Wednesday, 31 October 2012

49th Day (Part Two of Three)

Beautiful Nepal

I met Chang again a year after after he had been diagnosed with cancer. It was a chance meeting when I was out for my weekend morning walk. He told me almost immediately that he had been diagnosed with cancer and was healing himself using The Gerson Therapy. He gave the impression of someone in control and doing remarkably well.

I felt that the all important question was how he was feeling inside. It is the person's mental and emotional wellbeing that really matters, apart from the physical treatment. Had he been coping well? Was he being supported? For example, we can have the best doctors but if we are feeling really miserable inside, would that not be cause for concern? We have been brought up to think that emotional health is not important. And many times, we do not know how to handle or help people in crises.

From my experience in counselling, I find that there are many lonely people out there, who want to be listened to and acknowledged but are not getting their needs met. What more a person diagnosed with cancer? Being diagnosed with cancer can be an alienating and traumatic experience. It is like having a bomb thrown into one's lap. How does that feel? Can we just pat this person on the back and say "You will be okay. No worries." and leave him to deal with it alone? Or do we find ways to help him deal with it?

He told me that he had lost touch with his emotional world since he started working. I felt sad to hear this because there has been so much literature written on the  role of emotions in diseases. I asked him to look into the emotional and spiritual aspects of healing.

After reading about the success of the Thai monk, Kittiyano Bhikkhu in using the Gerson therapy to treat cancer, I suggested that he, too incorporate meditation, yoga and breathing to complete his therapy.  I suppose if these practices had not been  habitual in healthier times, it would be even more difficult in times of crisis. Change is not a comfortable word for most people, not even when they are faced with a life threatening disease. That is how we human beings are, I suppose. We are creatures of habit. 

Chang said that even though he was willing to listen to opinions about his therapies, ultimately it was his choice to make. He said that people were not happy when he did not follow their advice. He also said that only people with cancer understood him when he talked about cancer pain. Maybe there is some truth in that hence the reason for the establishment of cancer support groups.

Chang already had an extra two and a half years of life. He had time to travel, forge closer ties with friends and family and learn some life lessons. And he had a chance to create his own path. He wanted to do things his way and he did. We can argue, what if ....he did not try HIFU? To me, the result would have been the same. If it wasn't HIFU, it would have been something else.  He was determined to change his destiny but he learned along the way that some things were just beyond his control. It was not meant to be.

(to be continued......finale Part 3 will be published on Friday)

Monday, 29 October 2012

49th Day (Part One of Three)

I was reminded that today is the 49th day since my friend, Chang's passing. Since some readers here were followers of Chang's blog, I thought it apt to share some memories of him today, as a mark of respect. For readers who are new, Chang battled cancer for 3 years and passed away on September 11. It is not easy writing about anyone, alive or deceased as there are sensitivities to be considered. Everyone remembers their loved one differently.  He was a man with imperfections like the rest of us. He wanted to live, like all of us do. And by sharing his story, hopefully we  learn to live better through his good examples as well as his mistakes. This is my account.

I met Chang when I was relatively new to the corporate world. I joined the company when he had just resigned. He was my mentor-colleague for a brief period. At that time, he was still studying for his professional accounting examinations. I found him to be approachable, helpful, knowledgeable in his work, capable and  a hands-on worker. We kept in touch over the years and later, had another opportunity to work together again, also for a brief period. This time, I was much more seasoned and he had already obtained his accounting qualification. He was a very focused person, he always seemed to know what to do and to be in control.  I also  realised during this period that his general approach was a highly stressful one. And he could work for hours non-stop. I could not keep up with his pace. I felt he was driven by the need to earn money and an interest in IT. He was also very thrifty.  He wanted to train up as a SAP consultant. But he never did.

I got to know him better during the cancer period. He said that I am willing to talk about many subjects that most people are not. At times, I would challenge his words or views when I felt it necessary to do so. I would not be a real friend otherwise. When he got lost in his fears that the cancer had overcome him, just because he lost 1 lb in weight, I would question the validity of his fearful thoughts.  I treated him like any other person, whether or not he suffered from cancer.

