Chee Liew Seong - A picture taken at a lotus pond in the campus of Beijing University, Beijing, on August 30, 2002
I am Mr. Chee Liew Seong, the present Vice-President of MPDA. Soon after I was diagnosed with PD, I joined MPDA as an ordinary member in 1995. I was 52 years old then and still working as a senior education officer in the Ministry of Education of Malaysia. My physical disability was still very mild at that time. The main symptoms of my PD were stiffness (rigidity) of my left limbs, fatigue, slowness, pain in my neck and shoulders. I did not have tremor at all.
I was rather depressed when I attended one of the MPDA’s monthly meetings that were held at the Kuala Lumpur General Hospital. I saw with my own eyes how many people suffered from PD, most of them having more severe symptoms than I. Some were wheelchair-ridden, some could walk slowly but with stooped posture, and some had severe tremor or involuntary movement. The scenario was disturbing and scaring, especially when I realized that one day I could end up having the same disability as these people.
Fortunately, I met Marian Lough, a New Zealander lady who had been diagnosed with PD for more than three years, but she still looked good just like any normal person. Marian was an active committee member and a very good counselor for the newly diagnosed PD patients. After talking to Marian and listening to medical talk presented by the MPDA’s medical advisor, Dr. K.H. S’ng, I felt much relieved. My initial fear was mainly due to ignorance and misconception about the disease. During the talk, the audience were reassured that although there was still no cure for PD, there were effective medication and complementary therapies which enabled PD patients to lead a normal life for many years. At that meeting too I was very much impressed by Mr. Lloyd Tan, the President of the MPDA, who showed immense courage and determination in overcoming his problems with voice and posture / stability when he spoke. At the end of the meeting, I filled up the MPDA membership application form without hesitation.
For the next two years, I did not play an active role in the Association as I was still working full-time in the Ministry of Education. As I attended the monthly meetings of MPDA and read its monthly newsletters, I learned a lot more about PD and how Parkinson sufferers coped with their problems. Gradually, I found it harder and more stressful to carry out my daily duties at my department. I felt tired most of the time. I had to devote 100% of my time and energy in performing my official duties. When I finally retired from government service in August 1997, at the age of 55, my Neurologist advised that it was better for a PD patient to continue working and keep his body and mind active. However after resting for five months, I gave up the idea of seeking re-employment or doing part time job, because to me, any paid-job would be stressful, and stress or pressure of work would worsen my PD symptoms.
I knew very well that I have to continue working to keep my body and mind active. I decided not to look for a paid-job, but the kind of work, which was interesting, meaningful and least stressful. The one, which met my requirements, would be “voluntary work” - whereby a person with PD like me, could work at my own pace (I was slow physically and sometimes mentally as well), at my own time (during my on-time) and most of the work could be done at home (I had difficulty driving).
I was fortunate that I could live on the monthly pension alone after retirement. For this I wish to thank the Government and the taxpayers, from whom I received a monthly pension, and also enjoyed free medical treatment at government hospitals. I am also indebted to my wife who continued to give private tuitions after she took optional retirement in 1994. While my monthly pension was less than half of my last drawn salary, my wife’s income was more than her salary as a non-graduate teacher in a government secondary school. On the whole our total monthly income after my retirement remained almost the same. Therefore, we could maintain similar standard of living as before, without me continued to work for payment.
Both my wife and my children supported my decision. They also encouraged me to do some voluntary work, but the kind of work must not be too tedious or stressful. My wife did not want me to do the heavier housework either - If I fell or injured myself, I would have burdened her with more work. She used to say it would be of great help to her if I could look after myself in my daily living.
Once I decided to do voluntary work, I had no second thought that MPDA was the institution where I should offer my services - it was my turn to help others as others had helped me in the past. Hence in 1998, I became a committee member of MPDA. From then on, I devoted much of my time and effort doing work for the Association, in particular, as editor of the Association’s newsletter Berita Parkinson (Berita Parkie)
Mr. and Mrs. Chee Liew Seong - A picture taken at a hawker centre in Beijing on August 31, 2002
My involvement in the publication of MPDA’s newsletter actually began in 1997 when I was asked to help out to translate some materials in English into Bahasa Malaysia and / or Chinese). The objective was to attract more non-English educated people to join the Association. Later on, I took over the duty as its editor - a job I enjoyed doing ever since.
I am glad that despite my illness, I am still able to contribute something to MPDA. I will continue to do so, as long as I am still able to handle my computer keyboard. Of course as years go by, I would not be able to do as much. When the time comes, someone would have to take over from me as editor. It is my dream that Berita Parkinson will continue to improve and become a reputable news magazine read by the Parkinson’s communities all over the world.
In fact as editor of Berita Parkinson, I am well rewarded for the time and effort, which I have put in. First of all, it enables me to keep my mind and body active, which is very important for people with PD. Secondly, it gives me the opportunity to keep on learning new knowledge, and through reading and writing, my command of English, Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese had also greatly improved. Thirdly, I have regained much of my self-respect and self-confidence, as I could still be a useful member of the society. Besides all these, I have made many new friends within MPDA and also with people from PD associations overseas.
My own experience has convinced me that “Giving and serving others bring you more happiness than receiving and being served.” And I do not have any single doubt that THERE IS STILL LIFE AFTER PARKINSON’S.
Before I end my story, I would like to quote the following sentence from an article by Marian Lough “Life after Parkinson’s” which first appeared in The New Straits Times on April 23, 1996, and reproduced in Berita Parkinson Issue No. 1/2003 (January - February, 2003):
“Our Parkinson’s Association has been going for a year now, and the great therapy for me has been meeting other Parkinson sufferers, making new friends, and of course seeing both patients and caregivers being able to share, laugh, encourage, support and inspire each other.”
The author of the article Marian Lough, is the New Zealander lady whom I was fortunate to meet eight years back in 1995, when I attended for the first time, a monthly support group meeting of the Parkinson’s Association.
I could feel the same feeling as Marian did, and have also been benefited by “the great therapy” which the Parkinson’s Association provides for all its members. By becoming a member of MPDA and play an active part in the Association’s activities, you too will receive this unique therapy. Together we can support and help one another to lead a better life.