Family Money: Interlinked Hedge Funds
Managing director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd.
Last week we compared single-manager hedge funds and
multi-manager hedge funds. Should you invest in them? Some experts are
predicting major problems in the hedge funds sector very soon.
Rubbish, you say. Hedge funds thrive on stock market
uncertainty, because it gives them more scope for profitable arbitrage
trades, which is what hedge funds do best - although it’s not the only
thing they do.
Essentially, arbitrage consists of utilising huge
amounts of money to make tiny profits when an item (be it a stock or
currency or commodity) is listed at slightly different prices in different
markets, by buying at the lower price and selling on again at the higher
Alternatively, they buy options at one price while
short-selling the underlying securities. What could be safer and more
respectable than that?
But hedge funds are only safe as long as their managers
stick to their own rules and don’t misjudge the risks. They’re
supposed to balance every trade with an equal and almost opposite play
that ensures that, if anything goes wrong with their main move, the
countermoves will kick in and save their funds. (That’s why they’re
called hedge funds.)
But if a manager ever decides to go out on a limb in
pursuit of an unsecured position, then you probably won’t hear about it
until something goes wrong.
For instance, when the US hedge fund Long Term Capital
Management crashed in the autumn of 1998 after betting wrong on Russia,
the first we knew about it was when the papers gleefully reported that
LTCM had surreptitiously geared its exposure by up to 30 times without
properly counterbalancing its bets. This one hedge fund was calculated to
have amassed a potential liability of over $200 billion - which was not
only equivalent to $700 for every US citizen, but also the equivalent of
six months’ US trade deficit. In the end, it cost the US Federal Reserve
some $2.5 billion to forestall what otherwise would have developed into a
nationwide banking crisis.
If that was what one rogue hedge fund could achieve,
how much damage could a hundred wrong-guessing LTCMs do?
It is worth noting that there are now about 6,000 hedge
funds trading internationally, compared with just 900 in 1995, and
handling an estimated $6 trillion - or $1,000 for every person on the
planet. Most of these funds are aimed at “sophisticated”
high-net-worth investors, typically requiring a minimum investment in
excess of $100,000 - and in some case much more.
Why are you unlikely to hear about the bad news before
it breaks over your head? Well, a major reason why a hedge fund manager
will so often beat the market is that he demands complete discretion over
what he does with your money from day to day. One day he might invest in
German blue chips, the next day in coffee futures, and the day after in
Japanese small cap equities. This gadfly approach, combined with the
inherent secrecy that prevails in any offshore financial centre, is enough
to ensure that transparency hardly exists among hedge funds.
But before we get paranoid, certain safeguards do exist
whereby those hedge funds that operate within main-market national centres
(London, Dublin, Luxembourg, New York) have agreed to become more
transparent, thereby enhancing their image and attractiveness, and are
subject to the local investment authorities’ regulations, which have
become much stricter in recent years.
The Disaster Scenario
So what would it take to precipitate a major hedge find
crisis? Actually, not much at all.
First, we need to understand that a large proportion of the
world’s hedge fund holdings are currently being bought by other hedge funds,
which collectively repackage and unitise them into funds-of-funds that they can
sell on to pension funds. These funds-of-funds are intended to spread their
investors’ risks more widely than could be achieved by following just one
hedge fund manager at a time - but alas, they also have the unfortunate
side-effect of turning the hedge fund managers themselves into the arbiters of
each other’s performance and reliability. This is not a healthy development.
Second, we need to acknowledge that a lot of hedge fund
managers are worried about their performance bonuses. A typical hedge fund
manager earns his income by taking a substantial cut from the money he makes
for his investors - as much as 25% of the overall winnings in an average year.
And the main reason you never hear about this is because it’s deducted as a
running cost from the fund’s results. That arrangement’s fine while the
manager’s making money, but when things start looking dicey for future
profits, some unscrupulous managers may be tempted to implement what might be
called ‘Plan B’.
‘Plan B’ entails shorting one of their fellows’ hedge
funds, deliberately driving it down, to make a profit from its temporary
discomfort. This time though they wouldn’t be playing with just their
investors’ money; instead, they’d be trading in their own right with their
own money. Once the profits had been made, the victimised fund’s price could
be allowed to rise again by transferring the negative rumours to the next fund
down the line.
