Grateful Endings, Faithful Beginnings

It starts, with this.

A fairly normal morning at work. I was feeling anxious then, more focused on the fact that I needed to get my boss’ signature on my leave form just so I could book the flights tonight.

Halfway writing down plans for a particularly sick patient, my colleague beside me suddenly laughed. He said my name then, and I hadn’t really focused on what it was that he mentioned. After a while it suddenly hit me.

“Nicole, Nicole got Likas! Wow, SWACH!”

… Wait, what?

I froze, my hands stilled, and suddenly I couldn’t write down the things that I was supposed to during rounds.

“What about Sarvin?” Shit, this isn’t going according to our plans. Maybe he’ll get Kota Kinabalu too— Desperation— Hope—



After spending nearly 7 years together, in the same class, the same group, the same posting— It was a shock to know that we would be separated for the first time after so long. I spent that entire morning in a daze, unsure of what I felt, unsure of what to do.

I was happy that I got the department of my choice — Paediatrics. And yet shocked that I had gotten Likas, seeing as how I did not even apply to that hospital. The thought of going to Likas was terrifying and alien. I’ve heard so many stories about that place and they did not inspire feelings of happiness.

On the other hand, it was a good training centre, (if I survive the tough parts), and would eventually be a good start to continuing Paediatrics!

And yet— It would be far easier to stay at HDOK, and I could still be with Sarvin! But—

Oh, so many buts and maybes and what-ifs—

It’s surreal. It’s a change.



Man proposes, God disposes. It’s a fairly common saying in my household, one my Mum often used whenever we had plans for something, and yet never went through.

A more biblical version would be this:

A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.  Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV) 

We had plans, we had a dream, and now

Lord, guide us, lead us, carry us through.



There’s sorrow in my heart, of unfinished plans and distress of not fulfilling what I’ve wanted.

It’s not as if I’ll be away forever, it’s only a short flight distance away. Yet it’s the sentiment that remains, that I will not drive pass this roads on a daily basis. That I cannot simply think in my head, maybe I’ll go to RDC today, but did not go. Maybe brunch at the Agnes Keith House, and yet did not. I’ve not even gone to the main attraction at Sandakan — Sepilok, and isn’t that laughable.

It’s the thought that I would not have the luxury of making whimsical plans that pains me.

I could always come back, yes, but it isn’t quite the same anymore. It becomes a trip, a planned activity of weekend fun. It’s different.

There are small stalls and delicious food that I’ve not explored. There are so many hidden treasures in Sandakan that I’ve yet to try.

2 years seems like a long time, and yet, I’ve squandered it away, and have not explored enough. I had thought that I would have years more in this place. But what did I know? I did not expect to be placed in a new city.

In my new home,  I do hope I’ll have the time to explore it the way it should be explored. Till then, I guess, it’s goodbye Sandakan. Thanks for having me, thanks for taking care of me. It was a good two years with you. I’ve never regretted the decision to work here. It has been amazing. 

Here’s to celebrating the end of a chapter, and the beginning of entirely new adventure.


Day 4 – Why You Gotta Be So Mean

Day 4 of tagging in the Surgical department and it has been an exhilarating experience. It has been a tremendously enlightening experience, and I’ve learned so much in just a few days and yet I know that it’s not enough, far from enough and that I’ll learn even more and more each day.

The days are long and tiring but I get the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve finally begun the journey of becoming a better doctor than yesterday. Each and every day is a learning process and I’m enjoying it.

It can be terrifying, doing new things on the go, with little preparation. I find myself clueless, fumbling for answers and generally trying to get things done while being completely stunned by the responsibility I’m holding.

What a strange, new experience.

I’ve been feeling so stressed up by the amount of things I do not know and I’ve been struggling and trying to do things right. Eventually this emotion overflows and I cry.

Getting yelled at after crying and chased away from the wards isn’t a nice feeling as well, but I suppose every new HO will feel this way at some point in their journey to becoming a good doctor.

I will persevere. Each day is a new day, and I’ll become better than yesterday.


Fight on, dear self.




Day 0 – HO Life

Dear Self,

Today is the first day for you in Sandakan. It’s the first time you’ve set foot in Sabah, and it’s been an interesting journey already despite it being just the first day here. No details will be shared publicly, but you know how hard it has been today. And it’s only the beginning.

On Wednesday, you’ll be starting on your job. This job that you’ve been preparing yourself for, these past seven years. It has been grueling, tiresome, and I want you to remember where and when it all begin. You need to remember the steps that you’ve taken to reach this point. You need to remember—

Because when times are hard, remember that you’ve gone through difficult times before and each time—

It has only made you stronger.

