Stem Cell Transplant – Em’s Hospital Stay Diary

Day -13

As in 13 days until the day of my stem cell transplant/bone marrow transplant (STC/BMT) for Acute Myeloid Leukaemia.

Admission, prep, deposit.

Prior to being admitted today, I had a scare that I wouldn’t be able to pay the 500,000 HKD deposit for this transplant.  Once again, the people around me pulled through and lent me what I needed.  What a boost of love and faith which fuels my drive to fight, to live.

A spinal tap (lumbar puncture) was called for to rule out leukaemia in spinal fluid.

Andrew and I had a sanitisation party.  Have you ever wiped down your charging cables?  Especially the laptop cables? Disgusting.

There were quite a number of things that led to me skipping hospital scheduled meals.

A little unplanned fasting after the spinal tap and before the Hickman line surgery the next day as I tried to settle in my concave 3ft wide bed.




Day -12

Warm heated blankets laid upon me as I laid shivering on the cold operating table.  Probably the only comforting memory I’ll have from being in the hospital.

Nervous level prior to the procedure would be described as “cool as a cucumber” since I’ve had 2 catheters in before, which is also a direct quote from the physician when I had my abortion procedure at 15.

But as soon as this surgeon started, I was fighting to stay composed throughout.

“Stop moving the lights”

“I can’t see it”

“You’re not doing it right”

…were among the things I endured listening to as the surgeon and juniors surrounded my exposed upper right pec and shoulder.

Oh, and is that an arm or a long ass heavy tool laying on the cloth directly above my throat?

I let out a throaty murmur several times and it moved a little.


A forgetful one, as it found its way back.  Tapping into my fear of voicing up and contributing to the commotion, I remained silent.

A few tears might have escaped as I prayed hard that the surgeon must have his style of good work and the commotion was not a fuck up. 

“Finally, done! Oh, she fell asleep! Haha” said the surgeon when it was over.

“I’m awake!” I beckoned.  But what I really wanted to say was “FUCK YOU”, still choking back the anxiety.

They wheeled me into the operation recovery room for observation.  It was empty except for one other bed containing a little figure.  Soon enough, the figure no older than a year stirred and started crying.

Oh, little man.  You poor little thing.  How exhausting this must be for him, constantly woken up with his comforting parents with tubes and needles in him. 

And so, we wept in our own beds.





Day -11

I woke feeling hungry.  Didn’t eat much since I had to fast prior to surgery and lay flat after. 

Blood drawn in the morning for cortisol testing, something was injected but I forgot to ask what it was.

All I could think of was how to sneak my own food in.

It’s been a battle to get my own food in the ward before chemo starts since the food restrictions are strictest when chemo starts and blood count plummets.  The rule is so patients do not risk getting sick from improper food handling and exposure to food items harbouring bacteria growth like nuts, seeds, bread, crackers and such.   Homecooked food and outside food are not monitored and the hospital won’t be able to take responsibility for any food-related problems so they just don’t allow it.  Upon trading info with my AML penpals in California and Singapore though, I learn that it’s just QMH being strict AF.  I wonder what had happened in the past?

Since I’ve been careful about my fish and veggie source, as well as the occasional chicken and supplementation, I feel like this tiny little autonomy over my nutrition is being taken away.  I know, that sounds a lil’ melodramatic but it’s the one thing I feel like I can help myself on. 

Aite, snappin’ out of it.  It’s just annoying trying to un-mind it.  A weird battle between not eating anything at all or just suck it up and convince my trained brain that spaghetti will give me cancer-fighting fuel.  Of course, I’m lying to myself.  Tried talking to my oncologist, two nurses and the dietitian. 

Team Med 4 — Me 0.

I am recommended to stock up on instant noodles and canned food.  Oh hey, gummy candy is allowed though.  Mindfuck. 

Then, it’s like my prayers have been answered.

I felt so ridiculous hiding in my hospital bathroom mixing protein powder and hemp seeds in a tiny bottle over the toilet since my room has a CCTV.  As I finished chugging it down, a nurse came in and asked if I would like to take home leave for 2 nights.  I had no other procedures until Sunday morning after all.  Some chocolate liquid escaped my mouth as I couldn’t answer YES NOW quick enough. First thing I cooked at home was a whole bunch of veggies to go with my barramundi. 

The simple bliss.




Day -10

Having slept on a flat bed that’s wider than 3ft felt amazing.  Eggs and kale tasted delicious. 

Started the day with a long distance call and a Spanish lesson helped me forget momentarily that I’m supposed to be in the hospital.  Woke with a little cough but relieved it ain’t phlegmy.  However, ain’t gonna risk being in contact with other people outside, in fear of triggering something that might fuck up transplant process.  Ain’t just about me anymore, we gotta think about the donor and his time, and about the other patients who could have booked in their transplant in my spot. 

Enjoyed some real talk with Andrew, still so happy he’s here for me despite the stress of work and living conditions.  Caught a lovely movie date with Vee as we watched Netflix 10 floors apart.  There are always ways to “hang out” while practicing caution. 

Today, I read another news of death. 

Third news in a week.  Last Thanksgiving Sunday, I had received news of 2 friends losing a wife and a father on the same day.  Marian had battled brain cancer since early this year while Aussie’s dad received the shocking news of terminal cancer this fall.  As I read the message from a mutual friend about Marian, I was sitting amongst my friends and family with a full heart and belly from dinner.  Something changed in me – I fought hard to appear as if nothing had happened, being wary about bringing the mood down at our gathering.  The next day, there was hushed news of Aussie’s dad. 

Today, it was the partner of a fellow handstand mate.  He, who had also reached out to me with support, put his life on hold to care for his partner pursuing breast cancer treatment out of Hong Kong.  She took her last breath from cardiac complications. 

Death by cancer felt so close but I know I’m only affected as much as I let it.  I’m still here, hearing lost loves and imagining the pain of it.  I was at loss for words and felt helpless in offering comfort.  I didn’t know what to say to the ones left behind.  But something is better than nothing, being uncomfortable is nothing compared to those hurting. 






Day -9

Back to the hospital today.

Had a big ass breakfast before hospital at 830 so I won’t be fussed about food later today.  Also,  I think if I haven’t been as aware of nutrition and training prior to diagnosis, I reckon my body would be a hell lot weaker fighting this

Took a bunch of meds. The one that is anti-epileptic made me feel like I’m high on something without the good buzz.

Progesterone to prevent menstruation but since IUD stopped mine for years, I’m good.

How do I truly feel? READY.

Ready to finally have this significant gamble where the stakes are further health complications, yet in exchange for a higher chance of living.

What do I mean by gamble? Well, here are the things that can go wrong with a bone marrow transplant/stem cell transplant:

  • Graft-versus-host disease (allogeneic transplant only)
  • Stem cell (graft) failure
  • Organ damage
  • Infections
  • Cataracts
  • Infertility
  • New cancers
  • Death

A little worried, as much as I tell myself, and as the nurse and doctors tell me that transplants are safer today, those thoughts (sneaky buggers) still sneak in every so often.

A way of “Self soothe” I use is to ask myself “is there something I can do about whatever goes sideways”, “if anything does happen, does everybody have what they need from me”.

That would lead to acts of reassurance and freedom of burden, like listing my digital life’s logins and passwords and instructions.

