Living life to the fullest

Chan, an avid mountaineer and myelofibrosis patient, with a photo of himself (in red jacket) and fellow climbers at the summit of Mount Kinabalu. Photo: UU BAN/The Star >>

Despite having a rare blood disorder, Tan Sri Chan Choong Tak not only continued his active lifestyle , but also took up mountain-climbing.

FORMER Dewan Negara president Tan Sri Chan Choong Tak’s motto in life is to live it to the fullest.

Not surprising then that among his many accomplishments are two Malaysian Book of Records titles as the oldest Malaysian to reach the top of Mount Kilimanjaro’s Uhuru Peak (on Aug 31, 2003, at the age of 70) and the oldest Malaysian to reach the top of Mount Kinabalu’s King George Peak (on Aug 29, 2004, at the age of 71).

Uhuru Peak is the highest point on Mount Kilimanjaro, which is the tallest freestanding mountain in the world (from sea level) and the tallest mountain in Africa, while King George Peak is located on the more challenging and lessclimbed Eastern Plateau of Mount Kinabalu, Sabah.

What makes these two records more significant – aside from the impressive fact that Chan only took up mountain-climbing in his sixties – is that he was suffering from a rare bone marrow disorder at the same time.

His condition, primary myelofibrosis, is one of a group of diseases called myeloproliferative neoplasms, which are caused by abnormal production of blood cells in the bone marrow.

In the case of myelofibrosis, the problem lies in the abnormally-increased production of megakaryocytes, which are the cells that directly give rise to platelets. This results in an initial increased number of platelets in the body.

Cytokines – protein growth factors that are produced by megakaryocytes – are also correspondingly increased.

And as these cytokines are what stimulate the bone marrow’s fibroblasts to produce collagen, this results in an excessive amount of collagen being made.

The collagen deposits in the bone marrow as webs of fibre – similar to scar tissue on the skin – resulting in the disease’s characteristic fibrosis of the bone marrow.

With the collagen taking up so much space in the bone marrow, regular blood cell production is disrupted.

Red blood cells (RBCs) are usually decreased in number and abnormally formed, resulting in anaemia, while white blood cells (WBCs) are abnormal and immature, resulting in increased infection rates.

With production of blood cells in the bone marrow disrupted, the spleen, which is the body’s secondary supplier of blood cells, steps up to meet the body’s needs.

This extra work usually causes the spleen to enlarge (splenomegaly), resulting in pain or a feeling of fullness below the left rib.

Occurring commonly in those above 50 years of age, myelofibrosis is caused by a spontaneous genetic mutation (i.e. not inherited) in the affected person’s blood stem cells. This is what causes the uncontrolled production of megakaryocytes.

The cause of the mutation itself in primary myelofibrosis is, as yet, unknown.

Accidental discovery

As the symptoms of myelofibrosis, like fatigue, shortness of breath, pallor, frequent infections and easy bruising, are quite vague, diagnosis can be quite difficult.

In Chan’s case, he did not notice any signs or symptoms of myelofibrosis prior to his diagnosis.

In fact, it was a combination of a road accident and his wife, Puan Sri Cecelia Chia’s sharp eyes that alerted them to the possibility of a problem.

He shares: “My son gave me a racing bike for my 60th birthday – that was 21 years ago. So, I used to cycle around. Then, I met with a road accident.”

Chan was cycling along the narrow, winding roads of his hillside residential area in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, when he suddenly met an oncoming car.

With no space to avoid the car, he braked hard and was thrown to the ground in a head-first fall.

“My helmet broke and I thought I would be paralysed. My friend, who is a doctor, straightaway rang up the hospital and they sent the ambulance,” he says.

Fortunately, Chan suffered no major injuries from the accident.

However, his cardiologist son insisted that he be checked more thoroughly for brain injuries, which resulted in him seeing a neurologist.

While his brain turned out to be fine, his wife noticed that his platelet count from the blood test were quite high – between 600,000 to 700,000 platelets per cubic millimetre, when the upper limit for normal is 400,000.

His son then sent him to consultant haematologist Dr Ng Soo Chin, who prescribed hydroxyurea to bring down his platelet count.

