Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wise Words from Dr. Richard Teo

Please take a moment to read this and share this meaningful story. I got this from an email and this has been circulating in FB as well. Long post ahead.

Below is the transcript of the talk of Dr. Richard Teo, who is a 40-year-old millionaire and cosmetic surgeon with a stage-4 lung cancer but selflessly came to share his life experience with the D1 class on 19 Jan 2012. He has recently passed away on 18 October 2012.

Hi good morning to all of you. My voice is a bit hoarse, so please bear with me. I thought I'll just introduce myself. My name is Richard, I'm a medical doctor. And I thought I'll just share some thoughts of my life. It's my pleasure to be invited by prof. Hopefully, it can get you thinking about how... as you pursue this.. embarking on your training to become dental surgeons, to think about other things as well.

Since young, I am a typical product of today's society. Relatively successful product that society requires.. From young, I came from a below average family. I was told by the media... and people around me that happiness is about success. And that success is about being wealthy. With this mind-set, I've always be extremely competitive, since I was young.

Not only do I need to go to the top school, I need to have success in all fields. Uniform groups, track, everything. I needed to get trophies, needed to be successful, I needed to have colours award, national colours award, everything. So I was highly competitive since young. I went on to medical school, graduated as a doctor. Some of you may know that within the medical faculty, ophthalmology is one of the most highly sought after specialities. So I went after that as well. I was given a traineeship in ophthalmology, I was also given a research scholarship by NUS to develop lasers to treat the eye.

So in the process, I was given 2 patents, one for the medical devices, and another for the lasers. And you know what, all this academic achievements did not bring me any wealth. So once I completed my bond with MOH, I decided that this is taking too long, the training in eye surgery is just taking too long. And there's lots of money to be made in the private sector. If you're aware, in the last few years, there is this rise in aesthetic medicine. Tons of money to be made there. So I decided, well, enough of staying in institution, it's time to leave. So I quit my training halfway and I went on to set up my aesthetic clinic... in town, together with a day surgery centre.

You know the irony is that people do not make heroes out average GP (general practitioner), family physicians. They don't. They make heroes out of people who are rich and famous. People who are not happy to pay $20 to see a GP, the same person have no qualms paying ten thousand dollars for a liposuction, 15 thousand dollars for a breast augmentation, and so on and so forth. So it's a no brainer isn't? Why do you want to be a gp? Become an aesthetic physician. So instead of healing the sick and ill, I decided that I'll become a glorified beautician. So, business was good, very good. It started off with waiting of one week, then became 3weeks, then one month, then 2 months, then 3 months. I was overwhelmed; there were just too many patients. Vanities are fantastic business. I employed one doctor, the second doctor, the 3rd doctor, the 4th doctor. And within the 1st year, we're already raking in millions. Just the 1st year. But never is enough because I was so obsessed with it. I started to expand into Indonesia to get all the rich Indonesian tai-tais who wouldn't blink an eye to have a procedure done. So life was really good.

So what do I do with the spare cash. How do I spend my weekends? Typically, I'll have car club gatherings. I take out my track car, with spare cash I got myself a track car. We have car club gatherings. We'll go up to Sepang in Malaysia. We'll go for car racing. And it was my life. With other spare cash, what do i do? I get myself a Ferrari. At that time, the 458 wasn't out, it's just a spider convertible, 430. This is a friend of mine, a schoolmate who is a forex trader, a banker. So he got a red one, he was wanting all along a red one, I was getting the silver one.

So what do I do after getting a car? It's time to buy a house, to build our own bungalows. So we go around looking for a land to build our own bungalows, we went around hunting. So how do i live my life? Well, we all think we have to mix around with the rich and famous. This is one of the Miss Universe. So we hang around with the beautiful, rich and famous. This by the way is an internet founder. So this is how we spend our lives, with dining and all the restaurants and Michelin Chefs you know.

So I reach a point in life that I got everything for my life. I was at the pinnacle of my career and all. That's me one year ago in the gym and I thought I was like, having everything under control and reaching the pinnacle.

