Thursday, 25 October 2012

An ailment without a cure

Psoriasis is a chronic disease that affects the skin. While there are various methods of treatment, a definitive cure for the disease itself has yet to be discovered. Doctors and scientists still do not know what is the cause, although some research point to genetic links.

My wife suffers from this ailment. It occurred soon after we got married. We first went to a private skin specialist who suggested ultraviolet therapy, in addition to topical treatment. We tried it initially but the cost was getting way too expensive for us to afford. We went to other skin doctors and on the advice of well-meaning relatives, we even tried traditional medicine.

A few years ago, a GP suggested to my wife to seek treatment at Hospital Sultanah Aminah because they have a good dermatology unit headed by a very experienced specialist. The GP duly wrote a letter of recommendation and thus began my other half's regular visits to Johor Bahru's oldest government hospital. Since then, she has never sought treatment for her skin condition anywhere else. The level of dedication and service of HSA's skin clinic is excellent.

Last Sunday, the newly formed Psoriasis Association of Johor held an event day at a local hotel. The activities included a chance for the members and their family to show off their skills in colouring using paints and crayons. There was also a talk given by the Senior Consultant Dermatologist at HSA, Dr. Choon Siew Eng. My wife's treatment regime is now under the direct supervision of Dr. Choon.

The association hopes to gather all psoriasis patients in Johor with the objective of providing support and the sharing of knowledge. Hopefully this can help psoriasis sufferers and their family to cope with the challenges that such a disease brings.

The missus and her cousin Kak Atik, writing down their hopes for a cure
A collage of the painted posters
Smaller posters coloured with crayons
In my opinion, this crayon poster was the best
Dr Choon giving her presentation
Group photo of the team that won the colouring contest

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

A grand old man... again

Last weekend, we made the trip to Kota Tinggi to visit the latest addition to our very large extended family. Our nephew's wife, Melati Razak, has safely given birth to her third child a few weeks ago. She now has a son to add to her two daughters. Our nephew is so happy to have a boy with whom he can probably later talk about football or table tennis or other sports.

Our grand-nephew was born on the daybreak of Friday 21 September 2012 and has been named Muhammad Hidayat Asraf. The sister to this baby named Nurul Aqilah, is the one I wrote about in a previous post in February 2009, titled A Grand Old Man. At that time, the sister is the 10th great-grandchild of the Hj. Mohd Amin clan. Three and a half years down the road, the new baby boy holds the 22nd position. My wife and I now have 22 kids calling us `Tok'.

Muhammad Hidayat was delivered a few days delayed from his due date. I told the mother that the baby purposely did not want to come out earlier because he wanted to wait for a special day. He shares the same birthday as his grand-aunt, Mrs Oldstock.

Oldstock with latest grand-nephew and 3-year old grand-niece

Saturday, 6 October 2012


"I should have listened to you," she says.

The soft sigh is only just audible. She looks out of the restaurant window but her eyes do not seem focussed on anything in particular. The gleam of tears pooling down the corners of her eyes can be clearly seen. I feel like holding my hand out to wipe those tears away but I am not sure how she will react. So I remain still... and silent.

The small boy sitting next to her happily munches down a slice of pizza. He doesn't bother his mother much, just occasionally asking her about this or that ingredient he finds on the topping. Seems like the first time he is tasting pizza and he is liking it.

She turns her head to look at me and continues, "He divorced me almost one year after I gave birth. He said that his first wife gave him an ultimatum. Either me or her. Of course I lose out. The family of the first wife is rich. They are the ones who support his business. If he leaves her, his business will go down."

"And what do I have? Compared to her, I may have youth and beauty... but that counts for nothing now. I am not rich. I cannot compete with the first wife on that. So I try other ways... I wanted to be a good wife, I treated him well, I loved him as much as I could. But in the end, the power of money beats everything."

"Men are only concerned about themselves. About their own comfort and happiness. About short-term gains. They don't care if they make life miserable for others!"

There is now a bit of sting in her voice. I don't want to add fuel to the fire so I continue to remain silent. She turns to look outside again... biting her lip as if trying to stop herself from further outburst.

I look closely at the son, slowly chewing on his food and oblivious to his mother's anger. Very well-behaved young man. He is around 4-years old, slight build towards skinny and with very fair skin. A thick crown of hair with facial features undoubtedly oriental. I have met the boy's father only once before but it is as clear as day that the boy has his father's looks.

"I know what you're thinking," she says as her eyes dart from me to the boy and back. "Every time I go out to the local market with my son, people will always say the boy looks like his father... anak Salim Apek. He has taken everything from me. Even my son cannot have a bit of my look in him!"

I let time pass by a bit before finally responding, "Looks are not everything... but I guess you do not believe me. You place too much importance on looks. Did you not use your looks to catch his attention in the first place?" The next sentence in my mind is, and look where that has taken you. But I leave that part unspoken.

She shoots a spiteful look at me and say, "You are cruel, you know... but very kind." A hint of smile is finally evident, but it disappears almost instantly. She shakes her head and repeats, "I should have listened to you, all those years ago."

"So what do you want to do now?" I ask.

"I am broke," she says. "He has not given us any money for the past two years. After the divorce, he provided the maintenance quite regularly but then he started to slack. Business problems, he said. I had to go back to court to get him resume paying. The judge has already given the order but he gets away with a thousand of excuses. I cannot afford to pay the lawyer any more to fight him."

"You know, the last time he came to see his son was during hari raya last year? The boy was just 3-years old then. Look at him now. I don't think the boy even knows that he has a father."

"I need to find work. But at the same time, I can't afford to pay someone to look after my son."

She looks lovingly at the young man, pats him gently on the head and with an unwavering voice say, "I am going to give him up."