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Story of a Pharmacist with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

23 Aug 2017

On a bright, sunny Saturday morning, the alumni office took the opportunity to meet up with an alumna, Chia Shui Yee who graduated with the IMU Bachelor of Pharmacy (Hons). Shui Yee’s story started with an offer from Singapore to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree. But after weighing the pros and cons, and taking into consideration the financial cost involved, she decided to go for a degree in Pharmacy instead as it would give her a better edge over a degree in Science even though they cost the same amount of money. With that, she began her journey at the International Medical University (IMU). Her passion for medicine and pharmacy developed throughout the pharmacy programme in IMU thanks to her lecturers such as the late Dr Mak Kok Fee, A/Prof Er Hui Meng and A/Prof Kang Yew Beng. While she was enjoying herself as a student, the most unfortunate incident happened – non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma which usually only happens to the older folks developed and it robbed her of her sight.

The illness was misdiagnosed initially due to her age. It took more than a year before a doctor finally found out what was wrong with her. Chemotherapy immediately ensued and lasted for about 6 months, by which time she had already lost her vision in one eye. Today, she is completely blind and yet, she functions like any other normal adult with a little help.

It was heart-breaking to hear Shui Yee’s story as she recalls the challenges that she has gone through with the illness. As she became blind in her adulthood, there were a lot of adjustments required in her daily life. She needs special software and equipment to help her cope with her work. One of the major challenges is that the 24-hour disease only gives her a good night’s sleep for 2 to 3 days out of a month. This has resulted in her having to put in extra effort to stay awake at work compared to the rest of us. Also, one of the side effects of the chemotherapy is having to take steroids as part of the treatment. As a result, Shui Yee is also suffering from osteopenia, a condition where the bone density is lower than normal peak density, making them weaker and increasing their risk of breaking. In fact, on one occasion, she was bed ridden for 2 months due to a fractured rib from a cough that she was having. Although she gets help from the Malaysian Association for the Blind (MAB) in terms of becoming independent in her daily life, such as taking the train, going up and down the stairs, etc, she still feels inadequate in that she is not as independent as some of her other blind friends. But all is not lost, Shui Yee maintains her positivity through all the hardships with her strong faith in God and she balances herself by learning to play classical and acoustic guitar. Her parents also played a big part in supporting her through thick and thin. She truly appreciates her mother’s effort in bringing her to every lecture, buying her lunch, not to mention the full support her parents have given for every decision that she has made.

Despite all the challenges, Shui Yee has had some very fond memories about her time in IMU. She happily recalls how her batch mates helped her when it came to filling in application forms, one of them helped her to revise the entire syllabus right before the exam, and the lecturers gave her extra classes and extra time to complete her exam.

As Shui Yee was the first case of having developed her disability midway through the course, the management of IMU has given her the full support by installing the necessary applications and software that would helped her in completing her tasks as a student. She was really thankful for all the help that have been extended to her by everyone in IMU. She has since graduated and as at March 2017, Shui Yee has completed her training and is due to be receiving her FRP registration. Although her journey has taken much longer in time, she has never once ever thought of giving up this journey. She is simply thankful that the government has taken care of her by giving her a job despite her disability. She strongly believes in the motto of “Never give up as you don’t know what is going to happen in the future. Whatever that you are worried about now probably wouldn’t even matter in a year’s time”.

Every one of us in IMU is rooting for you Shui Yee! Keep going and stay strong!

Testimonials from IMU Lecturers

A/Prof Er Hui Meng
“Shui Yee is an example of someone who stands up tall after falling down.  I am blessed to have had the opportunity to support her through her difficult times during her journey in IMU, and continue our friendship after she graduated. Her perseverance and determination to be a pharmacist has really impressed me throughout the years.  She is a great exemplar to all IMU students, of the essence of IMU core values “TRUST”, which stands for Trustworthy, Responsibility, Unity, Service and Tenacity.”
 A/Prof Kang Yew Beng
 “Shui Yee is a tenacious young lady who was diagnosed with a life-altering disease. I recall her soldiering through the pain of her illness and was not fazed by the challenges involved, even when the doctors broke the news to her. Through Shui Yee, I have seen how the university, staff, and students had been affected by this one individual. The staff banded together to provide policies and assisted mobility and reading facilities when she was unable to walk unaided. Her classmates rallied around her and it generated a generation of selfless and emphatic graduands from the School of Pharmacy. “

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