I respect him not for his capability or knowledge. It was his strength of will, his openness about the disease and his willingness to share his experience during the cancer period. Many people in his situation would have given up. Few men could soldier on the way he did, doing many things on his own. I think he shone during this period. His resourcefulness and tenacity were outstanding. That said, it is also a double edged sword. Our very strengths taken to the extreme, can turn into weaknesses if they are not used skillfully.. This is where, ideally, spirituality can come in to help balance things out. However, this can only happen if we have the awareness that we have over-done things or over-stressed ourselves. We are not machines, after all. And even machines break down eventually.

( to be continued.......49th Day Part Two will be posted on Wednesday, 31st October.)

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Dear Little Pansy

(Today's post is dedicated to my family and to our dear little Pansy, wherever you are

This is the picture of my daughter's first cat, Pansy which died about 2 years ago. It was abandoned as a little kitten at our backyard. It had a leg injury, we gave it medical care and my daughter named it. After that, besides food, I did not take much notice of Pansy. Little did I know that it was sick. I was too busy with my own work. I regret not paying it attention then. My daughter was heartbroken when it died and it remains to this day, her first "cat-love." Since then, I learned the lesson not to  take animals for granted.. They need care, just like us).

I first  started blogging in August (on behalf of Chang) and started this blog on October 6th. It has been almost 3 weeks since but it feels much longer than that. I intend to spend time with my daughter this weekend, hopefully to bake a long promised cheesecake and also let my hair down with my best girlfriend.  My daughter, on seeing me blogging, managed to create her own little blog to share with her group of friends. A blog to post poems and stories she wrote. And it is so much more awesome than mine! She loves reading and writing. I am very proud of her.

I came from a poor family. I did not attend kindergarten and did not know a single English alphabet when I entered primary school.  But I am proud that by the end of year one, I was the top girl in class. My teacher called me forward to congratulate me but I had no idea then what it was all about. I was blur as a cow! (Not to insult cows, though).

When I was 12 years old, I decided to look at the little library of books in front of the class.  Out of curiosity, I picked up an Enid Blyton book called Second Form at Mallory Towers . From then on , I was hooked. I read voraciously, anything I could get my hands on. And I used to write. I wrote little journals to express my feelings even though no one taught me to. In secondary school one day, the English teacher read out my essay to the class, I was surprised and pleased as a peach.

Years later, I chose the practical world of accounting though I am very much a creative linguistic type of person. This blog gives me an avenue to express myself and to write. My husband is supportive and gives me feedback on my posts. He encourages me to write what I like and to be who I am (like RG).  My daughter helps correct my typos before I post. I sometimes take my husband's  consideration towards me for granted. That is something I have to address. 

I will be taking a break from blogging this weekend. I will read and reply to comments and will post again on Monday. I am thinking of writing a post in memory of Chang on his 49th day but we shall see. Wishing all of you a good break this weekend. Let your hair down.And a big thank you for being there for Bodhicircle!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Masks We Wear

We all wear masks. It is normal and natural to wear masks from time to time. The purpose of a mask is to hide, conceal or disguise. When wearing masks, we can put on a different persona just like how Clark Kent switched into  Superman or Bruce Wayne into Batman. From geeks to superheroes. People do things they would never have done in their own faces. Lynching and torture are carried out by people in hoods with circles cut out for eyes. Bandits rob under the anonymity afforded by the mask. 
Human beings have a special skill. They can put on invisible masks at a click of the fingers, switching seamlessly from one mask to another without notice. There are times our mask serves us well because it identifies the roles we are playing clearly. When we are at work, we wear the secretary mask or lawyer mask. When we are out in the community, we wear the community leader mask.

From young, we have learned to wear masks. Parents tell their sons  that "boys do not cry". Boys learn early on in their lives that it is not socially acceptable to cry.  We also wear the "I am fine" mask. All too often, the smile is a mask that hides the deep pain within us. Do you remember the suicide of Steven Ko, son of  the famous Dr Ko? Was he wearing the "I am fine' mask or did he reveal his pain but no one paid any attention?

To fit in with society, we wear masks that project social conformance. Face is all important in our Asian society. We wear masks projecting theat we are a good Christian family. Never mind that we are actually cold and unkind to each other at home. We wear the masks of a happy married couple even though we are really unhappy with each other. Do you think the sex bloggers, Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee angered people because they refused to wear masks?

When I was very young, I observed how adults led lives of acting and of duplicity. They never seemed to speak truthfully to one another. In my mind, I wondered about the virtue of  honesty they taught meI resolved that when I grew up, I would be different. Of course, when I started working, I realised that there are many games played out in the corporate world. People don't want to hear the truth and actually wanted me to play along. To survive, one has to know that a mask is only a tool. And a mask is not to be identified with oneself. 

