Search Results for: 8 interesting books

Reading: 8 Interesting books

0 Comment
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on Google+Email this to someone

I’ve decided to condense my reading into lists instead of individual posts. Partly because I’m so far behind updating the blog regularly. One of the reasons why I love going to the library is that it holds me accountable to finish my books in a slated time. I have many books I’ve bought on my bookshelf and I haven’t got to them yet. And some already have their pages turning yellow from the Hong Kong humidity.

1. This is going to hurt by Adam Kay

This book is hilarious and makes for a quick summer read. You can probably finish it in one or two sittings. It’s hilarious. Having dated a medical student and there for him through the gruelling five years of medical school, it brought back lots of memories of the bizarre, hilarious, health warming, gut wrenching sort of stories. Medicine is about people and often times it’s made so clinical and void of human emotions.

2. Freedom In Exile, His Holiness The Dalai lama

I loved this book – so much compassion, love and forgiveness. And the narrative is so human – how his holiness is just like us, greed for roast meats in his younger days, being a naughty child, playing pranks and navigating the world of uncertainty like how we all would, no super human airs.

3. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk

This is one of the best books I’ve read this year in 2019. I took a while trying to digest all the interesting nuggets. Many of my psychologist friends recommend this book, as with friends who have been through their lifetime of trauma, chronic pain, and illnesses. It’s super fascinating with the research they’ve conducted, in-depth look at the hippocampus, physical and psychological abuse; patients from war veterans to survivors of traumatic accidentals and prolong child/sexual abuse. Highly recommend this book if you’re interested in the human psyche and coping with the thing called Life.

4. History of Islamic architecture in illustrations.

This is God sent. A comprehensive high-level breakdown of places, architecture style, motifs, injected with historical and cultural details over the centuries. Gives one a serious case of wanderlust. So many places to go, so many things to see.

5. The Casual Vacancy by J.K Rowling

I haven’t read any of her other books apart from the full Harry Potter series that I LOVED. This was a pretty engaging read too and I’d recommend it for an enjoyable summertime read.

6. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Harari

I haven’t read his first two best sellers Homosapiens and Homo Deus, but this one is a concise and practical read with much to contemplate on what the future will look like – with tech, AI, privacy, machines vs men, religion, power, ego and identity. Highly recommend it.

7. Men without Women by Haruki Murakami

It’s been a while since I last read a Murakami book, this collection of shorts is brilliant. My favourite story is the shorts story on Scheherazade. Absolutely spellbound by this collection. Yes, the solitary male protagonist still exists in most of the narratives, the existential loneliness, solitude, with an equal measure of plot twists and surprises.

8. The convenience store woman by Sayaka Murata

I picked this up at the airport. Curious about the cover. It’s a short and entertaining read and a glimpse into Japanese culture and life – and the judgement women have to put up with if middle-aged and unmarried.

Shop: Hidden Spots Where locals go in Macau for SCMP 48h

0 Comment
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on Google+Email this to someone

A piece I wrote for the SCMP, here’s my unedited version, and all photography by me.

Buddy Candy Store


This psychedelic candy store is tucked away in an alley way corner just a stone’s throw from St Pauls Ruins alongside some hipster fashion boutiques. Buddy Candy Store sells candies in all shapes, sizes and colours, including their best seller, the Giant Gummy Bears imported from the USA whose size and weight is the equivalent of 6300 gummy bears, weighing up to 2.2kg. What usually strike visitors when they first visit is the ethereal colourful floating glass balloons that run through the ceiling of the entire shop. Their wide range of candies are imported internationally, with most of the toy candies imported from Japan, while the wide range of beautifully packaged candies from lollies to large scale towering pieces of art are imports from Europe, America to South East Asia. Expect to find plenty of the latest cartoon characters from Disney to Hello Kitty, with a wide variety they have handpicked and curated internationally – truly the candy experts. Both locals and expats come here to shop for candies for a lolly on the go or order special packages for children’s birthday parties and events. This summer, Buddy candy store is going to start organising parties for children in the shop’s space, accommodating up to 20 children. Whether shopping for gifts or picking up some candy, you’re spoilt for choice with sweets that range from 5MOP-500MOP.

小不點 BUDDY, Avenida de Demétrio Cinatti, Macau, Macao. Tel: (853) 2835 8222. Opening Hours: Everyday 1030am-630pm.

