Japanese garden in Portland, Oregon.
Japanese garden in Portland, Oregon.
April 3, 2009
I was discharged from the surgery on March 22. An appointment was made to visit the doctor in two weeks. During these two weeks, I recorded the amount of fluid collected from the drainage into the two bottles. One bottle was getting less and less fluid, but the one with the needle inserted to my left thigh had the same amount of fluid every day. The fluid just didn’t circulate to my upper body. The only outlet was through the drainage.
At the meantime, I had a lot of pain on my left abdomen and left leg. The numbness went from the upper left thigh to below the knee.
The doctor’s instruction was to lay flat and elevate the legs. By doing so, it would help to reduce the swelling. He also asked me to stay “active” as much as I could, so I did little things here and there and walked around the house to keep my left leg awake.
After getting up for an hour or so, my leg’s swelling increased. It was so bad that I couldn’t bend my knee. Our bedroom is upstairs. I wasn’t able to alternate my feet when going up and down. I could only make my right leg do all the work and dragged my straight left leg without bending. When I tried to sit and elevate both legs, only the right leg could move to the elevating position, the left leg needed to be lifted to the position.
During my doctor’s visit, one draining tube was removed. The other one remained because the draining was still active. Two more weeks later, the draining did not decrease, but the doctor removed the second tube anyway. His instruction was to massage the leg to reroute the flow of the fluid.
I was praying all the time and kept a grateful spirit. Many cards, emails of comforting messages made me feel that I was not alone in this trial. Family and friends were by my side, they were literally carrying me through every step of the way. One person sent me an email saying, “You may not know me, but I am praying for you.”
I had never felt so weak physically all my life. There was no complaint about my pain, or my suffering. I was grateful to be alive. Our friend Dr. John Sailhamer was a Bible scholar, fluent in Hebrew and Greek. He wrote many books and Bible commentary. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer disease the same time I was diagnosed with cancer. He was in the early stage of disease when I went through my bio-chemotherapy. He translated Psalm 1 directly from Hebrew and hand wrote it for me. His kindness touched me so much. I read his translation of Psalm 1 every day, and meditated on one word a day. It gave me the assurance of God’s perfect plan for me.
The doctor gave me six weeks to rest until the third cycle of bio-chemotherapy. During these six weeks, my only job was to get strong enough for the next treatment. I’m blessed with a husband who took good care of me, did all the chores and cooking.
February 17, 2009
The original treatment plan was that I would go through four cycles of bio-chemo treatments, and have a surgery to remove the shrunk tumors, and then have two more cycles of treatments. After the second cycle of in-patient treatment, I did my routine lab work before the third cycle.
I met with the Melanoma doctor and the surgeon. During the meeting, the doctors reviewed the lab result with me. There was minor bad news but major good news. The lab work showed 20 categories in hematology. Five categories were low. Blood count was 7.9 with the normal range being 11.5 – 15.0. The lab work also showed 22 categories in chemistry with 4 being low. In addition, I had been running a temperature as high as 102.4 ever since I came home from the hospital on February 1, 2009 (more than two weeks). I survived on Tylenol.
For the low blood count, I needed 2 units of blood transfusion within the following two weeks (1 unit = I pint or 450 ml). Rich in iron food was my diet but didn’t help fast enough to boost up my blood count. My temperature was caused by some kind of infection that my body couldn’t fight off. Antibiotic was prescribed to take care of that. With low blood count and temperature, I was so weak that I felt there was no life left in me. I knew that I had to be strong to go through the treatment. There was not enough blood to keep my body warm, so I bundled up and walked every day back and forth in the neighborhood. My neighbors couldn’t recognize me.
This was my prayer: “God, you gave me clear indications of which direction to go as far as treatment options. I listened and followed your direction. You took my hand and I followed you to near-death with no doubt because your direction was so clear. You’re the God of miracles and I believe in miracles. Now if it is your will, please carry me back to life.”
Now back to the meeting, the doctors also reviewed CT scan done on February 13. It showed encouraging improvement. The tumors in the lymph nodes had shrunk and were contained, so the cancer cells did not spread. As a result, instead of having two more cycles of bio-chemo, the doctor now could have surgery to remove the shrunk tumors. After the surgery, I could rest longer before the final two cycles of bi-chemo. Altogether, I only needed 4 cycles instead of 6 cycles of bio-chemo! What great news!