Whether we want to admit it or not, everyone of us has this innate desire to be known.  We all want someone to know us, acknowledge us and realize that we exist.  The need to be known is not about popularity or fame, but rather the human desire of connection and acknowledgement. And this need cannot possibly be met until we expose our true and vulnerable selves.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Demons Within

When you gaze upon a baby, what stirs within you?  I feel a natural protectiveness towards them because they are at such a vulnerable stage of their lives. Maybe, you may feel differently  but I don’t expect that your feelings would lead you to throw it out of your bathroom window.

Thus, it really saddens me to read of a 2.8kg newborn baby girl being flung out of the third floor of an apartment in Sungai Way by her own mother in the newspapers today.  Though the mother, a 20 year old factory worker denies killing the baby, the fact of the matter is that the baby is dead. It was reported that the baby was alive when she was thrown but died of head injuries. 

What drives a human being to dispose of her baby and in such a manner? I can only guess. Was she suffering from post-natal depression? Was she insane? To me, it is a sad day for humanity when a mother can have such blatant disregard for  her own flesh and blood. And I am not coming from a judgmental point of view, to crucify her. No. I am sad at the circumstances which could have driven a person to such an act.

The mother-child bond is regarded as almost sacred, is it not? A mother is meant to love and protect, her child or am I wrong again? In reality, just as not all children are good to their parents, not all parents are good to their children. Some mothers torture and burn their own children. There is physical abuse and there is emotional abuse. 

A story of emotional abuse I can recall is that of my close friend. Her mother verbally and emotionally abused her from the time she was a little child till  long after she became a mother herself. She was her mother's  punching bag for years, never seeming to do anything right. Her mother would shout at her daily for the slightest things. When she was 16 years old, her mother shouted profanities at her, calling her a whore in public with the excuse that she was disciplining her for attending a birthday party (even though she had given her permission earlier). Her mother would make it known she was not happy whenever my friend went out to enjoy herself, for holidays or bought anything to beautify herself . It was years later that my friend realised that her mother took out her pent-up  rage  on her, the youngest child, because of the verbal abuse her own  father had  inflicted on her mother. Her mother, instead of confronting her own anger took the easy way out by abusing my friend. But the emotional damage had already been done because my friend grew up with many scars.

It is so easy to take it out on the innocent and vulnerable, those who cannot fight back. Has it ever happened to you? You have had a tough day at work or was scolded by your superior or customer and you had no opportunity to retaliate. You keep the anger within you. Driving home, you encounter heavy traffic which really pisses you off. When you finally reach home, your son accidentally spills milk all over the floor. Would you not just let it fly? Let it all out on your innocent little son, giving him the scolding of his life? It could happen to the best of us at one time or another. It is so easy, being in the position of power to take it out on the innocent and the weak with nary a thought.  But little do we foresee the extent of the damage and hurt our actions cause.

In the above case of the factory worker, what could have possibly happened in her life to have driven her to kill her baby, we don't know (assuming she is guilty). All of us are subject to the pressures of living. Some can manage better than others. It is wiser to deal with those pressures, be it internal or external before it blows up in our faces. It could be our josb, our relationships with our spouse and children or financial pressures. It helps to take a break to think through or seek help or support. Take responsibility to deal with our issues and the demons within. Otherwise, we end up hurting ourselves and those we love, causing more damage than we realise.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Our Children

I would like to share the following poem with you by the poet, Kahlil Gibran. It is a reminder to us that our children are not our possessions or chattels. That even though we bring them to this earth, make great sacrifices for them and in some cases, even sacrifice our lives for them, we do not own them. All that money spent on them is given freely on our own accord out of our love for them as parents.

Some parents assume that they own their children and that their children have to spend their lives being indebted to them. They use their sacrifices to make their children feel guilty and to control them. Don't get me wrong. I am not saying that children should be disobedient or have no obligatons to take care of their parents. Children's obligations to parents arise naturally from their love and gratitude not guilt. I have seen cases of  parents trying to coerce their children using guilt and their children end up doing their bidding not out of love but much resentment.