Reminding myself of the many cool experiences help.  There is no sense of regret like “I should have done that when I could” because of the excuse of having “no time” is now quite demeaning.  We all have fucking time to prioritise if it meant that much to us.  Whatever I thought meant a lot to me, I realize they don’t – it’s so bloody liberating.




Day -8

Chemo drug Bulsufan started today.

No side effects felt which isn’t surprising, as side effects had typically kicked in towards the end of the drug’s allocated full dose.  So thankfully, an uneventful day. I’ve been told that things might suck a little from Day -4 onwards upon the next drug called Cyclophosphamide.  A total of 7 days chemotherapy  #fuckinReady

I snuck in my last protein bar at breakfast after eating an egg from the hospital.  For the rest of the day, I had a palmful portion of boiled shredded chicken with boiled onions and boiled cucumbers for lunch, followed by a palmful portion of boiled shredded pork with boiled onions and 4 little pieces of canned pineapple pieces with my beef bone broth for dinner.


Liquid and solids intake and outtake tracking start today too.  It is sooooo much easier with the tools here at QMH compared to the Alicante hospital’s piss pan.  You know you’ve gotten tougher on the gross handling scale when enduring spilt piss your hands because the piss pans were not designed to pour into a tiny bottle opening.  Since I was waking every 2 hours to pee throughout the night, I ploughed through a bottle of hand wash in a week.

Let the 90 minutes-interval piss tracking begin!




Day -7

As warned, I didn’t get more than a few hours sleep last night. 

Since each chemo dose needed to be washed down by saline and some other liquid before a new bag is hooked in, most of the night was spent turning off the machine alarm, calling the nurses station saying “gei hiong” (machine’s going off), and of course, toilet trips.  At least I got thru a few podcast episodes.  One was Better in Bed podcast where Sara Tang and Jye Smith interviewed Jade Lovell, YouTube host of popular science show SciQ about Exploring the Forbidden, followed by Peter Attia’s 3-hour interview on the Joe Rogan show.  I think I need to listen to that one again and do better in digesting the content of Attia Medical’s founder.

It’s 2pm and I’m sleepy AF.  I wanna sleep at normal hours tonight but why can’t I just take a nap tho’? OH, it’s probably ‘cause I just got a call from the transplant centre saying I need to pay the shipment fee of 148,000 HKD for China to release the marrow in 6 days.  NOW, as I’m day 2 into a marrow wipe-out chemo knowing I’m so close and I’ll pay up even after “hustling” for a 500,000 HKD deposit.  Well played.  Can’t nap.  Woosah.  #BagKickingNeedsToSaveMeFromThrashingHospitalRoom




Day -6

Long nights persist.  The body was ready to pass out by 4pm.  I fought til 6:30pm then called it a day.  Got woken up a few hours later for next bag of chemo, saline, potty break and nausea.

Started on the hospital’s nutrient shake last night.  Sure, it does have a ton of preservatives but trading it for the nutrients I ain’t getting from my end-of-the-world stash of instant noodles and breakfast cereal.  I was suggested to keep boxed fruit juice and fruit jelly cups in my stash too but to go from not eating any of that to now having them as last options during my weakest time, I have trouble accepting.  We’ll see how long I can keep up my 500g of bone broth a day with the occasional tin of tuna. 

Today’s saltless meals were about the same as yesterday with the additional serving of IsoSource



2 eggs


237ml Nestle Isosource Unflavored


Approx 50g boiled pork

Approx 120g mixed boiled cucumber, tomatoes and onions

1 spoon white rice


500g chicken bone broth (from Feather and Bone)


Approx 60g boiled fish

Approx 80g boiled reddish

1 spoon white rice


237ml Nestle Isosource Unflavored






Day -5

Adapting to the pace of days and nights now probably works well with this season’s circadian rhythm.  It gets dark by about 6:30pm, which is now about an hour after my last meal for the day.  Breakfast is served at 8am and since I ain’t supposed to eat food that’s been left out for too long, I force myself up and ready to eat by 8:15am latest.  Circadian rhythm eating – checked.

Potassium’s been low for the past 2 days.  Liquid and pill form prescribed.  Have you tasted liquid potassium?  That shit’s sharp and nasty.

Energy levels started to drop yesterday but managed to get in 20mins of accumulative activity. 

One of the current procedures is for me to use the room’s phone and dial the nurses’ station extension for every need, leaving the emergency button above the bed strictly for emergencies only.  After 15 minutes of the nurses’ station not connecting from my room line topped with the persistent machine alarm going off though, I succumbed to that emergency button.  Twice.  Still have no clue why the phone was busy last night, even when I called the nurses station from my own cell.  It’s kinda worrisome…

But you know what, it’s still nothing compared to new moms losing sleep all night soothing their babies. 

I can handle this.




Day -4

I’m hungry.

For the sake of salty goodness, I caved yesterday and asked for some instant noodles.  I haven’t felt the excitement to taste Indomie again after a long time but was surprised instead when it arrived with none of the flavourings.  It was just cooked flavourless noodles.  Never have I felt beaten by instant noodles.


On the bright side, hello 20g of Honey Stars on the approved food list, which I mixed in with the unflavoured IsoSource.

Docs and nurses have been cautioning me to buck up for the coming days from today. Cyclophosphamide commonly comes with worse side effects, from what they’ve seen with other patients.  So I shall enjoy each moment I can until that happens.  Still not sure if I appreciate the heads up or not though, then again, there was my induction chemo in Spain.  Each time I sat up or tried to have a conversation, I kinda wondered when I’ll see the end of those side effects.  You trained me well, Induction Chemo.  Now let’s do this, Transplant Chemo.

Barely 3:30pm and about 2 hours since Cyclophosphamide, I can feel shit’s about to get real. 

Nausea has started.

screenshot 2019-01-16 at 2.02.25 pm




Day -3

Couldn’t see straight.  Kept my eyes closed most of the day. 

Could hardly even bear having sound and light in the room with that heavy head.  The body felt extremely bloated down to the calves, the only bittersweet release was a jab of diuretics that leaves one chained to the toilet for 14 hours.

Cold sweat hit.  The heat and the shivers.  Did I run a fuckin marathon then jump in the arctic lake?

What really got me is the GI pain.  Like an alien trying to tear up my GI wall without the beautifying skills of Edwards Scissorhands. 

There are the faintest hints of flashbacks of one-too-many-tequila nights with dignity drowned in the waves of leisure intoxication as I laid next to a public toilet.  Toilets and memories.

Or maybe it’s nausea that makes all of those memories.

I haven’t felt that awful since the induction chemo in Spain.

That was most of yesterday and last night.

Another day of Cyclophosphamide again.  Here we go.

Smiling is hard today.




Day -2

Everything’s a blur.

Ate 1/4 pack of oatmeal and Frosties.

Threw it up.

Day -1

Negative everything.

Nausea every waking moment.

No food or drinks were going in as I struggle to keep whatever’s already in me down.




Day 0

GI pain has been present since yesterday.  Might be a storm coming.

Stem cells arriving this evening and I’m told transfusion starts roughly 10pm. 

Typing this is tiring. 

I’m also feeling more emotional.  It might be how Fightworld was done but I choked up watching every episode, especially the episode on Senegal.

Did I eat?

Also, I never asked the doc this question but on Day 0 with no marrow, am I dead in a way? hmmmm




Day +1

Marrow didn’t arrive at the airport ’til about 11pm last night.  By the time the procedures were ready, I was transfused with my new stem cells at about 2:00am this morning.

