – “taking her eyes off her 6 year old for just a moment”), and the description of an elaborate, yet believable-if-you-really-think-about-it crime being committed mid-pants down with at best a very vague description of a perpetrator who is not identifiable, much less prosecutable.

Finally, the only legitimate times I see a story ending with a plead to “Please spread” with a generous dose of exclamation marks is when I see postings of missing kids and elderly (with clear identification, including names, state of dress and last seen location). Seriously, if I wanted to share the true story of my kidney being stolen while I was in a drunken stupor, I’d call the New Paper or The Online Citizen, not ask my Facebook friends to help me make my post viral.

***

I’ve written at length about how stuff like this (think the AMK Hub and Tampines false kidnapping allegations back in 2012) creates not just unnecessary moral panic but an otherwise irrational fear of anything and anyone that doesn’t reside within the confines of your home. I’ve even helped to derail a suspicious story last year about the child-grabbing incident at a PCF Education Centre. And yet, yesterday someone asked me who does this kind of thing, and why these stories still persist.

I said, “Conspiracy mongers are dangerous animals. Their naivetĂ© feeds the innocent to make them naive as well. I would rather kill the fire than quietly let it breed.” The statement only addresses the messengers, though, and not the source. For that, I told her of a conspiracy theory the Wife told me about once that might explain the fascination with things that go viral in the online world.

It is common practice for biologists to create viruses that do not otherwise exist in the wild to experiment with (some PR and marketing agencies experiment as well, with viral campaigns; heck, even I do it). The noble ones are looking for a better vaccine to fight off a related strain. Then there are the others, who just want to see?how far their creations can spread, without consideration of consequences.

So imagine, if you will (and I reiterate again, this is a conspiracy theory), that a number of years ago, scientists created a potent virus with air- and water-borne capabilities that can only affect humans, and as an indicator of its having taken effect on its human host – as well as its mode of transport – it’ll give people runny noses. Then for the sake of studying the effectiveness of such a virus, a mere 2 drops of it was dropped from an overhead bridge onto an interstate train, with the assumption that the virus will die off after a couple of days and no one would be the wiser. What was intended to be a study in how sickness may travel in a populated area, mutated to become a permanent fixture in the human condition called influenza, or the common cold.

Stories like the one shared above are extra-deplorable to The Blogfather because it targets the very insecurities that parents will have, at best causing a nagging anxiety within families to their child’s interaction with an otherwise harmless world, and at worst empowering the fear in their hearts that the world is not safe for anyone, and converting us all into unresponsive, untrusting introverts who want nothing to do with anyone, because they now think every single person is inherently evil and should never be engaged, thanks to an elaborate lie.

Moral of the story? Doesn’t matter if you’re the originator or just a helpful messenger; know that everything you do has consequences, and make sure the consequences of your actions don’t make the world permanently sick.

… aaaaaaaand he's back.

Three months was a tad longer than I expected to be out of commission, but life happens, and blogging tends to take a back seat as a result.

At first it was, “I need to focus on getting a job.” Oh My Word, as promising a proposition as it is for me, sadly wasn’t paying the bills. With No. 2 on the way (we’re due in March and still we haven’t settled on a name!), the Wife made very clear that I had to do better than a monthly take-home of $200 or so. My absolute lack of salesmanship aside, I realise it was important that I embarked on the idea anyway, because I learned exactly what I could do, but would rather not if given a choice, and what I really wanted to do. And what I really wanted to do was write.

Then it was, “I need to focus on getting through my probation.” I managed landed a job in the middle of my first hospital stay in September. It didn’t help that a couple of days into my new job, I had another pancreatitis attack and was knocked out of commission again for nearly a week. The good thing is, I hit the deck running when I got back to the office, because I really, really liked the work. Three months later, I am now a full-fledged copywriter in an ad agency; I get to write. I get to be a professional smart aleck. And I get paid.

But the biggest thing holding me back from blogging again was, “I need to get healthy again.” Those following me on Facebook over the last three months would note that I’ve been going to the gym, and developed a personal vendetta against food photos (it doesn’t help that a number of mom bloggers I’ve made friends with over the course of the year are certified kitchen goddesses). Allow me to explain, as various doctors have explained it to me.

You see, boys and girls, the pancreas is the second last stopover point in the digestive system. It takes care of breaking down any oil and fat (cholesterol) that you’ve ingested, and is also the organ responsible for producing the insulin that takes care of the sugar in your body as well. And the whippersnapper happens to have an incorrigible attitude (particularly in my case, given my family history); you hit it with too much work to do, it’ll turn around and inflame on you. And once it does that, your relationship with your pancreas will never be the same. That contract has to be renegotiated; you can’t give it too much cholesterol, and you can’t load it with too much carbohydrates and sugar, either, otherwise it’ll bring the full force of the Union on you. And sometimes, that contract is permanent.

I held back on writing about this, firstly because I’ve got family reading this, and secondly because the doctors aren’t even sure if this will turn out to be a lifelong ailment (not until my next blood test in a couple of weeks, anyway). But 3 months into finding out I’m only human, the more I get into this new regime of food and exercise, the more I don’t mind regarding it as a permanent lifestyle change. Regretfully, this restricts me from ever being a food blogger, but that market is quite well taken care of, I think.

Now, put all these things I needed to get done together, and you might be able to appreciate why even the Blogfather has to take a backseat sometimes; because for all the roles that I play in my life, nothing matters more to me than living for my family.

I can’t say when I’ll be able to write again, but I sure hope it won’t take another three months.