Category Archives: Melanoma Cancer

Remission 12th anniversary

Photography by Miriam Hurdle

I was diagnosed with a rare melanoma cancer in July 2008. None of the doctors who treated me had seen it. It started with stage I or II but turned into stage IV within a few months. I completed the year-long bio-chemotherapy, surgeries and radiation on August 1, 2009. Today marks the 12th anniversary of remission. I’m thankful to be alive, enjoy my family and have the joy to watch the grandchildren grow. I have been writing about my cancer journey since 2016. The distance from the event allows me to have reflection and a proper perspective. It will be a part of my legacy to pass on to the generations to come. This was a one-day-at-a-time journey of faith, hope, and strength. It was a journey cheered and supported by family and friends.

To celebrate the 12th anniversary of my remission, I wanted to share an excerpt with you. The working title of my legacy is The Winding Road, and I’m working on the tagline.

Chapter 2

The hysterectomy surgery was on July 31st, 2008. I wanted to rest for two or three weeks after the surgery before returning to work when the new school year began. 

My husband, Lynton, drove me to St. Jude Medical Center which was 3 miles from home. He stayed with me until the hospital attendant transported me to the surgery room. After the attendant and nurses lifted me onto the surgical table, the anesthesiologist called my name and introduced himself to me and said Dr. Gray was on the way. Before I smiled at him, the blackness came upon me. 

I woke up in the hospital room in the afternoon. There was no pain in the abdomen. Perhaps the anesthesia was not worn off yet. Lynton came with a bouquet almost the same time I woke up. He stayed with me until dinner time and said he would call me early in the morning. It was a relief that the fibroids I had for years were out for good.

At 10:00 p.m., Dr. Gray came to the room and greeted me with a smile. I returned a grin with apprehension because no doctors would visit patients late at night unless there was an emergency. He sat down by the bed. “The surgery went well,” he said, “and I wanted to share the pathology result with you.”

My puzzling grew but nodded and kept smiling.

“The pathology result shows that the vaginal mass was melanoma. I’ve never seen it before, not in vagina, so I did some research. The research shows that melanoma is the most aggressive, invasive and dangerous cancer.”

He detected the perplex on my face, and said, “It looks like it’s in stage I or II, the beginning stage and the cancer has not spread into other parts of the body yet.”

I wanted to ask questions, but my mind went blank. What questions could I ask? The moisture saturated my eyes.

“I have lined up the referrals for you to see the specialists for treatments. Call my cell phone if you have questions. I’ll start my vacation tomorrow.” He handed me a note with his phone number. It seemed like he did a lot of homework that afternoon.

“But you’ll be on vacation,” I said, still tried to find words.

“That’s what a cell phone is for.” he smiled. “I’m glad God put you in my care.”

His visit transported me to the thickest fog in the dark.

~ ~ ~

The next day, I still had no pain after the anesthesia was worn off.

Lynton called me around 9:00 a.m. to let me know he was coming to see me later that day. He told me his dad passed away, and he was on the phone with his siblings. His dad had been in Loma Linda ICU since last Wednesday with a heart-attack and a kidney infection. The infection went into the blood and his condition went downhill. After the infection was gone, he was on dialysis to give the kidney a break to see if it could be reversed. Lynton and I went to see him last Wednesday. He was unconscious when we got there. The entire family of twelve people were there talking to each other about the latest progress. Lynton’s dad heard our voices and opened his eyes. We went close to his bedside to hold his hands and spoke to him. His eyes sparked a little and then went back to unconsciousness. That was the last time I saw his dad.

“Would you ask your family to schedule the funeral service after I get home from the hospital? I want to be there.”

“Don’t worry. My family will consider that when they plan for the funeral service. I’m on my way to the hospital to see you.”

When he arrived, I gave him the news. He faced me with the brooding look and said he would research on melanoma as soon as he got home.

“How are you feeling?” the nurse came in to check on me.

“I’m feeling very well with no pain. Can I go home today?”

“The attending doctor is not here yet. Let me check your incision and change the dressing. I’ll let the doctor know of your condition. He has to authorize the discharge.”

The doctor came in an hour later. After checking my progress, he authorized the discharge.

“Thank you, doctor,” I said to him while my mind spun at a record speed, miles into the search engine, chasing the meaning of melanoma.

.

.

New Normal

This is a reblog of the post I did a year ago. I updated the first line of the post.

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This month marks the 8th anniversary of Remission from my cancer!!

What was my normal schedule and activities all my life until 2008?

Getting up before 6:00 a.m.

Rushing to get on the road to go to work

Multitasking on the job and loving it

Keeping up with cooking dinner and other chores

Keeping up with all the family and social activities

Traveling one to three trips a year

What happened from summer 2008 to summer 2009?

Melanoma Cancer

Six months of chemotherapy

Four surgeries

Five weeks of radiation

What is my new normal?

