Bald 'n Sassy

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

Archive for the category “My thoughts”

I am fit enough to work

I have been job hunting for past 6 months.  It has been a hit and miss for me so far.  I have applied countless positions, contacted head hunters and networked with friends offering my skill sets.  From middle management to executive levels.  In some cases I could be over qualified for a position and with other applications, I have the wealth experience to offer but somehow getting my foot into the human resources door is still work in progress.

When you take a look at my CV, there is 2.5 year gap where I wasn’t working.  It would be difficult for me to hide why I have not been working.  Each time a head hunter or any potential employers’ call, I am upfront with them telling them that I was undergoing chemotherapy .  There are those react with with positivity and words of encouragement or sharing a story of someone who were in similar situation.  And there are those who say very little.  Perhaps they can’t find the right words to express or chose not to discuss about it.  Whatever the reactions maybe, I just move to discuss about my work experience.

I have wondered how they view candidates who had/have cancer. Had a conversation with my oncologist sharing with her that my job hunt is still work in progress and that I share of my health situation.  Her opinion from medical perspective is there are many employers’  are not as open to having cancer patients in their employment.  Cancer could be seen as a “disability”.  Let me clarify that disability in this case would be where the candidate may have to take extra time off in the event one falls ill which could hinder on productivity.  I am saddened to hear that there are potentially people who view cancer patient such as myself as someone who may not be able to contribute to the workforce.  With advanced medicine, the disease is curable and controllable.  If I am healthy enough to work and have the qualifications, then why not hire me?  I would like to think that the time spent enduring all the side effects of chemo and still smile at the end day is a sign of strength and focus on beating the disease.  My positive attitude was the key foundation of who I am today.  I can accept any challenges put in front of me.

Ok, I can hear some of you arguing that not every cancer patient or survivor may not be able to cope with the stress of the work environment. And stress is not good for people of cancer.  What if one knows how to deal with the stress?  Would you as the hiring manager be apprehensive in having the person as part of the team?  I am not looking for sympathy nor do I dare not start wondering what employer’s thought process when they come to learn of anyone who has cancer.  If a candidate applies for work, it means that they are healthy and of sound mind to work again.

My job hunting adventure continues.

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.

A tribute to fellow cancer patient – Anita Seth

Yesterday evening, I was saddened by the news of an ex-colleague and friend, Anita Seth from Mumbai who tragically lost her battle to cancer.  She was a vibrant young lady filled with so much enthusiasm which was reflected both in her personal life and work. When I first met her in my first business meeting in Mumbai, she was open to share about her diagnosis  Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) or in simplistic terms cancer of the blood back in 2003. She successfully tackled the disease was diagnosed to be remission post treatment.

However back in May 2010, her leukemia relapse.  Her doctor’s recommended treatment of 2 intensive sessions of daily chemo lasting 21 days per session.  In addition to the chemo, a bone marrow/stem cell transplant.  From her updated report online, the chemo treatment was progressing well and the bone marrow transplant took place in June 2010.  The specific bone marrow she underwent was called Allogenic Stem Cell Transplant.  The transplant was deemed successful.

Aside from the medical facts Anita was ready to be active once again by slowly getting back into work.  I remembered receiving a text messaging from her wondering if I could offer her some part-time work she could complete from home.  I replied that I would love to help and informed her that I no longer work for the same company we used to work for.  At the particular period, I was about to commence my first session of chemo myself.  I specifically withheld the news from her for the simple reason that she need not worry about me.  I have also received other text messages where she was seeking some financial assistance to pay for her treatment.  As you can imagine, any form of cancer treatments can be very costly.

Anita had a true fighting spirit.  She was aggressive in voicing her opinions and was not shy about this trait. Fighting the disease for the second time wasn’t going to get to her.  She never gave up hope.  I can relate to her fighting spirit and not giving hope. Maybe sharing the same birthday has something to do with it.  I believe that having a fighting sprit, hope coupled with positive attitude are fundamental ingredients in overcoming any disease.  I will be honest to say at times maintaining the fighting spirit and positive when you are suffering the side effects post chemo.

Anita, you were an amazing fighter.  You were a true inspiration to many people.  As a fellow cancer patient, I have learn a lot from you.  You are in a much better place now where you can finally rest.  God bless!

If you wish to read a little more about Anita, click here established by her family.

For the rest of us cancer patients, I encourage to continue to fight!  Don’t give up hope.

Good night from me.  I rallied enough energy to post this after having another round of chemo yesterday.

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!

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.

Hey, it has been a while

Yes, I know it has been a while. I have returned from my trip to Israel and Jordan on Monday this week. I had a GREAT time! The 18 days I spent was filled with fun, sights to see and activities to fulfilled. I had so much fun during the 3 weeks that I decided to extend for another 10 days. Well I stayed on at the request of my ever crazy Brazilian friend, Dede. She was scheduled to visit Israel for work. The timing couldn’t be more perfect. With the extra days, I could spend a little more time exploring and fulfill my appetite with more of the local culinary.

I don’t know where to start with sharing the fun I had. But what I can tell you is that I met new friends from around the globe. Each has a story to tell why they were visiting Israel – some was business related, some were students on international exchange program and others were holiday makers such as myself who wanted to see the Holy Land. By the end of this trip, I have lost count on the number of times I had to answer “Why did you come to Israel?”. At times, I deviated from the typical answer and just stop at “Why not, Israel?”

Each vacation I have taken in the last several years, I have come back with fresh perspective on life in general but also gentle reminders of how lucky we are and to continue to live regardless. Israel is one destination many of my family or friends wouldn’t necessarily consider visiting anytime soon. The immediate reaction when I mentioned that I was going to Israel “Is it safe to go there?”. Thanks to media broadcasters, Israel is painted as a dangerous place where bomb attacks is a daily activity. I have felt safe throughout my one month stay there. Tel Aviv is a city that never sleeps. Hence, I could walk the streets at midnight or early hours of the morning without any worries at all. The only time that I felt a little scared when I was in Jerusalem. I happened to be in the Arab quarters within the Old CIty of Jerusalem and saw the chaos on the TV screen. The shopkeeper translated on what happened – a bomb exploded at the Jerusalem central bus station where it was reported approximately 30 people were injured and one tourist died. As you can imagine I was in shock for a few minutes. Although the Old City and the bus station was some distance apart, it just send hit home the fragility of life. All I know is that it wasn’t my time just yet. I didn’t want this unfortunate event to deter me from continuing to enjoy the rest of my vacation.

On this note, I will wrap up my thoughts. I would love to share more but I have felt a little under the weather over the last few days and I should be getting some rest.

Layla tov from me! לַיְלָה טוֹב.

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