Cataracts at 29

“I’m afraid you’ve got a cataract in your left eye – right in the middle of the lens, which is why it’s bothering you. But it’s very treatable…”.

My heart sank when the diagnosis was read out to me. The doctor was reassuring, but at this point, my mind was already wandering. I was upset and clearly distraught, but at the same time slightly relieved that it wasn’t something worse. And I’m only 29 this year – a bit too young to be getting cataracts, the doctor added. Thankfully, my right eye was perfectly fine.

Earlier this year, I noticed my vision deteriorating in my left eye. It worsened dramatically around May and a quick visit to the Tan Tock Seng Hospital Eye Atrium cleared all doubt.

So I’ve got a cataracts – now what? This is my story of the events that led to the day of the surgery, the decisions I made, and how I am coping post-surgery.

What is a cataract?

A cataract is the clouding of the natural crystalline lens that you have in your eye. The result is cloudy and hazy vision. It normally develops in people over the age of 40 and is actually part of the aging process. Can it be prevented? Not really. What causes it? Exposure to UV light, use of steroid medication and injury to the eye, among others. In case, it was likely caused by years of topical steroid usage, to treat my eczema. The only way to treat a cataract is to replace the natural crystalline lens that we’re all born with, with a plastic lens implant. More on that later.

Fore more information, check out this link:

Living with cataracts

Looking through a cataract is like looking through a window smeared with Vaseline. As the cataracts worsened, so did my perception of depth. Staring head on into bright lights was unpleasant – headlights appeared as bright orbs of lights. Minor annoyances include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Difficult to use chopsticks
  • Mild disorientation
  • Losing track of the computer cursor/pointer
  • Misreading emails
  • Can’t look out through my DSLR’s viewfinder (yes, I use my left eye)

Bringing balance to the force

Getting a cataract in one eye – just one eye – which is uncommon but not rare – can be a tricky thing, if you’re wearing glasses. In my case, the question of what to do about the ‘good’ eye became a point of much contention and deliberation, and there were two possible outcomes in achieving balance in vision:

The ‘I want to continue wearing glasses’ way

I could decide not to ‘disturb’ the good eye and get a lens implant in my left eye that is slightly myopic (short-sighted). I’ll still need to wear glasses.

The ‘I want to be free from glasses’ way

I decided to take this route – and it involves implanting an artificial lens that has a diopter adjustment to correct my eyesight to perfect vision. To achieve balance in my other ‘good’ eye, I opted for LASIK. I had to have a barrage of tests done to my right eye to determine if I was a suitable candidate for LASIK. I was much relieved to know that I am a very good candidate. More about LASIK here.

The day of the eye-opening experience

I reported to the day surgery center at Tan Tock Seng hospital and was accompanied by my cousin, who kindly took her day off to see me through the day and to accompany me home (it’s a hospital requirement) and for whom I’m grateful for the emotional support. Not before long, I was dressed in the surgical gown and wheeled into the theater, had a heart monitor stuck to my chest and a tube inserted up my left hand to deliver some kind of intravenous muscle relaxant, I think.

“Nervous are we?”, smirked the anesthetist. “First surgery ever? Don’t worry, you’ll be fine!”. Good try doc – you really know how to calm my nerves.

I was then wheeled into the operating theater, this cold sterile room with bright lights (Ouch! More bright orbs of light!) that is more reminiscent of a morgue. After transferring over to the operating bed, and getting a sheet draped over me with just a hole for the eye, alarm bells started sounding off in my head. Obviously, I was nervous, so the good doctor instructed the anesthetist to up the dosage a wee bit more, and soon I was feeling alright again.

The sensation was that of having some sharp instrument poking into the side of eye, but I felt no pain, albeit very slight ‘prodding’ of something metallic into my eye and administering of additional drops of what I believe to be local anesthetics (they issued dilating drops much earlier – drops to dilate your pupils, hence making it easier for the surgeon to see into your eyeball). Not before long, the orbs of light were no more – in that they now appeared as random blobs of light with very little definition. I am guessing – and I may be wrong – that at this stage, the natural crystalline lens was either broken up via phacoemulsification (use of ultrasonic waves to break up the lens), or the lens was completely removed.

A bit of prodding here, and a bit of prodding there, and at some point, the intra-ocular lens implant was inserted into my eye. Then the surgery was over. For me, the 10 to 15 minutes it all took seemed like forever.


Recovery was fast – an hour after leaving the hospital, I could already see, albeit slightly our-of-focus. This is because my pupil was still dilated. I was given strict instructions – not to rub my eye, not to bend over (can’t have the lens implant sliding out of my eye, according to the nurse), and not to carry heavy objects. And of course, there was the usual medication, consisting of antibacterial and steroid drops, and an eye-shield to wear when I sleep (to prevent rubbing of eyes during sleep).