You guys, I feel a little more HUMAN today.  It’s been 3-4 days of suffering.  I hardly admit to feeling sufferance so for me to describe the past few days as such, I ain’t exaggerating.  Every waking minute was filled with nausea and agony, the GI pain was constant while hunger persisted yet I couldn’t stomach anything. 

Despite all of that, I was craving tacos.  It’s been a weird ass few days and the worse I’ve felt ever.

This minute where nausea is a whole lot better and the GI pain is not as constant, I feel like I can lift my own spirits again.

I finally started eating again, which helps the hunger pain.

Spam was fucking delicious.

screenshot 2019-01-16 at 1.40.13 pm





Day +2

GI pain was bad today. 

1 Fucking panadol is all I get?!

And another pill that supposedly stops bowel activity?

Nothing worked. 

Just had to bear the pain throughout the night. 

I feel exhausted. 

Back to feeling like a sack of painful shit.






Day +3

Motivation is non-existent today. 

Didn’t feel motivated to do any exercises nor did I feel like writing or being social. 

It’s been a constant low mood for days now. 

Doc said I look upset. 


I’m in pain.  It’s hard to smile.





Day +4

GI pain increased massively from the minute it woke me at 4:30am. 

It’s draining and interferes with the ability to eat, it kinda feels like it’s causing nausea too. 

I’ve asked for stronger painkiller today and all doc said he’ll do is feed me the pill every 6 hours instead of 8. 

I don’t know why I can’t have something stronger.

3kg lost at this point.




Day +5

GI pain and nausea is now persistent. 

When this nausea hits though, I get a weird buzzy headache and no position is comfortable.  Still, have trouble eating.

I asked the doc today why I can’t have the morphine now for the pain and he said it’s because it causes constipation.  He reckons I’m gonna need morphine for mucositis and want to keep me on morphine as little as possible to ease constipation, despite me telling him I had a normal poo today. 

This morning weigh in, lost almost 4kg.




Day +6

A fever came on early this morning.  At one point, nausea, GI pain, headache and fever all present.  MAN.  This is one hell of a test

Hair loss started.

I had a platelet transfusion just before lunchtime and had an anaphylactic shock to it.  The last time I had a reaction this severe was unknowingly dining on an Indian dish that had cashew paste in it, despite the waiter insisting the dish is nut-free.  This reaction came on much quicker where my nose was completely and I could feel my throat swell.  I knew something was off when my eyes went “hitchy” (tiny swollen dots around the eyelids) but the nurses said it’s mild, that we will “wait and see” and left. 

I called the nurses’ station when my nose blocked up but no one came right away. 

So there I sat, wondering why they didn’t take me seriously.  Tremors set in and so did my instincts.  I pushed the emergency button and an assistant came in, greeting me in shock.  Only then did I feel the surge of panic and relief at the same time, as 3 nurses came right in to administer 2 doses of antihistamines and oxygen via nostrils, which was useless because I couldn’t breathe through my nostrils.  My doctor came for his round right about this time fortunately and able to see my symptoms fresh.  He ordered another shot of antihistamines and steroids.

Fever persisted with tremors and headache throughout the night.

It’s been a hell of a day.

post anaphalaxis



Day +7

I have woken up with tremors again early this morning, due to fever. 

Headaches stayed on since yesterday, I haven’t felt this weak since a week ago during the bad nausea days.

Also learned that I’m emotionally vulnerable.  The instant oatmeal I brought is one of the only things I can stomach for breakfast.  However, I had the same nurse who mistakenly told me heater is allowed this morning and she said I can’t have the oatmeal because it’s packaged in paper material.  I lost it.  I told her I can already barely eat anything now I can’t eat that either?  Tears came streaming down and I had a cry. 

I cried over oatmeal. 

I felt like such a child. 

She said she’ll have the dietitian come up to tell me.  I really don’t get the purpose of having someone else tell me the same thing.  I feel hungry and I can feel my throat starting to have a little swelling swallowing, which means mucositis is just around the corner and eating would be near impossible then.  But nooooooo, let me starve anyway.

For the past week, I’d have about 600 calories on a good day.  On a shitty day, barely 400 calories.  The aversion to the taste and texture of hospital food started when my nausea was really bad.  These few days, even spam and rice is a challenge to get down.  So seriously, oatmeal was saving my life.  Fuckers

Rash came back that looks like that same allergic reaction.  A nurse came in to take a look and started to asked if I would like some antihistamines.  FUCK DID YOU REALLY HAVE TO ASK? I am NOT gonna sit here and “WAIT AND SEE” again until this gets far worse to deal with.  I insisted I get some.

Is it obvious I’m losing my cool?




Day +8

Fever persists daily and nightly, so did headaches last night. 

I asked the nurse why can’t I have paracetamol intravenously since it reduces fever quicker, given it’s not a good idea for me to be in the state of fever for a long time.  The nurse agreed it does but I’m to have panadol for now until doctor approves other medication.  I then asked about painkillers for the headaches, and that I fear internal bleeding if the headaches doesn’t subside.  The nurse agreed that’s a concern but I’m to “wait and see”. 

I’m REALLY disliking this whole “wait and see”.  The most ridiculous thing I was told last night was that the nurse said for me to ask my family member to get those fever-reducing patches from the pharmacy for me.  ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? I’M IN A HOSPITAL AND I’M TO RELY ON SOMETHING OFF THE SHELVES AT MANNINGS?

Frustrated? Me? pfffftttt…

Hives got worse since this morning. By night, I was covered in angry hives all over my torso where they itch like crazy.  I knew they would always say wait and see so I waited for 75 minutes after they gave me a shot of antihistamines to tell them my hives didn’t subside but got worse instead. 

A nurse who came in said, “let’s wait and see”. 

I wanted to throw a chair at him. 

15 minutes later, I was due to go down for a CT scan to rule out brain bleeding, since my headaches have been persistent.  Once they saw how swelled my face was again, then only did they took action and gave me a shot of steroids before wheeling me down for my scan.  Steroids helped the itch a little but did nothing to subdue the hives.  They remained angry.

Here’s something I don’t get.  They go through all this trouble of ensuring I don’t eat oatmeal that’s packaged out of paper material because there’s the risk of pathogens.  BUT they have no problem leaving me in the hallway outside the CT scan room for 20 minutes where I’m exposed to all kinds of hospital bacteria before a porter was available to wheel me up. 

Confidence in my medical team diminishes by the day.




Day +9

Rudely awakened by the most debilitating pain all over my back and in my gut, plus a fever again.  I knew I had a fever when the assistant does his daily ritual taking temperatures at 6am.  So I had assumed that when the pills are delivered at 7am came, a Panadol would be present.  I asked about it and the nurse said he’ll check my temperature first.  But what he ended up checking was my temperature taken at 6am, not at 7am, which he came back to tell me at 7:15am that my temp was only 38 at 6am.  At this point, I don’t even feel baffled anymore by this lack of common sense and politely asked him to take my temperature there and then.  I asked him what it was, he said 38.9.  I replied, do I qualify for a Panadol now?  He said he’ll be right back with it.   My back felt like every muscle was spasming and twitching, no position felt painless.  The cramps took no breaks this time.  It’s like the Hulk’s in there holding on to my GI tract with constant tension and doing fucking “band-pull-aparts”, no fucks given, the fucker sustained constant tension for 3 hours.  I had asked for painkillers at 7am which is the same one pill that hardly works.  I gave up bearing it at this point and called for a doctor by 8:10am. 