That seemed to work quite well for Chan, and it was, in fact, shortly after this that he began mountain-climbing with a group of fellow MBA (Masters of Business Administration) alumni from Tenaga Nasional Bhd.

Chan was then a director of the company, and had gone to Ohio University, United States, to study his MBA along with other Tenaga Nasional executives.

“So, as I climbed, I continued to take hydroxyurea and everything was normal.

“But Soo Chin said, hydroxyurea will eventually bring down your red corpuscles (another term for RBCs), and recommended anagrelide,” he says. Anagrelide is a platelet-reducing agent.

Accelerating disease

Chan continued happily with the two medications, until the year 2011, 18 years after his initial diagnosis.

By then, he was seeing consultant haematologist Datuk Dr Chang Kian Meng at Hospital Ampang, Selangor, as Dr Ng had advised him to continue his follow-ups at a public hospital as his medications are quite expensive.

Chan shares that Dr Chang started him on epoetin alfa and pegylated interferon that year as his blood cell levels were fluctuating.

While interferon decreases the production of blood cells in general, epoetin alfa stimulates the production of RBCs to counteract the effects of anaemia.

However, his haemoglobin levels dropped even further, and he started requiring blood transfusions about once every two months.

The transfusions made a big difference as he reports feeling “very energetic” after receiving the first one. (Fatigue is a common symptom of anaemia.)

The following year, it was the WBCs turn to go “completely haywire”, when a blood test revealed that they had dramatically increased to about 56 from the regular range of about 4 to 10.

He also started experiencing profuse night sweats and cramps, along with the occasional itchiness that had started in his seventies – all of which are among the symptoms of myelofibrosis.

“Then, both Dr Chang and Soo Chin agreed that I had entered into myelofibrosis in acceleration,” he says.

The only cure for myelofibrosis is a bone marrow transplant, but aside from the difficulty of finding a suitable donor and the riskiness of the procedure, Chan’s age rendered him unsuitable for such a treatment.

Fortunately for him, a new drug had recently been approved by both the European Commission and the United States Food and Drug Administration for use in myelofibrosis at that time.

A new drug

The drug, ruxolitinib, inhibits certain enzymes in the JAK pathway, which regulates blood cell production. Half of primary myelofibrosis cases are caused by mutations in the JAK genes, which results in the dysfunctional production of blood cells in the bone marrow.

However, the drug was not available in Malaysia then. (It was only launched in the Malaysian market in 2013.)

This is where his political connections as a Gerakan life member and former secretary-general came in useful.

Then Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon offered to help pass on the letter Chan had written to the Health Ministry requesting approval to use the drug on compassionate grounds, to the Health secretary-general.

Four days later, Chan received the approval he needed, and received his first dose of ruxolitinib in October 2012.

Since then, after some adjustments in dosage, Chan’s blood cells are back in the normal range and his last transfusion was in December 2013.

He is currently doing well enough for his doctor to lower his dosage of ruxolitinib, while still taking epoetin alfa and interferon.

Life goes on as normal for this active 81-year-old, who still climbs hills, reads newspapers of various languages and blogs daily, works out in the gym and does regular morning calisthenics.

Of his condition, Chan shares that he never felt the need to know about the disease, being only interested in his blood test results.

“I didn’t know what myelofibrosis was all about until I was asked to do this interview. That was the first time I went into Google to see what was myelofibrosis,” he says with a laugh.

“But I knew it was a dangerous disease, but I wasn’t bothered. I continued to carry on with my normal life.”

He adds: “I’m not bothered with what happens because I have full trust in my doctors.

By Tan shiow China The Star/ANN


101 Ways To Live Your Life To The Fullest  – If your answer to any of the above is a no, maybe or not sure, that means you’re not living your life to the fullest.


Regulating energy flow of a house with Vasthu Sastra principles

Vasthu Sastra_Energy flow_land_house

Cuts or voids in certain quadrants of a property can have negative effects on occupants.

CUTS on a piece of land or on the physical structure of a property can distort the flow of subtle energy, thereby affecting the wellbeing of the occupants of that space.

This is highlighted in Vasthu Sastra, the ancient science of architecture, which urges practitioners to build, design and renovate houses and buildings to be in harmony with their surroundings.

