What I Ignored


Why am I listing these?  Well, since I haven’t found any literature on the cause of Acute Myeloid Leukaemia, I can only look back and assess my environment and overall wellbeing.

  1. SLEEP



I’ve always had trouble falling asleep.  Sometimes, even staying asleep.  On average, 5-6 hours of sleep is what I manage until a crash day arrives.  Most of the time, there’s 1-2 nights a week where I get 3-4 hours a night.  These are the things I had done in efforts to improve the situation, some of them worked for a little while, then somehow stopped working.

  • no screens by 9pm
  • stop eating 2-3 hours before bed
  • move training sessions to day time
  • meditation
  • put on calming sounds (like waves and shit)
  • put on soft music
  • put on podcasts with a boring voice (it IS a thing)
  • cover my eyes
  • practice diaphragm breathing
  • complete silence
  • darken the room
  • spray my bed with lavender-infused water
  • sex
  • reading fiction
  • counting sheep
  • counting backwards from 1000
  • sleepy tea
  • alcohol
  • sleep aid medication / drowsy cough syrup

Spare some time for this talk on sleep by Shawn Stevenson and another interesting discovery piece by Matthew Walker.

Moving cars though, they are magic, like being rocked in a bouncy sling as a baby again…OH SNAP, I NEED A HAMMOCKhammock dog




The anxiety attacks started when I was 15.  They were typically triggered by confrontations.  I was far from being an effective communicator at that age.  When I couldn’t articulate the way I wanted during fights aaaaaand had to hold back the urge to throw shit around, I felt suppressed.  Then, the attack starts.  Thankfully, the last attack I ever had was in 2013, shortly after moving to Hong Kong and triggered by a fight with an ex.  I’m now 5 years attack-free (don’t know if that’s a thing but it is now.)  What changed?  Finally learning that growth isn’t just about business books and taking every opportunity presented but looking inward, confronting the suppressed thoughts, admitting that the hipster-sounding-stuff, well, SOME, holds merit in the health of the mind.  Opening up to people, having conversations on uncomfortable topics, putting in more effort in sleep quality and meditating have certainly helped better the journey, a process of unwinding 14 years.  Break that stress reaction cycle.  

Nintendo, you could have made a game on handling anxiety…or did you?





Let’s be real here.  Unless there were lab tests done, we would not know what we lack.  There’s only guesswork based on how observant you are with your diet, how you feel, how your poo looks and feels and good ol’ internet information.  Now, quite a number of things contribute to low blood count leading to a weakened immune system and so on.  I may only assess my recent years and GUESS what I coulda-woulda-shoulda.  It could also be the timing of a certain diet.  I stopped eating meat for 6 months, still keeping up with a semi-nomadic lifestyle at the time.  I DID supplement with B12 but not iron, which are 2 key nutrients lacking in a vegan diet.  I started eating meat again since Christmas last year.  Am I blaming that protocol? Not at all, I was not suffering and actually felt great during, kept up with training too.  Perhaps I could have done a better job in recognizing signs of nutrient deficiency?  What I will stress now though, is that I coulda-woulda-shoulda got my bloodwork done prior to adopting a plant-based lifestyle, or any other highly restrictive diet as a matter of fact.  Ain’t we always preaching that every BODY is different?  I failed to practice what I preach.  Still learning.





I’d blanket this under pollution and exposure to heavy metal, that includes compromised quality in the air, water, and soil. Something I just learned is that dental work also has effects from mercury and bacteria residue.  My allergy to tree nuts only started after I moved to Hong Kong, after a series of stomach flu.  That led to more food intolerances that caused more inflammation.  (Frankly, it was VERY EASY for me to adopt a vegan lifestyle because I had already stopped having eggs, cheese, and dairy products years prior.)  Still, only after moving here in 2013.  The city also has a much faster pace, which is exactly why I fell in love with Hong Kong, to begin with.  It took me a while to recognize the importance of “taking healthy breaks” from that addictive pace of city life and the pollution it comes with.  Like any passionate lover from your favorite novel, what swept you off your feet will end up burning you with its passion – cliche much?




I did not know about radiation exposure from air travel.  Why?  I just didn’t.  The only reason why I am including this on the list is because it COULD HAVE been a contributing factor to me getting ill.  Not that I fly as much as flight crew and others who rely on air travel for work, to be endangered by it but given the condition my body could have been under (weakened immune system, compromised cell regeneration, maybe predisposed to cancer), it could have been a contributing factor.  Here’s an interesting read.  Then again, we’re exposed to it on a daily bases aren’t we. 

radiation comic
yes, cigarettes too.  I used to smoke for almost 10 years.



I must insist that I do not think each of these is the culprit on its own but I accept the possibility that it could have been a COMBINATION of those listed, and more.

An excerpt from THIS read:

“Many people still equate cancer with death, and our society is in extreme denial when it comes to facing our mortality. Athletes (and health-conscious people) often trick themselves into thinking their sport, activities, or diet will give them immunity. Sorry to break the news, but your running shoes, kale and chia seeds won’t protect you.

But the good news is, athletes and healthy people are gifted with qualities that will often help them get through treatment and recover in a lot better shape than those who neglect their overall health. Determination, endurance, positive attitude, willingness to tolerate discomfort, and overall physical fitness are key qualities that can help achieve good outcomes during and after cancer treatment.”

So that part of my thinking process is done.  Next

Learn.  Adapt.  Carry On. 


 How am I eating?

How am I moving?

How am I sleeping?

How am I thinking?

How am I feeling?


Emily Tan Vee Lea
Sista from another Motha


Ea Emily Vee Vonnie
Home Kong with the Fam


Emily in Spain
Spanish Family



Published by Emily Lola Tan

I've been told that I'm tiny but tough, so I must have gotten SOME things right. On the inside, I feel like a mushy marshmellow who's a hopeless romantic and find corny cute. Writing "About Me" sections had evolved in the past x years of online profiles, currently, it sits at me still hungry for enlightening experiences and insightful traveling, particularly with human connections. My story at full length on the "About" page :) Thank you for poking around!

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