Well, I was wrong. I didn't have everything under control. About last year March, I started to develop backache in the middle of nowhere. I thought maybe it was all the heavy squats I was doing. So I went to SGH, saw my classmate to do an MRI, to make sure it's not a slipped disc or anything. And that evening, he called me up and said that we found bone marrow replacement in your spine. I said, sorry what does that mean? I mean I know what it means, but I couldn't accept that. I was like “Are you serious?” I was still running around going to the gym you know. But we had more scans the next day, PET scans - positrons emission scans, they found that actually I have stage 4 terminal lung cancer. I was like "Whoa where did that come from?” It has already spread to the brain, the spine, the liver and the adrenals. And you know one moment I was there, totally thinking that I have everything under control, thinking that I've reached the pinnacle of my life. But the next moment, I have just lost it.

This is a CT scan of the lungs itself. If you look at it, every single dot there is a tumour. We call this miliaries tumour. And in fact, I have tens of thousands of them in the lungs. So, I was told that even with chemotherapy, that I'll have about 3-4months at most. Did my life come crushing on, of course it did, who wouldn't? I went into depression, of course, severe depression and I thought I had everything.

See the irony is that all these things that I have, the success, the trophies, my cars, my house and all. I thought that brought me happiness. But i was feeling really down, having severe depression. Having all these thoughts of my possessions, they brought me no joy. The thought of... You know, I can hug my Ferrari to sleep, no... No, it is not going to happen. It brought not a single comfort during my last ten months. And I thought they were, but they were not true happiness. But it wasn't. What really brought me joy in the last ten months was interaction with people, my loved ones, friends, people who genuinely care about me, they laugh and cry with me, and they are able to identify the pain and suffering I was going through. That brought joy to me, happiness. None of the things I have, all the possessions, and I thought those were supposed to bring me happiness. But it didn't, because if it did, I would have felt happy think about it, when I was feeling most down..

You know the classical Chinese New Year that is coming up. In the past, what do I do? Well, I will usually drive my flashy car to do my rounds, visit my relatives, to show it off to my friends. And I thought that was joy, you know. I thought that was really joy. But do you really think that my relatives and friends, whom some of them have difficulty trying to make ends meet, that will truly share the joy with me? Seeing me driving my flashy car and showing off to them? No, no way. They won’t be sharing joy with me. They were having problems trying to make ends meet, taking public transport. In fact i think, what I have done is more like you know, making them envious, jealous of all I have. In fact, sometimes even hatred.

Those are what we call objects of envy. I have them, I show them off to them and I feel it can fill my own pride and ego. That didn't bring any joy to these people, to my friends and relatives, and I thought they were real joy.

Well, let me just share another story with you. You know when I was about your age, I stayed in king Edward VII hall. I had this friend whom I thought was strange. Her name is Jennifer, we're still good friends. And as I walk along the path, she would, if she sees a snail, she would actually pick up the snail and put it along the grass patch. I was like why do you need to do that? Why dirty your hands? It’s just a snail. The truth is she could feel for the snail. The thought of being crushed to death is real to her, but to me it's just a snail. If you can't get out of the pathway of humans then you deserve to be crushed, it’s part of evolution isn't it? What an irony isn't it?

There I was being trained as a doctor, to be compassionate, to be able to empathise; but I couldn't. As a house officer, I graduated from medical school, posted to the oncology department at NUH. And, every day, every other day I witness death in the cancer department. When I see how they suffered, I see all the pain they went through. I see all the morphine they have to press every few minutes just to relieve their pain. I see them struggling with their oxygen breathing their last breath and all. But it was just a job. When I went to clinic every day, to the wards every day, take blood, give the medication but was the patient real to me? They weren't real to me. It was just a job, I do it, I get out of the ward, I can't wait to get home, I do my own stuff.

Was the pain, was the suffering the patients went through real? No. Of course I know all the medical terms to describe how they feel, all the suffering they went through. But in truth, I did not know how they feel, not until I became a patient. It is until now; I truly understand how they feel. And, if you ask me, would I have been a very different doctor if I were to re-live my life now, I can tell you yes I will. Because I truly understand how the patients feel now. And sometimes, you have to learn it the hard way.

Even as you start just your first year, and you embark this journey to become dental surgeons, let me just challenge you on two fronts.

