Monday, August 30, 2010

Watching Paint Dry

This is like watching paint dry; Lin is going to have another blood test on Wednesday (2 days from now) and then if that still shows a low White Blood and Neutrophil count, we try again next Monday!

He had a scan on Friday and we were informed of the results today. Some coronary artery calcification and stones in both kidneys (we were only aware of one before). So he's heading to a cardiologist soon and we're keeping a watchful eye on the kidneys as they have not disturbed him thus far.

So far so good as far as the Big "C" is concerned. But it looks like we are going to expand our knowledge of various medical conditions before the year is out.

Prof. Wong has taken Lin's oxaliplatin dosage down to 60% (from 100% to 80%, then last time it was adjusted to 60%) but that doesn't seem to have made much change to the recovery rate of his WBCs. 

He's discussed this with colleagues and cancer specialists (including the one who invented oxaliplatin) and apparently low WBC counts are not uncommon in older patients on oxaliplatin. Something like 40% of older patients face this setback.

So next time around we are going to go to a two drug chemotherapy regime - 5FU and Leucovorin. The rationale behind this is that we should keep up the frequency or else there will be minimal effect.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ebb and Flow

It's be rather quiet and so it was not a huge surprise that we have had a set back. Some of his blood test results were not very encouraging (still low WBC and neutrophils, now complicated by high AST and ALP in the liver panel).

This is a new wrinkle and quite unexpected. We are hoping it is a temporary aberration, but rather than take chances I am asking for your support in prayer.

Lin was happy after they took his blood pressure and weight (he's now 68 kilos, an improvement), but was pulled up by the Prof. who'd been given Lin's weight as 63 plus kilos - likely a typo when someone did not complete the figure "8". Anyway, the Prof. was mollified when another weighing showed the modest weight improvement.

Sod's law being what it is, I was waiting patiently in a queue at Ghim Moh for my char kway teow* fix (why he was open on a Monday I will not know!) when Lin was called in for his audience with Prof Wong.

Anyway, why cry over spilt milk - at least I avoided being taken to task for the skin on his palms! Just try being the interface between the specialist and the patient (both stubborn). Talk about being between a rock and a hard place!

We are going back on Friday and Monday.

Friday for a CT scan (thorax, abdomen, pelvis) and Monday for another Liver Panel and Full Blood Count. Then a session with the Prof. and hopefully, chemotherapy (2B).

While waiting for the bloodwork this morning we met a very pleasant Indonesian lady whose husband is with NUS - they have lived here for the past 14 years and her mother (in her mid 60's) is also being looked after by Prof. Wong.

A shared hardship certainly brings people together and we have been fortunate to meet some friendly and helpful fellow patients and caregivers.

* yes it was worth the wait and weight 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Living Healthy, In Praise of Durian and Other Things

Thanks to Betty L Khoo-Kingsley, a long lost friend (now found again) we have been thinking about a more healthy lifestyle. 

Lin knew Betty when she worked for SPH (formerly The Straits Times Group), editing their women's magazines. I also got to know Betty around the same time and we had and still have, many mutual friends.

We lost touch over the years and I made contact again when one of our friends emailed me about Betty's book,  "Cancer Cured & Prevented Naturally". I obtained some to give to friends in Hong Kong and the USA, even before cancer raised it's ugly head in our lives.

I started to read her book but the inevitable happened and it joined all the partly read tomes beside my bed. Then this episode of our lives occurred and it was forgotten until we had returned to Singapore and discovered that Betty was also here.

So we met up again. Betty's transformation from editor of women's magazines to biodynamic gardener and believer in anthroposophy is nothing short of amazing, considering that it was not precipitated by a personal encounter with cancer.

In her book she mentions the death of a close friend and colleague, a medical doctor who changed careers and became a newspaper marketing and then periodicals man. I also had come to know him quite well and we'd have lunch every once in a while to bring each other up to date - the last time was shortly before we left for London and he fell to cancer.

Fortunately for all of us, all these events and spiritual 'awakening' have led her to writing, promoting and talking about ways we can help the earth and help ourselves. 

I have to say that I was totally overwhelmed when we met again and even now, after reading the magazines and newsletters she left with us, I am not sure I have grasped even one percent of what she had to impart to us.

All of a sudden, I think about all the things I either have taken for granted or gone about doing automatically - like eating, sleeping, breathing, walking, and just going about our daily lives.