Mercearia Portuguesa


“The Portguese Corner Shop” first opened in 2011 and has a carefully and lovingly curated inventory of eclectic, beautiful artisanal products. Everything from the century old traditional Claus Porto soaps with their gorgeous vintage print packaging to artisanal rugs Made in Portugal to the “Pinhais” sardines – a family run business in Portugal that practices sustainable fishing – a product you can’t find outside of Portugal because of the small scale he operates on. Then there are the homemade quinze marmalades and assorted jams – the beauty, sun and sea of Portugal packed in a jar, straight from Portugal. Here, you’ll also find hand embroidered little linen handkerchiefs—a traditional Portuguese linen art – these are perfect gifts and often used as drink coasters or simply for display in the home. Assorted boxes of chocolates with beautiful typography and packaging as well as Portuguese sweets are for sale, alongside vintage wooden toys, beautiful hand painted tile art that Portuguese like to display by the window as well as vintage stationery from pencils to note books and the traditional pencils where calendars are printed on the pencils. This corner shop is a little enclave housed in Albergue 1601, where local artists workshops and intimate scale exhibitions take place and a veritable little slice of Portugal in Macau.

Mercearia Portuguesa. Albergue 1601. Walk of Saint Lazarus Church No. 8 
Macau SAR, China Tel: (853) 6654 6403. Opening hours: Monday to Friday: 1pm to 9pm, Saturday and Sunday: 12pm to 9pm

Sartor Lab


Sartor Lab is Macau’s answer to Made to Measure. The minimalist boutique with airy, stark interiors and two full racks of pant suits gives off an air of an upscale New York store. Local duo Victor Choi and Kade Chou opened their atelier in January 2015 with a ready to wear collection. Chou graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology New York, and comes from a family of tailors in Macau, and Choi from London armed with a marketing degree. Creative lead Jay Li joined them recently with years of experience designing for Li & Fung USA as well as Thom Browne New York. The Ready to Wear suits range from 4000MOP and up, while shirts range anything from 480MOP to 1800 depending on choice of fabric and cut. Pour over the swatches of fabric, as the team only works with the finest textiles, with selections from Zegna, Loro Piana to Scabal, Thomas Mason and more. Sartor Lab has taken Made to Measure in Macau up a notch, introducing a travelling style consultant and tailor to their business, with their first stop in New York this October before travelling to different cities in China. As they take their bespoke tailoring services on the road, they continue to be fully committed to walk-in clients – suits typically take about three to four weeks to be made, and up to five weeks over peak seasons like Chinese New Year. Handmade cufflinks are also available starting from 380MOP.

Sartor Lab, Rua de Brás da Rosa 26, Macau, Macao Tel: (853) 6557 2640. Opening hours: Everyday 12pm-8pm, closed on Public Holidays.

Prism Creative Macau

You won’t miss this store is a diamond in the rough, located on a street of old shops and local eateries with a floor to ceiling window display of local designer wares. Apart from a random and interesting selection of art, jewellery and crafts, they conduct workshops for the community and encourage plenty of Do-it-yourself type of DIY creativity, running craft workshops from making leather bags to jewellery and candles. Artists digital art works are always on commission, on the wall hangs A1 size canvas of digital art by local Macau artist known by his pseudonym “Big Ear Cow”. Here is a great place to pick up some souvenirs and gifts, including greeting cards in beautiful typography and illustrations, handmade jewellery by both Macau and Hong Kong designers. There’s also a shelf of Chinese design books as well as books featuring the artworks of “Big Ear Cow” and design magazines for design/art buffs who need some inspiration from books and magazines. Other products range from leather stationery, hand carved candles to hand bound books and embroidery.

Prism Creative Macau

37 R/C A, Rua das Estalagens, Macau Tel: (853) 63715152

Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 230pm-8pm. Closed on Mondays.

En Masse

This boutique brings to Macau a curated inventory of bespoke and eclectic items from accessories to stationery and household items like “Tiny Tree” handmade terrariums with funny mise en scenes. Products run the gamut from cushion covers to pugs on mugs, accessories from Analog wooden watches to women’s costume jewellery – the shop’s vibe shows a very organic and creative selection of products. Here, you’ll also find fun household items from Thai design Qualy and Thai label Mazmoizelle that specially creates bags and accessories from cork. Or maybe even pick up some designer wear for your pooch as they stock the British pet label Devon & Drew.

En Masse Macau

Rua Nova à Guia 110, Macau, Macao Tel: (853) 6268 2677

Opening Hours: Everyday 1pm-9pm

Nutritional Supplements & Healthy Diet for Pregnancy

Nutritionist Dr Deanna Minich reached out to me to collaborate and shares some invaluable advice on navigating the Dos and Don’ts of pregnancy with a science-based approach.

Her guest post:

Pregnancy is a very exciting and happy experience in a woman’s life. It is a pivotal point in every woman’s life and can be confusing and overwhelming for mothers-to-be.

You have to take extra care of yourself during pregnancy. It is important to stay healthy physically and mentally to ensure your baby’s growth and development. Your body is undergoing many changes, and you are entering a new phase of life.

Pregnancy brings a mix of different feelings. It is very common to undergo stress, anxiety, or depression while pregnant. It is crucial to take special care of your mental health.

Excessive stress or a feeling of sadness isn’t healthy for you or the baby. Continue to do what you enjoy to keep your mind calm and engaged. Here are some recommendations for you if you are a book lover.

