Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cancer is not always the crab

Dear Friends,
Recently it really felt that it was deja vu all over again. News that the mother of someone close I know, who was not well after just returning from a Japan business trip. The signs were breathing difficulties and bloating of her hands which was abnormal. I was taken back almost immediately down my childhood days. My late dad had also returned from a London business trip. I remember him lying down with us on the floor and calling my mum on the telephone at her workplace. It was all nice and loving at that time and the memories still lingers after these many years. How do I equate both these situations? They have both suffered the same fate - CANCER. How coincidental?

Cancer is the general name for a group of more than a hundred diseases in which cells in a part of the body begin to grow out of control. Cancer cells develop because of damage to the DNA. This substance is in every cell and directs all of the cell's activities. People can inherit damaged DNA which accounts for inherited cancers. Many times though, a person's DNA gets damaged by things in the environment like chemicals, viruses, tobacco smoke or too much sunlight. Cancer cells keep growing and dividing, they are different from normal cells. Instead of dying, they outlive normal cells and continue to grow and make new abnormal cells. Cancer usually forms as a tumor. Some cancers, like leukemia do not form tumors. Instead, these cancer cells involve the blood and blood forming organs and circulate through other tissues where they grow. Cancer cells often travel through bloodstream or through the lymph system to other parts of the body where they begin to grow and replace normal tissue.

Cancer is a group of diseases that may cause almost any sign or symptom. The signs and symptoms will depend on where the cancer is, the size of the cancer and how much it affects the nearby organs or structures. If a cancer spreads, then symptoms may appear in different parts of the body. As cancer grows, it begins to push on nearby organs, blood vessels and nerves. This pressure creates some of the signs and symptoms of cancer.

Sometimes cancers start in places where it does not cause any symptoms until the cancer has grown quite large. This is the fate of Aunty Daisy diagnosed with pancreas cancer which has also spread to the liver. Pancreas cancer do not usually grow large enough to be felt from the outside of the body. Some pancreatic cancers do not cause symptoms until they begin to grow around nearby nerves. Others grow around the bile duct which blocks the flow of bile and leads to a yellowing of the skin known as jaundice. By the time pancreatic cancer causes these signs or symptoms, it has usually reached an advanced stage.

Treatment is most successful when cancer is found as early as possible. Finding cancer early usually means it can be treated while it is still small and is less likely to have spread to other parts of the body. This often means a better chance for cure especially if initial treatment is to be surgery. The number of treatment choices you have will depend on the type of cancer and other individual factors such as age, health status and personal preferences. The four major types of treatment are surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and biologic therapies. The cancer's stage and how widespread it is will also determine the best course of treatment, since early stage cancers respond to different therapies than later stage ones.

Today, millions of people are living with cancer or have had cancer. The risk of developing most types of cancer can be reduced by changes in a person's lifestyle, for example, by quitting smoking, limiting time in the sun, being physically active and having a balanced diet. The sooner a cancer is found and treated, the better the chances are for living for many years.

My dad succumbed to liver cancer 33 years ago in an era without chemotherapy. With developed medical technologies these days, I can only pray that a solution be discovered soon for the sake of mankind. Aunty Daisy; be encouraged, stay strong and believe. The bible teaches us that we have a Lord that healeth thee. With faith, nothing is impossible.
** Aunty Daisy was called home by the Lord on the 30th January 2009 @ 3.25pm after a four month battle with cancer. Rest in Peace.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I am no business guru

Dear Friends,

How time flies? I was tidying up on some archives of my past work last weekend.
I was amazed at how much was accumulated through the years. Photographs, write-ups, marketing plans, reference articles, journals - all stacked in a plastic document container gathering dust. Sometimes I wonder if all these past materials would be of use now, in this day and age.
One of the interesting 'stumbled upon' was called 'USAHAWAN SUKSES', a Malay entrepreneurial magazine. They conducted an interview with me in 2005. They have sought some insights on how I manage hotels and make them successful.
For positive business growth, this can only be sustained through strategic planning, meticulous organizing, firm directing and prudent cost controlling. There needs to be consistency in delivery standards. There is also a need to increase the capabilities of employees, create product differentiations and also introduce new experiences. To capitalize on that, change is inevitable and constant research and developments towards globalization is needed to stay at the top.
The greatest pride in any organization are the employees. There is always a need to invest in them especially in areas of development and succession planning. An organization can only excel if they stay motivated and passionate from within. The essential strategy of having the right employee, coupled with the right strategy, right structures and right systems; in order to build great team spirit that will take a business far.
In terms of marketing, prioritize marketing supports according to prevailing and anticipating market conditions. Set right the fundamentals and its strategies. The inherent qualities of Sales personnel are the same, however training them differently by offering different training needs to meet current competitive business needs. They need to be dedicated and proactive to build relationships with customers who today demand a personal bond.
A yardstick to measure the success of a business would be the satisfaction of employees. When satisfied and happy employees are produced, they produce happy customers. A good experience in a business requires all facets of the various departments from the front to the back of the house. Hence, it is vital to employ the right people for the right job, so customers will be treated right.
Most importantly is the need to be disciplined in implementations. There is really no point just creating creative ideas without implementing. Create a group of people who are the implementers and use the thinkers to do nothing but think. In both aspects, it is a win win.
This is a condensed version of the article which appeared in November 2005.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Time is like a river...You cannot touch the same water twice