At my talk during The Star Property Fair at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre last Sunday, issues related to irregular shapes of land and buildings dominated questions at my presentation on Vasthu Sastra and pyramids.

Members of the audience were seeking answers as to why they were facing challenges after moving into properties that were not square or rectangular in shape.

The space we occupy, whether permanent or temporary, is actually a representation of a miniature Earth and we must be in harmony with the energies that govern the space to enjoy favourable health, peace, happiness and prosperity.

According to Vasthu principles, the eight compass directions of each property are governed by a planet that has specific influences on the occupants’ health, mood and welfare.

What is vital here is to prevent defects like cuts and extensions in these quadrants because the outcome will be adverse.

The north is ruled by Jupiter and if a property has a void in this quadrant, the occupants will not enjoy good fortune, incurring more expenditure than they receive income.

This is because the powerful planet is associated with prosperity, foreign travel and merrymaking.

North-east is associated with Mercury, which controls the education, spirituality, communication and growth of any individual. A defect in this sacred sector will hinder growth and success.

East is ruled by Venus and disruptions here will impede the dwellers’ beauty, comfort and affection towards people.

1. Vasthu Master Yuvaraj Sowma (right) performing a Vasthu yantra ceremony to correct the irregular shape of a plot of land.
2.Vasthu Master Yuvaraj Sowma (right) performing a Vasthu yantra ceremony to correct the irregular shape of a plot of land.
Vasthu Master Yuvaraj Sowma (right) performing a Vasthu yantra ceremony to correct the irregular shape of a plot of land.

Master Yuvaraj placing a Vasthu yantra on one of the eight corners of a piece of land to correct defective energy flow.

South-east is associated with the Moon which is linked with mood and emotions, and any shortcomings in this sector will result in the occupants having a disturbed character and difficulty in getting along with people.

South is ruled by the aggressive planet Mars and its characteristics are related to the muscular system. Faults in this quadrant can lead to occupants experiencing hypertension and longevity issues.

South-west, a powerful quadrant in Vasthu for married couples, is associated with relationships and is influenced by the celestial planet Rahu (dragon head).

A cut in this area will disrupt the conjugal relationship and passionate impulse that should be enjoyed by the husband and wife.

West is controlled by Saturn and a missing quadrant here will result in the dwellers experiencing financial hardship, and an increased likelihood of bone and bladder problems.

Kethu (dragon head) is responsible for liberation and any imperfection in the north-west sector will upset wisdom and give rise to respiratory problems.

According to my 7th generation Vasthu master Yuvaraj Sowma, the defects can be corrected by acquiring the missing space or realigning the land or structure to make them a perfect shape.

People should be careful when acquiring a property and should avoid irregular-shaped properties because it can sometimes be challenging to bring them into a rectangular or square shape.

For land and buildings that cannot be corrected physically, master Yuvaraj suggested the use of the ancient Vasthu yantra remedy which involves the placement of eight mystical silver diagrams in the eight corners of the property.

The sacred object has the power to negate the inauspicious effects of Vasthu faults in a property.

The rectification ceremony is to appease the planets with the vibrations of the energised objects that have similar qualities to chanted mantras – that is, to restore balance to the energy of a location.

This can be done before construction of the property to correct the irregular land shape, or after occupants have moved in to rectify the structural defects in the respective corners.

Its purpose, says master Yuvaraj, is to regulate the positive vibrations in the living space by Vasthu yantra, which are buried under the soil.

Vasthu yantra have the power to regulate the positive vibrations in a living space by overcoming malefic effects, thereby giving the residents peace, happiness, good health, improved fortune and spiritual development.

TSelvaT. Selva is the author of the Vasthu Sastra Guide and the first disciple of 7th generation Vasthu Sastra master YuvaViewpoints -Ancient Secrets by T. Selva

Vasthu Sastra talks

T. Selva will present a talk on 2015 astrology forecast and Vasthu Sastra for health, peace and prosperity on Jan 3 at 7.30pm at Shirdi Sai Baba Centre, 10 Jalan Trus, Johor Baru. A similar session will be held on Jan 10 at Shirdi Sai Baba Centre at 27 Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur. Admission is free. To register, call 012-329 9713.

