From Allergy to Gout... a Blessing?
Po Yuen Tong '63

This year, I am eligible for a pension from my employer. I know that most of my fellow '63 St. Markans have also turned 60, if not earlier. Did you know that the Sheridan Nurseries offer their customers of this magic number "senior" status, entitling them to a 10 per cent discount on purchases of regular-priced items?

As Lana asked me to write something for the newsletter, I would like to share two items relating to health issue that would be of particular interest to those at this stage of life.

1. Allergy -
Isn't it a nuisance? Or is it only an occurrence in Canada? I never had it in HK. I got it in 1974, my fourth year in Canada. In addition to allergy, I have also adopted a Canadian past time - gardening. Being allergic to pollen, especially to trees and grass, I do gardening under "tearful" circumstances. With the spirit nurtured from my high school days, I wanted to "kill poison with poison." In fact, I have undergone several allergy tests at various times and taken weekly shots for many years at the doctor¡¦s office. However, it has been to no avail, I still have this ailment. The doctor merely tells me, ¡§If you don¡¦t take the shots, it will become worse.¡¨ So, I have been on and off allergy shots. Now I have been off them for several years and take Claritin when the situation worsens.

In regard to gardening, though overwhelmed by pollen, resulting in teary eyes runny nose, I have not given up this hobby. Why? I love to ¡§catch¡¨ the sun ¡V another Canadian past time. After a long, gloomy and dreary winter and being wary of skin cancer, how else do I catch the sun? The solution is to let the flowers and veggies catch the sun so that they can grow. Then I can appreciate the flowers and enjoy the produce. It is this passion that keeps me going in spite of feeling back pain after tilling the soil ¡§in tears¡¨.

Harvest time brings a lot of joy. The Chinese okra, a kind of gourd (µ·¥Ê) sold in grocery stores sometimes carries a bitter taste. However, the home-grown okra tastes better. It is crispy and sweet. I guess the bitter taste of the okras from the Chinese grocery stores have been cut prior to maturity before shipment, unlike the taste of the fresh okras cut at the appropriate time and cooked within hours of cutting.

Another joy is being able to share the figs in the fall with friends. Grapes and figs in the Bible symbolize sufficiency of God¡¦s provision to the Israelites. My experience is that figs are a laxative, helping us to clear any toxin out of our system. Fig leaves can be boiled in water. After five minutes, add brown sugar and the resulting liquid can be drunk to relieve sore throats.

Last but not least ¡V the tomatoes! I have always enjoyed a plentiful harvest every year. I always look for the best-tasting kind. I like ¡§beef-steak¡¨. Lately, I discover that grape tomato has an excellent taste and that it tastes even better than the ¡§sweet 100¡¨. My fellow male St. Markans, did you know that eating tomatoes can cut down our chances of getting prostate cancer?

On balance, the joy of gardening outweighs the pain of allergy. With optimism and having more time on hand, in spring, I have planted okra, winter melon and tomato seedlings indoors, expecting to start the growing season as early as I can. Now, my worst time is May and it is about to be over, I am looking forward to a whole summer to appreciate the flowers and the late summer and early fall to enjoy the produce.

Now back to the problem of allergy. Again in 2006, my ailment is improving. Early this year, I came across some concerned friends in church who advise me to take Methyl-Sulfonyl-Methane (MSM) along with Ester-C (a non-acidic vitamin C tablet) as dietary supplements to build up resistance to allergen that induces allergy. Since I have taken them, I have felt better and have not taken a single tablet of Claritin so far this year.

What can I say? The Lord is good and I have witnessed that
Those who sow in tears
will reap with songs of joy.
He who goes out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with him. (Psalm 126:5-6)

2. Gout ¡V
an ailment mystically labeled as a rich man¡¦s disease. Since I am not rich and yet I have it, I have my doubts. I developed gout around 1998 and have been taking Indocin or Indomethacin as prescribed by the doctor whenever inflammation in the joints strikes.

However, in 2005, I met a couple from my church. They are a husband and wife team of Chinese herbalist and acupuncturist, offering to tackle my gout problem without my having to take Indocin anymore. For nine months last year, I went through a treatment of acupuncture and over 100 pots of herbal tea, along with a strict diet of no red meat, no wine, no beans, no salt¡K , uplifting the function of my kidneys.

During the rehabilitating process, I learnt that my gout condition did not happen overnight. It was owing to a prolonged period of mental ¡§labor¡¨, though unintentional and uncontrollable by myself. The mental ¡§labor¡¨ is caused by thinking about work while off work. In other words, I did not get the required rest while off work. Over time, this mental ¡§labor¡¨ adversely affected the function of my kidneys resulting in then not being able to filter through completely the excess protein from my habitual diet. When this unfiltered protein is deposited in the joints at both ankles, it becomes crystals. In walking, pressure is exerted on the crystals which then touch the nerves in the joints areas, and I feel the pain.

This couple constantly advises me of the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, with appropriate diet, regular exercise, lots of water, nightly rest at no later than 10 pm, and a happy attitude all the time because the liver likes it, etc. Actually, they are paraphrasing Proverbs 15:13, ¡§A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.¡¨ This fits very well within my theology: ¡§If you do what you can, God will do what you cannot¡¨.

Since the end of last year, I have been able to take normal food and ¡§re-join¡¨ society. For nine months, I was under order not to take restaurant food and I found myself isolated from friends and acquaintances. I also discover how important ¡§eating together¡¨ is in our social culture.

Finally, I wish the Lord¡¦s blessings on my fellow St. Markans while we do what we can in taking good care of our body, mind and soul.