Sunday, March 31, 2013


Saturday, March 30, 2013


From ST image

This article appears in The Straits Times today. It's important enough to share it here as a timely reminder to all users of social media, (and that includes me) to be more responsible in what we say or post on Facebook, Twitter, and other social network channels. 

While I support freedom of speech and the right to express our thoughts and feelings about any issue, this freedom should be exercised responsibly. The amount of vitriol and personal attacks I often see in comments posted on the alternative media, blogs and FB is alarming. I know I will draw flak from people who don't see eye to eye with me on this. So be it. 

Some of the 10 commandments listed below are controversial, and bound to invoke criticism, even outrage among those netizens who abhor any rules and restrictions that impinge on their freedom of self-expression, especially if they feel it is their civic duty to speak out against what they perceive as an injustice or wrongdoing, be it by the state or by an individual. 

I complain and criticize too, but stop short at personal attacks. I also believe that people who throw stones at others or incite violence should identify themselves and not hide behind masks or anonymity.

To read David Tan's full article in which he elaborates on each commandment, please click here. I hope you can access it.

The 10 Cyberspace Commandments 

by David Tan

HAZARD alert. My mind automatically goes through all the potential legal issues when I see a comment on Facebook directed at another individual, or a video on YouTube that draws on musical and cinematographic works created by others.

It is so easy to rant about people and events that have annoyed us on social media. Or to upload photographs of ourselves or our friends on social networking platforms like Instagram. Or to post a negative comment on Twitter. Or to chronicle our loves and pet peeves on a personal blogsite.

But how often do we pause to think about the consequences, especially the legal implications, of our conduct in cyberspace?

The cloak of "online" anonymity in cyberspace emboldens many of us to act in ways we would not when "offline". We are unlikely to confront a work colleague whose behaviour irritates us, but we will more likely criticise the same person on Facebook.

Nude or revealing pictures? Surely we will not show them to friends over dinner in a restaurant. But we might just post a few provocative ones in our Facebook or Tumblr albums.

While netizens generally share an unspoken code of cyber- etiquette, a vast majority are likely unaware of the wide range of legal risks that carry with them personal liability and criminal sanctions.

Below are what I would term the 10 cyberspace commandments, distilled from the common law and myriad legislative provisions in Singapore.

1. Thou shalt not speak ill of another.

2. Thou shalt think twice before uploading photographs of other people.

3. Thou shalt be respectful of copyright.

4. Thou shalt not distribute obscene material.

5. Thou shalt not misuse a computer.

6. Thou shalt not commit a crime against the state.

7. Thou shalt not threaten racial and religious harmony.

8. Thou shalt not disrupt the public order.

9. Thou shalt not incite violence.

10. Thou shalt not reveal details of government documents or locations.

(The writer is an associate professor at the Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore, and an associate member of the Media Literacy Council.)

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Click here to read the New Straits Times article

Honestly, one doesn't have to be 70 or 80 to feel physically old. I know some 40-somethings who are already complaining of aches and pains that won't go away, of hearing problems and of poor memory. But to those who have no clue, what is it like to be old? This was a question that was raised during a talk I gave recently at a specialist hospital. It was a pertinent question given that most geriatric nurses are young and the patients in their care are elderly.

Sharing my gerontological resources and 'hospital patient' experiences with the nurses

For young nurses and caregivers, if you want to experience what it feels like to be old, here are some experiments you can try out. Make sure you have someone beside you in case you require assistance.
  • Put on a pair of reading glasses and walk around your place of work. You will feel insecure because your vision is blur. Drop by at a supermarket. Try to read the labels on the food packages with the reading glasses. You will find the words illegible.
  • Stuff your ears with heavy duty F1 ear-plugs and ask your friend to chat with you. Half the time you won't be able to hear what she is saying.
  • Bandage your elbow and knee joints and try to bend and pick up something from the floor or reach for an item on a shelf.
  • Wear woollen gloves and then try to do or undo the buttons on your shirt.
These are just a few simple examples to give young people an idea of what being old feels like in a world that still caters largely to the young and able-bodied.