One interesting thing that happens during pregnancy is food cravings. Treat yourself with something delicious and easy to make like these cheddar cheese swirl buns.

Also supplementing your diet with fruits in pregnancy is very beneficial for you. Find out if dry fruits are better for you or fresh fruits.

While you can fulfil your pregnancy food cravings, make sure you don’t eat something that is harmful to you or the baby. If you crave for a smoke, you must consult your doctor regarding it. Click here to find out if it is safe to smoke weed while pregnant.

Good prenatal care includes proper nutrition and healthy habits. A healthy diet and necessary supplements can ensure that you get proper nutrition.

Why take Supplements during Pregnancy?

For many women, balanced meals aren’t enough to fulfil their nutritional needs. They must take nutritional supplements. During pregnancy, the body faces an increased need for macronutrients and micronutrients.

It is easy to fulfil the requirements of macronutrients (protein, fats, and carbohydrates.) It’s more likely for a pregnant woman to suffer from micronutrient deficiencies. This is why it is important to take supplemental minerals and vitamins during pregnancy.

What Supplements are Safe During Pregnancy?

 Prenatal Vitamins                   
These vitamins are specially formulated to meet the body’s increased need for micronutrients during pregnancy. Studies suggest that taking prenatal supplements can decrease the risk of preterm birth.

Folic Acid
Folic acid or Vitamin B plays an important role in fetal growth and development. Pregnant women are recommended to take 600 micrograms of folic acid daily. Taking folic acid regularly can reduce the risk of neural defects and congenital abnormalities in the baby.

Iron is an important component of red blood cells. As the maternal blood volume increases, the requirement for iron significantly increases. Iron is also critical to transport oxygen to the fetus, which is critical to developing the brain and other organs.

Magnesium plays an important role in muscle, nerve, and immune functions. It is also involved in hundreds of chemical reactions in your body. Magnesium deficiency during pregnancy can increase the risk of chronic hypertension and preterm labour.

Some studies suggest that supplementing with magnesium may reduce the chances of fetal growth restrictions and premature birth.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D is important for bone health, cell division, and immune functions. All these three functions act as the building blocks of proper fetal development.  Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy is associated with cases like preterm birth, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes.

Vitamin D intake shouldn’t be less than 600 micrograms for pregnant ladies. It is important for you to get a Vitamin D screening. If you have Vitamin D deficiency, your doctor will recommend a specific dose as to how much you should take every day.

 Ginger root
Ginger root is a popular Chinese herb with lots of health and nutritional benefits. It is highly effective in treating nausea, sickness, and vomiting, which makes it a great herb for pregnant women.

Through several studies, we now know that ginger root is safe to consume during pregnancy. Nonetheless, make sure you are not allergic to it before using it. You can check this by consulting your physician.

Probiotics are living microorganisms that promote good digestion and a healthy gut. The presence of probiotics in your gut also keeps the harmful bacteria away.

For moms-to-be, taking care of gut health is also very important.  Many studies have concluded that it’s safe to take probiotics during pregnancy. Probiotics are free from any harmful effects and give many benefits to the digestive system.

Several studies show that supplementing the body with probiotics can keep one safe from several conditions. Regular use of probiotics can reduce the chances of gestational diabetes, postpartum depression, and infant eczema.

What Supplements to avoid in Pregnancy?

While supplementing with micronutrients and herbs is beneficial, pregnant women must avoid certain supplements. These supplements can have a negative impact on the mother and fetus. Some of these can cause uterine contraction which can be fatal for the baby. While others can increase the risk of diarrhoea for mother and baby both. Following is the supplement which pregnant women should avoid.

Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Goldenseal, Black cohosh, Dong Quai, Yohimbe

Dr. Deanna Minich has more than 20 years of diverse, well-rounded experience in the fields of nutrition and functional medicine, including clinical practice, research, product formulation, writing, and education. Her doctoral (Ph.D.) research focused on essential fatty acid absorption and metabolism, and her Master of Science degree (M.S.) allowed her to explore the health benefits of the colorful, plant-based carotenoids. Dr. Minich’s passion is teaching a whole-self approach to nourishment and bridging the gaps between science, spirituality, and art in medicine.

Culture: Jason Wordie Walking History Tour of Happy Valley Cemetery Hong Kong

0 Comment
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on Google+Email this to someone

IMG_2421 I had an amazing history tour of the Happy Valley cemeteries with historian Jason Wordie and cannot recommend it enough. He only does the tours for Hong Kong residents or people who grew up/worked here and have an idea of the city’s geography. So, unfortunately, the depth and breadth that he covers Hong Kong are not suited for tourists skimming the surface.

I first started reading Jason’s insights when my husband bought me the book on Macao and had since exchanged notes, quoted Jason in some of my articles on Macao when I needed a historian authority on specific places and culture. I love how the styles and designs of gravestones reflected the fashion and architecture of that era and just by a glance you’d have an idea of 19th or 20th century graves.