Morphine was finally approved at a super low dose.  It helped mitigate the pain but not completely, I could still feel the cramps and muscle ache but at least there are breaks in between where I don’t feel it as much.  Doc is finally taking me off the antibiotics I was on when the hives broke out to switch to something else.  This should help us identify if the hives were a drug reaction of a hyperacute case of GVHD, since seeing signs on GVHD as early as day 8 is not common.  Steroids are also prescribed to help with the hives at a low dose.  The itch hasn’t gone away from the first shot of steroids.  Hives continue to spread all over my face, down to my palms and my thighs.  I HOPE AND PRAY they will have mercy on me and just up the fucking dose before I scratch my skin off. 

OH, they forgot my breakfast this morning.  I’m having the most charmed fate with this hospital so far.

Neutrophils are still low at 0.03.  I’ve been <0.10 for 6 days now.  Platelets are at 20 and possibly need transfusion again but there’s more discussion now whether they can hold off another day seeing how I already have this current reaction and fever.  My body is taking hit after hit, I’m praying hard it makes it out of this tornado gutter soon.

Hives kept spreading.  The steroids given ain’t as effective in easing the itch anymore.  I resembled a mountain bear wriggling on my bed like a tree trying to scratch my back while no fucks were given expressing that utter relief from scratching.   A hideous satisfaction.  Steroids were apparently already a high dose and only allowed every 24 hours, so we tried another oral pill and some ointment.  Nothing worked.  And since the doc couldn’t give me any more meds to ease the itching, I finally asked for something to help me sleep.  Doc said I could choose between a sleeping pill or Xanax.  I’ve never had a Xanax so decided to try it. Still itchy but waaaaay chilled. 

Take what I can.




Day +10

Felt groggy and itchy upon waking. 

After breakfast, a high fever crept up to 39.7 Celsius.

It’s a good thing the doc came earlier this morning so he could see my state.  I could hardly move in that state of fever, barely opened my eyes all morning. 

In fact, I barely remember what happened this morning, still groggy from all the meds combined.  But he finally agreed to my request of getting paracetamol intravenously instead of a shitty Panadol so we could reduce the fever as quickly as possible. 

He is also now more confident that hives are symptoms of GVHD, since removing most of the antibiotics didn’t seem to stop the hives from spreading thus ruling out drug reaction. 

If this is GVHD, I would be an unusual case of early engraftment, as engraftment typically takes 14 days.  Observation will continue, in the meantime, doc had up the dose of steroids to counter the hives. 

It’s still spreading and it’s still itchy. 

I worry about scarring but this itch is BAD. 

I can’t stop scratching.

Hey, mountain bear from Planet Earth, ‘sup bro.  How’s your tree?

just a bear scratching is back - imgur





Day +18

The past 8 days have been a blur of emotional and psychological hits. 

Hence the lack of daily updates.

The hives were a case of GVHD and uncommonly engrafted early.  I was put on double high dose of steroids for 5 days to be followed by another 5 days of high dose steroids.  They contained the itching after about 4 days although the reminiscences of hives remain visible until today, like haunting shadows of a nightmare. 

Laying in bed 99% of the day reminds me of the agony as my body is covered in little cuts and scabs from my powerful scratching.  I didn’t realize I rubbed hard too as my legs are also covered in little bruises.  It’s kinda maddening to know how hives, fever and headaches combined can make you lose all sense of self-control. 

I’ve been put on immunosuppressants which also drives my nervous system crazy.  The effects are feelings of raised HR, hot flashes, skin burning around the eyes and cheeks, a constant buzz that results in a CONSTANT quivering feeling along my respiratory system into my stomach.  I imagine that’s what chugging a triple espresso every hour would feel like, quiver-wise. 

It’s been a challenge taking a shower in an air-conditioned room during the winter with that quiver and actual shiver.  Now that my hair has completely fallen out leaving my scalp bald, the cold stings more.  Guess I’m never moving anywhere that’s cold most of the year…at least not ’til I grow a mop of hair again and live a life of fleece-robe-all-day-errday. 


There hasn’t been decent sleep in weeks.  Now with the addition of drug reactions, sleeping naturally’s nearly impossible.  I was given Xanax for 4 nights in a row but found that my mood was affected profoundly.  During the day, I was in a constant low mood, had no inclination to try smiling and didn’t feel like talking to anyone.  Texting my family updates even felt like a chore.  Was it a mild state of depression?  I really didn’t like it and went off Xanax.  Better to lose sleep than my mind, yo.  Then I tried sleeping pills and have been on it for 4 nights in a row.  The first few nights didn’t have any effect but last night had been the first night I had 4 hours straight of sleep in weeks. 

Could be an effect of no sleep and Xanax, could be a combination of being in isolation feeling like a sack of shit and wishing hard I never have to go through anything like this again… I binged watched both seasons of 13 Reasons Why and cried most episodes….It could be the content of the show too.  After 18 years, this is the second time I’ve cried over what I went through.  It was kinda therapeutic though I’m very grateful I feel strong headed, to begin with.  Being isolated in a tiny room watching a TV series that brings up your haunting past sending you down a spiral of emotional trauma is not something that anyone could deal with easily.  For this reason, I am SO GLAD I sought a therapist to talk through my experiences prior to the transplant.  I felt like I had cut opened that hidden scar and dealt with the underlying parasitical bacteria before nursing the wound to health again.  In a way, I felt like I was already prepped to be able to watch that show in isolation. 

I weighed in at 59kg upon admission.  This morning I weighed in at 53.7kg.  The steroids fluctuated my weight by 2kg about 4 days ago and my taste buds are a complete whack.  Hospital food texture and blandness repulses me, so does the thought of canned soup and tuna.  So I’ve been sticking to what I can stomach – spam with congee, oatmeal, instant noodles, Ribena juice and the occasional gummy candy for calories.  Prune juice tastes AWFUL but I kinda need it.  Brother Andrew got me some apple sauce…which I have yet to try because the thought of its texture makes me go “yuck”.  Oddly, my food fantasy has been southern fried chicken n’ waffles, tacos, Venezuelan arepas, pork belly bao, salmon teriyaki, General Tso chicken and soy honey chicken wings.  I’m in a weird picky state and I’m definitely missing that vegan soul.  I had dangerously entered this world of IG food trolling that is both satisfying and disturbing.  Ever heard of ASMR food?  Look it up.

Having ulcers (either GVHD or chemo side effect) all around the inside of my lips don’t help the process of eating either.  Today’s been better though, I actually finished my serving of oatmeal for breakfast and ate more than half serving of my spam and congee.  Small win.

Major muscle atrophy, since I’ve hardly left my bed.  Showers have been the most draining task yet.  But, I managed some pacing in my room today.  Making a U-shape pathway around the bed amounts to 12 steps in this tiny room and I did laps of that for 15 minutes.  Another small win. 

Plus, I’m logging again, particularly motivated after some encouragement. Thanks for the reminder BT.

Small wins FTW.



