The Chatty Cantonese Auntie Next Door
There are few people I know who can strike up a conversation as easily as my mother. Chat with her for a few minutes and she will tell you everything, from her love for her dog Chewie to how she recently underwent filler injections to plump up her cheeks.
She’s happy when others do well, not realising that not everyone thinks the same way. I remember during her first visit to my new place, she candidly told my neighbor that we lived in a small HBD flat all our lives . This prompted the not-so-kind reply of: “Oh.. so how does it feel to be in a house now?” and “Your son should not have moved here, this place is too expensive for someone like him.”
Indeed, we grew up very poor. Four of us – my parents, my brother and I slept in the same room until I was 16 years old. During my early years, my father was barely around – he signed on with the armed forces, and needed to stay in camp, or go outfield often.
Late Nights Accelerate Skin Aging
As a corporal in the Army, my father’s starting pay was S$90 a month, only increasing to S$400 when he left 10years later. To make ends meet, my mother had to take on odd jobs. This meant that she had to ferry me daily to my grandmother while she worked. It was not easy.
After my brother was born, my mother stopped working to take care of us. My father had then changed career and landed a job as a construction site foreman. He endured the sun and long hours to put food on the table. We will poor, but our hearts with full as we could at least now see our father at night.
I remember vividly one day when I was 9years old, my mother made the startling announcement that she was going to go back to work. My father had been retrenched, and we were once again having problems making ends meet. In order to be able to take care of us during the day, she was going to work in a nightclub as a waitress and cashier. She would only leave home at 7pm, she reassured us, and return home at 3am. “I will still wake up at 6am to make us breakfast, so you will not even realise I was away, don’t worry”, she said.
Over the next few years, my mother continued her never lost her positivity despite being exhausted. She would regale us with interesting stories of fights in the nightclub, rival mamasans, and the hostesses who stood up to them. That was back in the 80s, the Golden era of nightclubs.
But years of not sleeping and not taking care of her skin was taking a toll on her. She was looking haggard and tired, a far cry from the beautiful, spirited self that I remembered her to be. Perhaps subconsciously, this was what encouraged me to enter the field of medical Aesthetics.
A Newbie Doctor With Only One Single Fan
I started doing aesthetic medicine back in 2007. I was, of course, very different back then. Singapore was very different back then. The words “Botox” and “fillers” were taboo. Who else, except my mother, would allow an inexperienced doctor to perform these “dangerous” treatments on her?
My mother was my first patient in almost every new procedure that I learned, be it chemical peels, lasers, Botox, fillers, thread lifts. When I expressed doubt about my skills, she would reassure me and tell me to go ahead. She always trusted my hands, and my judgement. She truly was, my only fan.
It wasn’t all smooth-sailing of course. She was left looking very frozen after Botox the first few times I did it for her. She ended up looking puffy and pillow-faced when I first did her cheek fillers. After her first thread lift, she was bruised, disfigured and in pain for two weeks, as I had not perfected the techniques. “I look like an alien! How am I going to go out?”
However, no matter the side-effects she suffered, she would always agree whenever I asked for her help to try out a new procedure, time after time.
Treating Skin Aging With Medical Treatments
Treating my mother was no easy task. Years of self-neglect meant that she was showing all the signs of ageing – wrinkles and folds, skin laxity, loss of volume, pigmentation, and sagging.
Her skin is thin, with hyperactive muscles, giving rise to wrinkles and lines. Hence, Botulinum Toxin is needed to reduce the severity of lines.
Skin quality is a big problem. My mum has thin skin, which is prone to wrinkling. Over the years, I have used carbon dioxide laser resurfacing, PicoSure Focus Laser, skinbooster treatments, and more recently, Profhilo, to improve skin texture and fine lines.
Fillers are a must, as my mother is a “sinker” – she loses volume as much as she sags when she ages. Over the years, My mother has had filler injections to the cheeks, undereye area, nasolabial folds, marionette lines, temples, and lips, but the amounts injected are very small.
“Only Do Treatments On Your Patients That You Would Do For Your Mother”
My treatment philosophy has always been to create a natural, refreshed look. It is important to look like a good version of your current age, rather than trying to have no lines and wrinkles, and end up looking like someone else, or a distorted version of yourself.
I use the same approach when treating everyone, whether it is my mother, or my other patients. If there was a treatment I would recommend to my mother, I would not hesitate to perform it for my patients as well.
There are limitations to non-invasive therapies. Problems arise when we over correct a problem, or correct one area of the face while neglecting the rest. This is how unnatural faces result – when we try to erase wrinkles completely, or when we try to plump up the cheeks too much.
相聚容易同住难 (It Is Easy To Meet, But Not Easy To Stay Together)
At 66 years old, my mother maintains her daily routine of bringing Chewie for walks, doing her housework, chit-chatting with her long-time neighbours, and going to work part-time work as a clinic assistant (which, by the way, was what largely inspired me to be a doctor in the first place).
She has declined invitations to move in with me. “你咁腌尖，请我都唔要同你住。” (You are so fussy, I don’t want to live with you even if you begged me!), preferring to live her own independent life and only meet me on weekends.
If there is one silver lining from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is that it has given me much more time to spend with my mum and dad. In the past, my weekends were always spent working, running SOSD, or travelling overseas. These days, even though we do not live together, we do not go out much when we meet weekly. She will come over and help with housework, and enjoy simple home cooking with me, preferring not to dine out. “Don’t waste the money, keep it for yourself. It is not easy to run a business”.
I don’t say this enough. Thank you mum, for everything that you have done for us. Everything I am today, is shaped by you.
Also, thank you for allowing me to arm-twist you into agreeing to this article. 😂 I know how much you hate to be in the limelight. Or even have your picture taken. Happy belated mothers’ day!