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[Berita Harian] Let your ‘painful’ experiences become your inspiration to help those experiencing the same

Article Translation:

Everytime she wishes to forget the pain that she is experiencing, Mdm Azlina Alias reaches for her paintbrushes and will start painting butterflies and flowers.

Art became Mdm Azlina’s way of expressing herself and her form of therapy to overcome the pain that she is experiencing. 

Mdm Azlina, 50, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes pain, swelling and stiffness of the joints which hinders her day-to-day activities.

“Usually, I have to lie on the bed and rest because the disease hinders even small activities and I am easily tired. For instance, I need the help of my husband and children to even stand up and go to the bathroom. To ensure that I am able to move about normally, I have to frequently take medicine prescribed by the doctor,” shared Mdm Azlina.

The mother of 3 children, aged between 16 to 22 years old, got to know of her disease about six years ago. However, she has been enduring the pain that has been affecting her and the swelling in her body since she was small.

Due to her illness, Mdm Azlina had to stop work to undergo full-time therapy, which also includes her art therapy at home.

Her disease however, did not stop her from volunteering her time with Autoimmune Diseases Singapore, a support group for those diagnosed with autoimmune diseases.

The group’s founder, Ms Sherry Soon, who was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, vasculitis, had contacted Mdm Azlina in 2021 during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

After seeing the relentless work by the healthcare workers at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), Ms Soon started to develop the idea to start a self-care journal for them. 

“As the founder of ADSG, I gathered some of my peers who wanted to contribute to the healthcare workers as we have had first-hand experience with our frequent encounters with outpatient doctors. We came up with the idea of the self-care journal so that healthcare workers will be encouraged by the many heartfelt words of appreciation, and at the same time will use the self-care prompts in the journal to take care of their mental health as well.”

“I messaged Mdm Azlina through Instagram and asked whether she would give her support by sharing some of her artwork. After learning that she too has an autoimmune disease, I asked her if she was willing to help design the front cover of the journal,” said Ms Soon.

Besides Ms Soon and Mdm Azlina, other ADSG members such as Ms Nicole Chan, Ms Yvonne Yeow and Ms Amanda Cho, too helped in the development of the 19, 000 self-care journal which has been distributed to more than 15 healthcare institutions arounld Singapore.

Besides contributing to the journal, Mdm Azlina also teaches art to ADSG members. She hopes that through her art, she is able to raise awareness about autoimmune diseases, and at the same time, raise the morale of others impacted by autoimmune diseases.

“Many people may not be aware about the effects and pain that autoimmune patients go through. Some of us may look as if we are healthy, but that is just a facade. Actually we are suffering in silence as a result of the disease.”

“Additionally, there’s many variations of autoimmune diseases, so I hope that I will be able to raise awareness to more people about autoimmune diseases.”

“I also aspire to give encouragement to others like me to continue with art, despite what we may be going through.”

“As per my slogan, healing through art, I also hope that they will strengthen their heart and use art as a form of therapy to avert them from the pain they are experiencing.”

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