I just returned last week from a month-long stay in Vietnam to film MasterChef Vietnam season 3—yes, I’m now officially a full-fledged judge of the MC franchise!—and this week, I leave for Canada to film part of season 3 of Four Senses, my cooking show in Canada.
Yesterday, my cousin, who is also a doctor, called me to ask how my health was faring.
“The family is worried about you getting a flare-up because you seem to be overworked,” she said.
I did come down with the flu while filming in Vietnam, and because production doesn’t stop for anybody unless there’s blood spewing from the eyes, I still had to shoot with fever, cough, and a loss of voice. In spite of this, I have been blessed to remain free of Neuromyelitis Optica/NMO attacks.
How do I do it?
Well, first of all, it’s probably a lot of sheer dumb luck.
Secondly, having lived with NMO for over ten years, I’ve learned to monitor my symptoms quite well. I know my body can no longer handle functioning on no sleep, the way I used to in my twenties from studying (or, more realistically, partying) all night. I’ve learned that as soon as I feel pain in the back of my eye, I need to pause from life, sleep, and take it easy before a bout of optic neuritis sets in. Of course, everyone’s NMO symptoms and flare-ups manifest differently, so I suggest you keep a health journal to log what sorts of things precede your attacks, how they begin, how long they tend to last, which courses of treatment are most effective, and so on.
For me, rest and relaxation are now a top priority, whether in the form of physical sleep or mental respite. This has helped me keep countless NMO exacerbations at bay. Unfortunately, the frequent travel I do for work makes it incredibly difficult to maintain a normal sleeping schedule. On top of that, I am susceptible to poor sleep and sometimes insomnia. While I don’t recommend this for everyone, I do find a little assistance from an over-the-counter sleep aid helps me regulate my sleeping pattern, especially when traveling internationally. I make sure, however, I don’t become dependent on sleep aids—I’ll only take them when I fly overseas or if I hadn’t had good, straight sleep for several nights in a row—and I only take half or a third of a dosage. Make sure to consult with your physician first before adding anything new to your pill intake.
Many people think my life is glamorous, and while it’s pretty awesome to be able to fly to Canada, Vietnam, and Singapore in two months’ time, and to be doing stuff I truly love, keep in mind it’s still work, and it’s hard work at that. Production often has me on my feet, “turning it on” for cameras ten to fifteen hours a day for, in the case of MasterChef Vietnam, 21 days straight. Sure, this can take a toll on anyone’s health, but I prioritize health and happiness above all else, and that’s helped me accomplish much without sacrificing well-being.