Many of us will not become as fervent or dedicated as Betty, but we can be more conscious and deliberate in our choices where until now it's been automatic. Sometimes we need to be more aware of what is around us.

Anyway, before I get more entangled in trying to find the right words to express myself, I thought I should list the non-organically produced foods that we can safely buy and eat.

It might not be 'pukka' to go this route but unless we can grow our own foods, there are some compromises we can make.

The following have protective skins or are less attractive to pests (and so have had less chemicals sprayed on them):

Onions, avocados, sweet corn, pineapple, mangoes, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwi fruit, cabbage, eggplant, papayas, water melons, broccolli, tomatoes and sweet potatoes. (Tomatoes were 'out' and now they are 'in' and no reason has been stated).

This list is by no means exhaustive, but for me it is a start.

It's also a sign that durian must be a fine fruit because it has thick skin and most come from jungles rather than plantations! Besides, I think their predators are man and animals rather than insects and plant diseases.

My other 'local' favourite, coconut, is good too. Nice thick husk and a hard shell to protect the 'coconut water' and flesh. And from what I have read, 'coconut water' is the perfect isotonic drink! Other medical benefits have been claimed (e.g. it was used an an IV in WWII when blood plasma was not available) but I do not know about the reliability of the sources.


This remedy is really effective - it was used in government hospitals in the 1970s and 1980s, for any patients who had frequent diarrhea, even cases of typhoid and cholera. Many were unable to eat food, as they vomited anything they ate, and also many were too weak even to stand up properly.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and other forms of alternative therapies, if taken patiently over months, can often stabilize the body and eventually bring the disease under control, to such an extent that the patient does not need to take medicine anymore. In some cases and diseases, the condition is even rectified/cured (as the Chinese say, “theng gen” the roots of the disease are cut).

During the months of bringing the health condition under control, while taking TCM or any other form of alternative therapies, the patient must continue taken whatever medication their doctors have prescribed. 

This is because Doctors' medicine can temporarily either slow the progress of the disease, or alleviate unwanted signs and symptoms (like lowering blood pressure, controlling pain etc ), as TCM and most alternative therapies take time to work, as they are based on natural ingredients like herbs, extracts from food ingredients - and thus will slowly rebalance the body over months. As the patient improves, automatically the doctor will reduce the medication.


You take a handful of rice and boil it in a large saucepan with lots of water. Like three or four large glasses.

Cool and drink the water.

If you are in a hurry, take the saucepan off the fire and dunk it in a frying pan or basin of cool water with ice cubes if necessary.

When drinking the rice water, make sure there is lots of it. Enough water must go in to line his guts from throat to other end, all 10 to 12 metres of it.

If you take rice, it stays in the stomach. If you take broth, some of it may go into the small intestine.

But if you take rice water in sufficient quantity, it will reach every centimetre of the small and large intestine.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

.....and this little piggy came to Singapore!

No, Lin did not have a turn with the inaugural Youth Olympic Games torch*. But he did have 2A of his chemotherapy programme yesterday! Only four and a half cycles to go.

On paper we are exactly one cycle behind schedule.

* The inaugural YOG is being held in Singapore from August 14-26 for young athletes from 14 to 18 years of age.

His dosage has been reduced slightly and we are keeping fingers crossed that this will enable his WBC and Neutrophils to come back to normal more quickly than they have been doing. Anyway, we live in hope!

Waiting at home last evening were Chris and Andrew Simmons, sons of 'Bill' Simmons who ran The Straits Times in the pre-SPH era. Then, The Straits Times was one company and the newspaper circulated both in Singapore AND Malaysia.

I remember Bill as Chris' and Andrew's father first and then as the 'Big Boss' of the Straits Times.

At that time I was working in advertising and public relations and freelancing as the motoring writer for the Sunday Times so I had very little to do with the likes of the Lin Holloways and Bill Simmonses of the world. Ah, the early '70s were a great time for us young people.

I'd better not say more as that would not only incriminate me, but lots of other people we ran around with at that time.

Today, Lin's lumbered with his heavy, black infusion pump and looking forward to turning it in tomorrow. In the meantime, it is working like a dream; maybe we should suggest to the manufacturer that they design it to use lighter batteries as I think that would save much of the weight and bulk.