Thank God for retirement, or else I would not be able to do the following:

Deal with the side effect of chemotherapy – lymphedema on the legs

Unable to fall asleep until the numbness and tingling of my legs subside

Time to get up would have to depend on the time I fall asleep the night before

Running errands is as big a job as climbing mountains

Making two to three stops are manageable, the fourth one has to wait for another day

Elevating my legs and resting is a daily route, whereas years ago I considered it as wasting time

Exercise is a necessity, not a luxury

Priority is the key to manage my schedule

Something for my spiritual, physical, mental life, and make time to be a blessing to others

No promise is made to do everything and I don’t feel guilty if I can’t do it

God bless my being, even when I can’t measure up with my doing!

~

Contribution to Debbie’s Forgiving Fridays

52 Weeks of Thankfulness – Week 7

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This is the 52 Weeks of Thankfulness – Week 7 at Haddon Musings

I had written eight posts about my melanoma treatment. I need to write one more to complete my story. I emerge it as part of my Thankfulness. So this week I am thankful for going through the journey of cancer treatment and have been in remission for almost eight years.

August 13, 2009

My bio-chemotherapy came to the end. I just needed a couple more procedures done before the completion of treatment.

When I had my first cancer surgery in October 2008, the surgeon removed all the cancerous tissues except one cancerous lymph node. He sent me back to my primary health care provider and oncologist for chemotherapy. Due to the lack of communication, the referral didn’t get any attention until two months later. I went to the oncologist’s office, sat in the waiting room, demanded for attention. Finally a case caretaker came to talk with me. I cried and complained, saying that my last surgeon requested chemotherapy within four months before the cancer entered my brain, and it had been two months already.

The next day she called the case management office. The supervisor of the office took over my case. She made all the arrangement of tastings and obtained the authorization of referral to a melanoma specialist.

By the time I started my first cycle of treatment in January 2009, the cancer in one lymph node on the right hip area had invaded the whole set of inguinal nodes on the left. So the cancer went from stage II to stage IV.

I went through two cycles of bio-chemo and one surgery and two more cycles of bio-chemo. At the end of June 2009, I completed four cycles of in-patient treatments and one surgery. By this time, the first cancerous lymph node had shrunk into a dead tumor. Dr. O’Day, the melanoma specialist, and the surgeon agreed that it was a good idea to have one more surgery to remove the dead tumor. I had the second surgery done in early July, 2009. The surgeon removed one larger tumor plus 15 smaller dead tumors.

The final procedure was the radiation. Dr. O’Day ordered two sets of radiation. The first set was five days a week for four weeks in the pelvic area. The second set was once a week for four weeks. I met with the radiologist. She aligned me with the radiation machine, marked the tattoo on my body so that each radiation would be done in the same position. She further explained to me the side effect and the possible damage of the radiation. My husband is a radiology technician. He discussed the situation with Dr. O’day. Dr. O’Day decided that the damage would have outweighed the benefit. Therefore he cancelled the first set of radiation. I only needed to do the second set. I started the second week of July and completed it in the first week of August 2009.

Before I entered this journey, I didn’t know where it would have taken me. I only knew that if God didn’t say He was done with me, I had no right to decide to quit. I had to take the chances presented to me and trust him to guide me through. All I could do was to take one day at a time. There were so many nights that I didn’t have any sleep because the chemo drugs burning continuously. My body was so hot and the skin was so sensitive. Knowing that I didn’t have to go to work the next day helped to reduce my anxiousness. Throughout my treatment, my family and friends were my greatest support.

I do believe there is a reason for every season, and for every suffering. With God’s help, I could look beyond the suffering, even when I was right in the middle of it. In the end, I was able to count the suffering as my blessing.

Post note: The highlighted links are linked to the previous 8 posts. I continue to suffer lymphedema (swelling) on left leg, and nerve damage on both legs resulting in tingling and poor circulation.

 

Please share your thankfulness by participating at Haddon Musings

New Normal

IMG_1754a

Today marks the 7th anniversary of Remission from my cancer!!

What was my normal schedule and activities all my life until 2008?

Getting up before 6:00 a.m.

Rushing to get on the road to go to work

Multitasking on the job and loving it

Keeping up with cooking dinner and other chores

Keeping up with all the family and social activities

Traveling one to three trips a year

What happened from summer 2008 to summer 2009?

Cancer

Six months of chemotherapy

Four surgeries

Five weeks of radiation

What is my New Normal?

Thank God for retirement, or else I would not be able to do the following:

Deal with the side effect of chemotherapy – lymphedema on the legs

Unable to fall asleep until the numbness and tingling of my legs subside

Time to get up would have to depend on the time I fall asleep the night before

Running errands is as big a job as climbing mountains

Making two to three stops are manageable, the fourth one has to wait for another day

Elevating my legs and resting is a daily route, whereas years ago I considered it as wasting time

Exercise is a must, not a luxury

Priority is the key to manage my schedule

Something for my spiritual, physical, mental life, and make time to be a blessing to others

No promise is made to do everything and I don’t feel guilty if I can’t do it

God bless my being, even when I can’t measure up with my doing!