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Life with Lavendar in London town

Monday, 18 March 2013

Emily Needs Stem Cells

Last week I read about Emily Sun, a 36 year old mum of one from Perth, Western Australia who is dying of cancer.  

Emily was first diagnosed in 2010 and went on to battle Non-Hodgkin’s Primary Mediastinal Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma (PMBCL) not one, but two times. 

Recently she discovered that the cancer has returned. Doctors have told her that in order to have a last fighting chance, she needs a stem cell transplant from a matching donor.

Problem is, there is currently no donor.  There is no stem cell match for Emily on the international registry. 

Emily is of Chinese descent. She would have the best chance of finding a stem cell match with someone of Oriental descent.

Problem is, people of Oriental descent are very, very low on the international stem cell/bone marrow donor registry.

I don't know why this is. Orientals love pain and suffering. Anyone that grew up watching HK-TVB family dramas knows this.  There was always someone threatening to kill themselves with a cleaver or throw themselves off a high balcony to defend family honor. 

Compared to cleaver, what's a little prick of a needle? 

Emily has a little boy called Luke who is five and who loves dinosaurs. I read some of Emily's blog entries on her website about having cancer and loving your child. I think both Emily and Luke are extremely brave.  

Emily & Luke
(courtesy of Catherine Jupp Photographic Art
How does one hold the love of one's child and one's threatened mortality together in the one thought. How can the heart bear it?

Emily is aware that she has to go all out. In order to increase her chances at finding a stem cell/bone marrow match, she has gone public and started a social media campaign in order to try and encourage people, especially Orientals, to become stem cell/bone marrow donors.  

In her blog, she talks about how this kind of public appeal is very un-Oriental in nature; given the Chinese mentality of keeping your suffering to yourself. She is doing this, she says, as she promised her boy that she would do everything she could to survive.  That she would leave no stone unturned.

Emily and I have a similar life trajectory. Both born in Hong Kong. Both spent time in the UK.  Both reared in Perth, Western Australia. Both went to Murdoch University in said Perth. Both studied creative writing at said university. Both married to non-Orientals.  Both have bred one small child.  Both in our late thirties. It's a wonder we've never met.  I hope far into the future we will, even if it means to walk past each other on the street. I want Emily to walk down the street a long time from now.

Today I represented the Oriental race as I registered to become a stem cell/bone marrow donor. I say this as I was the only Oriental person I saw at my blood donor session. 

So today I saved face for all you lot out there with that pint of blood in your system that could save many lives. 

You don't have to thank me. Just donate blood and register to become a stem cell/bone marrow donor. You can register here.

When you go to the blood bank, ask to fill in a registration form for the British Bone Marrow registry.  Part of the blood you donate will then be assessed to see if it is match for anyone on the international registry. 

If it is - well then, you have a chance to help save someone's life.

How often does that happen to you?

Friday, 1 February 2013

Oh Give Me a Home, Where the Buffalo Roam!

Gone with the Wind was a key movie influence in my early teenage years.  I recorded it when it showed on TV and re-watched it so many times that the VHS tape (yes, I am showing my vintage here) started to unspool and tangle.

It was so dramatic and uncompromising. Scarlett was such a definite, unscrupulous, charismatic figure. She knew what she wanted and she didn't give two hoots how she achieved it.  If she'd been around in the 1980's her name would have been Gordon Gekko.

Having watched the movie so many times, I knew all the key quotes off by heart. One of these was when Daddy O'Hara puts his arm around his wayward daughter and points to the enormous plantation house in the distance and booms:

Do you mean to tell me, Katie Scarlett O'Hara, that Tara, that land doesn't mean anything to you? Why, land is the only thing in the world worth workin' for, worth fightin' for, worth dyin' for, because it's the only thing that lasts.

Scarlett and her Big House (run by slaves)
This quote has played in my mind over the years when the question of buying property has come up. Daddy O'Hara was clearly someone who believed that you should own your own little piece of home. I however, have avoided house ownership like the plague. Now heading into my forties with young child in tow, I am still renting.

The society I live in makes me feel abnormal about this. Australia and Britiain, the two countries I have spent my adult life in so far, are all about home ownership. Renting is for when you are young and carefree. The goal ultimately is to own your own home as it is seen to make better financial sense. Paying off someone elses mortgage is stupid when you could be paying off your own.   Buying & selling at the right time is critical however. Otherwise you may be stuck with a depreciating property that you can't shift; without sufficient funds to move on anywhere else.

I get the above. I just don't like it.

More and more, I wish we lived in a city where rent controlled living was the norm. Paris. Copenhagen. Berlin. Cities where renting is the norm for the majority and the law works to maintain this. To me, it is a commonsensical way of life. I do not understand the need to own one's home. It's not in my nature, nor that of my husband's. Will it ever be? I don't know.

The pressure is building though. To buy. To stay put. To commit.

Is it time to move again?

Monday, 28 January 2013

Anyone for Seconds?

The past few months have flown by in a flurry of (more than usual) activity. In pursuit of sun and loved ones, we flew halfway across the world with our boisterous toddler barely on our laps. Visiting Perth for Christmas was a dream. A very hot one, but a beautiful dream nonetheless. Fast fading now amidst the cold, grey winter that we returned to in Blighty.

We landed back at Heathrow, heart, mind and body holding together and just as well for we have barely stopped since. Work, study, life have all crowded in as we readjusted to being a unit of three without the additional help or company of loving grandparents and old friends.

In this period many people I knew gave birth. All to their second child. As I heard of each new arrival into this world, I smiled and then asked myself:

Would I?

And the answer each time has been:


It is a question I get asked a lot. It seems to be human nature to jump ahead of ourselves rather than relish what is there. Our few rites of passage (marriage, birth, death) are hurried. Years ago when I announced my engagement, the question on everyone's lips was:

When is the wedding?

After the wedding had barely been done and dusted, it was:


And when the kid did come along, my own mother asked me:

Do you think you'll have another?

Given that the stitches were barely out and I was still waking like a Rhinestone Cowboy, I thought the answer would have been obvious.

However it has been nearly two years now since Dragon entered the world. In that time I have considered the sibling question extensively.  I have said to the Husband:

We are putting all our eggs into one basket. It's very risky.

And it is. When you experience the love you have for your child, the thought of anything happening to that child is inconceivable. Better to have a spare. The same being if anything were to happen to you or your partner. Then as siblings they could support one another. That is, if they don't hate each other as some siblings do.

I wonder when people will stop asking that question? When it is evident that I am post menopausal? When I look post menopausal even if I'm not?

And I wonder when I am asked that question, when will I stop asking myself:

Will I?