Friday, 26 March 2010

It's difficult...

I've been trying for a few days to write about how cancer grow and spread in simple terms but it is really difficult. I could not escape from using medical jargons. I want the readers to understand why some steps have to be taken because without explaining the pathology, it will be like selling MLM products. I don't want to sell. I want to educate so it stays with you forever (especially my family members).

I need to think of some analogy....hmmm...

Meanwhile, I will leave you with these words I heard from a TV show to ponder upon.

When the person you love most leave you, he takes away the best part of you, leaving you alone to figure out how to become a new person. You cannot be your own self again. That's what I've been trying to do everyday.

Maybe this insight can help us understand somebody we know who is going through painful bereavement.

Monday, 22 March 2010

New Resolution

I know it's March. But this is not a resolution for 2010. This is a resolution for life, insyaAllah.

2 days ago our beloved Mak Uda returned to her Creator. She was my father's younger sister. She died of metastatic breast cancer. Luckily my father returned to Malaysia a few days before her death and had the opportunity to say his final goodbye.

My father's mother died due to cervical cancer in 2003. My late Mak Uda had been battling breast cancer for 10 years. And my brother is still fighting it since 9 years ago. The genetic susceptibility is strong in my father's family probably because they intermarried a lot. My grandparents themselves were second cousins.

What cancer can do to you?

10 years ago Mak Uda was diagnosed with breast cancer and has been on treatment ever since. In 2006 she was admitted to my ward because one day she woke up paralyzed waist down and unable to pass urine. The cancer had spread to her spine. Because she was one tough woman, she regained some functions of her legs and able to walk with walking aid. But then the cancer spread to her femur (thigh bone) and fractured it. She was immobilized again. Then last year it spread to her lungs.

My brother? He lost the normality of his right leg and has been sick all the time that he said he has forgotten how it felt to be perfectly healthy. He was unable to pursue his dream to become a pilot. He finished his bachelor's degree 3 semesters later than his friends. He now has kidney failure and had to postpone his masters degree.

So my new resolution do everything I can to protect myself and my family from the dreadful disease.

Yes, you heard (read) me right. We can protect ourselves from getting cancer even though our genetic make ups are against us. All of us have cancer cells in our bodies. But not everybody will develop the cancer-disease.

AntiCancer: A New Way of Life

I was really inspired by this book that I recommend it to be read by everybody, including (especially!) my colleagues.

This book is written by Dr David Servan-Schreiber, a clinical professor of psychiatry with a PhD in neuroscience, at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He also has lectured in Stanford and Cambridge Universities. But more importantly, he also has beaten brain cancer, twice.

As a cancer patient, he realized that his doctors (oncologists) did not have any answer to his most important question-"what do I do to make sure that my cancer does not come back?"

Their answers were vague. Do as you please. Enjoy your life. Don't smoke. Make sure you attend check-ups every six months.

But the scientist in him could not accept those answers.

So what he did was, he dig up the university's large database and searched bits and pieces of what researchers have found over the last few decades- especially in journals that doctors don't read (doctors usually only read famous journals that are sponsored by giant pharmaceutical companies- that publish things like this drug works better than this, this method of surgery has less complications, this procedure saves more lives etc).

He was shocked to find that the world actually has enough scientific evidences to suggest an anticancer life (the oncologists obviously did not know this).

So he changed his lifestyle. And he has been cancer free for 10 years now.

So people, all of us have cancer cells in our bodies. But not all of us will develop cancer as a disease. It is not as popularly believed, that cancer is a genetic illness. It is environmentally influenced, just like coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus.

The lifestyle that he has adopted is similar to what was practiced by Shigeaki Hinohara (the Japanese doctor who was still working at the age of 97), which I posted here.

I will share 2 things from the book that illustrate the statement that I have written in bold above.

First, a number of studies have shown that a lot of people carry microtumors in their bodies, without being inflicted by the disease. A systematic autopsy study in Finland revealed that occult papillary carcinoma of the thyroid is a 'normal' finding there. Statistics also showed that relative to men in the West, just as many pre-cancerous microtumours are found in the prostates of Asian men who die before fifty from other causes of cancer. Something in their way of life prevents these microtumors from developing.

In 2003, Dr. R. Mackie (a dermatologist) wrote an article about 2 patients, in New England Journal of Medicine. Patient A had end-stage kidney disease, requiring her to go for haemodialysis 3 times a week. She was then fortunate enough to get a new kidney from Lady K who died in an accident. All went well, her body received the new kidney beautifully, with the help of immunosuppressants (drugs to lower the immune system so that her body would not reject the new kidney). But after a year, the doctors found that she had widespread melanoma (an aggressive skin cancer). That was when Dr Mackie came into the picture. She could not found the primary site of the tumor. No skin lesion at all. Patient A succumbed to the cancer.

