When life with Duchenne is hard, I remember the value of friendship

Side effects from medication tapering force a columnist to make a tough decision

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by Shalom Lim |

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During the month of March, I took a break from writing my column because I was experiencing withdrawal from recently tapering off an antidepressant and a steroid medication, which took a toll on my mental and physical health.

The withdrawal symptoms aggravated my comorbid attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder and caused fatigue and insomnia. They also triggered the devastating return of allergic reactions I often suffered from as a child and as a teenager, such as hay fever and severe body rashes.

As my quality of life and well-being rapidly deteriorated over the past couple months, I unfortunately had to make the difficult decision to leave my job at K9Assistance, a charity here in Singapore that promotes the use of assistance dogs by disabled individuals. I decided that I’d been unable to deliver my best work since the start of the year, due to ups and downs in my health. Ever since my caregiver Glenda fell ill about this time last year, I’ve been experiencing a lack of focus, and my productivity has slowed down.

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Sometimes living with Duchenne is simply too hard

A painful setback

Leaving a job I love and am passionate about due to circumstances beyond my control breaks my heart. It’s a bitter pill to swallow. It was my first real experience in the workplace and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with my supervisor, who is an assistance dog advocate and a guide dog handler whose advocacy journey I’d been following since I was in high school.

Not only did she take a chance on me when no one else would, but she also provided me with several other opportunities I could only dream about, such as joining the board at the Disabled People’s Association in Singapore.

I didn’t think of my job as work but rather a call to serve and support others facing accessibility barriers in Singapore, including those of us with Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

This month, I’ll be handing over my duties to my successor and preparing for a future role as a board director at K9Assistance, which is slated to happen after the end of our financial year, in July.

So, while I’m devastated to be leaving my job as a community partnerships executive, I’m comforted by the fact that my commitment to and involvement in the cause of assistance dog acceptance and inclusion in Singapore will continue in the future, albeit in a less hands-on capacity.

Renewed hope, thanks to lasting friendships

A couple weeks ago, after notifying my supervisor of my decision, I visited the office for one last time as an employee to celebrate her birthday with my colleagues and our chairperson. He told me he would like to host a team gathering after I leave to honor my contributions over the past year and a half. His kind gesture touched me, as I didn’t feel that as a part-time contractor I had given the organization as much as my full-time co-workers had.

It was a bittersweet evening as I reflected on my time with K9Assistance and the new family I’ve made. We had a lot of fun that night. While I will need a few weeks to get over this difficult period in my life, I’ll forever cherish the beautiful memories and the lifelong friendships I’ve made with like-minded, kindred spirits.

Despite my never-ending struggles with Duchenne, the power of friendship has reminded me once again that life is still beautiful and worth living.

Note: Muscular Dystrophy News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Muscular Dystrophy News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to muscular dystrophy.


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