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  • When my son Ben was a very poorly child before he turned 1 year old, I took him to his doctors many times. Various doctors told me he had a cold, a virus infection, a winter bug. Nothing serious.

    His GPs must have thought I was an irritating new mother. I spoke with highly accented English -- look, he is losing weight, he stops crawling, he is losing interest. There is something very wrong about this baby.

    One day Ben's left eye was suddenly swollen. I took him to his GP again. She cast a glance, and told me confidently that the bulging eye was an 'oriental eye feature'.

    2 weeks after this 'oriental eye feature' statement, Ben was rushed into a children cancer ward called Piam Brown ward in Southampton, and they found a tumour sitting just behind his eye.

    I lived with years of fear of Ben losing his sight. We were warned his vision would be 'compromised'. One day, I asked the consultant blatantly, “Tell me in plain English please. Does 'compromised' mean, blind?” She paused and explained in medical terms, 'Yes, he COULD be...'. She found it hard to utter the word 'blind'. She preferred a more evasive and elegant term, 'compromised'.

    Luckily Ben escaped any significant impairment, thanks to a year of chemotherapy. But years later, he developed a habit of squint, and he would perform cross eyes as an entertainment.

    I took him to his ophthalmologist with worry. I asked for Ben's 'cross eyes' corrected. The ophthalmologist joked with Ben. “Wow, cross eyes! That's a gift! Not everybody can do that!”

    He later reassured me that there was nothing wrong. Ben was merely exploring his body. Performing cross-eyes was the kind of thing that some kids do.

    He was indeed right. Ben was fed up with it after a while.

    From then on, I see Ben as a gifted child.
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