For the full experience of what it physically feels like to be old, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) came up with AGNES in 2011. It is an acronym for Age Gain Now Sympathy which is a special suit designed to help young engineers at MIT understand the physical limitations of  older people so that they can come up with elder-friendly devices to help them live independently.

Let's make an effort to be more patient and caring towards our elderly parents. It can't be easy for them when almost everything they do is a physical challenge. A little empathy from us can go a long way in making life less painful for them.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


This piece of Chinese advice has been making its rounds online for a while now. I am posting it here to share with those who have yet to read it. Characteristic of the Chinese who are known for being pragmatic and frugal to a fault. All the same, it's still good advice that we should heed.



(Translated from Chinese)

None of us have many years to live, and we can't take along anything when we go, so we don't have to be too thrifty...

Spend the money that should be spent, enjoy what should be enjoyed, donate what you are able to donate, but don't leave all to your children or grandchildren, for you don't want them to become parasites who are waiting for the day you will die!!

Don't worry about what will happen after we are gone, because when we return to dust, we will feel nothing about praises or criticisms. The time to enjoy the worldly life and your hard earned wealth will be over!

Don't worry too much about your children, for they will have their own destiny and should find their own way. Don't be your children's slave. Care for them, love them, give them gifts but also enjoy your money while you can. Life should have more to it than working from the cradle to the grave!!

Don't expect too much from your children. Caring children, though caring, would be too busy with their jobs and commitments to render much help.

Uncaring children may fight over your assets even when you are still alive, and wish for your early demise so they can inherit your properties and wealth.

Your children take for granted that they are rightful heirs to your wealth; but that you have no claims to their money.

When you die, you can say bye-bye to your money.
50-year old like you, don't trade in your health for wealth by working yourself to an early grave anymore... because your money may not be able to buy your health...

When to stop making money, and how much is enough (hundred thousands, million, ten million)?

Out of thousand hectares of good farm land, you can consume only three quarts (of rice) daily; out of a thousand mansions, you only need eight square meters of space to rest at night.

So, as long as you have enough food and enough money to spend, that is good enough. You should live happily. Every family has its own problems. Just do not compare with others for fame and social status and see whose children are doing better, etc., but challenge others for happiness, health, enjoyment, quality of life and longevity...

Don't worry about things that you can't change because it doesn't help and it may spoil your health.

You have to create your own well-being and find your own place of happiness. As long as you are in good mood and good health, think about happy things, do happy things daily and have fun in doing, then you will pass your time happily every day.

One day passes without happiness, you will lose one day.
One day passes with happiness, and then you gain one day.

In good spirit, sickness will cure; in a happy spirit, sickness will cure faster; in high and happy spirits; sickness will never come.

With good mood, suitable amount of exercise, always in the sun, variety of foods, reasonable amount of vitamin and mineral intake, hopefully you will live another 20 or 30 years of healthy life of pleasure.

Good friends are there for you when you need them

Above all, learn to cherish the goodness around... and FRIENDS... They all make you feel young and "wanted"... without them you are sure to feel lost!!

Monday, March 25, 2013


If you have retired for a few years and are now seriously contemplating getting back into the work force for whatever reason, the odds are probably stacked against you in securing the job you want. Once you hit 55 and above, you will encounter age discrimination in the job market. That is the harsh reality of life. Not only will you face stiff competition from younger job applicants, there is also the question of qualifications.

University degrees obtained in the 1960s cannot compare with those obtained today which are so much more specialized and more relevant to the particular job specifications. In the late 1960s, when I was an undergrad in the University of Malaya, the Faculty of Arts at the time offered limited courses in subjects like History, English Literature, Geography, etcetera, almost similar to SPM subjects! Now UM is offering degree courses in Environmental Studies, Media Studies and Township and Urban Planning Studies, just to mention a few. Undergrads today are spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting majors.

The same with professional qualifications. A diploma in secretarial studies awarded in the 1960s will probably not equip you with the skills needed in the modern office of today. For one thing, the typewriter is now replaced with the keyboard, and nobody takes shorthand anymore. Office correspondence is increasingly going paperless, and video-conferencing is gaining popularity over boardroom meetings.