Day +19

Had a mini-scare when I saw the shadows of the hives brighter today, though they subsided as the day went on after my shot of steroids.  So this is the life of paranoia huh…

I finally started reading again.  Went on Amazon and downloaded a whole bunch of samples for my kindle-ciphering process.  It’s nice to do something without sound again.  I tried watching Homeland Season 5, Game of Thrones Season 1, True Detective, Fargo, Mr Robot, Castlevania, Greenleaf, Deathnote, and House of Cards Season 5 but none of them are really sticking.  I might have drama-ed out with all 3 seasons of Hannibal and 2 seasons of 13 Reasons Why back to back.  Drama-drained.  I’m down to the TV series tolerance level of Brooklyn Ninety-Nine and not a lick more serious than that. 


But reading again is nice.

Can we also address this trend in Korea where people film and record themselves eating slurpy and crunchy shit on IG?  I mean…COME ON!!! WHY CAN’T I STOP FUCKING WATCHING THEM??? #theRealHungerGame

images (2).jpeg






Day +20

Things are feeling a little better. 

Drug reactions are more tolerable or perhaps I’m just adapting and getting used to feeling the symptoms as part of everyday life. 

Energy levels improved and I managed to pace a lil’ longer up to an hour.

Appetite’s better too! Managed to have some tuna, first proper protein in weeks!

Steroids have been changed from IV to oral form.  Fingers crossed GVHD is still contained after the switch and that I can be discharged from the hospital soon.






Day +21

Despite the remaining marks of the hives, there hasn’t been any new rash.  That’s a good sign.

I still can’t sleep after being off of sleeping pills for 2 nights.  It’s kinda weird feeling tired but not sleepy enough to nod off.

Truthfully, my mind has been racing like Nascar gone wild.  Which is probably the real reason why I can’t sleep in addition to how the body’s feeling from all the meds.

Introduced breakfast cereal to eat with the nutrition shake from the hospital.  Cereal YUM. Shake YUCK.  But hey, I’m eating.  Things are good.






Day +22

I’ve finally managed to be less of a douche and replied to some messages. 

I don’t know why it feels tiring keeping up a conversation, maybe it’s because feeling like a sack of shit is draining.  Even when my brother visits 2x a week, I can barely keep up 15 minutes of conversation before feeling tired.  I know this will improve in time though, slow and steady. 

Bone marrow aspiration (BMA) and biopsy are meant to happen today.  It’s a big deal because that will tell us the % of leukaemia cells and % of donor cells in my body.

Finally watched the movie The Notebook.  Cried again.  But it IS a lovely story.

Another night of little sleep, probably managed to accumulate about 90 minutes.  Seriously, how is this possible?  3 nights of accumulated 2 hours of sleep and I’m not dozing off yet during the day? FFS

Had to top up another 110,000 HKD as part of the transplant care.  All in all since May, my Hong Kong hospital bill alone is about 1.5 million HKD.  I don’t even know how much my bill was in Spain back in April with the first hospitalisation and chemo. 

This shit is whack.






Day +23

BMA didn’t happen yesterday but hopefully today! I just wanna know!!!

They’ve switched my antiviral meds Valganciclovir from IV to oral which I will take twice a week now.  Hopefully, the steroids and immunosuppressants dosage will be lowered a little soon too and get these quivers slowed down.  I’m on Cyclosporin and Cellcept.

Bloodcount seems to be stable.  Platelets and ANC are within the normal range and have stayed that way for 4 days in a row.  AWESOME!!!

BMA finally happened later in the day.  It kinda felt surreal after having been through all that shittiness and finally feeling human, I’m back in that fetal position to be jabbed and prodded at the hip bone.  I think my mind is just going into hyperdrive.  Nonetheless, this round of aspiration and biopsy actually hurt a little more than the last two here in Hong Kong.  Ah well.  Still better than the experience of witnessing marrow being violently extracted by a panting doctor from your chest bone back in Spain!

images (1)




Day +24

I’m STOKED.  If no problem arises, I get to leave the hospital tomorrow!!!

Aspiration results came back showing blast result of <0.1 , which is great! Apparently, every normal human would show blast result of <0.1 so that’s not an alarming result.  What we gotta wait for now is the molecular lab result where we’ll see how much % of donor cells have engrafted.  That will take a lil’ longer, doc ain’t even sure how long, just said: “it will take a while”.

The wound from the aspiration and biopsy hurts, surprisingly.  It’d never hurt before.  Fingers crossed it ain’t anything.

So far, no additional symptoms of GVHD.  Itch came outta nowhere but there ain’t no signs of new rash, so we’re guessing it’s just from dry skin and a rush of blood circulation from me being more active these days.

I can almost taste real food.  There are so many cravings now I don’t even know where to start.  The good sign is that I’m hungry.  Dropped to 51.9kg this morning.  On hindsight, perhaps having gained that extra 5kg prior to admission prevented me from dropping to an underweight number. 

Who am I kidding though?  It’s all fat gained and muscle loss. 

Starting over, again #letsdothis

download (1).jpeg




Day +25


Despite itching most of the night and not sleeping a wink (again), there ain’t any signs of new rash or visible irritation.  For the next month or so, my doctor’s appointments are 2x a week with an IV med 2x a week as well.  From there on, the dosage of steroids should be at tapered down and eventually be off of them.  Things to look forward to.  I’m so done feeling buzzed, bloated and puffy from the steroids.

It’s been 39 days since I’ve been admitted and I haven’t felt this STOKED in a while!!! 

Bye bye, tiny 8x8ft room!!! 

See you never again please kthxbai





My Biggest Fight of 2018

A bone marrow transplant is finally happening.

This transplant chemo is the hardest ’bout yet and while the journey to recovering from a BMT looks long, challenging and financially stressful from another year of no work, it does come with the hope that my chances of surviving Acute Myeloid Leukaemia are boosted. 

I’m quite stoked for this big fight. 

As one imagines a big fight, there are nerves and fear of all kinds but there’s something worth the risk – HOPE.

Read more about what a BMT is here and why it takes 12-18 months to recover from it.  Anthony Nolan is an excellent resource with well-done multimedia to help us all understand the ever intimidating medical glossary.

I had the best time being catheter free for about 2.5 weeks before hospital admission again, largely because I was able to be back on the mats and freed up to train a lot more upper body movement.  Here’s a video compiled of the stuff I got up to.  Suffice to say I did enough to last me 6-8weeks of hospitalisation this round? 😛



Being in isolation ward this round means visitors are limited as are food, and so is my permission to leave this 8x8ft room, all for containment management purposes.  Despite that, I haven’t felt alone.  NO WAY POSSIBLE from receiving so much love and support from friends, family and online friends!  I have no idea what I’ve done to receive this kind of love.  All I know is I can’t wait to get better and show you guys some love back!

It looks like a Christmas and new year in the hospital this 2018 but I can’t be happier with my brother Andrew here.  We’ll make it digitally magical with lights and trees and songs 🙂

“What Can The Rest of Us Do?”


A continuation of the last video on why is it not easy matching bone marrow like blood type.



Now, what does deadlifting have to do with cancer?

Well, what do people running marathons, white collar boxing and growing moustaches have to do with cancer?

Same intention, different movement.

(and we’re suckers for public sufferings?)


Every year, $$$  is raised for research on breast cancer and Movember foundation’s umbrella of prostate and testicular cancer.  These aren’t just fundraising efforts within the US but the movement is strong globally. 

Simplistic symbols yet catchy for any company, non-profit, schools and individuals to jump on something PINK and MOUSTAUCHEY

We get to contribute to research without thinking further down the big “C” word.