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Everyone’s name contains positive or negative vibes, based on the combination of letters in it. Pronology offers an understanding of th..

Your name is your fortune

Everyone’s name contains positive or negative vibes, based on the combination of letters in it.

Numerology_Pronology_Name Science_Pronology

AN individual’s character, prosperity, fame and good health depend on how his or her name is pronounced.

According to the sciences of pronology and numerology, we can improve our lives and minimise troubles if we make certain changes to our name as per the rules of this ancient knowledge.

Pronology analyses sound vibrations in a name while numerology deals with numerical values of each letter assigned to the name.

Making modifications to your name can change your fate, stresses renowned numerologist Alaghar Vijaay from Chennai, India.

He says that when a name is given to a newborn child, it is vital for the date of birth to be “added”, based on numerology principles, to give the most auspicious sound to the infant’s name.

I recently met Vijaay, who has authored 21 books on ancient secrets, to get a better understanding on the phonetic impact and hidden secrets of names.

People facing challenges in the areas of health, relationship and prosperity, or obstacles in life, should check on how their name is pronounced.

This is no laughing matter because our name carries a power that can determine our destiny, says Vijaay, an engineer by training.

There are 26 letters in the English language and each has a special wavelength, colour and characteristic.

Take, for example, the letters O and N appearing together in a name. The numerological value of O is 6 and that of N is 5. The sum of the two is 11, whether the letters occur as “ON” or “NO”.

But ON denotes forward movement and positive action, whereas NO has a negative connotation and failure.

Vijaay says pronology offers an understanding of both the forces that may occur in a name and gives people an opportunity to act accordingly to remove the ill effects and increase the beneficial values.

For example, he said, names containing the sounds “dhi”, “dy” or “di” could benefit from some modification because those vowels represent something related to demise.

Our name is like a mantra. When it is repeated like a chant it vibrates a certain sound which exerts an influence on the cells in our body.

This may produce auspicious or inauspicious results.

In his book entitled Pronology, Vijaay explains that when two letters are combined, their separate wavelengths meet and generate a sound that can be positive or negative.

For instance, he says, when the letters A and P are paired it will produce a sound like “APE”, and an individual having such letters in his or her name will have ape-like characteristics.

Where the letters K and L are joined, it sounds like “KILL” and those with this component in their name will face trials and struggles.

When the letters are reversed from KL to LK, the sound “LIKE” is generated and this vibration will boost their energy, allowing them to enjoy peace and happiness.

When the sounds “Han” or “Khan” occur in a name, the person gets an enhanced sense of self-confidence and a strong desire to achieve their goals in life.

Hindi stars Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan and Aamir Khan are some of the living examples of success and fame owing to such names.

Other favourable names are Kartik, Ayappan, Raman, Mahalingam, Selvan, Aravin, Barath, Praveen, Ashvin, Jayakumar, Uthayakumar, Velu, Murugan, Vishnu, Ganapathy, Ramakrishnan, Ashvin, Rajen and Rajakumar,

Women having vibrant-sounding names can be assured of a happy, peaceful and comfortable life.

Those having names with pleasant sound combinations like Vijaya, Preethi, Anujaya, Jeyashri, Karisma, Rajaletchumi, Abarami, Gyathri, Jeya and Ragavi will generally enjoy peace and comfort and get good-natured husbands. Names like Vimala, Kamala, Mala, Nirmala, and Malathi will be dominating and they will have the skills to earn as much as or more than their husbands.

To attract positive vibrations into a name, an individual should add letter combinations such as UD, ON, RUN, GAIN, VIN, VIND, ARARS, AN, GA, VN, NS and RS.

Avoid letter combinations like SAD, LOSS, SAT, DOWN, NO, LESS, ILL, NA, NE, LO, SK, VK, KK and KL.

Some examples of positive names: Abdul, Rahim, Hassan, Halim, Rashid, Jaffar, Yassin, Zaid, Karim and Azar, Faroz, Arshad; Kuan, Tong, Man, Wong, Liang, Shing, Chin, Fatt, Yee, Sing: Richard, Henry, Clinton, Albert, Robert, Anthony, Winston, Johnson, Angela, Amy, Angeline, Betty, Jacquiline, Rebecca and Rita.

