Bald 'n Sassy

Life is for the living. Live simply. Expect less.

Archive for the month “May, 2011”

Project LFD is now activated

Small Diet Meal (image obtained from http://www.17day-diet.co.uk)

After my last post, there were no further symptoms of cramps or tenderness in my tummy.  Since, I was able to eat some food even though puree food is a good sign.  My surgeon asked in the morning if I wanted to go home and I did not hesitate to reply with a “yes, please!”.  He concurred with my answered and ordered the nurse to prepare my discharge. With a follow-up appointment scheduled and my green slip, I was happy to leave the hospital once again.  Home sweet home.

Now comes the post hospitalization care. The D word is put into action.  When one mentions the diet, people think that is starvation and depriving oneself of the good food. But not me! In my case, it is means choosing the right foods to manage any blockage in my intestines and minimize any potential cramps.  I have to look after my gut and a low fibre diet (LFD) is the ideal mix for me.  I am re-learning what types of fruits and vegetables containing low/high fibre. I would do anything to avoid going under the surgeon’s knife.

Here is snapshot of my puree menu for one day. Puree food such as meat or fish may not sound appetizing but when you do add some seasonings to it, it is rather yummy.  It doesn’t have to boring or bland.  I used what flavors I like and cook as per normal. Look at this way, it is no different to the to bottled baby foods but minus the preservatives.

Breakfast:

Oatmeal is very bland on its own. Since I have to eat at least 2 servings of fruit a day, I have incorporated one of my favorite fruits banana with oatmeal. puree banana with a teaspoon of cinnamon stirred into the oatmeal is heavenly.  The over ripe banana is sweet enough that no sugar is necessary.

Lunch/Dinner:

A small bowl of congee (chinese porridge) with sliced fish and a fistful of vegetables.  Usually it is combination of hardy vegetables like carrots, cauliflower or zucchini.  If I crave for western cuisine, I would do mash potato with a dash of basil pesto mixed together and some tuna.  That is one of my fave so far.  It is quick and easy.  If it not tuna, it would be steamed chicken breast.  Sweet potato is another option.  Hmm.. I shall visit the markets tomorrow and see what variety are available.

Snacks

Apple sauce homemade by yours truly.  It is rather delicious when it is served chilled.

Even though the puree diet is only meant to last for a week, I am looking forward to be able to chew my food in the next few days. Hey, I am a foodie after all.  I want to be able to taste the texture of food.  It is all about making smarter choices when it comes to eating.  Isn’t this the secret of life?

Hmmm.. what shall I have for dinner tonight?

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Eating – a simple pleasure In life

Day 5 of my hospital stay. Since my last post, I have made good progress in my recovery. No recurrence of the cramps. I had to undergo a Barium swallow test 2 days ago. The test is to track how my digestive system is working, that is how effective your gut is. I am happy to report that my digestive is working well and no blockages. Hooray!

With a positive result, I was upgraded from fasting to 500ml of liquid intake per day. My first treat was 100ml of clear chicken soup for dinner. The first sip tasted so good against my lips, sipping slowly for 5 minutes. My second treat is a cup of hot Horlicks to send me off to sleep land.
Following morning, the surgeon decided to make a bold decision and allowing me to have unlimited flow of liquids. I couldn’t be more thrilled with that news. Clear broth was on the menu for lunch and dinner plus Horlicks for tea breaks. As each day goes by a new surprise awaits. Earlier this morning, my doctor made another bold decision and allowed pureed food for my meals. I concurred and welcomed the decision. Double hooray!

As a foodie, eating is simple pleasure in life. So, my first pureed meal consisted of braised fish, carrot and pumpkin, a bowl of clear chicken broth and watermelon. After 4 days of no food, the first spoonful tasted so good even for hospital food. Mount Alvernia’s food is rather good. I like the menu variety ranging from Chinese, Muslim and Western dishes. I caught a whiff of a Malay dish, Nasi Lemak and it smelled really good.