So what does all this mean?

You need to upgrade your skills so that you will remain current and relevant. Knowing how to use the computer and the latest office software programs is a necessity. Keeping up to date with industry news and trends is vital if you want to ace the interview. 

Make sure everything on your cv (resume) is true.
As for your cv, do update it, and try to keep it to one A4 size page. Omit mention of anything that is older than 10 years unless it is relevant to the job specifications. As for your personal photo, make sure it is less than a year old. Avoid glamour photos. You don't want to shock your interviewers when you show up looking nothing like the sweet young thing in the photo. 

Whether young or mature job seekers, the same dress code applies. For more tips, click here.

Which brings us next to your interview attire. It is safest to dress casual but smart. Ladies, avoid fashion trends, but don't show up in frumpy auntie clothes either. No chunky jewelry, heavy make-up and badly colored hair. Guys, the same rule of casual smart applies. A neck-tie is fine, but a coat is too formal for Malaysia and Singapore, unless you are applying for a senior management position. You might even make the interviewers feel under-dressed if none of them are wearing a coat! No jeans or T-shirts, please. Make sure your shoes shine. Look confident and poised. Older adults love to talk and share their stories, but keep that to social gatherings, not at interviews. Keep your answers to the point, and if asked to elaborate, stay within the topic.

Having said that, you do have some pluses that might clinch you the job. Your wealth of experience is one of them, that is, provided you are seeking re-employment in the same industry that you retired from. Older workers are known to be generally more committed, more patient and more loyal than younger workers. They don't job-hop, ask for emergency leave frequently or indulge in office politics.

Be prepared to make some adjustments. For one, be prepared to take a slightly lower pay than your last drawn salary. Two, be prepared to swallow your pride as you may be working under a much younger 'boss'. Three, don't expect the same employee benefits you enjoyed previously. This is a different company, and you are considered a new staff recruit. So don't make the mistake of demanding this and that when you haven't even got a toe in the door yet!

Most important of all, ask yourself if this job is really what you want. You must enjoy your work, whether it is full time or part time. Remember, at age 50+, you don't want to stress yourself out by dragging your feet to work. Your take-home pay may boost your retirement savings and take care of the daily essentials, but it should not put your mental and emotional health at risk. It is not worth it. There are other options to explore if you need to grow your nest egg.

For more about re-employment of older workers, click here.

Seniorsaloud regularly receives queries from companies seeking retired persons for specific job vacancies. We shall post them on our FB page, in case some of our readers are interested. 

All the best in your job-hunting!

Saturday, March 23, 2013


My article in The Star
It is always a pleasant surprise whenever I see my article or letter in the newspapers. This one was sent to The Star in October 2012 but it was published in the weekly Seniors column only recently on 20 March.

The Star changed the original title to "The World At Their Feet". Frankly, I don't think it's appropriate. The online version has a different title "When Does Old Age Begin?" You can read the original version below. It is actually updated from another article I wrote back in 2011.

When I started my community blog in May 2008, I had come up with several tentative names for the blog. Unfortunately all of them were rejected when I signed up for an account with Blogger. Every single one of the names I keyed in had already been taken. I must have tried at least 20 names. In frustration I gave it one final go with 'Seniorsaloud'. The name had popped into my mind at that last minute. To my surprise, it was available!

Both my daughters didn't like the name at all. They felt that with a name like Seniorsaloud, the blog would attract only old people. Of course, I went on the defensive. What did they mean by 'old'? I was about to turn 60 at the time, and didn't feel at all a day over 40. Neither was I frail, and definitely nowhere close to being senile and decrepit.

The new 'old' - Dr Khairuddin Yusof, 73, enjoys
extreme sports. He spoke at our Seniorsaloud
event on "Retire Healthy" held last July.
Let me ask my readers, does the word 'senior' have a negative connotation? What sort of image comes to mind at the mention of 'senior citizen'? I have good friends who would cringe with horror at being referred to as one, even though they are 60+ and retired. To them, that's as good as sounding the death knell.