Shortly afterwards, patient B, also a kidney failure patient who received a new kidney in the same hospital developed secondary melanoma without the primary lesion. Dr. Mackie was convinced this could not be a coincidence. She found out that patient A and B received kidneys from the same donor. But the donor's medical records were clean (you have to be free of Hepatitis, HIV, cancer etc to be a donor). But she dig deeper. In a cancer database in Scotland she found that the donor actually had melanoma, was treated and years before she died she was declared 'completely cured' by her doctors.

So Dr Mackie managed to convince patient B's nephrologists to stop the immunosuppressant, and instead gave him immunostimulant to quickly reject the kidney. Patient B recovered from the melanoma but of course had to go back to the weekly haemodialysis.

So the donor, actually had been carrying microtumors in her body until her accidental death. She had managed to keep her cancer at bay. But in new hosts, whose immune system were depressed, the cancer cells flared to full blown disease.

Will write more later. AlFatihah to Mak Uda, who was beautiful in every way. You have shown us how to fight the disease and we are sure you are in one of the Heaven's gardens now. Thanks for the prayers for my brother. He is recovering well and still has appetite to eat. A good sign! :)

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Pray with us...

My brother is starting his chemotherapy for his lymphoma today. Please pray for his strength, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.
- Mahatma Gandhi

Monday, 1 March 2010

You've never been in his shoes...

Because of an illness, my brother's right leg is abnormal and bigger than his left leg.

Recently he was warded (unrelated to the leg). One friend came to visit him. He left my brother a remark, "apa nak malu, orang Afghanistan tu lagi ramai yang kudung, takde kaki, takde tangan" (what to be ashamed of, many of the Afghans have no arms or legs).

To this friend, whatever reason you have to offer your words of 'wisdom', next time please keep it to yourself. I hope you were not implying that the suffering of having no leg is worse than having an abnormal leg. You have no idea what it is like.

My brother was a sprinter and a rugby player. When the illness hit him and he lost the normality of his right leg, he couldn't run anymore. He can not simply buy any pants or shoes that he likes. These have to be specially tailored (at very high prices). His right leg often gives him cramps at night. He was even stopped by supermarket security once because they thought he was hiding stolen goods in his trousers.

People often treat him like a friend, or a brother. Many treat him like their own son. If you can't be any, at least treat him with respect. Save the comments to yourself.

To the readers, you can read this particular entry by Raden Galoh, who is currently fighting metastatic breast cancer bravely. It is about what to say and what not to say to people who are chosen to be tested with illnesses. You don't need to say "bersabar, ini dugaan Allah, ini kifarah dosa, kita mesti bersyukur sekurang2nya ada masa nak bertaubat etc" because they are well aware of that. Imagine if everybody who comes say that! How many times one needs to hear it? Instead, just say--do you need a ride to the clinic? or do you need a babysitter for the kids? or do you need an extra blanket?

Just save your judgement. You've never been in his shoes.

Adam, you are 5..

Adam turned 5 two days ago..

He has shown good progress since his last birthday. He is showing deep interests in mathematics (certainly not from me) and can grasp the concept of numbers quite fast. He finds reading a chore (Mama is trying to encourage more, but I'm not going to force it on you Adam). He lovesss games. He has a soft heart. He is his father through and through.

One incident last year that really displayed his true quality could not be erased from my mind. We were at a carboot sale and I gave Adam 50pence to spend on anything he liked. So we walked and walked but nothing caught his attention. Suddenly Ammar saw a Thomas The Tank book and cried out "Thomas! Thomas!". Adam took the book and gave it to Ammar, saying "you want this Amai?" and gave a coin to the lady seller. The lady was touched that she praised Adam. I asked her how much was the book, and she looked in her hand and saw that Adam only gave her 10pence. She said, smiling "It's ok, he already paid" (although I thought the book should cost more because it was an interactive sound-book).

He did that without thinking or asking me. It was intuitive. He put his brother's need first before himself. Mama is so proud of you Adam.

With advancing age comes more responsibility. Adam gets some new toys, but also an added duty in the house. He now has to bring his own plate and bowl to the kitchen sink everytime he finishes eating. He accepted this new responsibility with a smile.

I got this idea of officially giving new responsibility on birthdays along with presents from the article Raising Children in Deen and Dunya.

For Adam's birthday, I made him a chocolate cake with coffeecream icing (nak jugak tunjuk tuu hehe)

I am Fiveee!