Let’s begin.

Right after SPM, you were given two scholarships, two choices, and both very different. Were you going to embark on a journey to become a doctor and study in India? Or were you going to be a teacher, and study Literature in the UK? Those were the choices given to you, and both of them were your passions. You have always wanted to be a doctor since you were a child, and as you grew older and developed a bond with reading and writing, you have also started to dream about studying English Literature. And God has blessed you with the choice of selecting a path to either one of your passions. It was a tough decision. Do you remember how many sleepless nights you had as you contemplated on which choice you would take?

In the end, you chose Medicine, mostly because the chance to become a doctor wouldn’t have been possible without the scholarship, and to obtain it was a miracle, a blessing, and you didn’t want to lose that chance.

From that moment on, you sealed your fate. You chose this journey.

We move on to those two years of pre-med in INTEC. One of the most amazing times in your life, a transition period, a ‘getting-to-know-yourself’ phase. In this part of your life, you took a step of faith, you chose to change yourself in ways that you never knew you could. Despite all the ups and downs that you encountered, you haven’t had any regrets as these experiences has only made you stronger, and I want you to remember that.

Ah, what memories. From dissecting bodies during Anatomy lessons, crying over Biochemistry, staying up the whole night to study to struggling with the Kannada language—

There has been so many amazing, crazy, strange moments during the first two and a half years in Manipal. I cannot recall a time when you regretted this choice to take Medicine at this point in time. Perhaps you griped about it as you tried memorizing information in textbooks. And yet—

It wasn’t a regret.

You were always filled with gratitude, with joy whenever you were able to interact with patients. You adored talking to patients whenever you could. You still remember that child that you were taking care of in the Paediatrics ward in Karkala don’t you? You’ll never forget his smile when he got better and overcame pneumonia. Those are the moments that you cherish, those are the moments that you remember when times are hard. You made a small difference just by being there, and that matters to you.

Coming back to Melaka and heading off to the hospital every day has been interesting. Diseases encountered here back in your homeland is slightly different. You begun to learn about the hospital protocols, about ways to take cases.

You had some regrets at this point. When it got too hard, you would say, “Ah, why didn’t I pick Literature instead?”. And yet, if you had done so, you wouldn’t have met the love of your life, you wouldn’t have met your beautiful friends, you wouldn’t have gone through breakups, heartaches, and you wouldn’t have become the person you are today.

So you persevered. You toughened yourself up. You learned, despite it being so difficult.

Despite being yelled at, despite being hit. You persevered and learned.

Exams were hard, lecturers could be cruel, you cried a lot. You struggled.

And yet, there were the good days when a few would pat you on your back, hug you and spoke to you. Your love held you in his arms, and he helped you through the dark days as well.

You struggled through medical school. Indeed you struggled.

And yet—

Everything would be eased yet again.

How so, you might say, when you read this back on a terrible day.

I want you to remember then, the feeling that you get after you’ve worked hard. The absolute joy that you feel when you’re able to help patients, when you’re doing your absolute best. When patients thank you, when they smile at you, when their hands shake yours with such gratitude.  I want you to remember why you’re doing this, why you still chose this path.

You have always loved Medicine, loved being a doctor. Your ultimate joy comes from assisting those who need help. Those who have come to seek your help.

There might be those who are ungrateful, who yell at you. There will always be someone who isn’t satisfied despite the fact that you’ve done your best. There will always be hatred when you try to counter with kindness. But don’t let that get you down too much, don’t let them win.

So, let me remind you yet again on your love for this field. Don’t forget those who gave you a smile, a kind word, and blessed you when you told them that you were going to be a Doctor. When that Pak Cik says, “Saya doakan untuk kamu ya dik.” When that Auntie says, “Thank you Doctor.” When the Mother says, “My child hasn’t smiled since he got sick, but you made him smile again.” Those are the moments you will always remember. Those are the moments that give you strength. Those are the moments—

Never forget those who held your hand, thanked you for helping them, and gave you a smile. Never forget the sacrifices your parents made to get you to this point. Never forget the blessings of God that has led you here today. Never forget your family, your relatives who has prayed for you each and every day. Never forget that life is always hard, and there will always be the good and the bad in every situation—




In the darkness, there will be light. There will always be suffering, there will always be hurts, there will always be troubles. But no matter what, there will also always be those who will stick by you, there will always be a beautiful end.

Never give up, never surrender.

Remember why you chose this path, remember your passion for the job, remember your love for helping others, remember the joy you feel on doing your best—

Always remember.



9.20pm, 30th May, 2016.