The problem with labels is they are generic. 'Old' people are painted with the same brush, and in the same grey colour. But there are so many different shades of grey. Author E.L.James will give you 50! If the 50+ and 60+ are not quite ready to be called old, how would you address them? The 'young old'? That doesn't work either. And are the 70+ the 'old old'? What other terms of reference do we have? The pre-war and post war generations? Equally cumbersome and inadequate.

Dr Yusof's book on active ageing
Quite often the media is guilty of mislabelling. "Elderly man falls victim to snatch thief", says one headline. You read the news report and find that the victim is only 60! I am 64. I can deal with being called a senior citizen as that is what I am. But 'elderly'? Not by a mile. The problem is, young reporters are incapable of making that age distinction. To people in their 20s, 64 is practically ancient.

So until we come up with age appropriate labels, I suppose baby boomers like us will have to forgive the young for addressing us as 'old' and 'elderly'. 

If numbers don't matter, and chronological age is not an accurate indicator of physiological age, what are we left with? How would you like to be referred to? 

'Older people' seems to be the least disparaging and most neutral. With people now living much longer, there is a need to come up with new labels for the old (pun intended) that do not smack of ageism, and that is acceptable to all.

This photo was taken on my mom's 86th birthday in Oct 2012. I shall be 65 in June.
A generation apart but often lumped together as 'the elderly'

If the 60s is the new 40s, you can understand why labels like 'old', 'elderly', 'frail' no longer describe the active, independent and fun-loving baby boomers of today. By the time we reach our 70s, 80s and 90s, we will be re-defining the face of ageing.

There is a world of difference between growing old and growing older. And it's a lot to do with how we look at ageing - positively or negatively, with anticipation or dread. To take it one step further, by changing how we view ourselves, we can change how society look at us.

Adnan Osman, 70, cycled all the way to London for the 2012 Olympics. Inspiring role models like him show us that growing older doesn't have to mean the end of fun and adventure. The world is still there for us to explore. There are new things to learn, and new friends to make. Indeed, growing older can be an exciting new chapter of life.

Postscript: I have always wanted to have a column in the newspaper to write about topics and issues of interest and relevance to senior citizens. If that ever happened, it would be a dream come true for me. Maybe I would call it 'Silver Threads'. It would also be a channel to share information and personal insights on matters that involve this demographic. Our numbers are growing. Other than writing letters to the newspapers, we don't have an avenue to voice our concerns about a host of issues that affect us, including healthcare, cost of living, public transport, affordable housing, re-employment, age-friendly public facilities, retirement planning and end-of-life issues.

It's about time to speak out and be heard.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Came across this article "Dear Ah Mah and her old house" in last Sunday's Star. Worth sharing here. A good reminder of what life was like in the old days, growing up in the countryside.

I was born in Batu Pahat, Johor in 1948. Till I left my hometown to study Form 6 at English College in Johor Bahru in 1965-66, my home was a two-storey shophouse along the main road Jalan Rahmat. Downstairs were two shoplets. The front portion was rented out to my dear Aunt Bertha, a seamstress. The back portion was a beauty parlor cum hair salon which my mother owned. She hired two trained hair stylists and several shampoo girls. My siblings and I lived on the upper floor.

I spent much of my after-school hours with these shampoo girls in my mother's employ. They stayed in the shophouse on weekdays and returned to their family home on Sundays. Home for one of these girls was a small farm in Kampung Sri Gading on the outskirts of Batu Pahat. Her parents were farmers who reared poultry and pigs, and grew vegetables and fruits to supplement their meager income.

Some of the best recollections from my primary and high school days were visits to the farm. As I was the 'boss' daughter, I was always given a VIP reception which often included a home-cooked lunch with fresh produce from the farm. The farmhouse was a testimony of how simple folks lived in those days.

Furniture was functional and basic. Beds were raised wooden platforms with a mengkuang mat doubling up as mattress. Long curtains replaced doors for the bedrooms. The floor was bare earth, and uneven in most places. The toilet was a makeshift shed away from the farmhouse. There was a bucket to collect all excrement and urine to be used as fertilizers.

