Wednesday, July 31, 2013


I always hesitate when it comes to re-posting or sharing articles on health tips and miracle cures. The internet is replete with websites and YouTube videos that tout the perfect answer to our medical conditions, for example, the most effective way to remove kidney stones or the best way to detox. On average I get at least 4-5 such emails a day. I read them all, save the more credible ones, and delete the rest.

There is a valid reason for this hesitation. Most of these articles bear no mention of the original source. Even if a name is stated, and the writer is a medical professional, how do we know if he is not a fictitious person or using a pseudonym? Some of these health remedies claim to be backed by reputed and respectable institutions. Do we fall for these claims line, hook and sinker without doing some research on their authenticity?

An email about a cancer cure purportedly sent by Johns Hopkins Hospital has been making its rounds since 2004. I have lost count of the number of times it has been forwarded to me over the years. The article is in fact a hoax. Yet there are people who have circulated it among their friends or posted it on their Facebook page, thus garnering more believers and keeping the hoax alive. They should do some homework first before sharing the content with their friends. One of the more reliable websites to check whether a piece of information is a hoax or not is Snopes.

Would you believe a website post that claims a 100% scientifically-proven way to help you get rid of diabetes in three weeks? Or that wearing a scalar pendant made of volcanic ash will improve blood circulation, enhance memory and energy? Or that taking soursop can slow down the growth of cancer cells?

Snake grass is in high demand as a cancer cure. It is now available as a drink and as pills.

While certain natural foods may work for some people, they may not be as effective for others. Indeed, they may even have disastrous results or cause serious side-effects. We are all made differently with different DNA. Drinking a glass of prune juice every day may relieve constipation for some people, but may have little or no effect for others. Be wary too of claims that Sabah snake grass can cure cancer. Again, it may prove to be the magical cure for some, but for others the same snake grass offers only false hopes.

There are bad habits that are detrimental to our health yet some folks don't seem to be affected by these habits. Take smoking. No one can deny that smoking is hazardous to health, but having said that we all know of folks who have lived to a ripe old age puffing away on a pack or two of cigarettes a day. Cigar-chomping George Burns lived to a 100, and died of cardiac arrest in 1996, not lung cancer. On the other hand, Wayne McLaren, one of the Malboro men, died of lung cancer at the age of 51. So how does one explain this? No wonder die-hard smokers throw caution to the wind, and anti-smoking campaigns show little success.

There is also the confusion created by conflicting reports, including those issued by doctors and medical researchers. Coffee, tea, milk - is drinking these good or bad for health? What about egg yolk - eat it or avoid it at all costs? There are opposing views on these, and all claim to be backed by extensive research and years of study. What should we believe? Who should we listen to?

When you have dengue, you will try anything. It's easy to be
cynical about the efficacy of a cure when we are in good health.

Too good to be true? One glass is not enough.
Let's not forget businesses that stand to reap big profits from news of any study that shows health benefits of a particular food or juice. Reports about the benefits of drinking coffee gave Starbucks a huge boost in earnings. And if enough people claim that eating egg yolk strengthens the heart muscles, it's a sure bet the price of eggs will soar in response to a hike in demand, never mind the lack of creditable studies to prove the veracity of such claims.

Now you know why this blog does not carry many posts on health claims, like consuming green papaya to get rid of uric acid, or drinking celery juice to lower blood pressure. In the first place, I have no way of verifying the information unless the original source is mentioned. In the second place, I am not medically qualified to make any statement to support these claims. Neither have I tested any of them to vouch for its effectiveness. Have you?

And the final reason is, of course, to maintain the integrity of this blog.

Sunday, July 28, 2013


Photo grab from The Sunday Star 28 July 2013

Whenever I read about public appeals for funds to help someone in need of medical treatment, my heart goes out to this person and his family. Malaysians are known for their generosity when it comes to donating towards a good cause. But when a choice has to be made, people are more inclined to fork out money to help children than adults seeking medical treatment. There are hardly any public appeals for funds to help the elderly seeking medical treatment, as at that age, sad to say, they are probably considered a lost cause.

Surgery and hospitalization can cost an arm and a leg. Then there is rehabilitation, followed by a regime of prescription drugs that the patient has to take, often for the rest of his life. Private hospitals and pharmaceutical companies rake in billions in profits each year. Surely they can afford to shave off a couple of billions by lowering the cost of medical treatment for people like Mr Wong Khai Loon, 48, above who has stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He has exhausted all his savings of RM8000 on medicine, chemotherapy and other treatment. Three of his children are still studying, and the fourth is only three years old. He owes four monthly installments of Rm1800 each on his house. Unless he receives generous donations from the public, or free treatment from the hospital, the future looks bleak for him and his family.

For more Malaysian cancer stories, click here.

Most of these public appeals for donations come from cancer patients who desperately need the funds to pay for surgery or chemotherapy. Why is cancer treatment so expensive? Why is the efficacy of chemotherapy so low? Are there cheaper and more effective alternatives to chemotherapy and radiation?

These questions and the knowledge that a few of my friends are battling the disease right now have got me interested in searching for some answers on the internet. Here are two videos I would like to share. Please view them with an open mind.

(Disclaimer: All information posted here is merely for information - not as advice or recommendation. For that, please consult a doctor or other appropriate medical professional that you can trust. Always seek a second, even a third opinion, and do your own research as well.)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


"I took a little trip to my hometown," sang Paul Anka back in 1960. That was exactly what I did last weekend. I spent the whole of Saturday morning re-visiting the old familiar streets and places that were a part of my growing up years in Batu Pahat.

