From Bitter to Better: Thalassemia patient pens book, donates proceeds to charity

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By CHERYL TOH

“You would look better if you did something about it!”

“Why is there a bald patch on her head? Why not get some products for your balding head? Why is there something attached to your arm?

“Botak kia!” (bald child)

These are some of the lines and names that reverberate in the mind of 22-year-old Emelyne Carmen Ho as she tries to go about her daily life unfazed despite having several medical conditions which affected her appearance as her hair fell out.

Ho grew up self-conscious, fully aware she was different from other children her age when many would refuse to play with her or being near here.

From being ostracised, bullied and be made to feel like an outcast, Ho, who grew up having a string of health problems from Thalassemia to diabetes recalls how she would hide in her room.

A cheerful Emerlyne during her book launch in 2018

“I grew up full of self-hate, full of bitterness and became very cynical later on in life but one day I grew tired of feeling tired all the time,” she said.

Having spent a lot of time in recluse since childhood to her teenage years, Emelyne would pour her feelings in her diary so it was only natural that she grew up always wanting to write a book.

She recalled how she got so bored during a semester break from university that to turn the book-writing wish into reality.

“At first I had only wanted to write about my condition but as I progressed, I noticed I was sharing a lot about ways of coping with life and my condition so I thought I might as well write something that could inspire people who are going through hardships in life,” she said.

An eight-year-old Emerlyne during one of her hospital visits.

Inspired by Australian American motivational speaker Nick Vujivic who was born without limbs, she began writing and got her book, The Journey to Becoming Fearless: A Story of Hope, Courage and Strength  published in 2018.

“Imagine spending your life depending on medications as I battled six medical conditions since birth which began with an inherited blood disorder where the red blood cells aren’t able to get enough oxygen to the tissues and organs in the body.

“I practically grew up in the hospital for blood transfusion and later on a bone marrow transplant so taking up pharmaceutical studies was also no coincidence,” said the final year pharmacy student.

Emerlyne woukd hide in her room when she was younger

She expressed hope that her pharmaceutical knowledge could be out to good use once she becomes a pharmacist not only to help those who shared the same condition but also to inspire those who were going through the same situation as her.

She recalled how many were moved to tears when she gave her speech during her book launch in recounting her life story.

“ I thought the pain of needle pricks was unbearable but actually it was the emotional pain which hurt more. But then again it would have hurt more if I chose to focus on both kinds of pain.

“In life, always remember, if you face hardships, there are others who have it worse.

“It’s how we choose to see things and I choose to be positive now and keep on inspiring, to keep on surviving,” she said.

Over 200 copies of her books have been sold so far and Emelyne has donated the proceeds to four different charitable namely the Sarawak Thalassemia Society, the Kuching Paliative Association, Persatuan Diabetes Sarawak and Sarawak Mental Health Association.

“I now believe in paying it forward and to keep inspiring others.

“It feels good to know we are not alone in whatever journey we are going through and support is always out there,” she added.

Editor’s note: Catch Emerlyne in a special interview as she shares more with TV Sarawak on Channel 122 via Astro and myFreeview soon!

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