Ah Ma's outhouse toilet

To me, this lack of amenities didn't matter compared to the fun I had. It was an adventure feeding the chickens and pigs, watering the vegetables and climbing up fruits trees. It is a pity that I no longer have any photos of those visits to the farm. The photos above are picture-grabs from The Star article. They give a good idea of what simple living was all about in those days. Do read the article.

I believe such houses still exist in the small towns and villages in Malaysia. But with the passing of time and with the young people leaving for the cities to further their studies or seek employment, these villages will one day disappear. It is a matter of time before housing developers descend with their big machines to mow down the last visage of an idyllic and rustic lifestyle and replace it with a vista of concrete jungle teeming with high-rise condominiums sprouting fancy names that are meant to invoke eco-friendly, country living. What an irony!

Friday, March 15, 2013


My hard copy, courtesy of Ewe Jin
We all know someone who has battled cancer - a family member perhaps, a relative or a friend. There may be some among us who are going through the ordeal at this very moment. Most cancer patients regard their cancer journey as a very private and personal matter. Few would want anyone to know about it apart from their immediate family members.

Not Soo Ewe Jin. Together with his wife, Angeline Lim, whom he refers to as the 'silver lining' and 'steady anchor' in his life, he has documented his three journeys with cancer with the purpose of giving comfort and hope to cancer patients and their caregivers. Not only has he printed 12,000 copies of his little book to be distributed free, but he has also made it available for downloading from his blog "A Life Shared". He also shares on Facebook.

Soulmates Angeline and Ewe Jin
'Face to Face With Cancer' is the latest edition of the little book that Ewe Jin and Angeline co-wrote in 1999 after Ewe Jin was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal carcinoma or nose cancer. The fifth edition chronicles his second journey when his cancer re-surfaced in 2006. In March 2011, he had to battle cancer for the third time.

Ewe Jin shares this third journey in the sixth edition of the book. He gives 'a moment-by-moment, blow-by-blow account' of his thoughts as he went through six cycles of chemotherapy followed by 33 rounds of radiotherapy. April 23, 2012 was a day of triumph and joy when he received the all-clear results from his PET-scan. Ewe Jin attributes his victory over cancer to the loving care from his wife who is his 'caregiver par excellence', and the immense support he received from his friends, relatives, neighbors, and members of his church. Above all, on every page of his book, Ewe Jin gives praise and thanks to God, whom he calls his 'Healer, Rock and Salvation'.

Ewe Jin was kind enough to send me an autographed copy of his book two days ago. I had read an online edition sometime in 2009 (I think) that a friend had forwarded to me in a link. I was touched by what he wrote, and by the fact that he wanted to share his cancer journeys with as many people as possible to encourage them not to give up hope. That's true magnanimity. Ewe Jin's happy and positive attitude towards life is an inspiration to us. We all need a good healthy dose of Ewe Jin's optimism and his belief in the power of prayer.

If Ewe Jin looks familiar to regular readers of The Star, that is because he is Deputy Executive Editor and writes a weekly column called "Sunday Starters", previously called "Monday Starters". It is a column I look forward to reading over breakfast every Sunday morning. As I wrote in a recent email to Ewe Jin, "That is what gives me the extra boost to start off the day. No need for vitamins."

Ewe Jin wrote this poem the day before his first radiotherapy session in 1999.

Ewe Jin's message is never give up. If you remain positive and trust God to be with you always, you will have the strength to overcome life's toughest challenges. He wants to spread this upbeat, feel-good message to as many people as possible through his little book, his column and his blog posts. You can help Ewe Jin pass on this message of hope and comfort.

Ewe Jin would love to hear from you, especially from new patients. He wants them to know that they are not alone. He can be reached at For caregivers in need of some advice and support, you can email Angeline at
Ewe Jin has a plaque with this poem on his office desk as a reminder to keep the faith in God.

Postscript: Ewe Jin passed away on 17 Nov, 2016. Gone but never forgotten by the many people whose lives he had touched.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


A French couple both in their 60s have been staying with me since last Friday. I have known JJ for 36 years. Each year especially during the winter months, he would pack his bags and head over to Asia. This time he has brought along his wife Janie. They have just spent two months in India. Their next stop after Malaysia is Cambodia.