Inevitably, all of you here will start to go into private practice. You will start to accumulate wealth. I can guarantee you. Just doing an implant can bring you thousands of dollars, it's fantastic money. And actually there is nothing wrong with being successful, with being rich or wealthy, absolutely nothing wrong. The only trouble is that a lot of us like myself couldn't handle it.

Why do I say that? Because when I start to accumulate, the more I have, the more I want. The more I wanted, the more obsessed I became. Like what I showed you earlier on, all I can was basically to get more possessions, to reach the pinnacle of what society did to us, of what society wants us to be. I became so obsessed that nothing else really mattered to me. Patients were just a source of income, and I tried to squeeze every single cent out of these patients.

A lot of times we forget, whom we are supposed to be serving. We become so lost that we serve nobody else but just ourselves. That was what happened to me. Whether it is in the medical, the dental fraternity, I can tell you, right now in the private practice, sometimes we just advise patients on treatment that is not indicated. Grey areas. And even though it is not necessary, we kind of advocate it. Even at this point, I know who are my friends and who genuinely cared for me and who are the ones who try to make money out of me by selling me "hope". We kind of lose our moral compass along the way. Because we just want to make money.

Worse, I can tell you, over the last few years, we bad mouth our fellow colleagues, our fellow competitors in the industry. We have no qualms about it. So if we can put them down to give ourselves an advantage, we do it. And that's what happening right now, medical, dental everywhere. My challenge to you is not to lose that moral compass. I learnt it the hard way, I hope you don't ever have to do it.

Secondly, a lot of us will start to get numb to our patients as we start to practise. Whether is it government hospitals, private practice, I can tell you when I was in the hospital, with stacks of patient folders, I can't wait to get rid of those folders as soon as possible; I can't wait to get patients out of my consultation room as soon as possible because there is just so many, and that's a reality. Because it becomes a job, a very routine job. And this is just part of it. Do I truly know how the patient feels back then? No, I don't. The fears and anxiety and all, do I truly understand what they are going through? I don't, not until when this happens to me and I think that is one of the biggest flaws in our system.

We’re being trained to be healthcare providers, professional, and all and yet we don't know how exactly they feel. I'm not asking you to get involved emotionally, I don't think that is professional but do we actually make a real effort to understand their pain and all? Most of us won’t, alright, I can assure you. So don't lose it, my challenge to you is to always be able to put yourself in your patient's shoes.

Because the pain, the anxiety, the fear are very real even though it's not real to you, it's real to them. So don't lose it and you know, right now I'm in the midst of my 5th cycle of my chemotherapy. I can tell you it’s a terrible feeling. Chemotherapy is one of those things that you don't wish even your enemies to go through because it's just suffering, lousy feeling, throwing out, you don't even know if you can retain your meals or not. Terrible feeling! And even with whatever little energy now I have, I try to reach out to other cancer patients because I truly understand what pain and suffering is like. But it's kind of little too late and too little.

You guys have a bright future ahead of you with all the resource and energy, so I’m going to challenge you to go beyond your immediate patients. To understand that there are people out there who are truly in pain, truly in hardship. Don’t get the idea that only poor people suffer. It is not true. A lot of these poor people do not have much in the first place, they are easily contented. for all you know they are happier than you and me but there are out there, people who are suffering mentally, physically, hardship, emotionally, financially and so on and so forth, and they are real. We choose to ignore them or we just don't want to know that they exist.

So do think about it alright, even as you go on to become professionals and dental surgeons and all. That you can reach out to these people who are in need. Whatever you do can make a large difference to them. I'm now at the receiving end so I know how it feels, someone who genuinely care for you, encourage and all. It makes a lot of difference to me. That’s what happens after treatment. I had a treatment recently, but I’ll leave this for another day. A lot of things happened along the way, that's why I am still able to talk to you today.

I'll just end of with this quote here, it's from this book called Tuesdays with Morris, and some of you may have read it. Everyone knows that they are going to die; every one of us knows that. The truth is, none of us believe it because if we did, we will do things differently. When I faced death, when I had to, I stripped myself off all stuff totally and I focused only on what is essential. The irony is that a lot of times, only when we learn how to die then we learn how to live. I know it sounds very morbid for this morning but it's the truth, this is what I’m going through.