‘Plan B’ would be illegal as well as immoral. Most hedge
fund managers are paid exorbitant fees by their employers on the clear
understanding that they don’t invest on their own accounts - or at least are
required to keep such dealings absolutely clear and open to scrutiny. But the
part about managers ganging up on each other to drive down prices has been
industry gossip for many months.
How bad would things have to get before the lure of easy
money over-rode somebody’s scruples and induced them to run things on their
own account instead of their company’s? Not much worse, probably. And how
well would the financial world take it if half a trillion dollars’ worth of
hedge fund holdings went AWOL without warning? Would there be a measured and
centralised response, as with LTCM, or would we see panic-stricken investors
dumping their hedge fund holdings in sheer terror at the extent to which these
secretive funds are interlinked? The mere thought sends a shiver down the
Personal Directions: Living to learn … learning to live!
century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot
learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
By Christina Dodd,
founder and managing director of Incorp Trining Associates
Recently I was with some friends having a meal and various
subjects of discussion came up including what’s on everyone’s mind today
– the current state of the world! Whilst we all sat around giving our
different views and airing our personal concerns, someone piped up and said,
“After all we’ve been through, it seems like we haven’t learnt a
thing!” It prompted me to think more about the emphasis we place in our
society on learning, and that whilst we recognize the need to learn, by our
own actions we seem to totally disregard its importance.
Learning is an integral part of our existence, and so too
is learning from our mistakes.
“If the past cannot teach the present and the father
cannot teach the son, then history need not have bothered to go on, and the
world has wasted a great deal of time.” – Russell Hoban
In many societies there are people who still think that
learning happens only at school or college or university. A certain amount of
learning takes place there most certainly, but it doesn’t begin there nor
does it stop there. And one of the most common mistakes we make as adults is
that we think we have learnt it all! After all, we are adults. We have our
education and our degree. We don’t need to learn anymore. We have a job and
earn a salary. We don’t acknowledge the fact or perhaps we forget the fact
that learning is a continuous process that goes on every minute of every day -
for the rest of our lives.
For those who do recognize this fact - life holds no
boundaries! Life is a celebration!
I remember about five years ago meeting a marvellous man
who at the age of sixty three had just completed his doctorate in philosophy
and was just about to take on other studies. He found the computer and the
internet at a late stage in life and was completely blown away by it. He had
retired when he was fifty-five but didn’t want to stop there – he felt he
might drop down dead if he didn’t stay awake, alert and continuously seek to
learn and to broaden his knowledge. He said that he had a new lease on life
and indeed an exciting and fulfilling life purely because of his desire to
Henry Ford said, “Anyone who stops learning is old,
whether at twenty or eighty.”
Learning broadens our minds and our lives. It is what gives
us a positive outlook on life and in a way helps drive our ambitions forward.
It is our food and our sustenance and is what keeps us alive. The minute we
close our eyes to learning then we develop what is called tunnel vision and
our views, ideas and perceptions become narrower and narrower.
In the work that I do I come across all sorts of people
from all walks of life and it is interesting to note how they react to
learning and to learning new techniques, new ways of doing things that they
had been doing for years. Some jump at it with an open mind ready to grasp
onto knowledge and information in an instant. Some sit back, with arms folded
across their chests and frowns upon their faces, throwing up all sorts of
excuses as to why they have to learn something they already know and for which
they have a certificate or years of experience in doing. And there are those
who are totally convinced that learning is the domain of the young and as
twenty-five, thirty and forty year-olds, they are passed it – over the hill!
Learning is a part of life. We learn to live life. We learn
to be able to take on new tasks, new skills, to improve our lives. We learn in
order that we may do things in a better way and to not repeat the mistakes of
In the workplace it is important to give people a greater
understanding of the opportunities that can come with learning and to learning
from past mistakes. When I held a program on customer relations for a client
recently, it became clear to me that most of the participants in the program
thought that once a customer complaint had been handled correctly and
“fixed” - that the problem was solved and that it was over. I explained to
them that it is all very well to be able to rectify a complaint, but in doing
so and after the whole experience of the complaint they have to ask themselves
the question - did they learn anything from this? What has this taught them so
that they can prevent a similar situation arising? How has this helped them to
do their job better?
