My given name is Khairin Nazeera, and I share the name Khairin with 3 of my sisters; 2 older and 1 younger than me. Zee is shortened from Nazeera.
Cornelius is not a surname – not my husband’s either. The story of how Cornelius became a part of my name is in how I met my husband.
Born and bred in Singapore – that Little Red Dot of an island country, I am very much a tropical girl who loves the beach but stays in the shade.
Growing up as the third of four girls in my family, I am very much different from the rest. I was more rugged than my sisters. I had a hard fall at 16 while skateboarding. I didn’t tell my parents for the fear of having my skateboard taken away from me. It was also when my menstruation cycle stopped.
It was only a year later, when Mom asked why I haven’t been stocking up on my pads that my period absence was discovered. I didn’t understand then why Mom made a huge fuss about me not having my period. I thought I finally had no mess nor cramps to worry about.
After going to the clinic and then getting referred to the Women’s Hospital, I was found to be infertile at 17. I had to undergo an MRI – which caused me to be claustrophobic – and found that I had a tumor in my pituitary gland. I am diagnosed with prolactinoma.
In layman terms, prolactinoma is to have excess prolactin in one’s body. Prolactin is like the natural milk produced. I had excessive prolactin, which caused me to lactate when expressed. At 17, can you imagine the panic when the doctor showed me I was lactating?
The result of excessive prolactin was also having it formed as a tumor in my pituitary gland – it’s a space in between the back of my eyeball and before my brain. It wasn’t cancerous thus there is no imminent danger to my life.
I have to take a life long medication though – bromocriptine. Bromocriptine helps to lower my prolactin level and by that, also reduces my tumor.
That was all in 1998. I am still taking bromocriptine and it helped to diminish my tumor.
In July 2001, most teenagers and young adults were still enamored by the new technology called the Internet. Our social media back then was text-based. One of such is mIRC.
That was where I first “met” Wan. I was within the channel or group called #hiphop. And there amongst many monikers, C0rnelius caught my eye. (I had known a Vernon Cornelius who gave me my first big gig break back in 1998. Thus the name Cornelius has an endearing feeling for me.)
As Wan is a very common local name, he was known as Wan Cornelius based on his mIRC nickname among our mutual friends. And when we got together, I just took on this nickname to be mine too.
Although I was diagnosed as being infertile at 17, I only met my husband at 19. He was my first boyfriend. I didn’t think much of being infertile until we got married when I was 25.
The first 5 marriage years were very hard for me. But Wan never made it harder. He never forced upon me to have a child or figure out how to have one with him. He went through doctor appointments with me and knew very well what he was in for the long run.
It was only after our 10th year together, did I truly accept internally that I am indeed infertile. However, I was still having the mindset of being Childless Not By Choice.
It took many years for me to be finally comfortable with my life without children of my own. After 16 years together, I realized I am Childfree By Fate.
Caregiving has run in my family since I could remember. My late paternal grandfather lived with us from my earliest memory. When he passed away in 1994, my parents took on to care for my maternal grandmother from 1995 onwards.
When I married Wan, he was living with his mother. She was 75. I had the privilege to care for her for 13 years. The last 6 years of her life were the longest as she deteriorated from Dementia to Alzheimer’s.
Now, I care for my aging parents who are in their early 70s. Though we do not live under one roof, I am the one who is responsible for all of their medical appointments and medications.
My mom-in-law passed away during the height of the Covid pandemic, in May 2020. I couldn’t have my usual support system coming to visit me physically. Covid really broke me and I started spiraling into depression.
It was only in October 2020 I decided to seek professional help. Thankfully I found out that the local polyclinic in my neighborhood specialized in mental health.
Seeing a therapist helped me navigate through my depression and my life as I turned 40. So many things have shifted in my life in the 2 years of therapy. I am so thankful for the experience and would always urge anyone who feels helpless to seek professional help.
The saying “Life begins at 40” has brought such a profound meaning to my life. Now that as I am writing this, I am shy of turning 42 in two months – my perspective in life has truly changed.
I was discharged from my therapist a day after I turned 41.
Having gratitude changes my outlook in life. I hope to be able to continue helping and inspire others through my sharing and writings.
Wan and Zee Cornelius (July 2022).