It’s interesting to note through the cemeteries walk that the Portuguese influence and Macao trickles into the fabric of Hong Kong society, particularly that of mixed children (often times illegitimate) and the growing community of the Eurasians that used their Euro and Asian descent to their advantage when they needed to work either side. How Eurocentric surnames were also changed to Chinese ones from phonetical translations. How Bosman became Hotung, or Maclean became Mak etc.

Some of my favourite anecdotes include how the Happy Valley Cemeteries doubled as a Botanical gardens outpost where it was a trial and error of planting different seeds that arrived from ships to see if they grew in the climate.

It’s also odd to see the odd coniferous pine, in particular, the Norfolk Islands pine that was planted as a navigational tool – so that sailors could see from afar a rough idea of which direction to head towards the island. And the tall skinny palm trees with leaves that doubled up as an easy fix for raincoats for the passing tropical downpours.

Similar to the stories we’re often told about Singapore that it was a swampy fishing village and not much else, it was a port of call and centre of trade and commerce in the 19th century. Hong Kong had an industry of sugar refinery (Taikoo / Swire), salt and even at some point engraving marble gravestones.

I truly feel that in order to move forward to the future, we need to keep looking back at our past. How everything made sense and was sustainable, with minimal waste. Expensive Chinese porcelain made their long voyages on ships to Europe and American packed safely and tightly with sago (tapioca flour beads) and when it arrived, the sago was sold at a negligible fee to the poor as it was starchy and nutritious to feed bellies. How ingenious and way more environmentally friendly that styrofoam packaging that we use these days!

I always wondered about rattan cane furniture that made it into European designs when it was predominately a south-east Asian plant. Those Brentwood classic chairs? When tea (by way of India) was shipped to Europe and the Americans, they were packaged with rattan so there was an air passage between the tea blocks so that it wouldn’t get mouldy on long voyages. They ended up in other parts of the world and given its hardy characteristics as a material, they were also turned into furniture.


I didn’t realise the Kapok tree would grow here. The pods and their cotton like fluff were hypoallegnic and used to stuff pillows and lifebouys in the 19th century.


I am looking forward to the other walks around Hong Kong.

Travel: Stockholm 10 Things

0 Comment
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on Google+Email this to someone

I was in Stockholm in February for Design Week and absolutely loved the city. The tourism board site provides super useful tips on how to navigate the city and they do a fab job on instagram.

Some of my favourite places were:

  1. Fotografiska museum


Love that suggestive sculpture right outside.IMG_4339

2. Old Town Gamla Stan


3. Stockholm Cathedral Storkyrkan for the magnificent “St George slays the dragon”


4. Stockholm is a walking city, so bring comfortable shoes and walk through the different districts and islands.




5. Check out their Modern Art Museum and pop by next door to also check out Arkdes next door


6. Semla the pastry that Swedish eat before Lent, or their Mardi Gras indulgence food. The institution to get one is Vetekatten


7. Medieval museum. Popped in here and it was interesting as they recreated life in that era.


8. Not exactly a tourist site, but I stumbled upon the Protestant church Katarina and a very peaceful graveyard.


IMG_4329 IMG_4323

9. Swedish meatballs at Tranan… are over rated. And so are their fried herring….. well they aren’t exactly known for their culinary culture.     IMG_4408 IMG_4305

10. If you haven’t noticed by now how much I love books and libraries. I had to see Gunnar Asplund’s beautiful library designed in an architecture style called “Swedish grace”.IMG_4546

Stockholm is a perfect backdrop for instagram lovers. I didn’t take enough photos while busy enjoying the moments (and of course take hands in and out of gloves was a bother.

IMG_4416 IMG_4394

Making sense of Cancer

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on Google+Email this to someone


In hindsight, I am so glad we dealt with cancer privately. The people who mattered already knew, a handful disappeared altogether like it was contagious, but friends whom I consider my extended family continued to treat me the same way.

That was really nice, I didn’t need to be reminded of cancer at every turn, because I was not my cancer. On good days, I sometimes forgot about cancer.

How we survived this entire ordeal over the past year, we don’t know and we can only look back and marvel at the pure goodness of human nature and solid friendships that supported us through.

None of this is “brave” or “inspirational”. We don’t have a choice. And in many ways, it diminishes all the other things human beings are doing – Life’s trial and tribulations. We all have our own problems and demons – we all suffer in our own way, whether psychological, emotional or physical. Brave and inspirational creates a division between cancer patients and everyone else.

Now, we can laugh about navigating an international move from my chemo chair amongst all the inconveniences of relocating, new job, settling in etc and jokes about being so stressed I could “pull my hair out.”

You know that quote that you should always be kind because you don’t know what other people are going through? As we dealt with cancer privately and went about our daily lives, I was equally amazed by the number of kind souls on earth as there were self-centred assholes. No hard feelings. I wish these narcissists well in their self centred world and glad to be rid of “social carcinogens” in life .  Life is too short and they don’t deserve a second of mind space.