In the meantime we will continue juicing fruit and vegetables and, in his case, staying off alcoholic beverages.

Thanks to Pat we can take consolation in nibbling on a shoulder of Jamon Iberico de Bellota which I am getting quite adept at slicing!  As you all can see the shoulder's almost gone..............

If you have not had the real thing, believe me, this little piggy will make an afficionado out of you.  

Believe me, even my non-pork eating friend (who shall remain nameless) enjoys the happy, organically raised pigs who roam free and munch on acorns!

And this fat is GOOD fat, see what Wikipedia has to say about it -

Extract from Wikipedia:
Bellota jamones are prized both for their smooth texture and rich savory taste. A good ibérico ham has regular flecks of intramuscular fat. Because of the pig's diet of acorns, much of the jamón's fat is oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread!

Looks like Lin is not going to have his chemotherapy for another week and the dosage will be reduced again.

In the meantime feeding up continues.

However, not all is gloom and doom because I managed to find Biotex in Singapore. It's the best thing since sliced bread!

I have used Biotex off and on for laundry for donkeys' years and find it really works well on stains. But then it disappeared off the shelves.

I have looked high and low for it in Hong Kong and the USA, and even here in Singapore. 

This time, I tried every supermarket I came across and surfed the web. And even went as far as having a friend in England send me a 'care' package of Biotex.

From my web searches, it seems that Sara Lee (an American company) owns the brand and makes it in Europe. Enquiries to Sara Lee elicited this reply:


Unfortunately, we only sell BIOTEX product in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Thank you for your interest in Sara Lee Corporation.


Jeannie Williams
Sara Lee Corporation
Investor Relations Department
3500 Lacey Road
Downers Grove, IL 60515
Phone: 630-598-6000

One would have thought that a major corporation would say something like they would take it up with their local company (Sara Lee is in Singapore) or their International Marketing Division. No such luck!

Then yesterday, serendipity took me to Cold Storage at 6th Avenue (not a location I'd visit in the normal course of things) and, lo and behold, Biotex! But they only had two packets on their shelves and so I bought both. 

I figured that seasoned shoppers stock up when they see them (lest like Biotex, they vanish from the shelves).

Upon reaching home I emailed Cold Storage's customer service department about Biotex and discovered that they import this product themselves! I hope Wellcome in Hong Kong (a sister company) will do the same in Hong Kong.

Nowadays many detergents incorporate some enzymes to help with dissolving dirt or brightening clothes, but not all of them are formulated like Biotex (and I am NOT being paid to say all this)!

"The most important reasons to use enzymes in detergents are i) that a very small quantity of these inexhaustible bio-catalysts can replace very large quantity of man made chemicals and ii) enzymes can work at very low temperature at which traditional chemistry quite often is no longer effective iii) they are fully biodegradable. All these characteristics make enzymes - on top of their high efficiency - environmentally friendly ingredients. 

Several enzymes can be used in products; each one having its own very well defined target. Some enzymes are specialised to attack fat stains, others to attack food stains. "

However, finding Biotex in Singapore is little consolation for the noise pollution in this growing city. 

Thank goodness they finished building next to us, but when they were piling and then pouring the foundations life was sheer hell. 

But the NEA (National Environment Agency) assured us that the contractors were conforming with the laws. (I was most tempted to say that our words fell on deaf ears but you'd groan!)

Reading about the laws/guidelines on the NEA website, I realised whose side the law is on:

Recognising that Singapore’s continued rapid development—from new residential and commercial structures to improved and expanded transport infrastructure—brings with it some inevitable inconveniences, NEA works together with industry and the public to establish acceptable levels of noise. 

Industry and commerce trump the public, which is why we rate so highly as a great place to do business!

I just wish that our government ministers would forsake their Gurkha-guarded mansions and try living in homes that are cheek by jowl with construction sites. ONLY for a few crucial months.

Hong Kong could be deafening if it had the same construction noise guidelines as Singapore. Just before we returned to Singapore, I was in an office building in Central.

At 12:30pm sharp piling started up. I was told that this would probably last through the lunch  hour and then there would be a respite until about 5:00pm. In the mornings there would be a noisy period before 9:00am.

This seemed very considerate as sites in Central are often surrounded by fully tenanted high rise office and shopping complexes.

I did not look further into the matter but there seems to be far more consideration and respect for neighbours than down here.