Post cataracts surgery, I had my LASIK surgery done slightly over a week later. It was a great relief, because before undergoing LASIK, I had to rely on just my left eye to see, which in the interim was pretty challenging because of the visual imbalance between the two eyes.

And to add on to an already burdensome situation, I was long-sighted in my left eye, and short-sighted in my right eye. In other words, I could only see something if it was either about three inches in front of me, or two meters away. I couldn’t see anything in between without the help of reading glasses.

LASIK brought back my near vision, but that was effectively only through one eye – my right eye. For reading and computer use, I am currently using a pair custom-made multifocals in place of my generic off-the-shelf uber ugly ‘old man glasses’. My left eye is ‘tuned’ permanently for distance vision – the lens implant is what some might call a ‘non-accommodating’ lens, because it doesn’t flex the same way our natural crystalline lens does when focusing. For everything else, I’m practically glasses-free.

My ‘old man’ reading glasses.

Vocational reading multifocals

Life is still good. 🙂



The First Week of the New Year

The first week of the new year came and went quickly. I will be spending less time blogging about my personal affairs and will instead switch my focus to what I love the most; photography and technology. These two topics have become somewhat intertwined and inseparable in this digital era, so it’s only natural that the topics may criss-cross.

Here’s to an even better year than the previous year. Let us welcome the year of the horse!

A Fuegokoori Evening

It had been quite a while back since I attended a musical event in Kuching. The last one I attended was organized by the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra during one of their concert tours in Kuching last year. So when I heard about a classical trio making a tour in East Malaysia which would see them perform in Kuching, I immediately pounced at the opportunity without hesitation. I suppose Kuching isn’t exactly at the top of the ‘must-go-to-perform’ lists of most musicians, which is a pity really, but at least I can see that is changing in recent times.

It was a classical and mesmerizing evening as we were treated to a performance by the Fuegokoori trio, who performed a selection of masterpieces composed by the famed virtuoso Nicolo Paganini to the versatile Joe Hisashi whose work I got to know about through the Japanese animation ‘Spirited Away’. The Fuegokoori trio is comprised of Malaysian violinist Yap Ling, American cellist Robert Sang-Ung Choi and Singaporean guitarist Dominic Wan. To say that they performed admirably well would probably be an understatement, considering – myself as a member of the Sarawak Symphony Orchestra who finds some pieces so frustratingly-difficult to play – that they made playing the said pieces look like trying to cut a block of butter with a hot knife.

As I recounted the moment the trio played Hisashi’s ‘Memory’, I recalled how Robert’s fingers ‘danced’ up and down the cello’s fingerboard. Equally enchanting was how Dominic Wan expressed himself with, as with the other pieces, playing Sevilla by Isaac Albeniz. I was particularly hypnotized by Astor Piazzolla’s ‘Oblivion’ too. The trio just made it look so effortless, like a duck jumping into water.

Left to right: Robert Sang-Ung Choi (cello), Dominic Wan (guitar), Yap Ling (violin)

My hope for the future is that there will be more musical tours to Kuching, as indeed while the number of individuals who appreciate classical music is still small, the numbers are certainly growing.

More Information About The Fuegokoori Trio

Fuego means “fire” in Spanish, whereas koori means “ice” in Japanese. Fire and ice represent extremes as well as the fiery energy that comes out when they are put together. Since the first concert of cello and guitar in 2003, Fuegokoori has produced two “live” CDs and plans to record its latest with the newly established Fuegokoori Trio, featuring violin, cello and guitar.

Now an internationally-acclaimed ensemble, Fuegokoori explores crossovers of extreme emotions and soul-searching themes, featuring obscure works of more celebrated composers like Paganini, Sarasate, Piazzolla and de Falla, directly contrasted with works by leading Japanese and Chinese composers like Mayuzumi Toshiro, Zhou Long and Joe Hisashi. Experience the refreshing juxtaposition of Asian calm and tranquility with flamenco’s exuberance and fire.

More information can be found at

Facebook Page:

Additional Note: Many thanks to Mr. Yap Ling for allowing me to take the photos.

More photos can be downloaded here.

A Musical January

This month will be a musical one indeed. See below for the following masterclasses and concerts. Tickets can be obtained from Classic Music Conservatory (CMC) in Kuching. Please contact Mr. Brian Lee for details (0 12-886 3588). Details on the concert and venue as shown below.

Fuegokoori Trio Comes to Kuching!

Venue: MBKS Kuching South City Hall Auditorium
Date: 16th January 2013
Ticket Price: RM 30.00
More Information:


Stars of Today & Tomorrow in Concert 2013

Venue: Classic Music Conservatory
Date of Concert: 27th January 2013
Date of Masterclass: 28th January 2013 (morning)
Concert Ticket Price: RM 30.00 (students), RM 50.00 and RM 100.00 for adults.
Masterclass fee (Dr. Nicholas Ong – Piano, James Dong – Violin): RM 250.00 per hour.