To increase the power of a favourable name, Vijaay suggests that people should write their name in red ink and capital letters 108 times daily on a white sheet of paper.

Another exercise is to enunciate their name as many times as possible in front of a mirror for a minimum of 48 days.

Such acts can also be performed while bathing, driving and combing your hair, and can stimulate the results to take effect immediately.

To further invoke the power of your name, take a rectangular card and write it down 27 times in red ink.

The name card should be read out loud at least nine times and placed under the pillow.

If the above exercises are done consciously for 180 days continuously, an individual can expect to see the desired result in his or her life within this period.

Whether you place a new letter to enhance your name or remove one to correct any ill effects, what is vital here is for the exercise to be done with absolute faith and utmost respect in expectation of the desired results.

Vasthu Sastra Talk

T. Selva will present a talk on how to choose an auspicious property and energise a house using pyramids at The Star Property Fair today at 11.30am at G Hotel, Jalan Gurney, Penang. Admission is free; to register, call 012-329 9713.

T. Selva, senior consulting editor at The Star, is the first disciple of 7th-generation Vasthu Sastra master Yuvaraj Sowma from Chennai, India. This column appears on the last Sunday of every month.

Sources: Ancient Secrets T.Selva

T. Selva is the author of the Vasthu Sastra Guide and the first disciple of 7th generation Vasthu Sastra master Yuvaraj Sowma from Chennai, India.

Healthy Ageing

Keep busy, sweat it out, and embrace the years. These are some simple tips on healthy ageing.

THE golden rules of healthy ageing are very simple: eat right, exercise, be your age and do not smoke. Most of all, focus on being happy and don’t forget your life goals.

To embrace the years with positivity, says Professor Makoto Suzuki, 87, one should look at them as chouju, meaning “celebrating long life” in Japanese. “The onus is on us to focus on quality, and work on having many momentous occasions.”

Suzuki, chief director of the Okinawa Research Center for Longevity Science, was speaking to a captive audience at the 1st World Congress of Healthy Aging, in Kuala Lumpur last Wednesday. The title of his talk was, Secrets Of The Okinawan Centenarians’ Longevity.

This specialist in cardiology and gerontology had moved to Okinawa from Tokyo to accept a tenure with the University of Ryukyus 35 years ago. He also had a role model in his own mother, who passed away last year, at the age of 100 years and 10 months.

Forget the wrinkles: Keep active, eat moderately and embrace the years, says Professor Makoto Suzuki, happily posing for a photo with his wife, Yoko.

From the lessons gathered from a community that boasts the highest and healthiest longevity rates in the world, Suzuki says a diet laden with vegetables, but less meat, plays a big part in healthy ageing. The goal is to maintain the same body weight one had at the age of 30.

Statistics from 2006 show that women in Okinawa have an average life expectancy of 87 years, about 10 years higher than that of the men. (In Malaysia, life expectancy averages 73.17 years.)

“The Okinawans have a custom of saying ‘harahachibu’ before each meal. This is a reminder not to overeat. Preferably, one should stop when the stomach is about 70% full,” Suzuki says, when met after his talk at the KL Convention Centre.

He also points out that the Okinawan diet is rich in anti-ageing ingredients such as polyphenol, phytoestrogen, isoflavones and good amyloids. These are commonly found in bitter gourd, soybean products like tofu (Okinawa is especially famous for its silky beancurd), brown rice, cereals and fatty fish.

Okinawans also favour the use of mugwort (artemisiabulgaris), touted for its medicinal qualities. Its leaves are dried, ground and used to flavour grilled meats and vegetable stir frys.

Exercise also comes into the equation and Suzuki advises the young to start as early as possible as the effective benefits of that lessens after the age of 40.

The dapper Tan Sri Dr Ahmad Mustaffa Babjee feels it’s important to follow the ways of nature.

As an archer and mountain climber himself, he emphasises that the elderly must find a way to sweat it out. Since his move to the flat plains of Okinawa, he has exchanged his climbing gear for a hoe because his wife, Yoko, has a farm where they spend most of their weekends.