Testimony that together, we can do so much more.  Admittedly, we can also use a little push and shove.  As well as a bit of research to avoid funding controversies.

To my friends in Asia, what can we do?

First, let’s establish what you’re raising funds for?

Cancer societies allocate their funds throughout patient care, patient support, some to research and some not.  Whereas more specific associations devote a majority of their funds to research.  Big picture – curable treatments.

For relativity sake, I will use Leukaemia Research in this post.

Next, identify what we have on hand.

1) Does your country have active researchers for blood cancer?


Many people like to support something local and have a greater sense of unity.  However, if your local blood cancer association does not do active research, don’t force it.  Just donate to the ones who are and have been for decades.  These are 4 that were recommended by a Haematologist from Australia.

Leukaemia and Lymphoma Society (USA)

American Society of Haematology

European Haematology Association

Leukaemia Foundation of Australia.


2) Does your country have a bone marrow/stem cell donor registry?


Bone marrow/stem cell transplant is a common treatment for many blood cancer and other diseases.  It is, however, not an affordable treatment compared to conventional chemo for many especially for those who do not have family members matched as donors.  This leaves them with the option of finding an unrelated matched donor, where the cost of the search and stem cell shipment alone can break your bank.  Countries like the Phillippines, Mozambique (and more I don’t know of), do not have their own donor registry and rely solely on imported stem cells.  Those donors typically share similar ancestries even though they do not live in the same country as the patient. 

In simple terms, just because I am of Chinese ancestry born in Malaysia doesn’t mean my potential donor match pool exists only in Malaysia.  Malaysia is not made up of only Chinese people with shared census being Malay, Indians and indigenous tribes.  But, there are TONS of Chinese people all over the world!  I also feel for my friends and family who are of mixed races and have only 1-2 kids and siblings.  Knock on wood but if shit hits the fan and they need a donor match with 1 to no siblings as a chance, I sure hope that there are many mixed-race donors on the registry EVERYWHERE.

Screenshot 2018-12-05 at 4.53.59 PM

In case you don’t know, donors and patients do not need to be in the same country throughout the transplant.  Medical advancements have made it possible for stem cells to be extracted in one country and shipped to another. 

So, you ain’t gotta fly anywhere.  You’re good.  You could save a life from a recliner while eating pizza 😉 



3) Do you organise non-profit events? In this case, you could run a fundraiser and/or a bone marrow donor drive.

Depending on the country, it’s more accessible to run BMD drives where saliva swabs are available. 

For example, Hong Kong’s BMDR is run by the Hong Kong Red Cross and they only do blood samples.  It is not possible for anyone to host a bone marrow drive unless they also host a blood drive, which is less accessible to run especially on HK island.  You need a place for the blood vehicle, x amount of power supply, space…etc. 

In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia however, saliva swab samples may be collected and booths may be set up anywhere.  Viva Vertical had recently hosted an open studio day to raise funds and make registering easily accessible to interested donors.

Solely fundraising?

There are creative ways to do so and no gesture is too small. 

Just last weekend in Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian circus production Cre Arts Asia sold the show’s professionally done photo albums with the majority of proceeds pledged for the Leukaemia Foundation of Australia.  I feel so honoured they chose to do that on my behalf.  Last month in Hong Kong, TRYBE organised an “open stage event” as a fundraiser for me.  We had an incredible line up of performers from various backgrounds.  At the end of the event, we had a member of the audience who came up to share his story being an AML survivor.  He was a bone marrow transplant recipient from an unrelated donor match, allowing him to be there watching his daughter perform.  It was an incredibly moving night.

Coming up this weekend in Hong Kong, this team of Tricia, Aussie, Ziggy and Helen will be running the Deadlift & Donate fundraiser collectively with the Warrior Goji family and my volunteering friends and family.  An open event for anyone in Hong Kong to demonstrate spirit in deadlifting while a fundraising page is set up for people to donate from anywhere in the world.  Proceeds will be split 4 ways to Aussie’s family and mine’s cancer fund aid and for research with Movember Foundation and Leukaemia Foundation of Australia.  Since we couldn’t get support for hosting a bone marrow drive, my family and friends will be volunteering their time to help answer questions pertaining to donating bone marrow and help you pledge donorship.  Big thanks to our friend Ivy at HK Red Cross for taking her own time out as well to furnish our team with the necessary information.    

Event details here:

If you have connections wherever you’re at but kinda stuck in coming up with new fundraising ideas, there’s no harm in taking inspiration from other campaigns.  It all goes back to the same cause!

Here are some examples:

Tap Cancer Out (USA)

Tap Cancer Out unites the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu community and empowers competitors to fight for more than just points and medals—they fight for those who are in the fight of their lives—and we’re helping Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation change the lives of children with cancer and their families by funding critical research grants and family services.

Screenshot 2018-12-05 at 5.30.30 PM.png

Leukemia Cup Regatta (USA)

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Leukemia Cup Regatta is a thrilling series of sailing events that combines the joy of boating with the important task of raising money to cure cancer. Since its inception, the Leukemia Cup Regatta has raised millions of dollars for lifesaving research and patient services, bringing help and hope to patients and their families.

U.G.L.Y. Bartender of the Year (Australia)

Throughout this quirky competition, bartenders and patrons embrace the Understanding Generous Likeable You spirit, raising funds in fun and fabulous ways in their venues.

Over the past nine years these creative venues and bartenders have raised nearly $12 million to help blood cancer patients and their families. In 2017, more than 1,450 venues across Australia raised more than $1.7 million for the Leukaemia Foundation and the industry is aiming to raise nearly $2 million in 2018.

All of these events are do-able in Hong Kong and Malaysia given the popularity of the activities mentioned. 


4) Do you not wanna organise anything but want use your skills to help somehow? 

PR/Marketing: help non-profits get the word out on their efforts

Sales: help fundraising organisations recruit partners and sponsors

Illustration/Graphic: help fundraisers come up with catchy and memorable symbols to identify with

Accountants: we always need you

Journalists: help narrate the lead-ups, the during and the results

Videographers, Photographers: help the world see what humanity looks like

On-Site Volunteers: help sustain that human connection and be the inspiration

Food & Beverage: we always need you too

Social Media Influencers: you can keep taking the beating for being “just influencers who stand for nothing” or you can start hitting back and practice what you preach in your inspirational quotes. 


images (2)

Does Being Young Mean Cancer Won’t Get You

“You’re young! You’ll be fine”

Dude, I FEEL fine.  I FEEL strong.




But I could parrot that all day and I still can’t stop the thoughts of “what the fuck if…”

I’m left with 2 choices: drown in those thoughts…

OR channel that shit and do something useful.  Hence the videos and incessant posts on it.

Cancer was something I hardly read up on prior to the diagnosis.  It’s one of those things where you don’t think you’d get but you still eat well and move well, with blinding faith that those are sufficient prevention.  Naturally, that explains why upon hearing I had Leukaemia whilst in the ER, I showed little surprise. I didn’t know what Leukaemia was.  The surprise crept in and morphed into a gentle giant shock when I googled it.  ThanksNoThanks Google.

SO, I’ve compiled a few misconceptions from my own as well as from comments/questions via social media.

“Only kids get it”

“It’s cureable”

“What is it, cancer?”