As far as renovations are concerned, each condominium estate in HK has it's rules but by and large work does not commence before 9:00 and stops at 5:30pm. No work takes place on Sundays.

Now that construction next to us has been completed, I am alarmed to see a metal 'wall' enclose the perimeter of the Thai Embassy across the road. Is our peace going to be assaulted again?

Living in a high rise just off Orchard Road is wonderfully convenient - we don't have to fight the traffic, pay the government for the pleasure of driving into the shopping area and seek out elusive and expensive parking spaces. 

But there is a price to pay, all the same.

Our sleep is often disturbed by a particular car that circulates in the neighbourhood around 11pm/11:30pm and sometime between the hours of 2am and 4am. It doesn't sound like a high performance engine so much as a small car with an exhaust system bigger than its engine.

This isn't the only car that shatters our peace, there are others. I guess we should thank indulgent fathers and Formula One for this.

Monday, August 2, 2010

On Trials and Tribulations

Let's get the character-building bad news first: NO CHEMO today. Lin's neutrophils were not cooperating again; much to his chagrin because he's feeling so well.

Wiiliam B sent us the following message, which came at an appropriate time. I only know of Rick Warren as a modern, media savvy pastors but this message transcends religious boundaries if you believe in a God or Maker.

You will enjoy the new insights that Rick Warren has, with his wife now having cancer and him having 'wealth' from the book sales.

In the interview by Paul Bradshaw with Rick Warren, Rick said:  

People ask me, What is the purpose of life?

And I respond: In a nutshell, life is preparation for eternity. We were not made to last forever, and God wants us to be with Him in Heaven.  One day my heart is going to stop, and that will be the end of my body-- but not the end of me.

I may live 60 to 100 years on earth, but I am going to spend trillions of years in eternity. This is the warm-up act - the dress rehearsal. God wants us to practice on earth what we will do forever in eternity.

We were made by God and for God, and until you figure that out, life isn't going to make sense.
Life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, you're just coming out of one, or you're getting ready to go into another one.
The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than your comfort; God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy.
We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that's not the goal of life. The goal is to grow in character.
This past year has been the greatest year of my life but also the toughest, with my wife, Kay, getting cancer.
I used to think that life was hills and valleys - you go through a dark time, then you go to the mountaintop, back and forth. I don't believe that anymore.
Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it's kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life.
No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on.
And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for.

You can focus on your purposes, or you can focus on your problems:  
If you focus on your problems, you're going into self-centeredness, which is my problem, my issues, my pain.'

But one of the easiest ways to get rid of pain is to get your focus off yourself and onto God and others.
We discovered quickly that in spite of the prayers of hundreds of thousands of people, God was not going to heal Kay or make it easy for her - it has been very difficult for her, and yet God has strengthened her character, given her a ministry of helping other people, given her a testimony, drawn her closer to Him and to people.
You have to learn to deal with both the good and the bad of life.
Actually, sometimes learning to deal with the good is harder. For instance, this past year, all of a sudden, when the book sold 15 million copies, it made me instantly very wealthy.
It also brought a lot of notoriety that I had never had to deal with before.

I don't think God gives you money or notoriety for your own ego or for you to live a life of ease.

So I began to ask God what He wanted me to do with this money, notoriety and influence.  

First, in spite of all the money coming in, we never changed our lifestyle one bit.. We made no major purchases.  

Second, about midway through last year, I stopped taking a salary.  

Third, we set up foundations to fund an initiative we call The Peace Plan to  assist the poor, care for the sick, and educate the next generation.  

Fourth, I added up all that my work had paid me in the 24 years since I started work, and I gave it all back. It was liberating to be able to serve God for free.  

We need to ask ourselves: Am I going to live for possessions? Popularity?  
Am I going to be driven by pressures? Guilt? Bitterness? Materialism? Or am I going to be driven by God's purposes?
When I get up in the morning, I sit on the side of my bed and say, God, if I don't get anything else done today, I want to know You more and love You better.

God didn't put me on earth just to fulfill a list. He's more interested in what I am than what I do!

That's why we're called human beings, not human doings.

Happy moments, PRAISE GOD!!Difficult moments, SEEK GOD!! Quiet moments, WORSHIP GOD!!   Painful moments, TRUST GOD!!   Every moment, THANK GOD!!!