Bald 'n Sassy

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

Archive for the month “February, 2012”

Getting use to Gluten-Free living

I have a weakness for food.  I love food.  Ever since I started my chemo back late 2010, I have always closely monitored my diet intake.  I was adamant to fight the cancer through food.  I adjusted my food according to what I felt I wanted to eat.  During the chemo treatments, my taste buds went haywire and craved for more savory food.  I ate as normal as I can enjoying my breads, pasta and the occasional cake as a treat.  Although I may not have eaten a large portion, my tummy does feel a little heavy and at times uncomfortable when I eat anything that has wheat.  4.5 months ago, I decided to cut out wheat products from my diet.

It is tough to not to eat gluten because 99% of the foods contain some form of wheat.  Even soya sauce,  a staple condiment in chinese cooking has gluten.  When I share this fact with many of my friends’ they were taken aback.  Their immediate reaction is that “Isn’t soya sauce made of soy beans only?”. Gluten or wheat based products is an inexpensive stabilizer used by food manufacturers.  I haven’t not done a medical test to see if I am allergic to wheat/gluten and diagnosed to have celiac disease.  Since I am much more prone to having stomach cramps, it only makes sense for me to cut what could cause the pain.  Many who have symptoms such as bad stomach cramps or skin rashes may not realize it could be the wheat that is causing the discomfort.

So how do I manage with all the temptations?  For me I have to visit health shops to buy some of my grocery items such as pasta, baking flour and even chocolate.  Like most specialty shops, the items are much more expensive that non-gluten based products.  Even shopping at supermarket chains here in Singapore, they are slowly introducing some gluten-free products.  This is great news! Of course there are natural foods that are naturally gluten-free like fruits and vegetables, tofu.  Being a foodie, I am always searching of new recipes or find creative ways to tantalize my taste buds.  I don’t want to miss out on breads, pasta, pizza. The challenge for me is when I dine out. I have to scrutinize the menu and see which dishes I can eat.  I even have to ask the waitress to check with the chef to make sure no gluten is being included.  Restaurants in Singapore are not as always up to speed to have alternative dishes for those gluten intolerant.

While I am writing this post, I am already thinking of what to have for breakfast.  I am craving a good slice of pizza with all of  my favorite toppings.  Mind you I am still looking for the perfect substitute for mozzarella cheese – I can’t have dairy products either.

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Possible new form of cancer treatment

  I was surfing through TED website last evening.  There was one talk that grabbed my attention and the headline read “Bill Doyle: Treating with cancer electric fields”. Doyle’s company, Novocure has found a fourth type of cancer treatment using electric fields.   He touted that this could be the fourth form of cancer treatment   This electric fields treatment could possibly be used by oncologists’ in addition to the traditional modern medicine to treat cancer we know today – surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

During the presentation,  there was a video clip where one see how cancer cells regenerate at a rapid rate.  This is the first time I have ever seen.  From my understanding and in layman’s terms, the electric fields has the same result to that of chemotherapy whereby the electric fields prevents the cells from doubling.  The first set of clinic trial using this method was with brain tumor.  The end results after 12 months was positive.  In some patients, the tumor was gone.  A great sign.

The way the electric fields kill off the cells is using “patches” with wires attached to a battery pack.  The patches and battery pack is with the patient 24/7.  Although it is may seem cumbersome to carry the pack, it does allow the patient to gon with their daily lives with minimal problems.  The positive side of electric fields is  no side effects such as fatigue, nausea, diarrohea found in chemo.  To me, that is music to my ears.

The US FDA has approved this treatment but at this stage it is still in its infancy.  Novocure is looking to test the treatment on lung cancer patients and slowly rolling out to other forms of cancer like breast and ovarian.  I am going to track the development of this treatment.  I find it always good to know what treatments are available for me.

Here is the link to the presentation Bill Doyle: Treating cancer with electric fields.

The question is to Oral Chemo or not Oral Chemo

I know, I know.  It has been a long, long while since I updated my blog.  I am not going to give any excuses either. Since my last chemo in October 2011, I have kept myself busy looking for work.  Plus I took another short break to visit my homeland of Australia.