Don’t let society tell you how to live. Don’t let the media tell you what you're supposed to do. Those things happened to me. And I led this life thinking that these are going to bring me happiness. I hope that you will think about it and decide for yourself how you want to live your own life. Not according to what other people tell you to do, and you have to decide whether you want to serve yourself, whether you are going to make a difference in somebody else's life. Because true happiness doesn't come from serving yourself. I thought it was but it didn't turn out that way.

Also most importantly, I think true joy comes from knowing God. Not knowing about God – I mean, you can read the bible and know about God – but knowing God personally; getting a relationship with God. I think that’s the most important. That’s what I’ve learnt.

So if I were to sum it up, I’d say that the earlier we sort out the priorities in our lives, the better it is. Don’t be like me – I had no other way. I had to learn it through the hard way. I had to come back to God to thank Him for this opportunity because I’ve had 3 major accidents in my past – car accidents. You know, these sports car accidents – I was always speeding , but somehow I always came out alive, even with the car almost being overturned. And I wouldn’t have had a chance. Who knows, I don’t know where else I’d be going to! Even though I was baptised it was just a show, but the fact that this has happened, it gave me a chance to come back to God.

Few things I’d learnt though:
1. Trust in the Lord your God with all your heart – this is so important.
2. Is to love and serve others, not just ourselves.

There is nothing wrong with being rich or wealthy. I think it’s absolutely alright, cos God has blessed. So many people are blessed with good wealth, but the trouble is I think a lot of us can’t handle it. The more we have, the more we want. I’ve gone through it, the deeper the hole we dig, the more we get sucked into it, so much so that we worship wealth and lose focus. Instead of worshipping God, we worship wealth. It’s just a human instinct. It’s just so difficult to get out of it.

We are all professionals, and when we go into private practise, we start to build up our wealth – inevitably. So my thought are, when you start to build up wealth and when the opportunity comes, do remember that all these things don’t belong to us. We don’t really own it nor have rights to this wealth. It’s actually God’s gift to us. Remember that it’s more important to further His Kingdom rather than to further ourselves.

Anyway I think that I’ve gone through it, and I know that wealth without God is empty. It is more important that you fill up the wealth, as you build it up subsequently, as professionals and all, you need to fill it up with the wealth of God.

Personally, I did not know who this man was. In fact, I had only just heard of him these past few days. His story moved me and inspired me personally. I picked up quite a few life lessons from him, some of which I realized again:

1. Ultimately, our family, friends and loved ones are the greatest treasures of our lives. When all is lost and we've hit rock bottom, they are the ones who will be by our side offering love, care and comfort. Striving to achieve success in wealth is fine, but never let it blindside you from the people who truly matter to you. Come to think of it, the best times of my life are the those spent with my family, friends and loved ones. Never neglect to let them know how much you love them and appreciate having them in your life.

2. Learn to empathize with others and be more understanding, especially they are faced with adversity, struggle and suffering.

3. Learning to live for others will make our lives far more meaningful than living for ourselves. Living only for yourself will only make you lonely and miserable in the end. Offer help, comfort and compliments freely and sincerely whenever you can. Build bridges, don't burn them.

4. Never let others dictate how you should live your life, or what your success should be. Everyone has a different definition of success, and should live by their own ideals.

PS: You may read more him on his online memorial.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Desperate Datin

Michelle is a friend of mine from Penang who does funny stage performances and emcee'ing. This latest one during one of his her friend's wedding and is particularly funneh XD

You'd have to know some Hokkien to catch some of the jokes though.

He's She's such a natural XD

You can check out more of her videos in her YouTube channel.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Gangnam Style

Psy's Gangnam Style has truly become an international phenomenon, taking the world by storm and becoming a household name for people from all corners of the world and every age group. Heck, you'll have a harder time trying to find someone who DOESN'T know about Gangnam Style.

Extremely catchy song (in fact, it's hard NOT to move to this song), amusing yet catchy choreography and an awesome music video. What's not to LOVE about this song?