Some people are innately equipped to deal when the going gets rough, partly because they have weathered horrible things themselves or are natural empathetic beautiful souls. I am lucky to have many of those kind of friends in my life.

Most of us have the fortune of cruising through life with the mentality that “bad things only happen in movies and other people” so understandably we don’t know how to be that supportive family/friend in times of crisis. Tuulavintage has really constructive advice:

“To anyone out there that knows someone going through a tough time but doesn’t know what to do or say so thinks it is best to stay away until tough times pass, please don’t. If you ask “what can I do” and they don’t give clear direction, do what you can anyway.
Leave groceries on their doorstep. Freeze meals. Bring coffee. Turn up for a hug then leave. Watch their kids while they take a shower or a nap. Please don’t stop texting even if they don’t reply, they probably don’t have words to explain it.
Ask if they need help paying rent, bills or with Centrelink forms as you know they haven’t been able to work in a year. Ask if they need help getting to hospital or ED each day.

Ask them if they want to talk, or sit together in silence. Don’t tell them everything will be okay if they “just think positive sunshine and rainbows”. Please don’t ask “what’s wrong” just to know, and do nothing.
Please don’t assume anyone has enough support around them as this is not always the case, and can be a difficult thing to admit.”

I was devastated about wasting a full good year of living with seemingly endless hospital visits, however looking back, I have packed alot in a year, given how physically ill or fatigued I felt on some days. Bummed about not having a full time job to go to work to and retain some semblance of normalcy, I kept pitching and securing interesting freelance work and ended up with several new retainer clients in Singapore, including teaching at General Assembly .

I depleted all my savings and had to begin all over again from the land of Brokeass Mountain. I had to learn another lesson of putting aside my pride and took up my husband’s generosity in dire times although difficult to bear the idea of leeching off someone else. (Thank you friends for the constant reminders… that undergoing treatment for cancer isn’t a small feat, and I ain’t no leech in this lifetime.)

I aced the advance Business Chinese course at the Chinese Chamber of Commerce (they pay you for having good grades!) – I thank God for these classes. They were the only thing that kept me sane, and out of cancer world most part of the year in treatment. I’d show up at class after chemo, nausea as hell, feeling like death with deep bone pain, learning how to read Chinese law contracts, and role playing real estate agent and sales person at the Beijing auto show.

I wrote a good number of freelance articles, did several copywriting projects and consulted on a handful of marketing strategy projects. I walked alot, did all the things that brought joy: ate, explored, baked, took lots of photos, went to plays (I miss this so much!), and saw so many old friends that I never had time to catch up with as trips back home as the last 12 years had always been hurried.

More than just making a list to “justify how I didn’t waste time”, I am genuinely proud of myself at how I’ved lived more meaningfully in the moment this past year than I have ever done since the advent of internet and work was a primary source of escape for filling the immense void of a miserable and incredibly lonely life in Macao.

I also made new friends. And I think the biggest lesson of all? I learnt to put myself first. Going about the list of things started as part of the anxiety of not doing enough (my life long baggage). Everyone was telling me to rest, but that reminded me acutely of my illness.

Truth be told, if there wasn’t an exciting meaningful life to live, what am I enduring treatment for? Doing stuff makes me feel alive. Life doesn’t stop when you get diagnosed with cancer. Every second counts.

“Are you cured yet?” Some well meaning friends have asked. You never get ‘cured’ from cancer. You go in remission. I suppose the sword of Damocles will always be dangling over my head and the years of scan-xiety to come at every check up.

I am fully aware I can’t live in the future, and may not even outlive my parents. It’s incredibly hard for a Type A person who likes control. We don’t need a dress rehearsal for suffering. What better lesson to live in the NOW. Mindfulness at its best.

**Post written in May 2017**

I am finally crawling out of the terror of a cancer diagnosis, almost done with treatment and getting back up on my feet, navigating the psychological landmine of PTSD as I watch myself continue to evolve.

I have no intentions of turning Chicken Scrawlings into a cancer blog, there are plenty of those out there and everyone’s narrative is different. I marvel at the courage of all those putting their reality out there in real time. There have been many good days and then there were am-I-dead-yet horrible days on chemo when I was lying on the floor in a pool of tears.

Everyone suffers in their own way through treatment, I didn’t have an easy time on chemo as I had an allergic reaction and had double the dose of Antihistamines which doubled my time in the chemo chair. I was hallucinating on alot of the drugs that were suppose to be help me sleep – anti-depression, anti-anxiety pills. Chemo induced menopause was tough; insomnia, drenched in cold sweat every night, fainting spells in addition to chemo side effects.

I had constant nightmares about drowning and woke up choking amongst other nightmares à la dementors from Harry Potter meets Pontianak and late relatives coming through the bedroom wall.