As each day goes by, I’m grateful that I am able to eat a simple meal. I will need to change my diet to minimize any gut blockages in the future. After speaking to the hospital’s dietician, a low fibre diet would be the ideal plan for me. He sat down and drafted a menu plan. He recommend not too lose more weight but rather maintain my weight. This would entail watching my calorie intake. I am allowed to consume 2,200 calories per day. There are some foods that I have to omit but I am lucky that there are alternatives available. I am looking forward to cooking creating yummy dishes from the new set of ingredients.

Bon Appétit!

Sense of Déjà vu

Monday, 9.35am and I am lying in my hospital bed. Yes, I’m back in hospital. I was reluctant to come back but I had very little choice. I suffered some cramps late Friday evening. It was the first cramps experienced since my intestinal bypass surgery 11 months ago. I didn’t want to believe that it was happening. I resisted calling my surgeon but the pain was becoming excruciating that I needed some relief.

A phone call to my surgeon emergency number and asked for his advise. After answering all his questions, he suggested to visit a clinic and request for Buscopan injection to relief the pain. At the same time, he asked the local GP to feel my stomach for any sensitive areas. Should there be any tenderness, I would have to bring myself to the hospital’s emergency and meet the surgeon there. I guess you can figure what happened.

The surgeons initial plan is to keep me in the hospital overnight for observation plus easier management in the event that my cramps recurs. The doctor ordered to do a CT Scan to determine if there was any blockage in my intestines. During his explanations, I kept wishing that the colicky pains to subside, fast for a few days and it should be back to normal. That’s ideal solution. With a meticulous surgeon, he didn’t want to take any risks and wanted to cover various permutations. I place my trust in him once again. In the meantime, I am placed on drips to keep me hydrated.

If you have read my previous posts, I am not a fan of needles. An in-house doctor came in to do the honors of poking my veins. The first comment the doctor made when he held my arm is “you have very small veins” – not breaking news for me. He managed to find one. Took a deep breath and felt the poke into my skin. I felt the pain when he pushed the needed into my vein – OUCH!

Normally, the drip is painless when the solution is flowing into the veins. Since I am fasting, the surgeon ordered to include potassium to be administered together with the drip. This is my first time to receive potassium via drip. As soon as the solution hits my veins, there was a burning and aching sensation going through. Oh boy! It was painful and so uncomfortable that it interrupted my sleep. I was warned of this discomfort after I asked the nurse. I had to endure this pain for one day. Each time I finished one bag, it was immediately replaced with a new drip with potassium. Oh boy! I kept telling that it was too painful in my right arm and requested to change to my left hand. The nurse agreed as she saw my right arm was swollen.

It is just my luck to have the same in-house doctor to set the needle in left arm. He tried to insert the needle on the back of my palm but couldn’t push the needle all the way In. So he decided to find a vein in my fore arm. I barely felt the pain when he successful inserted the needle. Phew!

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This my how I spent my weekend. I hope to go home in the next few days.

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The results are in

Yes, the results are in. The CEA markers increase two folds from 24 in April to 54 in May. It wasn’t the kind of result I wanted to see at all. Shock was the immediate reaction but remained calm. Since she prepared me a month ago about the possibility of resuming chemo, I was somewhat armed with information. At the same time, I kept firing questions to my oncologist on how many cycles do I need to complete, what are the options available, alternative treatments, etc.

Here is what she shared with me:

  • The absolute numbers indicated in the results should not be the main focus. The objective of the test is to see if the protein (CEA) population is active and the population increase.
  • Suggested course of treatment is to administer a different drug.
  • Chemo treatment will last 6 months and the frequency of treatment will be once every fortnight. Total of 12 cycle.
  • I can choose to start the chemo as soon as possible OR wait till a later time till I develop further symptoms. I call this the chicken and egg game.
Now it is really up to me when to start the treatment. Before I could set a time, there are critical factors to consider. First and foremost my job hunt will have to be put on hold. My oncologist made a point that

What’s up doc?