“Learning without thought is labour lost” – Confucius
The learning process here has to take into account a
certain follow-up to it. It’s not just a matter of asking if everyone
understands the problem and is satisfied as to how to handle it. Most people
in a group situation will automatically say yes and that’s that, waiting for
the next item on the program. They may well understand and be satisfied, but
it pays to go a few steps further and to ask them to explain what it is that
they learned from this episode. Get to the heart of the matter, get them
thinking about it to ensure that each individual grasps the entirety of what
is being discussed in order to gain true and lasting benefit.
I remember when I was growing up my father would ask me
when I came home from school at the end of the day, “What did you learn
today?” I could never get away with a quick and simple answer. Not that it
was a trick question or that my Dad commanded lengthy explanations of the
day’s activities. He was genuinely interested in what the day had given me
in terms of knowledge and information and what experiences I had had and
whether they had taught me anything. I was always happy to have these
conversations and from them I suppose I gained a deeper insight into the value
of learning and being open to it from a very young age. My father, having put
himself through school in the 1920s, studying for hours every night over a
kerosene lamp, has never lost - even in his eightieth year - his thirst for
knowledge and desire to learn.
When I was growing up school was all about reading books,
using slope-cards and ink-wells at school. Log tables were used as there were
no calculators and indeed, a slide rule was all the fashion. When I first
began work the computer was the machinery housed on the three upper floors of
the building where people wearing special coloured jackets would only be
allowed to enter. These days we seem to have every resource at our fingertips
in order to learn and to improve our knowledge. The amount of information that
is so readily available to us through the world wide web and through
technology is phenomenal and there is literally no excuse for not reaching out
and seizing this tremendous opportunity to learn.
In the words of Alvin Toffler,
“The illiterate of the 21
Have a great week!
Christina can be contacted by email at [email protected]
incorptraining.com or directly at Incorp Training Associates in Bangkok at
Tel (0) 2652 1867-8 Fax (0) 2652 1870. Programs and services can be found at
The Doctor's Consultation by Dr. Iain Corness: Economy Class Syndrome
As ex-pats, we do tend to spend a greater number of hours
cramped up in aeroplanes than the average person from our home countries. What
with visa runs and trips to other SE Asian countries for business and trips
back home to see the folks each year, we seem to be always listening to the
hostess telling us what to do when the plane ditches in the water and we can
pull the tag firmly, be inflated and float away to safety with our light
blinking while blowing on our whistle. If it were only that simple!
However, even if the plane makes it safely to the
destination, you may still suffer, especially if you are an avid reader of the
popular pulp press from home. A new bogeyman awaits us, called the “Economy
The scenario is simple - after hours of being cramped
in-flight you succumb to a clot in the veins of your legs and suffer a Deep
Vein Thrombosis, which we medico’s call a DVT. This condition can wind up
producing all sorts of problems, including emboli (clots) in the lungs and
other wondrous conditions.
In theory, sitting twisted in the minimal “economy
class” seats can predispose to the formation of these blood clots, and tales
of people having one after a plane flight are eagerly snapped up by the press.
What the press doesn’t tell you is that many, many people get DVT’s who
have never stepped into a plane in their lives.
In fact, the highly esteemed medical publication “The
Lancet” published a study to show that they were unable to show an increased
risk amongst plane travellers, and especially those in “el cheapo” seats.
Actually, heavy smoking is a much greater prognosticator of the risk, but the
newspapers are not so keen on calling it, “The packet of Ciggies
Syndrome.” Funny that.
So what can you do to minimise any risk when flying? The
secret to health in the air is purely to maintain good circulation and avoid
dehydration. However, that is not quite as easy to do in practice as you would
To maintain circulation to the lower legs you should get up
and walk around the plane once every hour. Simple - but it does mean you have
to clamber over a couple of people to get to the aisle if you hadn’t
requested the aisle seat. Rule 1 - always ask for an aisle seat, or the seat
in front of the door where there is nobody in front of you.
Dehydration is easy to fix - drink more water, but it is
another difficult thing to do on planes. The ambient cabin humidity is much
less than you experience on the ground, so you are more likely to dry out, and
then there is the alcohol part of the equation - the copious amounts of booze
don’t rehydrate you - they dehydrate you! Believe me.