One of my biggest struggles post chemo is accepting the “new normal”. Cancer fatigue is in a league of its own and delibitating. I still don’t know my limits and my thirst for life is still the same. Fatigue sneaks up unannounced, and I haven’t found a way to manage this yet and am constantly deflated having to cancel plans and lie in instead.

The fatigue comes in waves or sometimes a strong undercurrent. The cancer shadow that keeps reminding me of my illness. I hope it doesn’t last forever or for years post treatment like it does for some patients.


I’ve gone through the cycles of being paralysed by the fear and terror of dying of cancer to focusing on mindfully living in the moment. I’ve been in years of therapy, practice meditation and have read a ton of self-help books the last decade, but I think being diagnosed with cancer really fast tracked my journey of self-growth and awareness. The skeletons in my lifetime closet all fell out. Reiki really helped me to get through some major deep seated hurdles and recharge energetically.

Dying of cancer is a prolonged process of a painful death – I have seen it at the hospital and with new friends on this journey…And… the hardest part is watching children go through this, with ports and IV drips in their tiny bodies. Yet, their innocence and playful vitality without an ounce of self reproach (I suppose it’s an adult thing) handling the trauma is a giant lesson in itself. I am not afraid of death, but I am terrified of death by cancer.

I don’t even know who reads the blog these days. There are so many narratives in cancer blog land and I never quite found my tribe. Each experience is so different and unique. Everyone has their own way of coping, and there is no right or wrong way. It all culminates in the same end goal – to LIVE.

Judgement is hurtful and unnecessary, and I wish we were all more open and more kind. I have read the cross fires on cancer forums, social media posts that are ridden with anger and bitterness. I’ve been there, it’s so easy to be bitter, angry and throw pity parties (although often times it’s the uncontrollable chemical reactions in your brain brought on by chemo), rather than hike the mountain that leads to enormous self growth.

Yet, we’re only human, and it definitely feels good to let it all out (make sure you’re in the right company as most people get awkward and ask you to think about something else and stuff those feelings). We spend our life time conditioned by society to stuff our feelings.

However, I found hanging onto the angry narrative wasn’t helpful at all, and took so much energy. I was furious at how it turned my life upside down in the prime of my life when everything was going great, but never had the “Why me?” rage. Acceptance came quite early in the journey for me.

I thought long and hard about publishing this vulnerable post as we’ve always been pretty private about our personal lives. I wasn’t comfortable with the consistent cancer metaphors. Maybe there are many others who struggle outside this Venn Diagram too?

I couldn’t fit into the usual broad categories of pink camp survivor positivity overload and the other side of the spectrum with belligerent warrior and fighting metaphors. (But… what war is it? Anger at who/what? when it’s your own body and own cells and DNA that just went haywire?)

I was lost for words for a long time – simply because I actually didn’t know “How am I?” “How do I feel?”. There’s alot of feelings floating on the internet as a cathartic exercise for us cancer patients, often times it’s intense and emotional, and sometimes alienating too.

While I am generally more Eeeyore than Winnie the Pooh in my plight, I respect how some people handle it all with so much grace and positivity. Like powerhouse Nalie, and gorgeous Debo who has become a lifelong friend who cheerled me all the way through treatment. Along the way, I was also connected to the late Minghao and Yan through mutual friends.

Survivor guilt is real, it’s a new can of worms that opened and I am learning to navigate this. Waking up groggy post surgery, I received news my friend had passed and I sadly missed her wake while still in hospital. The same day I picked up my pathology report that was clear, my friend Ming died.

Yan introduced me to a safe house of other young adult cancer patients she picked up along the way. We make inappropriate jokes about cancer (because we can and fortunately no egg shell hearts in the crew). We had many conversations about cancer and CANCER… and we don’t really know if we’d ever fall into the latter category as a cancer virgin. It’s a cruel game of cards.

I found inspiration in the beautiful Suleika Jouad’s Life Interrupted Series and through that found blogs of her tribe: the late Melissa Carroll (paintings below) and Kaylin Andres, both artists in their own right, documenting their journey with Ewing’s bone cancer to impending death, filled with a passion to live life so fiercely and fully with a side of beautiful raw youthful idealism.

Storm by Melissa Carroll

Storm by Melissa Carroll

Hanging by a thread by Melissa Carroll

Hanging by a thread by Melissa Carroll


Cancer has brought many lessons; it also exfoliated fairweather friends away. I have been floored by the love, kindness and generosity of friends and strangers. For this, I am eternally grateful. Friends flew in from Beijing, Taipei, Hong Kong, SF, Bangkok to take me to chemo, sit and chat about everything but cancer and cook me meals.

Friends with young children and their own set of life’s troubles sat with me at my onocology appointments and chemo when my husband was busy holding down a job a four hour flight away. Really, my friends are AMAZING. We are so time poor these days, and the sacrifices that my friends have made to be here with me in the now. I am beyond grateful. How does one ever repay that?