If we see that our children have their own paths, we may be able to appreciate their uniqueness and gifts more. We are less judgmental and we can spend less time doubting them and trying to make them conform to our expectations. We allow them to be. And that is one of the gifts any parent can give their children.

love your parents,respect,Life / Learning /Inspirational story ,Quotes – Inspirational Quotes, Pictures and Motivational Thoughts

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Sex Blog Scandal


The sex blog scandal is the latest news sensation in Malaysia and Singapore. Vivian Lee, 23, and her boyfriend of six months Alvin Tan, 24, caused a cyber furore when their postings on their sex blog Sumptuous Erotica became viral and was caught on by the Singapore media.

What is your view about this whole affair? Are you morally disgusted, appalled by their brazen behaviour? Or are you neutral,  after all they are  not connected with you? Or are you  amused by the media reaction over a biological act that this couple were adventurous enough to post on their blog?

But what if they were your children? Would you react differently if it were a son rather than a daughter?  From the media interviews, it seems that at one point, Vivian Lee's parents wanted to disown her whereas his parents were more concerned about whether he would be expelled from the National University of Singapore and whether he would get in trouble with the law. As it is now, neither of them are repentant, calling themselves broadminded people.

Many people are outraged and have criticised them, especially parents. They label them immoral and said that they need moral counselling,  crave for attention. etc. As a member of the public, I think that they are two mature consenting adults and their sexual lives are really not of my concern. Yes, they posted their sexual acts on the internet but we can always choose not to watch if we find it offensive. As to fear that our children will follow in their example, I think that it is up to us to teach our children. We could use their scandal as a teaching opportunity. 

However, if I were Vivian's parent, I would initially be annoyed  because I would not welcome the negative publicity and intrusion on my family. However, I would also realise that this reaction does not help. Being overly concerned about face and how people view me as a parent really does not help my child.

I would be very concerned about her wellbeing and future.  I would have a talk with her to see what her deeper motivation was for the sex blog. And whether it is because she is seeking attention or trying to win the boy's love by being outrageous together. I would really want to know what is in her heart. Whether she made an error of judgement or is it that she really is a free spirit. I would be concerned that she could be hurt as she sounded much more emotionally involved than the boy (from the Capital FM interview with Xandra Ooi). If she can convince me that she really knows what she is doing, then I really would have to accept the situation and leave the door of my heart open for her, should she need me.

As a parent,  I would really be disappointed that her values are so different from what I have taught her but I also have to realise that she is an adult now and that she is her own person. It is a sobering thought. Though I may have some power of influence, it is largely out of my hands. That maybe it is our  ego that makes us want our child to turn out to what we expect.

Therefore, I always believe that the best time to teach our children is when they are young. During their tender years, we have to set aside the time and patience to slowly nurture them especially in character building. We have been given a very privileged role as their first teachers so we had better make full use of it. After we have done our best, we have to pray that they turn out to be good citizens of the world. I also believe that as parents, we do not own our children. They come through us but belong not to us.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

This Blog

I have been asked my reasons for creating this blog. Actually, I had no plans to start one. It just evolved from writing for Chang's blog. I would say that what I shared on this blog regarding self-love, not taking our time on earth for granted, taking time to relax from our intensive schedule etc. have all been part of my sharing with Chang. And the next post, "Being Authentic" is, I feel, the most important lesson of all. Then I would have almost completed my sharing.

My first love is to write about life experiences, emotional and spiritual development. Empowering ourselves, taking responsibility and control of our lives and awakening to our wonderful potential. Because of our inter-connectedness to one another, we have to be conscious of how our actions impact on others. By changing ourselves for the better, we are indirectly making a contribution to the world and the environment at large  By putting it down on this blog, I am also reminding myself  to do the same. After all, we are all works-in -progress.

I enjoy writing posts like "Loving Ourselves" but it maybe a bit too serious for the readers here, is it.  I don't know. I was told by a friend that gossip and trash sells but that is not my cup of tea. Oops, sorry, in the light of recent events, shall I say that  it is sex-blogging? I have added a feedback section at the bottom of the post. If you like the post, please tick the "like" box.

Should you have a story which you think is worthy of sharing on this blog, you may email me at  Sharing always benefits others. As you probably know by now, I am a working girl and mother. With my busy schedule and work commitments, I will not be churning out material frequently. But thank you for your support thus far. 

Friday, 19 October 2012

What did I Give at the End of The Day?