That’s it in a nutshell. Water and exercise fixes the
Economy Class Syndrome. Of course, you could always fly first class instead I
However, if you do notice a pain in the calf of your leg,
worse when you pull your foot up, then do go to the Emergency Centre. Some
timely medications could actually save you much pain - and even your life!
Can you help our 22-year-old son? He is planning on
coming over to Thailand at the end of the year to visit his father and me
and I am worried that it will not be good for him to be at a loose end too
long. He is a quiet boy and keeps to himself a lot, and that is why I was
so pleased when he said he would come over after Thanksgiving. My worry
comes from the fact that a friend of his stayed over with us a couple of
months ago, and while he used to be a reserved Baptist boy too, when he
came here he changed. Some nights he did not even come home and other days
we could smell alcohol in his room the next morning. He would not tell my
husband or myself where he had been, but I have my suspicions, as I am
sure you would too, Hillary. Our son will have spoken to this other boy.
What should I do about all this?
Dear Concerned Mom,
The first thing you have to change is not your baby
boy’s nappy, but your attitude. How old is this lad? Since he is old
enough to travel on his own, he is old enough to go out at night on his
own. It is time to untie the apron strings and let him run free, or you
will never be a grandmother. On second thoughts, you are making such a
performance out of this one that I shudder to think what you would do with
a grandson! Keep the boy at home to watch TV with you. You could also
teach him knitting while he is here. It is a very good way of keeping idle
hands busy, as you know what mischief idle hands can get up to!
Last year my firm in New York challenged another firm
who were all from Thailand to a boat race. The Thai team beat us by a
mile. We where very discouraged by the loss. Morale sagged. So management
decided that there was a reason for this defeat and hired a consultant
firm to investigate the problem and recommend corrective action. The
consultant found that the Thai team had eight people rowing and one person
steering. We had one person rowing and eight people steering. The analysis
cost a lot of money and the conclusion was that too many people steering
and not enough where rowing. This year we completely changed our
management structure. The “new” structure: four steering managers,
three area steering managers and a new performance review system for the
person rowing the boat to provide work incentive. This year we lost to
Thailand by 2 miles. So, we have laid-off the rower for poor performance
and have given all the managers a bonus for discovering the problem.
Ron Fleitman, New York City
Are you asking me what to do about this? If it
weren’t so true it could be funny (even though I’ve read it before),
Ron. Perhaps you should paddle your own canoe?
My new boyfriend has a moustache and every time he
kisses me it leaves a rash on my face. I like the look of the mo, but I
don’t like the look of the mo rash on me. This is the first time I’ve
had this problem. Any suggestions, Hillary?
No problems at all, my Petal. There’s always a
first time for everything, but is this the first time a moustache has
given you a problem, or the first time you’ve had a boyfriend with grass
on the upper lip? Never mind, this is a simple problem for Hillary. All
you have to do is to wear a ski mask or balaclava to bed. The other option
is to shake hands.
Do you find this continental social habit of kissing
everyone three times on the cheeks a turn-off? I think that social kissing
is really disgusting. People are just making an excuse to slobber all over
you. It is not needed and is unhygienic! How can I avoid it?
Dear Kissin’ cuzzin,
I think you should immediately ring Noi and see if
the two of you can get a good deal on a bulk order of balaclavas. Are you
kidding me? All you have to do with this social custom is to grab the
other person first and make kissy-kissy noises beside their ear, while
muttering, “Don’t get too close to me, I’ve got a social disease.”
They will leave you alone after that.
I bought some cheap Polo shirts size XL (I am a Farang)
at the sidewalk market. When I tried them on at home, three fitted and one
was too small. The labels all said XL, can I take the small one back and
“Copy” shirts have “copy” labels. That’s
the price you pay for getting a cheap shirt with a man on a horse on the
pocket. Give the small one away at Xmas, and stop moaning. They’re still
cheaper than you would pay in your own country.
Camera Class: Photography School is in!
Everyone has a camera, good ones, old ones, professional ones
or plastic point and shooters. Surprisingly, they can all produce photographs,
and very often there is little difference between the final results.