Long distance relationships have their challenges – we navigated it early in our relationship, but to undergo chemo and doing it long distance? I have to be perfectly honest, I don’t know how we got through the first 6 months, living alone and being my own primary care giver.

Like all things in life, sadly, I also got a glimpse of how self-centred and narcissistic some people are.

I wonder how friendships pick up after – if they do at all – when the dynamics have changed.  I have changed, more importantly my sense of time has a different kind of urgency to focus only on meaningful solid relationships. How do people pick up where they left off when friends disappeared unintentionally during a life changing ordeal like cancer and conveniently sail back in like it never happened? I guess I’ll find out.

I learnt over the course of purgatory that having cancer doesn’t trump other people’s pains, and the world needs more loving kindness. I know many cancer patients feel differently on their journey, this is my personal experience, sorry if it offends you. Quite quickly in the journey, I learnt to let go of expectations of others from their reactions and behaviours – this is practising loving kindness towards myself.

It brought more awareness to my daily life on how much suffering goes on in the world, the terror of war and displacement aside; there are people living with chronic diseases, abuse, losing a loved one suddenly, miscarriages, infertility, clinical depression, emotional trauma etc. Sheryl Sandberg has good advice on dealing with grief and support.

Pain is pain, and terror is terror. I don’t understand why people bother with a martyr competition. It’s true they say how people react says all about them and nothing about you. I’m sure we’ve all come across lists of shit people say when sharing a cancer diagnosis. I stopped taking anything personally.

I don’t think people actively come from a place of malice and don’t mean to say the things they say that are instant triggers for my own insecurities and bottomless fear.

I actively shy away from wearing the “cancer patient badge”, even then I couldn’t escape falling prey to the evangelists and the well meaning survivors on a mission of advocacy who regularly told me how I will/should feel or finding redemption in religionIt’s such a personal experience and we all have our own baggage –  I find it suffocating when the veterans tell me where to pigeonhole myself.

One of the most uncomfortable things we encountered was sympathy. We don’t need the pity. How is that any form of helpful support? The awkward, fearful looks and the contrived “I’m so so sorry” poor you spiel and the fearful look in their eyes like cancer is contagious. I hope more people take a leaf out of Sheryl Sandberg’s page on how to be supportive when the going gets rough in life – whether it’s a death in the family, cancer or a serious chronic illness one is dealing with.

I did take the important advice about surrounding myself only with positive, funny and happy people instead of  energy vampires looking to download and make it all about them.

So, whoever is reading this – enjoy the little things and live in the moment. Taste your food and mindfully really take it all in – I am still suffering from post-chemo metallic mouth where most things taste like eating rusty nails. Take nice long walks, use those legs and enjoy deep breaths, look at the beauty of nature and everything around you.

And whatever challenges you’re dealing with, the best piece of advice I was given “Thoughts and feelings are like visitors, they come and go.” And I sit with that during meditation, acknowledging and validating my feelings and watch them pass, instead of stuffing them.

Two things I can’t stress enough:

  1. If you’re a freelancer and not covered by company insurance or if your spouse’s company insurance doesn’t cover the family, please look into some affordable policies. In Singapore, the NTUC income plan is very comprehensive.
  2. Ladies, check your boobs, go for your regular pap smears, get checked if your chronic cough doesn’t go away, you’re breathless and dizzy, or if you have weird lumps in your lymph nodes that shouldn’t be there. Demand for blood tests and scans if things don’t feel right and you’ve sought several opinions – I think you’d know it. The body is truly an amazing vessel. Pay attention and listen to it. 

Lastly, I think cancer is really bad luck and being dealt a bad hand of cards. No victim blaming please about lifestyles, stress and diets. Individual bodies work differently. Monks who live in the mountains, meditate thousands of hours are vegan, and live stress free without mobile phones also get diagnosed with cancer.  Some patients are also genetically predisposed.

On the topic of claiming the cancer experience and finding your sense of self. Here’s one of my favourite Ted Med talks. It’s so true that only a small part of the cancer experience is about medicine – the rest of it is about feelings.

I am still learning to live fearlessly and in the moment. It’s hard, I am only human.

Something a little more fun: Turban tutorials here and here. I didn’t do wigs in this tropical heat, so I went bald or wore turbans – which fortunately is all the rage this year.

“Claim the experience. Don’t let it claim you.”

On the darker days, I spent a fair amount of time looking at the dignity of death. Some great reads. The Economist piece on having a better death, How doctors choose to die. Dr Kate Granger on her end of life choices and Dr Janet Sollod on approaching end life. The late neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi’s best seller When Breath Becomes Air , and Anita Moorjani’s Dying to be me, returning from a near death experience with stage v lymphoma.

Reading: When in French, Love in a second language

0 Comment
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on Google+Email this to someone

I made a note to read this book by Lauren Collins as I continue to learn how to navigate my intercultural marriage with a French man.