As this day comes to an end ~
Did I remember to call a friend?
Touch someone’s heart to help it mend
And have I helped someone in need?
Or planted laughter as a seed?
And what of the elderly all alone?
Did I give flowers to brighten their home?
When troubles found wet lonely tears?
Did I listen with my heart or just with my ears?
I’ve had 24 hours to spend today
Eight of them I dreamed away
16 hours remain for me
Plenty of time, don’t you agree? 
How long does it take to give a smile?
So small a task, making life worthwhile
And a friendly hug, absolutely free
Can be given to anyone, including me?
So I ask myself at the end of the day
How much love have I given away?
(by Audrey Hunt)

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Empathy through Suffering

A reader wanted to know why I  chose to support Chang in his cancer journey. I would say that Chang had many supporters who helped him by lending him resources such as books, gave him financial support as well as provide a listening ear. There are actually many kind people out there. I believe blogging also helped him to keep focused and he said it was therapeutic.

Whenever he singled out a therapy, he would pass a copy of the writeups to his brother to read, digest and comment.  Chang liked to listen to various angles but he always had his own way of thinking. 

In the early days, he wanted to get the feedback of other cancer patients who had tried The Gerson Therapy but  could not find it.  And that spurred him to start the blog. This also sums up my reasons for offering him support. It was also from my past, difficult experiences that I understood the importance of support in times of difficulties. And I learned to be empathetic towards others. I would have done the same for any other friend.

The difficult experiences of our lives shape us and make us grow, not the easy times. It is much like polishing a rough diamond. It is very tough to get through but we gain so much strength, wisdom and insight from it. And from there, we are much better able to empathise with others' pain and suffering.

I think that there is a reason for everything but I suppose the important thing is to be able to learn from our experiences and use it to benefit our family, friends and society at large. Then, our suffering would not have been in vain....

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Loving Ourselves

A friend asked me about self love.  This friend remarked that " all of us love ourselves to a certain extent." My question then would be how you would feel if your mother loves you only "to a certain extent."  And to what extent is that? Does it mean there will be occasions when she will choose not to love you? And what occasions would that be? How do you know you can count on her when you need her love? And would you need to fulfill certain conditions to get it?

Self love is unconditonal love for ourselves. The closest example of unconditional love would be the love we feel for our children. We start loving our children even when they are in their mother's womb, even when we know nothing about them yet. How they will turn out or look like, their personality etc. We love them with no conditions attached. This is the same kind of love that we can also give ourselves.

Self love is being kind, understanding, patient, respectful and accepting of ourselves, no conditions attached. Whether or not we pass that examination, win that promotion, have the ideal figure and skin or whether we measure up to society's expectations, we stay commited to being kind and understanding of ourselves and our limits. As opposed to harshness, judging ourselves, pushing ourselves to the limit, selling ourselves out to gain the approval of others.

It is being willing and able to take care of our physical, emotional and spiritual needs. It is being compassionate to our bodies which have been serving us for years. Paying attention to it, giving it rest and nutrition instead of pushing it beyond its limit. It is taking care of our own emotions. What are our hearts telling us? Are we feeling happy, sad, disappointed or angry? And when we feel these emotions, do we acknowledge them? Do we know why we feel that way? Or do we wave them aside and ignore them and in the process, sadly ignore ourselves?

Do we allow ourselves to be trampled over or taken advantage of, time after time because we do not know how to say no to people? To love ourselves is to learn how to set boundaries for ourselves, to protect both ourselves and the other party. Why? Because if the other party were about to do something unkind to us and  we allow it, aren't we also assisting in commiting the unkind deed? Not standing up for ourselves is also akin to betraying ourselves. And that is the opposite of self love.

Why is self love so important? What if I were to say that self love is the foundation of your relationships with others, your health and your current life situation? What if I were to say that without loving yourself you will not get very far or be very happy? Because how you talk to yourself is also the way you will talk to others. How you treat yourself will also be the way you treat others. And the way that you relate to others determines the quality of your relationships. And without good, intimate relationships, what is life?  Self love is loving and respecting of others because in true self love, we cannot possibly love and respect ourselves yet be unkind to others.

And most importantly, if you are a parent, how harshly you scold and berate yourself when you make a mistake will also be the same way you will scold your child. And the way your child will also berate your grandchild in future. By the same token, if you are kind and loving towards  yourself, you will cultivate good relationships and happiness all round.