This photography column in the Chiangmai Mail is
designed to assist amateurs, or anyone with an interest in photography, to
improve their skills and take photographs that they will be proud to show to
friends or to display in their homes. Modern films and cameras have made life a
little easier, but the final print does require you, the photographer, to
“see” what it is you want to produce on film. This is where this column can
Written by Harry Flashman, a professional commercial
photographer, the columns are written in plain English and will cover all
aspects of photography. Since Harry here believes that is important that we
should all know “where we came from” the first column deals with a little
history. I do hope you enjoy these features.
France wins the World’s First
Now, for all of you who think that somehow a soccer story got
onto the wrong page, this is no football yarn at all. Did you know that the
French were the first to bring photography to the world? And no, it wasn’t
Monsieur Fred Kodak either (but more about that later)!
Photography is not a recent invention; in fact the first
known “photographic” image was recorded in 1826 by a French gentleman called
Nicephore Niepce. He managed to capture the view from his window, producing the
image on a bitumen covered pewter plate. The exposure time for this epic making
picture (or should that be “epoch” making?) was a record breaking 8 hours!
What poor old Nicephore took 8 hours to produce, you can do in 1/125th of a
second. (My how time flies!)
Nic then teamed up with another of his French mates, Louis
Jacques Mande Daguerre (1759 - 1851) and the pair of them worked on trying to
make “photography” a little bit easier. Nicephore expired in 1833, turning
up at the pearly gates with his pewter plates under his arm, but Daguerre
By 1839 he had managed to produce images on highly polished
silvered copper plates and released the details in August of that year, after
obtaining a lifetime pension for himself from the French government. Daguerre
was no dunce!
Now while these images were much better than Nic’s
originals, they still took forever and a day in the camera. Exposure times were
far too long to make portraiture a reality. “Just hold zat pose for six hours,
However, while the French were exposing themselves and their
plates to the sun, an Englishman by the name of William Henry Fox Talbot (1800 -
1877) was experimenting exposing silver impregnated paper and produced a
“negative”. By then exposing his sensitized paper to the negative he had
made previously, he managed to produce positive copies.
Fox Talbot did nothing about his new process until he heard
the kerfuffle from France about Louis Daguerre’s “invention”. Quickly he
rushed into print in 1839 with details of his process. This was the start of
Exposure times were still an hour or so, but in 1840 the
simple photographic lens was improved by Josef Petzval allowing 16 times more
light into the camera and exposure times dropped to around 4 to 5 minutes.
Portraiture had arrived!
For the next four decades photographers spent their time
refining the “negative” process; however, it took an American to bring
photography within the reach of the masses. His name was George Eastman (1854 -
1932) and he was an inventor and an industrialist.
George had the vision, and the financial clout. By 1888 he introduced the
small box camera with 100 exposure roll film inside. And what did he call it?
After many months of deliberation the marketing gurus told George Eastman that a
good catchy name should have K’s in it. And so “Kodak” was born. We all
owe George a debt of gratitude.
Recipes from Rattana: Tomato soup with pasta
It is coming on for winter, though you need
to be in Chiang Mai to really feel the cold! This is a hearty vegetarian soup,
which is also a very healthy item to serve up for the family. You can make it
the day before and keep in the fridge, but it is not suitable for freezing. You
can also use a chicken stock cube if strictly vegetarian is not important.
Ingredients Serves 4
Pasta (wholemeal) 100 gm
Tomatoes, chopped 500 gm
Garlic, crushed 2 cloves
Butter 20 gm
Vegetable stock cube 1 large
Tomato paste 2 tbspns
Basil chopped fresh 1 tbspn
Onion chopped 1 medium
Water 2 cups
Put pasta into a saucepan of boiling water and cook for 10
minutes, drain and set aside.
In a large pan melt the butter and add onion and garlic and
cook for 2 minutes until the onion is transparent. Now add the water, stock
cube, tomatoes, tomato paste and basil. Bring to the boil then reduce heat to
simmer, covered for about 20 minutes.
Put tomato mixture through a blender until it is smooth, then add the pasta
Battling the Crab By Leslie Wright: Part 1 of a 6-part series about fighting cancer
A Death Sentence
“You have less than two years to live.” Imagine for a
moment how you might react upon hearing those words. Quite literally a death
sentence. But that was the pronouncement of the professor of thoracic
medicine sitting across from me last November, telling me I had terminal and
inoperable lung cancer.