Dear Friends,
I have worked almost twenty years of my life. There have been ups and downs but I must say that most experiences were pleasant. I have been put into situations where my mettle has been put to extreme tests. Most times I have steered myself through the roughest storms and have also sometimes failed. In my line of work, it is never a nine to five job. You would be labelled as working half a day if you leave 'early' and you will be deemed a clock watcher.

When it comes to life, very little could be said in general. Why is it not general? This is due to our different upbringings, beliefs, ambitions and aspirations. One thing that we need to acknowledge is that this world will not be around forever. However it is called; doomsday, rapture or till kingdom come - it will come. As the adage goes, time waits for no man. Most of us do not realize that the biological clock is ticking, in denial we see that it is still a long way ahead and we live like we are going to be here forever. Back to my earlier notion of my years of working, is it a myth or fact that leaving the office early is bad. I know that in countries like Japan, employees who leave early from the office are known to be ineffective and holds no importance in the eyes of the employer. Working late is a 'normality' and it supposedly reflect that one is highly effective and productive.

Work is important, nearly all our awake time is dedicated to it. We are all surrounded by this weird peer pressure of working long hours. Colleagues pressure each other to something that nobody wants to do. Don't get me wrong, I am not speaking against work itself, per se. I do believe that work can be meaningful, engaging and yes FUN like the beliefs of Air Asia's Tony Fernandez. But, I question the notion that long hours are necessary. Do they equate to productivity? I don't think 60 hour work weeks are necessarily a great way to spend our lives. I think we should reverse the notion of working long hours to adopt efficient work styles and quantitative (as opposed to qualitative) family or personal time. Choices are to be made. Fewer but more efficient meetings, business lunches as oppose to business dinners, travelling less but at the same time increasing frequency of communication through technology. If clever choices are made, we should be able to go home early, play with our children or even go and catch up with friends for a few cuppas.

For myself, bowling nights are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Gym nights are Tuesdays and Thursdays. I believe that I am still an important figure in my organisation despite my extra curricular activities. I believe a balanced life could be achieved while creating results. The management of yesterday will dwell on working on your guilt conscience of leaving the office early but the management of today will dwell on if you are not happy you will not be productive. When the minute hand of our biological clock has completed the allotted number of times around our clock, it will stop. Time Waits For No One. You should leave work early today, go sweat it out, take time to breathe, smell the flowers and have a few cuppas and most importantly, live life.
The adage of no one is indispensable is really true. Tell me that when we are no longer here, our positions will not be replaced. Should anything happen to our families, could we ever find a replacement. Think about it. We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.

Something Fishy

Dear Friends,

I was fascinated when I recently read about the rage of fish spas operating in Malaysia. I have always been suckered into massages, reflexology, spa treatments and occasionally facials and manicures. A true metro-sexual in the making.

Upon reading the featured write up about this spa called 'The Sampuoton Fish Spa' located at Merchant Square in Tropicana, I called up for an appointment. This is a fish therapy concept spa and does treatment for the whole body.The treatment involves dipping your legs (and also the whole body) into a pool of fish where they will come nibble away your dead skin, allowing healthy skin to grow in its place. An interesting way of exfoliating, I thought. I arrived and was explained on the different treatments that was offered. (and obviously the different pricing). I chose the special promotion being offered at RM 182 which includes an hour of fish nibbling and another hour of Swedish massage. I was ushered into a lounge and must say that the ambience was nice with the cosy sofas and was offered some tea sipping. I loved the soothing Balinese gamelan playing in the background and I was taken back to my yesteryear's of Indonesia.
I changed into the trunks provided and was requested to take a shower without any soap before entering the pool. This is to remove all traces of chemicals or lotions that might be harmful to the fishes. The recommended treatment is an hour as it takes time for the skin to soften thus making it easier for the fishes to nibble off the skin. As I stepped into the pool, I was reminded of the movie, Piranhas where hundreds of fishes just came 'attacking'. I must admit that it was a bit traumatizing in the beginning.