Learning to love ourselves is a journey.  We learned how to treat ourselves directly or indirectly from our parents, teachers and the world around us. We learned from young that to gain love and approval, we have to please those around us. In some ways, we have short-changed ourselves in the process, in order to gain that love. Because the love of others is so conditional, is it not better to learn to love and honour ourselves  instead of depending on external sources?

Monday, 15 October 2012

Break, break, break

Last weekend my family together with four other families decided to take a short retreat not too far from the city, to Port Dickson. There were 10 adults and 9 kids who made this trip. We left early Saturday morning to have breakfast in Seremban along the way. However, there was an accident along the highway and it took us an extra hour to reach Seremban.

Our holiday bungalow
We arrived in Port Dickson before lunch in the pouring rain. Well, our day at the beach looked  like a dismal prospect unless we intended to play in the rain. However, around 2.30pm the rain came to a stop and everything proceeded smoothly from then. The first event was the telematch where all participated. I hadn't played "carry the pingpong ball on a spoon" game since schooldays! After the games, the kids played on the beach and rode on the banana boat float at RM10 per head. We had a really swell time.
Site of The Hibiscus Project in Port Dickson
During the period that Chang was dying, my daughter and I were also preparing for her public examinations.   It was a stressful period. I could have chosen to focus on my daughter instead of completing his blog. It was my spouse who encouraged me to complete his blog after a visit to Chang. So, it is not me who is kindhearted but my spouse. The almost daily visits to his house and the blog did take quite alot of time away from my daughter but I think it is also a matter of priorities and whether we choose to help. Whether we are willing to sacrifice our time to take care of another person's needs, when it is appropriate to. His death was followed by my mother's illness. She was hospitalised and now needs homecare. So, a break was overdue.
a hermit crab from the beach

For many years of my life, I did not know the meaning of the word relaxation. I heard people around me telling me to relax and thought it meant to take more holidays. However, after many holidays, I still did not feel "relaxed." It was only on one particular day, some years back at Port Dickson (again) when I fell asleep on the beach that I realised that I had really relaxed and what it felt like to be "relaxed." After that, that same feeling became my barometer for relaxation!

I realised that it was not which holiday destination I went to but rather the state of mind I brought along with me, wherever I went. I could be at The Datai Langkawi but if I carried along a harried and hurried attitude, a head full of thoughts and worries, my body and mind would not get any break. How simple yet why did it take so long for me to realise that? 

I grew up with a family of anxious, fast moving people whose motto was to "walk faster, eat faster and everything faster" It was so ingrained in me that it became my way of life. (I shall write on childhood conditioning and baggage in a separate post). That was the only pace of living I knew. Being fast was going to keep me out of trouble so naturally I hurried. If I kept everyone waiting, there could be repercussions and I could be left out of certain activities and no child would risk that.

In my career, being fast and efficient became very rewarding. But I became saddled with more and more work. It definitely brought me promotions and career achievements. However, the word "relax" still eluded me. I have found that there is no end to the chase for more achievements and more money.  My mind, instead of being focused on the present moment of appreciating what I already have, becomes centered on the next thing and the next. There is no end and no break.

Many of us are chasing and chasing in this rat race. At the end of the day, where is all this getting us? Why is it that we have to postpone really living to the future? Why is it that we can only be happy after........we get that promotion, that new baby, that first million, when our children have grown up? Are we not entitled to be happy as is, in the present moment? Finding the happiness amidst the imperfections of life.

I told Chang I did not understand his concept of working like crazy to earn all that money so that he could retire a monk. It sounds very noble but does that not sound so contradictory in itself? If monkhood were so important, would it not make more sense to start practising the qualities of a monk first whenever one had the opportunity and gradually slip into the role?  Practise the heart of monkhood rather than putting on that monk label and robe. Cultivating oneself in body, speech and mind, daily meditation, kindness, less materialism etc. Why postpone to the next life to be a monk? Why not this life? Why not now, if you really have the heart? Why start living only when circumstances become perfect? Is there such a thing as perfect circumstances?

Most of us think too much. our minds have to work overtime to cope with our busy lives. The inner dialogue goes on all day. The relentless thinking burns up alot of energy and we get exhausted. Furthermore, out thoughts are driven by emotions - usually underlying fear, anger or desire. It is exciting but exhausting. And the stress builds up. We have a threshold for the stress we can cope with and remain well. When this threshold is crossed, we find it harder to cope and become vulnerable to becoming unwell.