Anyway, coming back on to chemo or not chemo.  I have gone for a regular check up – 6 weeks to be exact.  In the last blood test just before Christmas, my liver was good.  I always look out for the red numbers in the report.  They show if I am below or above the normal range for various elements.  The December blood test was a little more colorful this time.  There were at least half-dozen indicators glowing in red.  But my oncologist reviewed that the key elements are my liver, my haemoglobin, white and red blood count cells.  Not forgetting the cancer (CEA) markers.  Liver was good but the haemoglobin, white and red blood count cells are still below the normal range.  The doctor mentioned that my white blood cells may not recover to the normal range for the pure simple reason of past radiation treatment coupled with chemo.  Basically my body has taken a good beating.

My CEA marker for Dec crept up to 30.  I was a little alarmed but I stayed calm. The doctor did ask if I was feeling under the weather in the week leading up to the appointment.  I didn’t have any major symptoms like cramps or flu. I did have diarrhoea but nothing serious.  Believe it or not having the tummy runs does spike up the CEA markers.  l learnt something new. Even though my markers increased again, it was still too soon for any next steps in terms of treatment.

Last Friday, 3 February it was my second follow-up post chemo. This follow-up was a little unconventional.  The nurse from the pathology lab took an extra vial of blood.  My oncologist rushed into the treatment room explaining that the extra vial will be tested on a separate machine.  The lab introduced a new machine and the readings for CEA Markers plus Cancer Antigens 19.9 is vastly different.  This is a major concern for my oncologist because she is not able to decide if her patients need further or not.  The “discrepancy” was discovered through another patient. I am so happy that she found out about this soon enough.  I hate to think that patient’s having to continue chemo unnecessarily.

The blood tests took longer this time round. I zoomed in on how my cancer markers were performing.  I got a real shock when the CEA doubled from 6 weeks ago.  The doctor asked the same question if I had any symptoms.  She reminded me again not to focus on the number.  If the trend is going up, then it  just indicates that the embryonic cancer cells are active once again.  Since that I pose no symptoms, she would not recommend any treatment.  I did ask about oral chemo.  I recall from earlier consultation that there was an oral chemotherapy yet to be introduced in Singapore.  She shared the oral chemo drug is now available. From the trial, the drug has 40% to 50% success of keeping the cancer cells from producing.  That is not too bad of success rate.  Of course with oral chemo, you would need to take several tablets per day everyday for up to 4 weeks.  Then a 2 week break and then you resume.  The beauty of the oral chemo is side effects are much less severe in comparison to traditional intravenous chemo.  diarrhoea and low white cell blood counts are the reported side effects.

So the question now is to whether switch to oral chemo. I am trying alternative treatment via diet and exercise to bring down the markers.  At this stage it is good to know that I have the oral chemo available.  Furthermore, at least I don’t have to spend hours at the clinic and not be sick for 1 week.  I am going to do my own research on this oral chemo.

Time to wrap up this post.  Till next post.

Is image everything when you are looking for work?

Bald Barbie

So this begs the question, “would potential employers recruit a female candidate who don a bald look?”.  Here in Singapore, it is common practice that a picture is included in your CV when you submit an application.    Therefore, employers has a preview of what you look like even before you are shortlisted, let alone score an interview. There are two schools of thought from hiring managers perspective.  One is looks has a higher priority and experience is second.  On the side of the argument, some would say they look at qualifications and looks are not part of the criteria. I follow the latter where I don’t judge the looks before looking at experience and qualifications. Unless you are a supermodel, then your portfolio of pictures is your CV.

Let’s be honest, we live in a narcissistic world and it is in human nature that we look at someone or something that pleases our eyes.  However, if the reason for having a bald look is to make fashion statement or to raise money for charity, would that change the employers perspective? Perhaps the image when someone has a bald look equates to someone being sick like a cancer patient.  Where do we draw the line of acceptance? Do  people discriminate bald women because we don’t follow the norm?  Or is it one’s preconceived perception that women look better with hair.

Whatever the reason maybe, don’t judge a book by its cover.

Just a footnote, it was a family member asking “why don’t you grow your hair back?” and insistent that I grow my hair back. If I am comfortable and confident in carrying the bald look, why should it bother everyone else.

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