“You’re still young, it won’t kill you”

In this video, I also share about young adults from around the world and a 2-year old who has been diagnosed with the same type of Leukaemia – Acute Myeloid Leukaemia.  It also includes a little on bone marrow transplant.

The second video is about bone marrow donor matching and procedure in Mandarin.

Please watch and share if you find it useful.


My Summer Room of 2018

This Summer, I’ve checked in several times for a room with a view of Lamma Island.

Upon the last hospital discharge, here’s a little on how I get on with Geoff Bland at Joint Dynamics for the REBUILD & RESTORE journey (Chronic Disease Management).


Some of the shots filmed by Adam Tan.


SO GRATEFUL for Joint Dynamics!

I especially like their new spacious Taikoo location 😉

Nutrition & Training DO Matter for My Leukemia Journey

We ARE our worst critics, aren’t we.

There I was (still am), with more time on my hands. Yet, I lacked the discipline and drive to work on what it takes for better body composition (but I flippin’ do now!)  Some might joke that cancer should mean guaranteed weight loss but dude, that shit don’t last (neither is it healthy eh.)

Upon the diagnosis and first hospitalization in April, I DID lose weight.  Primarily because there was a week where I couldn’t eat anything and that on most days I could hardly get out of bed.  Hence, muscle atrophy.  With time I regained movement ability and appetite but boy did the body had a hell of a shock from this unconventional yo-yo diet. 

hair weight


I spent the month of May into June wrapped up in excuses, succumbed to the psychological toll from two hospitalizations at that point.  You’d think that being told you have cancer would boost that #kalelife attitude but frankly, I was giving myself permission to eat whatever tasted better than spinach and seeds.  Sure, I was exercising whenever I felt energetic to do so but compared to the number of activities that used to fill my day, the low-intensity exercises do little in managing 2018’s body composition expectations.  I also felt inadequately knowledgeable when it comes to how much exercise stress I could and should be enforced without affecting the body’s need to recover from Leukemia.  Like, seriously, what is considered “overdoing it” anymore?  The confidence I once had over understanding my body’s stress capacity had disintegrated.  And then, there are side effects from various drugs.  

So hello there, millions of new body fat.  Sayonara, ounces of self-esteem…



…I coulda-woulda-shoulda be kinder to myself.

(Yes, I am getting better at that….I think)

One of the lessons I’ve learned with a possibly shorten life is Thou Shall Not Wait For What Can Be Done Now.

Admittedly I could use some help.

I reached out to Andrew at JOINT DYNAMICS.  Why Joint Dynamics?  Well, they have personal trainers in a clinical setting, chances are they would have someone with experience working with folks in my situation, plus the environment seem way more conducive for my state.  Why Andrew?  I trust his character and ability to tell you as it is, yet mindful with empathy.  Also, I trust he wouldn’t “sell” me shit. (It’s disgusting how there are also lots marketed at cancer patients out there monetizing hope).  Andrew recognized what I needed and gave me full support.  I couldn’t have felt luckier.

Geoff Bland was introduced, as he had experience working with clients in Chronic Disease Management.  I appreciate how he took the time to get to know my movement capacity and work threshold while keeping himself up to date with how my blood count is affected.  It’s especially enjoyable when he recognized my liking for movement and task-based exercises, which gave me ample variety alternating between high-intensity and medium-intensity. 



Upon my second round back at JD after the last hospitalization, I noticed my blood count recovered at a quicker pace compared to the first round training.  It wasn’t until I marked up these tables below when I realised the comparison was better than I thought.

30 May (First day of CC1: consolidation chemo #1)






154-371 (units x10^9/L)

2.01 – 7.42.  x10^9/L

(reference for normal range)

June 15




Day after G-CSF, discharge from hospital

June 20




June 26


Started 1st training day

June 29




July 5




July 9




Day after G-CSF

July 12




Training Note: 6 sessions (2x a week) before admission again on 23 July

Hospitalization Nutrition Note:  Hospital food, junk food from 7-11


24 July (First day of CC2: consolidation chemo #2)






154-371 (units x10^9/L)

2.01 – 7.42.  x10^9/L

(reference for normal range)

Aug 2




Receive platelet transfusion, G-CSF

Aug 3




Day after platelet transfusion

Aug 9




Discharged from hospital

Aug 16




Aug 18

Started 1st training day

Aug 23




Sep 3




Sep 13



Blood sample post-workout, hospital admission day

Training Note:  9 sessions (2x a week) before admission again on 13 Sept

Hospitalization Nutrition Note: BIORNA QUANTICS prepped meals


Now, these aren’t journal-standard where it’s exact on day xx compared to day xx, since my blood work appointments vary but I can handle days being off by a couple.  What I noted with excitement is comparing platelet and neutrophil count between CC1: day 31 to CC2: day 32 – note the difference!

That gave me a surge of confidence that I’m on the right track *smiley face* *ecstatic face* *booyeah face*


I’m currently back in the hospital for the 3rd round of consolidation chemo and back on Biorna Quantics meals (which, btw makes a HUGE difference during hospitalization!).

Until I get discharged, there are plenty I’ve learned from Geoff and Andrew that I’m doing in the hospital room.  Project REBUILD & RESTORE with Geoff – exactly what I was looking for as a cancer patient struggling with physical and emotional side effects.



Most importantly, I’ve learned to accept that my current training goals are for good blood cell regeneration and “prepping” the body to withstand the next round of chemotherapy and/or transplant. 



Bone Marrow Donor Drive in Malaysia

SO PROUD of these humans I call family <3

THIS event is a fundraiser AND a bone marrow donor drive in Kuala Lumpur.

We’ve heard lots about blood drives but not so much about bone marrow drives.  Learn why bone marrow donations are needed to save lives HERE.

bone marrow ethnic donors
image from

Organized by Viva Vertical    |     See Facebook Event

“Inspired by one of our own, Emily Lola Tan, and her fight against Acute Myeloid Leukemia, Viva Vertical will be hosting an Open Day to raise awareness of a very important issue that has hit close to our hearts.

On the 8th of September, Viva Vertical will host pole and aerial group fitness classes that are open to newbies and members alike. A small bazaar with food and products will also be set up.

Most importantly, we will be working together with the Malaysian Stem Cell Registry to collect samples from volunteer donors. Not only can you be tested as a possible stem cell donor for Emily, but your details will also be added to the registry where you might be able to save a life one day and help countless others who love them. We hope to carry out 100 donor tests on this day, and we need your help to do that! SHARE THIS, INVITE YOUR FAMILY, FRIENDS, COLLEAGUES, TURN UP!

Below is the schedule of our Open Day:
1400 : Opening and Showcase by Viva Vertical instructors
1430 : Booth for Stem Cell / Marrow Donor testing opens (closes at 1630)

1430 – 1515 : Pole Taster
1430 – 1515 : Aerial Hoop Taster
1515 – 1600 : Pole Choreo (I) – All levels
1515 – 1600 : Cube Trio
1600 – 1645 : Pole HIIT
1600 – 1645 : Aerial Silk Taster
1645 – 1730 : Pole Choreo (II) – All levels
1645 – 1730 : Acrobatics by Tumble Star Gymnastics

*All classes except Cube Trio are suitable for beginners and members alike (please noted that taster classes are catered for those with no prior pole/aerial experience)

* We will be collecting a fee of RM35 for each 45 minutes class. All proceeds will be donated to support Emilys living expenses (70%) and to the National Cancer Society of Malaysia (30%)

* To reserve your slot for classes, please do send us a message on this event page or Whatsapp 0162096997

Bone Marrow Donation Drive
Image by

Cancer on Social Media

What I don’t tell you on my Facebook and Instagram posts…

… that I cried in bed alone last night, woke with swollen eyes feeling shitty, yet managed to pull myself together nonetheless because I was meeting Jonathan Fung at Warrior Hong Kong, who believed in me enough to offer his time. I can feel my time there streamlining a warrior spirit.