It makes more sense to claim whatever happiness we can have right at this moment. And if on that particular day, when things gets too much, make it a point to step down from that conveyor belt of stress to wind down. It takes effort but listening to one's body is an important part of loving oneself. A simple cup of tea, a walk or yoga works wonders. And stay in the now rather than focus on getting more and more.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Happy Birthday

Today would have been the 53rd birthday of Chang Chee Teck, the cancer warrior. It has been a  little over month that he passed away on Sept 11.  His mother has been chanting daily for him since his end stage and will be continuing for 49 days after his death to accumulate the merits to fulfill her son's wishes to be reborn as a monk in New Zealand.

When he was at his end stage, I asked a Taiwanese monk about his condition and the monk said that he was reaching the end of his life span. This was a no-brainer actually but it helped people like me who still had that little hope to prepare for his death. Upon hearing the news, I took the opportunity to make some offerings for him  in the Grand Puja Ceremony which was coincidentally taking place the next day. To make offerings to minimise his suffering and attain a good rebirth.

Last year on this day, I bought him a simple lunch at the Green Meadows Organic Restaurant in SS2 Petaling Jaya. His favourite was the lotus leaf rice. We also ordered the rainbow salad. After all, we cannot take for granted that the next birthday will come and the next and the next.  So I thought why not have a simple celebration. It was the first and last time we celebrated his birthday.

Wherever you are, Chee Teck, may you be well and happy! May you enjoy the New Zealand food and the beautiful landscape!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The Cancer Stigma

I was moved to write about today's topic after reading the experience of a reader HC who made a comment in the previous post "The Precious Human Life." I hope to create some awareness here. .

Despite treatment advances and extended survival rates, cancer remains a stigmatised disease and people with cancer  have to contend with societal attitudes, prejudices and discrimination solely based on their cancer history. People respond differently to them and may negatively stereotype them as a "cancer victim' or believe that cancer is an automatic death sentence. Because of this, many people with cancer prefer not to disclose their disease publicly. This only leaves them feeling alienated when they should be receiving support.

The following is an excerpt from an article published in PBS NewsHour:-
"The last thing a person needs after receiving a cancer diagnosis is to feel ostracized by friends or fear being left by a loved one. But in many countries, the stigma attached to cancer and the perception that cancer equals death creates great social costs for patients.

Patients often voice fears of being blamed for the diagnosis, and that some survivors have shared stories about husbands who left when they learned of the disease. A survey of nine countries,   highlighted at the International Conference on Global Health found that 25 percent of respondents believe cancer patients brought the disease on themselves.

Jesmin Shafiq, a doctor from Bangladesh but who works in Australia had a sister-in-law who died of breast cancer because she refused to go to a doctor. “She thought it was a shame on her, so she kept it to herself, that led to her advanced condition and that led to her death,” Shafiq said. Feelings of guilt, that the patient did something wrong and will be a financial burden to their families also contribute to people not wanting to seek medical help.

It's only in the last decade that people have really become open about talking about cancer diagnoses. Survivors sharing their stories, showing that they continue to thrive after treatment, is part of the key to dispelling stigma. Dispelling the idea that cancer can only mean death is also vital to encourage people to take preventative measures and seek care. If they believe there is nothing to be done for the disease, they won't take steps to save themselves".

If you are a close family member or friend of the one diagnosed, you too will be grieving, even if the prognosis is very good. You may be consumed with an urgency to fix the problem, but then be overwhelmed with feelings of helplessness or blame. All this is a normal part of being traumatized by the news of the diagnosis.
  • Just try to stay present and listen without judgment. You may be uncomfortable to hear your loved one talk about death, but that may be what they need to do.
  • Avoid exaggerating the gravity of the situation.
  • Avoid minimizing the situation with “Everything is going to be alright,” or “The surgery will be a piece of cake.”
  • Stay calm and let them talk about whatever they want to. Just be present with them as they go through the inevitable shock and emotional turmoil. If you don’t know what to say, just listen and say nothing.
  • And be there for the practical stuff: telephone calls, organizing visits, transportation etc The last thing they need right is to be fretting about practical arrangement 
It is understandable that though people may have good intentions, they do not know what to say. Some fear erroneously, that the disease is contagious. It helps to ponder on how we would like to be treated if we were in their shoes. Everyone wants to be counted and accepted as a useful member of the human race, even when they are weak or sick. None of us like being "written off" or treated as any lesser than a "normal" human being. We fear abandonment and so do people with cancer. At this crucial time, they need to be treated normally, with dignity, respect and love. So, for the sake of our loved ones and friends, let us educate ourselves about the disease and equip ourselves to be the support that they need.