For them, as with the majority of Okinawans, it is simply a matter of maintaining ikigai, the Japanese equivalent of raison d’être.

“Don’t worry about the wrinkles or being slow. Just be busy,” says Suzuki, who still lectures and conducts research at Ryukyus.

Inevitably, talk of active, healthy living leads to the question of bedroom frolics – which turns the hearty professor a shade of pink. Although he is not telling, from his exchanges with Yoko, 80, a homoepath, one gathers they are “quite active”.

“Funnily, I asked an Okinawan centenarian the same question but he refused to answer me. However, his wife said it is because of her that he is still healthy,” Suzuki says, laughing.

Death is also inevitable, but for the elderly in that island, what’s far more important than the end of one’s days is the role of the community in ensuring that they have a place in society.

“Elderly people need to have a sense of belonging, to know their role in a family is still valued. One of the reasons why the centenarians of Okinawa are able to lead a happy life is because they are revered by the younger people,” he says.

Suzuki elaborates on a daily ritual called ugan, during which the Okinawans pay respect to their ancestors at the family altar, and air their grievances to the dead. This has a therapeutic effect for the living, as it helps to alleviate stress.

On that loaded issue, fellow speaker Professor Suresh Rattan says mild stress is necessary for healthy living because it helps one stay alert and active. Exercise is one example of beneficial stress, as are brain teasers and games (like Sudoku), all of which help to keep the body flexible and the mind nimble.

Suresh, 57, a biogerontologist at the University of Aarhus’ Department of Molecular Biology in Denmark, spoke about Healthy Ageing – From Molecules To Hormesis.

On the home front, a specialist in healthy ageing at Pantai Medical Centre, KL, says often, senior citizens are not encouraged to keep pushing themselves, both physically and mentally.

“The Malaysian mindset is that old people should not exert themselves. As a result, their physical and mental faculties are left to decline,” says Dr Rajbans Singh, 52.

To have wellness and health in old age, it is crucial for an individual to take a proactive stand, like taking up tai chi, for example.

It may also be necessary to abstain from fast food and fizzy drinks, Dr Rajbans adds, because the high fat, sugar and sodium contents of these foods can lead to or aggravate conditions like hypertension and diabetes.

For Tan Sri Dr Ahmad Mustaffa Babjee, a fellow of Academy of Science Malaysia, acceptance of one’s age is crucial so that growing old can be seen as a positive, natural process. Do not, for example, tell others that you are 47 when you are in fact 74! Instead, learn to enjoy being your age.

“It is important to be what you are and follow the ways of nature,” says Dr Ahmad, 75, who still cuts a dashing figure with his long snowy locks and thick moustache.

As for death itself, he reckons that it will be similar to being under anaesthesia, hence there is no need to fear.

“I am more afraid of being lonely,” adds Dr Ahmad, who continues to drive his 4WD into the jungle for a spot of bird watching, wildlife photography and white water rafting.

Dr Tan Maw Pin, associate professor of geriatric medicine from Universiti Malaya, says the Malaysian government can do more for the elderly in terms providing much-needed facilities.

“One mistake the planners made was to omit the elderly from the nation’s development plan, believing that as ours is a caring nation, they will automatically be taken care of. This is very well for those who are wealthy and can afford to pay for elderly care. What about those who cannot?” Dr Tan asks.

Datuk Seri Dr T. Devaraj, chairman of Malaysian Hospice Council, notes that the family safety net that once existed has been weakened by urbanisation.

Today, it is not uncommon for young people to leave their parents behind as they migrate to bigger cities to seek employment, says Dr Devaraj, 87. Also, the elderly cannot assume that they can spend their twilight years in their children’s homes.

But leaving everything entirely to welfare is not the answer either, he adds.

Since the early days of Hospice, he had insisted that volunteers make home visits and not have the patients placed in a facility. This is so that their families, too, can play their part in the care-giving process.

“The idea is to have a sharing of responsibilities. If the state completely takes over, then family support will decrease,” adds Dr Devaraj. That, in turn, will make the elderly feel even more alienated.

The World Congress on Healthy Ageing was organised by the Malaysian Healthy Ageing Society.


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