Is it that time already? It was only 4 weeks ago that I came back from my trip in Israel. Returned just in time for my monthly blood test to see how my treatment is coming along. I am little anxious once again when I will be poked to draw blood. Last month results indicated that my CEA markers were at the same number range prior to the start my chemo last year. I felt a little numb and shocked for a good few minutes. However, my oncologist mentioned that the levels escalates when I am not well. I did feel a little under the weather during the last few hours of my flight home. Though I couldn’t pin point if it was the airline food or a virus circulating in the plane that caused me to have the bad case of the tummy bug. A round of antibiotics was prescribed to reduce the symptoms somehow it persisted for at least another 10 days. Feeling a little unsettled, a call to the oncologist to ask why it hasn’t gone away. She explained that sometimes these bugs will just take a little longer to expel from the body.

So what happens next? This depends on my blood test results tomorrow. The oncologist did prepare me if the markers are still high, I may have to resume another round of chemo. She walked me through my options of trying fortnightly frequency with another drug and the side effects that comes with it. I am keeping positive that my markers will come down to a single digit. I don’t wish to go through chemo all over again.

Tomorrow is a full medical day. First appointment is my bi-annual follow-up with the surgeon. Followed by the oncologist to do the blood test. While my blood is being processed, I will have my back adjusted by the chiropractor – all by 12pm. Break for lunch and return to the oncologist to get the results. It will be a nerve wrecking Thursday for me. I shall be crossing my fingers and toes.

Time to get some shut-eye! Stay tune for the results.

Telemarketing companies, update your database! No means NO!

It really irks me that when you say no, I mean NO! It does mean maybe, possibly or I will think about it. I am ranting because I am tired of the daily calls from different insurance companies, banks or hotel programmes offering new credit card or some new insurance plans. Every time I receive such calls, I am straight to the point and ask them, “Will you give me the credit card if I am unemployed?” or “Will your insurance company insure me if I have a pre-existing condition like cancer?”. In most cases, the tele-marketer will politely decline my request and bid a good day. However, before I hang on the call, I request to have my number from the list and do not contact me in future regardless of the products. A simple request and acknowledged by the telemarketer. Then why is that a week later, I receive another call from the same company offering me the same credit card? Is it that difficult for tele-marketing companies to update their database?

The message is very clear

Here is a perfect example. Today I received a call from my existing insurance company requesting to set up a time with a consultant to talk about new savings plan, etc. I asked her that I have a consultant servicing my accounts and I am happy with the person. She had the audacity to ask, “Don’t you want to hear a different perspective?”. I replied “How different can the perspective be when you are representing the same company pitching the same products and services?”. My last comment to her “Doesn’t the company have a list of existing customers’ with the assigned consultants? Why are you calling the same pool of customer’s?”. She just didn’t know how to reply to my questions.

Yes, I have had up to my eyeballs with having to repeat myself to strike my name of the list. Don’t get me wrong, I am not attacking the tele-marketers who call me. I am having a go at those telemarketing companies who fail to hear my requests. It seems to me that my contact detail is a bad rash that persistently re-appears despite applying ointment. Is it so hard to execute a simple request?

How would you say farewell to the world?

If you have the chance to bid farewell to the world, how would you do it? Maybe having a big fanfare with your family and friends celebrating life or travel around the world to leave your footprint. Perhaps doing charity or work for a non-profit organization. Each of us has their own way to bid adieu to the world. A friend of mine shared a link about a blogger, Derek Miller, Blogger announces own death after battle with cancer.

The article had me thinking on several levels. Firstly, I could relate myself to Derek as a fellow cancer patient and what he endured during his treatment days. Secondly, how would I would announce my death. To be truthfully honest I haven’t given much thought to this topic. My family is mostly likely have the traditional church service. Knowing me, I would plan on how and what is to be done on the day itself. All it would need is someone to execute it. Finally, how would someone else remember you summarized in 10 word or less. I might just introduce this “remember me” game at my last party. This would be very interesting!

So coming back to the main topic of broadcasting your death, I have to admire for Miller’s friend to agree to undertake the role of updating the blog. If I had to ask someone who would the same, I could only shortlist a few names. That person would not only have to know very well but also comfortable to able to close the last chapter of my digital life. I would select a different friend to carry out my other wishes like reading my eulogy. By the way whoever the person delivering the eulogy, he or she must possess charisma, keep the audience captivated whilst articulating my best personality traits. It is a fair to only want the best. After all, it would be my last hurrah on earth!

It is a short piece tonight, folks!