Chang had a very admirable attitude. He often said that there is no shame in getting cancer. In fact, that was one of the first things he disclosed to people about himself. He had no qualms sharing on public forums. And he always encouraged patients to talk about it openly because the burden of shame is not conducive to  the healing process.

Have you encountered similar experiences? It would be helpful to  share so that we can all learn from your experiences to be more sensitive towards the sick.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The Precious Human Life

A week before Chang passed on, a mutual girlfriend made a remark that he must have been very disappointed at the outcome of his therapies, in particular the Gerson Therapy. That Chang put himself through such a tasteless Gersons Therapy diet yet it failed to shrink the tumours. 

It struck me then how very different we human beings view the same situation. Probably, because I had never heard Chang express his disappointment that I never saw it in such a light.  So, what is your point of view? Do you think that the Gerson Therapy was a failure?

In the early days, he was a very staunch supporter of the Gerson Therapy and was hopeful especially after the first few months when he saw some results. However, he also said that the Gerson Therapy would take between one and half to two years to work.After that, he would have to look into other alternative therapies. At that time, he combined the Gerson Therapy with TCM herbs from CA Care and urine therapy. But as I recall, he started looking shortly after he came back from Mexico. He went into LDN, which threw his sleep cycle out of whack, fungicide therapy and snake grass which caused alot of phlegm and he was coughing blood.

While he must have been disappointed (as anyone would) that the Gerson Therapy did not manage to cure his cancer, I dont think he was ever disappointed with the Gerson Therapy per se. In fact, he promoted it everywhere he went. 

Some quarters say the Gerson Therapy is outdated. He used to say that from reading the write-ups, this therapy and that therapy seems so effective but he has not met one single real life person who attests to a cure. I said, "Mr Chang, as a person who has done marketing and sales before, you should know that they will advertise successful cases but how many are unsuccessful, we wouldn't know." He said "There are so many therapies out there. Which to choose?" I reasoned that because we are different and have different body types and inclinations, different therapies work for different people. The tough part is choosing the right one.

The Gerson Therapy can be quite a regimented therapy with its 13 juices a day, no oil, no salt, no sugar and lots of potatoes and little rice with up to 6 coffee enemas a day.  And he was doing all the marketing, washing vegetables, cutting carrots, juicing, boiling coffee, etc alone. Not to mention, writing this blog and doing all the reading and research as well. He really did put himself through alot. Who has his kind of motivation and determination?  In a way, he was very fortunate that he had all along been a very healthy and strong man. He still had alot of energy and he could run around and was very independent.

I told my girlfriend that as yet, there is no known cure for cancer. What the Gerson Therapy did for him, as Chang himself said was to control the growth of the tumours. In cancer, having a therapy that is able to control tumour growth is very, very good already. It gave him the extra few years of life. But Chang was out to carve a path to cure himself so he combined various therapies.

I used to tell him that he had just switched jobs from IT consultant to alternative health therapist. Still a workhorse. He was also a perfectionist. In the early days, he followed the manual almost to a tee. Scouring the organic shops for brown rice mee hoon with zero sodium (salt) in it. Squeezing water from vegetables before juicing because he insisted that the Gerson Therapy does not allow water. Over time, he learned to take some shortcuts and to be more relaxed with the therapy. 

Chang told me that had it not been for cancer, he would have travelled to Singapore to work and focused on earning money. Cancer stopped him in his tracks to reflect on his life. I felt that his cancer journey was a learning curve for him in many ways. In his pre-cancer days, he would not have spent his money on organic foodstuff or drank vegetable juices.

Lets not take for granted the life we have. When we come close to losing it, see how hard we fight to keep it. We are willing to travel the world to find a cure, for that "extra" few years, days or even minutes of life, for that one extra breath.  Realise how precious our human life is.

Wake up each morning to see each new day as an  "extra" time or "bonus" time. The journey of our life really is to hold that precious time in our hands and use it wisely.  What is it that stirs our heart? What is it that gives life meaning? Know that we have the power to change our lives and live differently. Look through our "bucket" list and do what we long to accomplish in this lifetime. Most importantly, say what we mean to say to our loved ones. Don't wait.