These little fishes are called Garra Rufas and they are from Turkey. While in the pool, there is a large plasma television on the wall that brings you through an educational process. It taught me that these fishes are actually members of the carp family and was discovered in Turkey 'by accident'. A dog at that time injured it's leg and fell into the river and was nibbled upon by the fishes. The damaged skin and wound healed soon after, prompting the locals to try it as a healing discovery. The Garra Rufas exude an enzyme when they nibble which has medicinal benefits.
The actual process was quite pleasant. It felt ticklish the first ten minutes but the sensation slowly gave way to fascination as I looked at how these little fellas were nibbling away my dead skin. On that plasma screen, it also says that an hour of this nibbling is very therapeutic as you will only be thinking of the sensation rather than other worldly worries thus giving your mind a break.

I completed my therapy with a Swedish massage performed by a Japanese therapist. She spoke fluent English and was the only foreigner around. (the other therapist were all Malaysians).An evening of Turkish nibbling, Swedish pressure points with Japanese flavours - what more can I ask for?

Doctor Fish, wait for me. I will be back.

* My apologies for not being able to upload pictures.
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'Merdeka, Merdeka, Merdeka'??

Dear Friends,
Today is the 31st of August 2008, Malaysia celebrates 51 years of Independence.

I was a little astonished today reading and scrutinizing every media advertisement printed. Most of it read, "Selamat Hari Merdeka". I remember those days when I was in primary school, I was taught that 'Merdeka' took place on the grounds of the Sultan Abdul Samad clock tower with the 'laungan Merdeka' seven times by our first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Al- Haj. I was taught that 'Merdeka' was achieved from the British and thereafter we were to celebrate 'Hari Kebangsaan' - as we were now delivered from the colonisation and integration will now take place for Malaysia. I was still little during the May 13 riots. It happened because the majority still wanted a control over the minority. Little did we remember,when we were at the battlefield of independence from the British, there were no majority nor minority. Every race were out there for a reason - 'Merdeka'.
I still remember her vividly :) Her name was Fida Ismail and her brother Yassin. Call it puppy love if you will, it was pure innocence then. We were at primary school, a 'sekolah kebangsaan' for the matter called Sultan Alam Shah in Section 11, Petaling Jaya. She was the head prefect and we 'saw' each other and became friends. I began to understand why she was different. She ate different meals than I did, she spoke English like I did and she was not afraid to be my friend. I remember learning to eat with my hands, I remember learning 'alif, bah, tah, sa' in Jawi that would not make me less Chinese. Fida on the other hand was curious about what 'chee ciong fan' was and attempted later finding out that it was as 'halal' as it could be. We were coloured blind and we were exposed to each others' culture.

I believe that the younger generation now is not as opened to the different races as during my growing up years. Although sometimes it feels like as a nation we have regressed where race relations are concerned. With my children, I feel it is important to expose them to other cultures.They both can eat with their hands especially when we visit the banana leaf stall, they make it a habit to respond in Bahasa Malaysia when I so decide to speak to them in the National language at home, they know songs of Siti Nurhaliza and of course they will still delight in their Bah Kut Teh when we feel 'porkie'.
To progress beyond just 51 years, we need to expose our younger generation to different cultures, languages and religions in schools. We should stop assuming things about 'other' races to curb the unhealthy fear among the people.
I like to believe that it is what I do now for my children that would enable them to see beyond their race. The future Malaysian society should be one 'Bangsa Malaysia' where race will be irrelevant. When that time comes, we will not be afraid or sensitive about what is right to say and what is not - we should be able to say anything in the open because it will only be healthy for our nation.

I received a SMS this morning which read, "We are now 51, but the pains remain, the first 50 were aches of growing up, the next 50 the strain of responsibility. Pray that we survive this" Quote and unquote. Whichever political party or agenda, I am for one who will preach one 'Bangsa Malaysia', I am for one who will believe in meritocracy rather than an allocated quota and I am for one who will determine that my children will have a place to live and prosper when they sing 'Tanah tumpahnya darahku'.

We have indeed 'Merdeka'-ed 51 years ago; now let us grow up, foster a better understanding amongst all races and progress along with the real objectives of nation building. I am sure Misbun Sidek and Lee Chong Wei can testify to that at the recently concluded Olympics. When the 'Jalur Gemilang' was hoisted, I would like to think that Lee Chong Wei was proud that he is Malaysian rather than being 'Chinese' at his ancestoral 'homeland'.

To me, it will always be 'Selamat Hari Kebangsaan'. That was what I was taught and I have always been a creature of habits. I am cascading that down to my children too as 'Merdeka' happened 51 years ago and now it is time to foster a unity that was better than before.

'Selamat Hari Kebangsaan' to all :)