Over dinner this evening our conversation turned to a topic of mutual interest - retirement. Whether in Europe or in Asia, retirees face similar challenges, especially in coping with the rising cost of living. I wasn't too surprised to hear that one of the reasons for their long sojourns in Asia was to save money. Apparently it is much cheaper for them to travel for 2-3 months in India and South-east Asia, staying at budget hotels and eating local fare than to remain in France for the same duration. JJ has always had an affinity for all things Asian. He is the prodigal son returning home every time he makes a trip to the region.

Europe, the US and Australia are becoming too expensive to retire in. No wonder retirees from these places are looking at more affordable and warmer alternatives in Asia. Malaysia is on Forbes list of 'The Ten Best Countries to Retire to in 2013'. International Living has Malaysia moving up seven places from 10th last year to third. It is the only Asian country to make it to the top five. Kuala Lumpur is listed number 10 on Huffington Post's 'The World's Top 10 Retirement Havens For 2013'. Penang remains a perennial favorite on many of the lists of top retirement havens.

What do foreigners see in our country? Is it a case of the grass is always greener on the other side?

Retiring in Malaysia is not that different from retiring in Bali. I can see why Malaysia, My Second Home programme is attracting a lot of expat retirees. Malaysia has warm sunny weather the whole year round, beautiful sandy beaches, great variety of food, affordable cost of living (for expats), peace and stability (except for the occasional street demonstrations), friendly people, comparable medical care, cheap public transport, etcetera. Since the programme was launched in 2002, it has attracted well over 20,000 expats from all over the world to make Malaysia their home. Click here for more statistics, and more information on the programme.

Orang Asli settlement of Kampung Pertak

An hour's drive from the capital city takes you to green hills and cool mountain streams. That's where my French house guests and I spent a lazy Sunday afternoon. It's good to be able to get away for a much-needed break. Once out in the countryside, you can appreciate the beauty of our homeland, and you begin to understand why Malaysia remains an attractive option for expats in search of a retirement paradise.

Enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon down by the river, and later relaxing over a cup of coffee and listening to Old Man River doing his rendition of Cream's 'Badge'.

Friday, March 8, 2013


(This came in my mail box today. I believe this is a scam. I am posting it here in case some of you receive similar emails. Do not be taken in and respond. The golden rule is 'If something is too good to be true, it is exactly that." It is always best to be safe than sorry later. Never ever divulge your personal details to anyone online, unless it's someone you know and trust. If the email comes from a company or an organization, do an online search and find out if it exists, and if it is legitimate. Other tell-tale signs are bad grammar and incorrect punctuation. There are plenty of such errors in this email below.)

Hello, Will you be interested in being my personal Assistant? below are the the
details of the job :

1. Receive my mail and Drop them off at the post office or shipping center.
2. Pay my bills on my behalf and sit for delivery at home.
3. Pick up my items at your nearby post office at your convenience.
4. When you get my mail or package, you would mail all items to where I want
them shipped.All expenses and shipping charges will be covered by me.

The contents of the packages are mostly art materials and paintings. In
addition, there will be clothing I need for business and personal letters. No
heavy packages is involved,I would love to meet with you to discuss this job in
more detail, but I am currently away on business in China. If you decide to
accept the position, please read the employment requirements listed below.


A. You are an honest and trustworthy citizen.
B. You will be required to work between 15 and 20hrs a month
C You need to be able to check your EMAIL 3 to 5 times daily.

THE PAY IS $500 WEEKLY and you are entitle to a brand new car after 1 Month if
you are hardworking and honest with me, WHICH IS NOT A BAD OFFER.

In closing, I have a couple of questions for you.
First, If I were to mail you money to do my shopping plus an upfront Payment for
your service, where would you want it mailed to?

Second, how would you like for your name appear on the Cashiers Check Or Any
other Payment option?To start kindly provide you're details

_N_a_m_e (F|L):

Thank You.....