If you are battling cancer yourself, or have a close
friend or relative with cancer, I hope that these insights of my own
experience with The Crab will help you have a greater understanding of what
we go through, and how those around us can be supportive, helpful, and
People still shrink from the terrible word cancer, even
if they themselves have not been diagnosed with this dread disease. But I
have, so I know something of what one goes through. The overwhelming initial
shock of being told you have cancer. That you have only a limited time left
to live. That you have to get your affairs in order. That you won’t have
the time or the chance to do so many of the things you had hoped and dreamed
Some people faint at the news; some burst into tears;
some try stoically to hide their shock. Some simply refuse to believe it.
But it is always, nonetheless, a terrible shock.
Doctors now have a much better understanding of what
cancer is and what causes it. As a result of the development of new drugs
and better early diagnostic methods, many forms of cancer can now be cured
which just twenty or thirty years ago were almost certainly a sentence of
death. There is even a radical new treatment for leukaemia, which just a few
years ago was regarded as one of the worst cancers and a sure killer.
Mammograms have become routine in the early diagnosis of
breast cancer, and new treatments have been developed for this common and
much-feared disease which in many cases no longer require the radical and
disfiguring surgery that was common practice 20 years ago.
Hysterectomies - although radical surgery - have for many
years been effective standard procedure to prevent the metastasis of uterine
cancers to other vital organs, if detected early enough, resulting in
patients being able to live a long and normal life (other than being unable
to have more children).
About 50% of men over the age of 45 develop prostate
cancer. Yes, 50%! But what used almost always to require horrible and
disfiguring surgery once detected can now be diagnosed much earlier by a
simple blood test; and various non-invasive treatments are available which
have a high success rate. I wonder how many Pattaya-resident men over the
age of 45 bother to have the simple annual blood test? It could save your
What is Cancer?
Cancer is simply the Latin word for crab. If your
birthday falls between June 22nd and July 23rd you are born under the sign
of Cancer, the Crab. But that does not give you a predisposition to develop
the disease of the same name!
Cancers are not infectious nor contagious, so you
needn’t worry that you will catch the disease by coming into contact with
someone afflicted by it.
Although there are many different types of cancer, they
are all basically cells which have started multiplying out of control. All
cells in our bodies are regularly replaced, and the old cells normally die
and are absorbed back into the body. Cancer cells behave abnormally: they
multiply rapidly and go on multiplying, as if the ‘off’ switch were
But this out-of-control growth doesn’t just happen:
something has to trigger it. Cancer, we now know, is not a single disease
with a single cause or cure, but a flock of diseases that are somehow
triggered either by our own bad habits - smoking and diet to name but two -
or by carcinogens in the atmosphere or our buildings (e.g., asbestos in
older buildings or less strictly-regulated countries), or in some instances,
are linked to our genes.
For instance, one cancer which is rare outside Asia -
nasopharyngeal cancer - has an inordinately high occurrence amongst people
of Cantonese origin; and the trigger is strongly suspected to be an
ingredient in dried fish, which is a popular item in their diet. In this
case, it seems that the trigger is a combination of diet and genetic
predisposition. If detected early, this type of cancer can be successfully
removed surgically, but if left to develop, it is generally fatal.
Certain types of brain tumours have also been linked to
heredity; and those cancers that afflict women (but not men) also have a
So if there’s a family history of cancer, you stand a
statistically greater chance of developing it. Of course you can play
ostrich and say it will never happen to you, or say you prefer not to know,
and never have the diagnostic tests.
But nowadays these tests are much simpler than they used
to be, and are so important to early detection - which is vital to catching
the tumour in the early stages, before it has had a chance to spread to
other organs and gain an unbreakable hold on your body.
As medical science conquers diseases that used to cull
the population, so more people are succumbing to one or another form of
cancer. The good news is that new drugs are being developed all the time,
and scientists are achieving a better fundamental understanding of how the
various types of cancer function, and thus how they can potentially be
A personal view
But what about my particular case - what did I go
through? What options did I explore? What were the effects of the prescribed
treatments? How was my life affected?