… that every time I think about my out-of-shape body and increased body fat, I feel another layer of defeat. It wasn’t until Andrew Cox of Joint Dynamics reminded me that my body has taken a beating, and still is, to be kind to myself, offering me solace and teamed me up with Exercise Physiologist Geoffrey David Bland, who has experience working with chronic care patients.

… that I often get stricken with worry when my heart rate increases so rapidly that I have to lie down. Sometimes, my heart rate increases for no apparent reason as I’m trying to fall asleep. One of the chemo drugs side effects includes affecting the heart. (Ain’t that some messed up shit. The only methods that help are the breathing and meditation exercises I learned from Gianni Melwani and Robert Morris Monroe , both were complete strangers yet I found myself trusting their kindness.

… that I often feel undeserving to receive. It’s all on me. I mean, these folks welcome me over and over to their community, yet I’m sittin’ here feelin’ incapable of repayment. On top of the folks I’ve mentioned above, it also includes Trybe HK family and Andres Vesga Movement Sessions. My soul feels torn – one yearning to be near tribe-mates while one feels inadequate to contribute. Ea Nitsche Holm never allows me to sink in that awful state, with her presence, her words and her actions. I think she really does have superpowers. Speaking of superpowers, Tracy Cheng channels Wonder Woman aura, not only keeping me connected with movement practice but constantly makes me feel worthy of to receive.

… that I cry every fucking day. Not just from sadness but when I’m moved. Continents apart yet there’s so much love felt from this incredible community of pole and love for flow movement. There are things that people have done in aid that I didn’t even know about at Viva Vertical Malaysia with Nana Shan Liew. Recently, Marlo Fisken is using her extensive social reach to raise awareness about bone marrow donation. This is fucking incredible – and I’m happy to cry about it.

… that I feel so fuckin embarrassed. Here I am, unemployed and essentially a charity case. I started doing odd jobs when I was 14, then started working after school when I was 15. I don’t really know what a typical American teenage-hood is like because instead of hanging at the mall and movies, I was working in restaurants and nail salons. (I think the reason why I passed Geometry in high school despite sleeping through the semester is probably because my teacher found out I work nights after school, so wait, that might have been charity case #1). Thing is, I’ve been independent for a long fucking time. Now…well…you might have been invited to join the group called Caring for Emily Lola Tan. My heroes Alix JamesJohn Wong and V Lea are relentless with support. They are the ones who got the FB group and fundraising campaign going. I AM FUCKIN DRIVEN TO GET BETTER FOR MY HEROES.

… that I share videos and photos of me moving and smiling because it is a way of reminding myself that I am not alone. All that I’ve been able to put out are results of people who motivate me with love. I don’t believe in lying to myself so I wouldn’t lie to y’all either, tryin’ to front like I’m all OK and normal, because I ain’t. 
That ain’t gonna stop me from putting myself out there, as an example of vulnerability. I’ve preached about having more meaningful conversations, so here’s to talking about perspective when living precariously #backingmyshitup

The intention of this video is to share that living in a hospital room for 18 days gets pretty demoralizing. I slapped myself out of self-pity several times when I am reminded that I am fucking LUCKY to have a room all to myself! With Biorna Quantics saving me with food, my brothers saving me with drills & skills, Teddy Lo & Dany saving me with nunchucks & yoga mat. I get to move in privacy and be cared for by a medical team. I am one lucky mofo.



Mind the Smashing

Today, I felt closer to myself. 


Let’s elaborate. 

It has been years of hearing the word “meditation”.  Of course, I was constantly surrounding myself with millennial stimulants  If it weren’t for Youtube, I’d have music on, or a podcast, or consume social media, or something else that doesn’t give the mind a break.  They were fillers for my commute from one mentally intensive task to the next physically intensive work.  It wasn’t considered a good day unless my schedule was packed.  The mindset then was about making the most out of each hour, that I must be doing something productive, smashing goals ALL of the time.  I never thought that I might have been TOO busy BEING busy instead of actually being productive, not until the recent years. 



Since the diagnosis of Leukaemia, I found myself being alone more.  That doesn’t mean being free from physical companionship but I mean being free from the noise of social media, career expectations, and the chatter between my two lil’ ears.  Appreciating silence is something I found surprisingly pleasant.  For example, I’d much rather be reading and writingtyping without Spotify’s “productivity music” in the background, even most mornings are now started with silence.  Just this week, I found myself not adhering to the habit of putting headphones on the minute I leave the crib.  Typically, I’d put on a podcast or music first thing in the morning and when I prance down the chaotic streets of Central, Hong Kong.  I also realized I had never been fully present in the most mundane tasks, like walking and eating. 

(Image courtesy of Headspace)


I started learning the practice of meditation somewhere in late 2015 via the Headspace app.  Whether or not they are successful practices, I don’t know and didn’t bother assessing.  I just assumed that if I put in the work each day, I should see results sooner or later.  Yeah, feel free to smack me for the nonchalant attitude towards it.  I’ve only put in more effort since summer of 2016 and had one memorable experience in 2017. 

That was one lovely morning on the beach of San Juan in Alicante, Spain.  I had gotten up early to catch the tram, eager in catching the sunrise.  The beach was quiet with a few morning dippers and joggers tracking by the lapping water.  I found a spot to sit, facing the ocean.  The practice started with a little unease, feeling self-conscious about being stared at.  Once that was addressed, the practice became effortless, and I felt something incredibly different.  I remember that feeling as much as I can until present.  

Today is the second time I’ve felt something like that experience, possibly even more impactful, given my current state – thanks to Gianni’s guidance.  I finally met him today, who I found so easy-going when I had changed plans on him this morning (these peaks and drops in energy levels are making me flaky AF).  There is a rare aura of non-judgemental presence about him which made it easy trusting what he had to share.  It could be the current state of mind that I’m in, it could be my already lack stimuli from recent observations, it could be G’s aura and/or it could be something else entirely different.  Frankly, I don’t mind not justifying it.  Dude is legit.

I feel calm.  I feel light.  I feel at peace.  I feel no need to smash anything (metaphorically).

Sunrise at San Juan Beach, Alicante

Immensely grateful to have received such generosity from G, from Dee , and from Andrew, (who had both sung praises of G, also, I don’t know if he likes being referred to as “G” btw. *shrugs ).  They are souls who shared experiences that I see myself practicing for a LONG time, who have dug deep and seem to know how to #LoveHard .

Thank you again, amigos.

*Please click on their names and get to know them

If you’re like me and had once thought “yeah I’d like to try meditating but I just don’t think I could sit around that long, thinking of nothing”… no harm trying out guided apps or seek someone who can guide you in person.  I started with Headspace‘s 10 free sessions, found value in it and paid its subscription fee.  Come on, if Hulk can do it, so can you 😉

by TerryMooreArt on DevianArt


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