Gangnam Style is part of his 6th album PSY's Best 6th Part 1 and the choreography was highlighted in international news and became a viral hit. On August 2, Psy was shown on CNN for the first time in the USA. On August 14, Gangnam Style ranked first on YouTube's 'Most Viewed Videos' monthly chart and it has received almost 500 million views on YouTube to date.

On August 21, Gangnam Style officially charted #1 on the iTunes Music Video Charts, overtaking Justin Bieber's As Long as You Love Me and Katy Perry's Wide Awake. This feat is the first for any South Korean artist. In September, he appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and taught the dance to Britney Spears, and appeared on The Today Show on NBC in New York City, performing the song live and teaching dance moves to the anchors. He also made a cameo appearance on Saturday Night Live during a skit featuring Gangnam Style. The Gangnam district even awarded Psy with a plaque and named him an honorary ambassador. Recently, Psy was signed by Scooter Braun to Braun's Schoolboy Records, a label distributed by Universal Republic.

Since Gangnam Style came out, there have been countless flash mobs worldwide, dance classes and even professional dancers adopting the routine.

And of course, let's not forget the numerous parodies as well.

Check out Psy's most recent concert in Seoul Plaza.

You know you're freakin' kickass when the crowd literally explodes when the song starts, sings and dances along with you every step of the way. Seriously, who can even top him right now? NO ONE, that's who!

I love Gangnam Style!~

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

We Can Only Hope

After watching this, I have nothing but RESPECT for Obama for everything that he has done in the pursuit of equality, for his country and future generations.

I realize that it may not be my nation that is changing. Nevertheless, it touches me that another has moved many steps forward towards freedom and equality. Every action in the right direction, will ripple out and affect us all, in due time.

I can only hope, that even though it might not be within my generation, that generations to come will one day savor the same privilege as well, in our own beloved country.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

You've Gotta Get Up And...

I've only recently heard this song. I fell in love with it as soon as I heard it. Pink's songs have always spoken truth, wisdom, tenacity and strength. This one is no different. A truly lovely, meaningful and inspiring song. I just adore the melody as well.

Ever wonder about what he's doing
How it all turned to lies
Sometimes I think that it's better to never ask why

Where there is desire
There is gonna be a flame
Where there is a flame
Someone's bound to get burned
But just because it burns
Doesn't mean you're gonna die
You've gotta get up and try try try
Gotta get up and try try try
You gotta get up and try try try

Eh, eh, eh

Funny how the heart can be deceiving
More than just a couple times
Why do we fall in love so easy
Even when it's not right

Where there is desire
There is gonna be a flame
Where there is a flame
Someone's bound to get burned
But just because it burns
Doesn't mean you're gonna die
You've gotta get up and try try try
Gotta get up and try try try
You gotta get up and try try try

Ever worried that it might be ruined
And does it make you wanna cry?
When you're out there doing what you're doing
Are you just getting by?
Tell me are you just getting by by by

Where there is desire
There is gonna be a flame
Where there is a flame
Someone's bound to get burned
But just because it burns
Doesn't mean you're gonna die
You've gotta get up and try try try
Gotta get up and try try try
You gotta get up and try try try
Gotta get up and try try try
Gotta get up and try try try
You gotta get up and try try try
Gotta get up and try try try

You gotta get up and try try try
Gotta get up and try try try

PS: Go watch the official MTV here. It's just beautiful. Also there's a really hot guy dancing with Pink throughout the video.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Could it be a Sign?

I'm pretty sure that mom is still in denial till this day. Although I came out to her 3 times, she hasn't readily acknowledged who I am. However, a couple of things happened recently, although briefly, that made me think if she has in fact silently acknowledged, but not ready to fully accept.

This was last week. As usual, I was into my gaming mode after work:

Mom: Is this what you're gonna do the rest of your life?

Me: I'm just relaxing after work. Would you rather have me go out or be a home and save some money? Also, I haven't been feeling very well lately. Not since the previous event. I had a flu and cough, and got caught in the rain

Mom: Why didn't you bring your umbrella with you?

Me: I left it in the car in the multi-storey carpark. I didn't feel like walking all the way there just to get the umbrella.