Project Comeback – WIP Report

It is nearing 2 months since I wrote about my Project Comeback. It is time that I report on my progress. The first item on the list was planning a holiday and enjoy my reward. As shared in my previous post, I had a fabulous time in Israel and Jordan. I am not going to close this item just yet. The travel bug is always in me and there are places in the world I have yet to conquer.

Item 2: Start looking for work.

Since my return from my vacation, I began distributing my resume to head hunters.  There are some opportunities out there I know for me with my kind of skill set. I just need to find it.  When one faces or had to deal with an adversity, it either weakens or strengthens your spirit.  I fall into the latter group.  When I resigned from previous job to travel, it was a time for me to find out what to do next.  With a strong passion for the food and cooking, I would like to pursue this field.  With my cancer recurrence last year I had to put on this passion on hold for now. But I haven’t given up on this as yet. I may just switch industries altogether. But at the same time I am being realistic. Call me superficial but the primary reason for me to return to working in the corporate sector is for the money. With high medical expenses such as scans and specialists fees, I will need to build my financial reserves once again to support this.

Working 9 to 5. Actually it is beyond 5pm on most days (Image from http://www.cartoonstock.com)

By the way I am still lookout for the magic wand! Ha!

Item 3: Inspirational List

My inspirational list is culmination of people I had the fortunate to meet or work for plus stories of people not giving up on your dream. Dick and Rick Hoyt (aka Team Hoyt) mentioned in my post yesterday is a classic example. All I hear is “Don’t Give Up!” and pursue what you love to do.

Since I love food and cooking, I am exploring different opportunities that allow me to pursue a career in this field. One of which is food styling. This came about after a conversation with my cousin who suggested this possible avenue that incorporates my epicurean affair and my photography skills. I have researched online for courses to help me give an idea how to even start.

Food Styling Tools (Image: http://www.foodwoolf.com)

Coincidentally there is an upcoming 2 day workshop in Singapore conducted by a leading US food stylist. I thought long and hard. Procrastinated for a few days because of the high fees. I reminded myself to pursue what I love to do. So I decided to bite the bullet and registered for the workshop. I am excited to learn the tools of the food styling trade.

On this note, I will bid good night.

A father’s love for his son

During my recent visit to Israel, I was delighted to meet a father and son team running a small eatery in Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market. I was privileged to witness the interaction between them on different days and this inspired me to write this post. I know it is very much a cliché to write on a topic such as this but what the heck.

So let’s begin. “D” is the third generation running the family business alongside his father “S”. I was introduced to D by S during one of my many visits at the eatery. From the first time, S made me so welcome. Each time he is around, he makes an effort to greet me with the traditional a peck on each cheek. He barely speaks english and always tries to make conversation with me in simple two to three word sentences in Hebrew. Along with the hand gestures, I can work out what he is trying to say. Many times I have observed S greets his son with a kiss on the head. Perhaps it is the Israeli culture to be so welcoming and loving to their children.

On a separate occasion, I was sitting at my usual table enjoying my breakfast and S arrived at the eatery. He did made way round the tables and chatted to other diners. As S walked towards my table, we exchanged hugs and kisses. I gestured to S that I wanted to show him something on my i Pad. It was a picture of D I took when I first visited the family eatery. When the picture appeared on the screen, S face glowed. He smiled from ear to ear and blew a kiss to the picture. His smile was infectious and it made me smile too. It melted my heart. I wish I could capture that moment in a motion picture. From what I could sense, S is so very proud of D. Proud for continuing the family business which is getting stronger year after year. I have not had the chance to witness that kind of unconditional emotion and bond between a father and his son.

There is one other story about a father’s unconditional love for his son is not only inspiration in the every sense of the word and at the same time it is also a lesson for all about not giving up. I stumble upon Hoyt father and son team on You Tube about 3 years ago. The “sheer determination” is under statement to describe what Dick Hoyt does. It is the simple act of being a loving father to help his son, Rick to live his life to the fullest. The story moved me on many levels but also reminds me not to give up fighting for my life.

I have to warn to those who have not viewed this video before, please prepare a box of tissues beside you.

On this note, I will say good night to all fathers’. Give a hug and kiss to your children everyday.

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