Christmas By The Mall

It has been quite a while back when I took these pictures, just before Christmas to be exact, so this article is long overdue.

It is not uncommon to see Christmas decorations make their way into the malls during the season, but it appears that there is a new trend in the making. We’re seeing a number of giant ‘Christmas trees’ sprouting around town in front of malls and hotels, and the latest mall in Kuching is no exception.

The photos were shot entirely in Jpeg and were post-processed with Snapseed for iOS.

Equipment used:

  1. Camera – Nikon D7000
  2. Lenses – Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 and Nikkor 18 – 105mm
  3. Tripod

The mall entrance

The photographer and the child


New Resolutions

The year 2012 has come to a close, and in the blink of an eye too. As I sit down reminiscing the moments of the year while gazing at the blinking cursor before me, I take my time to reflect on the those moments that I cherished, the moments that I missed, goals that went down the drain, and those that did take off. This is usually the time of the year when many thoughts will go through my mind as I sometimes find myself in that awkward situation of being ’neither here nor there’.

For my new year resolutions, I will be focussing on two things; simplicity and focus. With regard to simplicity, I will do less things, knowing full well that it is only possible to do a few things well at a time. On focus, I will use my time and energy to do the things that matter most. This means less time (and money) wasted doing unproductive things. I guess that also means eating less and going to the movies less often.

Goals, I believe, should be specific. But I am not obliged to share the specifics here on the public domain. Anyways, happy new year to all!

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today, I turn 26. Finally, I am officially MORE than a quarter of a century old. So there is enough compelling reason to celebrate on a grander scale. I hadn’t had a birthday celebration for quite some time.

Too bad Leonard is not around this time. But he’s probably having the time of his life in Penang.

The last time people actually took my birthday seriously was, well, nearly 20 years ago. Donkey years ago eh?

For dinner, we had..

Home-made pizza. Best in the world!
Fried chicken…
…lots of it

And of course, no celebration is ever complete without…

Time to resume my oat breakfast diet again…

Switch is switching!

Pardon the rather uninspiring title. I was given the privilege to cover the event for the day, and what might be that big happening for that day you might ask?

Switch in Kuching is now an Apple Premium Reseller. Yay!

Switch, an Apple Premium Reseller (no, they don’t sell fruits) traces its humble origins to Gelugor, Penang, West Malaysia. Following Apple Inc’s phenomenal comeback, Switch has expanded its presence through the entire country and has recently made inroads into our beloved Hornbill state of Sarawak.

Switch was, until very recently, only an ‘authorised reseller’, meaning they were limited to selling only certain Apple products, but now being a premium reseller, you now have access to Apple’s full range of premium products. Not bad for a first in East Malaysia.

Compared to their old corner lot, the new lot they currently occupy is HUGE, at least as far as floor space is concerned. The store does seem a bit sparse, but then, every measurement is made to Apple’s standard, so it could be a requirement for the store layout and design.


The new store is adorned with Apple’s trademark colours of white and black. iPads, iPods and iPhones lined up neatly on white display stands.

Participant participating in a Fruit Ninja competition. Winners walked away with a goodie bag!

It was a very busy day for the Switchers (Switch’s staff are called ‘Switchers’, at least that is what their T-shirts tell us). The day was packed with activities ranging from a Fruit Ninja competition during which winners walked away with a goodie bag each. Prize allocation was based on who is able to score the highest. I could barely make it past the 170 mark!

It was unfortunate that I had to leave early, but all things being equal, we now know where to get the latest Apple gadgetry. Long live Switch!

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WPPM Kuching 2011


On the 7th of May which was just yesterday, WPPM (Wedding and Portraits Photographers Malaysia) organized a 2-day workshop, for the very first time in Kuching, thanks to Alvin Leong and Patrick Low, two distinguished photographers renowned for their work in the field.
It was organized at the Islamic Information Center near Swinburne; an odd but nonetheless beautiful building that melds the designs and motifs of the various peoples of Malaysia. 1Malaysia? Quite possible.


Nice venue as you can see above. The above is a photo of the center’s activity halls, a modern rendition of the traditional Bidayuh ‘round house’. Very thoughtful of them.


It was an honour to have highly-distinguished photographer Jim Liaw of Jim Liaw Photography present to us his experiences in the field of wedding and portraiture photography. Learning from the pros was one thing, but it was certainly educational to hear them explain the dos and don’ts of the trade.
Launched in October 2010, WPPM’s mission is to educate and inspire photographers to move on to the next level. A mentorship program is high on the agenda and expected to begin shortly. Many thanks to Alvin Leong and Patrick Low for bringing WPPM to Kuching.


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