You might want to check out this article:

Avoiding online scams

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Tan Sri Ani Arope
(This article is re-posted here with the writer's kind permission. It is a very personal account of his on-going battle with cancer. At our age, we know of loved ones and friends who have been through a similar experience. Some of us may even be facing this health challenge ourselves. It can be a lonely journey. We need the love and moral support of our family and close friends to see us through. If the article resonates with you, do drop the writer a line. He would be happy to hear from you. You can email him at 

I usually do my blood test every six months to check on my cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Most of the other parameters seemed to be under control and within limits. Then one day, the Pathologist from the Testing Laboratory rang up to enquire whether there had been some changes in my sleep and health patterns. I casually mentioned that of late I had been experiencing interrupted sleep due to frequent urination. Then he told me that my PSA had elevated to an extremely high level of 947 where the normal range was between 2.7-4.7. He advised me to go for a thorough check up by an urologist.

I got myself admitted to the University Science Malaysia Medical Center for the thorough check-up. After the initial undignified prostrate examination, they put me through a battery of tests, starting with an Ultra Sound examination, a whole body bone scan, a CT scan and scans of my skull and pelvic region and finally injecting me with a radioactive material to scan the other vital organs. At the end of the two day tests, I will never forget hearing the words, ‘You have cancer’. They are the three chilling words one can ever hear, stopping one of control over ones’ life, not to mention any confidence that life will even continue.

My vital organs and lymph nodes were free from cancer except for some areas of my skeletal system--- some ribs and the pelvis. There was no point in doing a surgery on the prostate gland as the cancer cells had broken loose and attacked other parts of the body. I was prescribed some anti-androgen pills and a monthly hormonal injection. Apparently this brought down the PSA readings to below 150, but still it was a long way to go to get back to the normal readings.

Telling my wife and children was the first difficult step. But it had to be done. I tried to carry on as normal except for the frequent visits for my medical check-ups. Another difficult decision was whether or not to share this with others. I am not used to writing publicly about something so intensely personal. But as I see it, it seemed the best way to deal with it. Whilst I see it as a coping mechanism to help me meet the challenges, it is also a way of keeping family and friends up to date. I also hope that it may help others in a similar position.

The reaction was as expected. Everybody took it rather badly. It was like telling them that I had just received a verdict of the death sentence. I made my own preparations-- telling my former secretary Rahimah, who had been with me since the Rubber Research Institute days, that if the inevitable happened, she and her husband, Noordin were to take charge of my funeral rites.

My wife is partially paralyzed due to a stroke and two of my daughters were residing outside Malaysia and my son, due to his nature of work was often outside the country. They would not be in a position to help. Rahimah and her husband Noordin, would make arrangements with the nearby mosque to have my body prepared for burial. I contacted the secretary and committee of the mosque and got their consent that non-Muslim friends of mine wanting to pay their respects could do so at the Mosque.

After this initial shock had subsided, my daughter Salina who resides in Switzerland asked me to join her and spend some quality time with her holidaying in Austria and then undergo some alternative therapy in Switzerland. As I was in no immediate danger, I consented to take the long journey. We had a good time hiking and bicycling in the hills of Austria. On our return to Lausanne, Switzerland, Salina took me to see some therapists. One therapist gave me a body massage and said something to Salina. That made her break into tears and she left the room in haste. I asked the therapist what made her cry. Reluctantly he told me that he had said that I had wanted to go, ‘Il veut partir’. He made me promise to tell Salina that I wanted to live and I would live, ‘Je veut vivre et je vais vivre’. Then he called her in and I had to repeat the affirmation with conviction to her.

I had an open discussion with my wife. She wanted to know where I would like to be buried, -- near my mothers’ grave or elsewhere. To me it did not matter where. I wanted something simple and convenient for the living that has to attend to me. We talked about coming back to an empty house might be one of the greatest challenges in spite of the occasional blips in our daily lives. I guess she would miss those blips. There would be no one to bounce back some ideas or to argue with. We have relied on one another, have been intimate with each other, befriended and ‘defriended’ each other. Now when she needed me the most, she would be alone.

