Assisi Hospice

Words of wisdom from the dying: ‘Block out those who hurt you, stay positive’

published by Straits Times on April 11, 2024
Ms Haslina Wannor has systemic sclerosis, an uncommon autoimmune disorder that causes the skin and connective tissues in the body to harden. Photo by Straits Times.

At age 29, Ms Haslina Wannor was diagnosed with systemic sclerosis, an uncommon autoimmune disorder that causes the skin and connective tissues in the body to harden.

Nine years ago, her condition worsened, and she developed advanced pulmonary arterial hypertension, which affects the lungs and can lead to serious complications such as heart failure.

Now 44, she needs a supplemental oxygen supply from an oxygen concentrator 24 hours a day.

She used to work as a phlebotomist in a hospital, drawing blood from patients for medical tests. She has been a patient herself and has seen many patients come and go.

She says staying positive helps her live with conditions that like a “time bomb” that could explode at any time.

“The people whom I have lost seemed to deteriorate fast when they lost hope and their desire to live was gone. I believe my positive outlook and thoughts have helped me,” says Ms Haslina, who spends three days a week at Assisi Hospice in Thomson Road.

“You have to accept that this will be the end of your journey. If I didn’t accept my illness, I would still be having negative thoughts and focused on dying. It took quite a while for me. It was chaotic.”

When adversity strikes, her advice is to “take your time, cry, but don’t delay getting the motivation to move on”.

“You can focus on how you are going to use the time you have left wisely. You can design or curate your end and settle your affairs.”

The mother of an 18-year-old daughter adds: “My positivity also helps other patients. Some elderly patients, for instance, don’t have anyone to talk to, but I like to listen to them.”

In her journey, Ms Haslina has also learnt the importance of self-care. “It’s hard to learn that, when you’re at your lowest point, people run away,” she says. “I used to be a people pleaser, but I was hurt when I ignored my own feelings to please others. I’ve forgiven whoever hurt me, but I’ve also blocked may people.”

In recent years, Mr Haslina, who finds solace in her Islamic faith, has been supported by clinical care, therapy and other services at Assisi Hospice, where she takes part in activities such as leather craft and painting.

“I found my talent and creativity at Assisi Hospice. I have this sense of joy and achievement. This is God’s gift to me, and I wish to give back. Make full use of your talents, which can bloom at any time, for the benefit of people around you,” says Ms Haslina, who has made leather bags and painted postcards for sale to support the hospice.

“Appreciate every little thing that is given to you. I’m so thankful to God, whom I thank for every breath,” says Ms Haslina. She routinely uses a six-litre tank of supplemental oxygen which lasts about 90 minutes before it has to be replaced with a new one. A larger oxygen tank, which contains several hours’ worth of oxygen, is used at home.

“I didn’t think to give thanks until I had to buy oxygen to breathe,” she says.

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