I left town after completing my Form 5 at Temenggong Ibrahim Girls School in 1964. Since then I have returned only occasionally. My last visit was in September 2008. Batu Pahat has changed tremendously over the years, generally for the better.
On my sister's advice, I took the KKKL bus from Bandar Tasik Selatan, Kuala Lumpur. The fare was only RM20, cheaper if you ask for senior discount. The journey was pleasant and took only three hours with a short toilet break mid-way. The bus stops at the terminal above. If you plan to travel back to KL by bus, do take note of the schedule while you are at the terminal. Just inquire at the KKKL ticket counter.
One of the first places on my must-visit list was TIGS, my alma mater. I spent about 30 minutes on Friday evening photographing the old block where my Form 4-5 classrooms were. You can view the pictures in my previous post.
The town bus service runs at half-hourly intervals. Quite reliable and cheap. This old bus is testimony of the durability of Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Note the sliding glass windows. 
The inside of the bus. Note the wooden floor panels and the seats from a bygone era. That's my sister cum tour guide.
My walkabout began with Jalan Rahmat, the town's main road. It is now a one-way street. Not much traffic at this early hour before the shops open. There's even a one-stop computer centre on the right. BP is modernizing.
My sister is standing in front of the shop-house where my siblings and I grew up. It used to house a beauty salon which my mother operated, and my aunt's tailoring shop on the ground floor. We lived upstairs. The corner unit was a hotel cum coffee shop. I recall watching Fijian soldiers in the 1950s drinking beer on their night off and dancing to music from the jukebox. They came from the army barracks along Jalan Tanjung Laboh during the colonial days. I still remember Queen Elisabeth's coronation celebrations in 1953, and the day black and white TV came to town in 1964.
I can't believe the old signboard for our shop-house is still there!
It says 'Golden Star'. Everyone in BP knows the shop. 

My mother started the hair-salon and bridal gown rental business
in 1948, the year I was born.
Sing Ah Book store is still there. Many of these shop-houses were protected by the Rent Control Act till it was repealed in 2000. In the 1960s, my mother paid less than 100 dollars in monthly rental for her shop-house along the main road, Jalan Rahmat. Now rentals can reach as high as RM8000 or more. 
The dollar was the currency used before independence. I still have these notes in various denominations.
The Chinese Chamber of Commerce built in 1931. It was THE place to hold social functions in the old days. A number of my relatives held their wedding ceremony and dinner here. 
Still standing - the Post Office. Building materials in the old days were probably of better quality, as was the workmanship.
This is the first and only shop I know that sells firearms. Frank Tan must be doing well to have remained in business since 1926! Wonder who the customers are, and what they want firearms for. 
One of the streets off Jalan Rahmat with many of my favourite makan places, including Ah See wantan noodles shop. 
The Kwong Shiew Association building. Another BP landmark in Jalan Jenang where I would watch lion dances and Chinese operas during festivals.
Odeon cinema used to be here. Cineplexes and VCDs sounded the death knell for the big cinemas. Many of them were converted to bargain stores like this one above. Movie tickets in the early 1960s cost only 40 cent, and for matinees only 25 cents. It was free seating. We reserved seats for our friends by tying handkerchiefs around the arm-rest of the seats.
The government house in Jalan Sultanah where my first child was born has been demolished to be replaced with this restaurant with the strange name 'Mee Racun' or Poison Noodles. Apparently, this recipe is unique to Batu Pahat.

The current school building bears absolutely no resemblance to Ai Chun Chinese school where I attended kindergarten in 1953. (see below)
Ai Chun School as I remember it during my school days.
(Photo from
These abandoned shop-houses stand out like a sore thumb amid the newly renovated ones in the town centre. Must be due to either legal or financial issues.
In the old days it took courage to walk along back lanes like this
one because of the smell emanating from the buckets of night soil!
How can I forget this row of dilapidated houses? That's where I had my first kiss - an innocent peck on the cheek from a boy that I liked very much then.
Shops like this one will soon be a faded memory as progress envelopes the town, and people prefer to shop at the malls that offer everything under one roof.
One of the last surviving repair shops. The 70-year old shop owner is self-taught. He claims he can fix anything from a typewriter to a washing machine. Amazing!
A trip to the morning market is a must. One can find all sorts of interesting wares here besides cheap clothes. There's a flea market here too.

At the vegetable stall. The prices are unbelievable. For only RM10, it is possible to buy enough food to cook a decent meal for the whole family. 
The wet market is still in the same location. Here's where you can buy fish, chicken, beef and mutton as well as vegetables.
You would be forgiven if you think my sister is walking towards the public toilet hidden behind these walls.
Behind those walls lies the pork section of the wet market exactly as I remember it in my school days. The pork sellers would wrap the meat in leaves and tie it with hemp strings. We didn't have plastic bags or raffia strings in those days.
Windows with wooden shutters and beautifully painted tiles are typical features of pre-war Peranakan shop-houses.
As a child, I would buy biscuits sold in mom and pop provision shops like this one. The price was according to the weight in katis and tahils.
I just had to take a picture of this vendor with his multi-container of nuts. I bought a  small packet of steamed chick peas for only RM1. In KL, it would have cost me double.
BP's iconic cendol stall boasts an original recipe dating back to the 1950s.
Love those prices. One good reason to return to my hometown more often. (Below) Batu Pahat is also well-known for its biscuits. Hup Seng and Hwa Tai biscuit factories are located here.

By the way, here are some prodigal sons of Batu Pahat that you will probably recognize. Clockwise: Tony Pua, Vincent Tan, Chua Soi Lek and Lim Kit Siang. Have I left out anyone famous or infamous?

My trip back to Batu Pahat reminded me of one of my favourite Beatles songs "In My Life". It was in BP that I spent the best years of my life, made the best childhood friends, and fell in love for the first time. There are people and places I will never forget, and I shall return again and again to visit old familiar places and dearly-loved friends. These are fond memories that will remain forever in my life.