Ismail took it silently. He suddenly became more spiritual and suggested that we went to Makah. I accepted his invitation. Our ten day stay there was a spiritual bonding between father and son. He led in the rituals and saw to it that I was comfortable at all times. Makah is something special to the Muslims. One needs to be there physically to experience the spiritual vibes. One may be among millions, but one feels alone with the Creator. It is hard to describe. One has to be there to experience it.

On my return I felt spiritually rejuvenated and ready to meet whatever challenges that may come my way. We have no control over the challenges that come our way. But our reaction to the challenges is certainly within our control. We could be ‘bitter or better’, allow the challenges to ‘make or break’ us and emerge as ‘victims or victors’ of the challenge. With His Grace and the support of family and friends I will meet the challenges as they come.

When we got back to Malaysia, Sakinah our eldest daughter who had been in the US for fifteen years met us at the KLIA lounge. She had arrived earlier that morning via Moscow and Singapore. It was a pleasant surprise and brought back the family together again. The Almighty works in strange ways.

Then in September, twenty months after being diagnosed for cancer, things began to change. My colleague who was diagnosed together with me succumbed to the disease. Maybe this affected me psychologically for I took a turn for the worst. I lost my appetite and my body weight plummeted by twelve kilos within six weeks. My food intake was two mouthfuls at each meal and I was wasting fast. I could not walk unassisted. I suffered stomach cramps and would groan in my sleep. Then I had prolonged constipation and had to be admitted to the hospital.

Our hospitals now have many lady doctors. As an ex Colonel in the Territorial Army I was admitted to the palatial Tuanku Mirzan Military Hospital. The doctor who attended to me at the emergency ward was a lady. She told me that she was going to perform a PR on me. Not being medically trained, I thought that she was going to do some Public Relation stunt on me. She put on her rubber glove and probed my bottom! At that instant I lost my self-esteem and male dignity.

I must say she was very professional and competent. She directed me to go for an x-ray which diagnosed me as having ‘impacted stools’. That got me re-admitted again. They did their magic and very soon I felt very much relived and able to begin to take my food again.

After a week of being discharged, I was not able to urinate, another medical insult I was back in the hospital again. My Pathologist friend Col. Dr. Kuna took me there. As it was a Saturday, he told me that my urologist might take some time to come. As it was an emergency he decided to perform the procedure himself. I asked him when he had last performed this procedure. To which he replied, ‘some twenty years ago’. Well that was not very comforting but I signed the necessary papers anyway as the fluid pressure was building up. He drained out nearly a litre of urine from me. What a relief!

I was ten days in hospital convalescing. Then one morning two young nurses came and told me they were going to remove the catheter. I just lifted up my sarong to cover my face and told them to do what they wanted. They told me to take a deep breath and delicately removed it. Then they told me to accompany them to the toilet as they had to re-train me on how to urinate. Dutifully I did as I was told. I sat on the toilet bowl and they turned on the tap for sound effect, but nothing happened. Then they took turns saying ‘Shoo Shoo’ as if toilet training a child. I told them to leave me alone for a while. They could stand outside,. I found out that I still had my ‘marchioness‘ in me. I could only do it whilst standing!

Saturday, March 2, 2013


TGIS! That's Thank God It's Saturday! What a week it has been, but all of it GREAT! And how absolutely fabulous to have the weekend to wind down and recharge for another bustling week ahead.

What better way than to listen to some evergreens from yester-years. Psst...I have a confession to make. Rather than spend money at a karaoke club and subject my poor buddies to my utter lack of singing talents, I prefer to exercise my vocal cords in the privacy of my room, courtesy of the Karaoke Channel on Youtube.

Here are some of my fave songs from the 1960s. My taste in music is rather eclectic, but I know the majority of baby boomers prefer evergreen pops from singers who were once upon a time our poster boys and girls. Listening to these golden oldies makes me relive those days of teenage innocence - ah, all those silly schoolgirl crushes on our pop idols who didn't even know that we existed!

Here they are again 50 years down the road. Fans or idols, time treats us all the same. We can all grow old together with a song in our hearts and a spring in our steps.