As I said at the start, in November 2001 I was diagnosed
with mixed small-cell and large-cell carcinoma - inoperable lung cancer -
and given less than two years to live. But I am one of the very fortunate 5%
who go into clinical remission, so I have been given more time than was
Statistically, though, my chances are still not good: 50%
of carcinoma patients die within the first 12 months, and 85% within 5 years
of diagnosis. Small-cell carcinoma is a particularly insidious disease: it
lurks and hides and comes back when least expected, sometimes after years of
being in remission.
So being “in remission” does not mean “cured”.
Many types of cancer metastasise (i.e., travel to other organs and flare up
there), and some - like mine - hide away for a while and then come back
again. And usually with a vengeance: the secondary tumours often develop
faster than the first time round, and are resistant to first-line therapies
- radiation and chemotherapy.
On the bright side, however, I have a client who was
diagnosed with the same disease and given 6 months to live - but that was 10
years ago, and he is a hale & hearty US college professor who has as
much drive and energy as many men half his age. The insights he has shared
with me of his own experiences battling The Crab have been of inestimable
help in getting through my own dark days, and his frequent messages of
support have boosted my morale tremendously and fortified my will to win the
fight over this insidious tumour. Indeed, his inspiration together with the
many messages of support and encouragement I received from friends, clients,
and even complete strangers, are the main reasons for my writing this series
of articles, which I hope will be of some small help in understanding, or
coming to terms with, or boosting your spirits, if you or a loved one,
relative, or friend has cancer.
(To be continued next week)
A mother’s worst nightmare Part 1
Do we ever appreciate what we have in life? I spent this
August moaning and complaining because I felt my life was not as fulfilling
as I would like it to be, but why? I have a lovely family, good job nice
home and live in a sunny tropical climate what more could you wish for? I
even said to a friend, “Oh I don’t know what I want, I’ll let destiny
decide for me.”
September arrived and destiny taught me a lesson I shall
never forget. It started with a phone call at 3 a.m. on the first Sunday of
the month. It was my mother, I believe her words were “I’m sorry darling
I have to tell you that Emma (the oldest of my four daughters) has been in a
car accident, she’s on a life support machine in ICU”. I found myself
breathless, I could hear my mother rambling on giving words of comfort but I
felt suspended in time. I just said, “I can’t talk now,” and put the
phone down. As I sat there trying to absorb this news from 6000 miles away,
I thought it can’t be true - this happens to other people, it doesn’t
happen to me.
left: Amy, Katie, Emma and Lucy.
I sat in this strange dazed state until 8 a.m. when I was
able to contact my brother, who was fortunately in Bangkok and able to
arrange a flight ticket with Thai airways. It was not easy at such short
notice and I ended up on stand by. They were fully informed of the life and
death situation and my urgent need to get on a plane that day. I threw an
assortment of items in a bag (I was later to wish I had taken more care with
what I put in the bag) and left for Bangkok, where I sat with my brother
until 9 p.m. when I could go to the airport. We paced the airport trying to
get a seat on the plane for 5 hours explaining to the Thai airways staff how
critical it was for me to get to my daughter’s bedside, but all to no
avail. The usual indifferent Thai smile was all that we received.
I waited in the queue of people on standby until 12.30
a.m. I can’t even begin to explain what it’s like to hold your breath
for so long, waiting to here your name called. They left me until last after
giving 7 people seats in front of me. It was a journey I never want to
repeat; the miles seemed endless as I desperately yearned to be by my
daughter’s bedside, not knowing if she was dead or alive.
When I arrived at London Heathrow a friend was there to
meet me. She told me that Emma had not regained consciousness and was on a
life support machine. I still had another endless 4-hour journey before I
reached the hospital.
Emma, my oldest daughter, has always been beautiful,
attracting attention wherever she goes. She is an unflappable young lady who
efficiently manages her business and family almost as an afterthought. As we
sat in ICU someone laughed and said, “Emma could be reading her magazine
and a bomb would go off next to her and she’d calmly look up and say,
“Did you hear a noise?”
When I arrived at the hospital I went straight to ICU, I
could tell by looking everyone’s face that it was not good. I braced
myself and said that I wanted to go and see her by myself. As I walked what
seemed miles towards the bed I found myself mesmerized by all the wires and
tubes attaching my child to an assortment of high technology equipment as
she lay in the bed like a beautiful broken doll.
(Continued next week...)