The book is somewhat interesting, anecdotal and also a discourse in linguistics in some chapters (which I found rather dry and difficult to get through). The flow of the narrative was here, there and everywhere, wanting to cover too many topics at the same time, which distracted from an autobiography which I (and many) thought it was.

I wanted more spice of life and hilarious episodes… it also felt a little unfocused, neither an autobiography nor a treatise in linguistics. I’m in the camp of 3/5 stars reviews on Amazon.

While I didn’t have similar linguistic challenges – I already spoke French when I met my husband since I majored it in at University and I grew up speaking 4 languages, so picking up the nuances of another was less of a challenge.

I do identify with the hilarity of cultural immersion that I still struggle with, given that the husband and I met in Beijing. And during our 8 years together, all spent in Asia. I used to live in Italy and can navigate the European mindset and approach towards life, but still the Italians deal with situations very different from the French.

Then,  there are the insider jokes, socio-economical, political jokes that is impossible to grasp unless one lived in France.

When I picked up my livret de famille on my own, the lady at the consular offered to guide me through a French passport application, which I politely declined as I would never give up my Singapore one.

Nonetheless, that was encouraging and flattering because for anyone to be offered a French passport at the French consular no less, you must have at least high school level French – which includes being able to discuss literature and some cultural topics.

I have met several non-French speaking housewives in Macao who have endless unpleasant experiences at the consular and they never ever dare go without their husband for administrative matters. I suppose I have gotten my feet wet with the cultural idiosyncrasies of the French, largely through pure interest in history and culture in general – where food and language plays an enormous part.

Fortunately for me I did European history at A levels and remember the odd details of the 1789 revolution and can allude to anecdotal Bonaparte details discussed in books. In addition, I read Flaubert and Baudelaire at university… so, I suppose I found French before my husband found me.

Anyhow, this book was different to get through halfway through, but it seems many found it very engaging. I suppose, my lack of enthusiasm for this is largely because I had certain expectations to how it would have turned out.


Reading: Breakfast with Buddha

0 Comment
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on Google+Email this to someone

breakfast with buddha

I wasn’t sure what to expect with the book and picked it up out of curiosity because of it’s interesting title. It’s a hilarious light hearted read where an editor of a publishing house (for food books no less) goes on a roadtrip with a Rinpoche orchestrated by his hippie new age sister, after their parents passed suddenly in an accident.

There are many lessons to learn in this book from mindfulness, to acknowledging the ego, going through resistance and acceptance of our world view and then finding deeper meaning in life. Breakfast with Buddha is a fun title for a book that covers much more.

It’s a fantastic and very easy read. I recommend it!


Reading: Wendy Holden’s Beautiful People

0 Comment
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on Google+Email this to someone

wendy holden beautiful people

As you can probably tell by now, I am a complete Wendy Holden fan, going through all her books from the library.

The characters are always brilliantly fleshed out with depth. There’s a great use of nomenclature – character names are thoughtfully developed and hilarious, with a plot that runs quickly and lightly, a great page turner in the genre of chick lit.

There’s usually a floozy over the top celebrity-wannabe-wanton female protagonist juxtaposed against a sane and dull one, but every book is vastly different and makes it interesting. And the relationships and depth of emotions and melodrama feels so real. It’s a real pleasure to read Holden. I highly recommend all her books!


Singapore Art Week: State in Motion Film Tour

Last weekend, I joined my friends on this interesting bus tour going around Singapore for a glimpse of famous old films made in the city. Interesting as an idea and we had fun, but it was a little too post modern for our appreciation.


We understand the constrains of grants and how this is a tourism board exercise, but there were so many things going on – it lacked a focus – which we hoped was going to be about the locations and the films themselves – instead we had to look for modern day art works at the location and  learn more about those artists. Info overload, much?

The meeting point at the National Library in bugis has a scaffolding stage built – a little like those open air Chinese opera stages and you get to view snippets of those famous films from Director Gerry Trojan’s Ricochet  featuring David Bowie’s iconic scenes walking on the fluorescent light illuminated escalators in Far East Plaza to Director Paolo Cavara’s “L’occhio Selvaggio” shot at today’s Hong Lim Park.


And Singapore’s only homemade Kungfu triad film “Ring of Fury” by Tony Yeow shot at Labrador park was banned for the last few decades because it promoted violence and gangs. On site, there was a choreographed dancer in slow motion as part of the art installation by Jeremy Sharma. Way too abstract for me. Too post modernist. If you will.

One of my favourite stops was Far East Plaza, what used to be Sunny bookshop, a second hand bookstore has turned into a pop up Music shop with vintage records from across South East Asia. state of motion  singapore art week

Anyhow, we had a fun afternoon on the bus for three hours and finished off in a KTV lounge. Our guide Natalie was fantastic and so heartening to see the youths working on retelling the stories of yester years in their own charming ways.

This weekend is the last run of the #stateofmotion tour by the Asian Film Archives. You can sign up here. $15