Mom: Then what about the raincoat that was given to you for the event, in case it rained.

Me: I actually didn't think to wear it.

Mom: Aiyo, how can you be so careless? Learn to take care of yourself better. If you had a girlfriend, you would take better care of yourself, for her sake. You would be more savvy. Or at least, she would take care of you.

Me (getting annoyed): Why must I need a girlfriend so that I can be savvy, or take care of myself better?

Mom: Then, what about a boyfriend?

Me (surprised): Ermmm, I don't have any lah!

Yes, I caught totally off-guard by that one.

This one was just last Monday, at a neighbour's wedding dinner:

Random neighbour at our table: So, when is ah boy's turn? *looking at me*

Mom: *looks at me* I don't know, you ask him lah. Not yet lah.

Me: *just smiles awkwardly at neighbour*

Mom: *turns to me again and smiles* You really don't wanna get married one day?

Me: Don't worry mom. Sis and I will take care of each other, even if I'm not married. But, she has to get married because she really needs someone to take care of her.

Preceding the above conversation, the neighbour and mum were talking about how important it is to have a family so that they could take care of you when you're old. I have to admit that there is truth in what she's saying, especially if you should encounter any illnesses or mishaps in old age.

I believe that for every parent, one of the biggest reasons they would want their children to get married is so that they will be taken care of, long after parents are gone. I understand that, and think that perhaps, she just wants me to be looked after. She might not agree with my sexuality and could have forgone her dream of seeing me raise my own family, but I have an inkling that she wants me to be with someone, no matter who it is, so that I will have companionship and my well-being attended to. Let's face it, I'm not getting any younger. And I have been thinking about it as well. Perhaps I will adopt one day? Who knows? Do they even allow single parent adoption? I have no idea.

Those brief conversations with mom got me thinking. Could this be a sign that she's beginning to accept who I am? It is still kinda vague. I just hope that one day, I will be able to sit down with her and discuss my life freely, instead of filtering and keeping secrets. This, sincerely, I pray.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Good and Bad

Holy poop on a stick!~ I mentioned a revival in June, then went *poof* for 3 months from the blogosphere. Oh well, but I'm back...for now at least. Quite a few things has happened these few months, both good and bad.

For starters, I've said goodbye to my previous job and shifted to a new one in September. It was a rather heavy-hearted farewell. Although my previous company had a work process so tedious, that just thinking about the tasks ahead felt draining, I had some great colleagues back there. The teamwork and synergy of my own team felt awesome and amicable. The people I worked with were pleasant and we did feel very much like a family. I was also very well liked, within and outside my organization. Still, I had to make a move to better pastures, and I'm forever grateful of the things I've learned there. In fact, it helped me secure this new job. Working at a huge semi-con company here in Penang now *hint hint*.

Very recently, after going and off again, I'm finally single. This time, I don't intend to go back. I have to be firm. We had a great one, but as time went on, our age gap became more apparent (at least, to me). He has matured a great deal in these past 2 years, yet I've felt that there was something missing. I felt unfulfilled, and then I realized that I loved him no longer as a partner, but more of a dear close friend. It wasn't good when the relationship felt more like an obligation to me. I tried very hard to love him back when we got back together the last time, and all was well. As time went by, it began to diminish again. It just felt stagnant. At times, I felt frustrated and trapped. I felt like I wasn't getting my end of the bargain. It wasn't about him. In fact, any person would be lucky to have him.

It's just that our expectations were different. I am at a different phase of my life when I strive to achieve and be something more. Early mid-life crisis perhaps? Maybe. I used to only be concerned on finding a partner. But that's when I was in my 20s. Now that I'm in my early 30s, it's a whole different ballgame. If I were to find another relationship, it would be with someone more matured (mentally and emotionally). But for now, I'm content on being single. I don't know what the future holds for the both of us, but I really hope I don't lose him. I still care for him deeply and I'm very protective of him. And I can't stand the sight of him crying, it just breaks my heart. Right now, we're not in contact, except for some messages in Whatsapp. He needs the time by himself to grief and move on, and I hope time heals his wounds quicker, so that we may see each other again. This time, as good friends.