When I heard the doctor’s plan for me, even though I didn’t have too much energy, I almost jumped up to thank them, but I knew that it was God’s Healing Power.
After the meeting, I was given a longer time to rest, got blood transfusion, tried to get rid of the temperature. The schedule of surgery would depend on my progress.
My family and friends continue to pray, bring food, send me cards and emails. I was wrapped around with love, friendship, and prayer support to keep me going this dark journey.
To be continued……
The pre-admission meeting was held at the Melanoma doctor’s office which was a Research Institute. During the meeting, the treatment plan was reviewed. The medication was a cocktail drug of a mixture of five chemo drugs. Each drug had serious side effects and possible liver damage. I had to sign an agreement for the treatment and be responsible of any results – good or bad. Not all the melanoma was treated with such aggressive drugs. This treatment plan was the Institute’s fifteen-year experiment. I went at their fifteenth year of experiment. The Melanoma doctor explained that it required aggressive drugs to treat aggressive and invasive cancer.
The doctor proposed a six-cycle treatment: one week on, three weeks off as one cycle. I would be an in-patient in the hospital for five days, then go home for three week to rest and regain my energy to prepare for the next cycle. Thus it was a six-month full time treatment program.
The surgeon was there at the meeting. He saw my hesitation when I heard that it was six-month full time. He said it was worth to take six months off of my life to take care of it. After a quick assessment in my head, I decided to go with the plan.
The first thing came to my mind was our finance. Year 2008 was the year that great recession hit businesses and housing market. My husband had his business for seventeen years at that time. It was hit badly. I recommended that he went back to school to reinvent himself. He did go during the 2008-2009 school year to study for the CT and MRI licenses. My income was the only income during that year.
After talking with some colleagues, I knew I would get 50% pay for 100 days under the Union contract. With that information, I went to the Human Resources’ office to submit a request for six-month sick leave. The administrative assistant asked if I was a member of the Disaster Leave Bank. I said, “No, I’m not aware of such a program.” She explained that if I donated one sick leave day to the Bank, I would become a member. As a member, I could withdraw 20 days at a time up to 100 days with 50% pay.
I was at awe when I found out that information. With both the Union and Disaster Leave Bank, I could get pay 100% for 100 working days. I had some personal sick leave days to be used. All together would allow me to get pay for six months during my treatment.
“When Gratitude becomes an essential foundation in our lives, Miracles start to appear everywhere.” See the Gratitude quote above.
To be continued……
Randy’s anniversary of his home going is coming up in ten day. How time flies. I still remember January 3, 2016. Randy joined us to celebrate my husband’s birthday. We went to see Star Wars at Irvine Spectrum, and had lunch together. It was on Saturday.
The following Sunday, eight days later, his relative came over to tell us that Randy had a mountain bike accident. He and a gym buddy went on a mountain bike ride. The bike hit a big gap and made a somersault flip. He got thrown off the bike, head and face fell forward and hit the ground. Apparently his face was smashed badly. He was rushed to the emergency room close by; but pronounced dead as soon as the ambulance reached the hospital.
Randy was our neighbor who lived two doors down the street. He was my husband’s best friend for twelve years ever since he came back to live with his parents. They went to the gym work out together. They had Friday Movie and Pizza day for a while. After my husband got a mountain bike, he also got one. They started riding on the trails in the city and beyond. On special occasions, we had barbecue together. He came over to our house for game nights. For more than a year before his passing, they switched to another restaurant on Fridays to hangout, and I became their designated driver!
Randy was a lighthearted guy. He was recognized by his laughter. He had tons of friends and some were high school friends. He had one friend since they were three years old.
What impressed me the most was the way he took care of people. He took care of his ex-mother-in-law every weekend for years, driving an hour each way. When she was not able to take care of herself, he helped her to move into a convalescent home close to him. On holidays, he would bring her home to spend time together. He did that until she passed away.
The last person he took care of was his mom. His dad passed away years ago. His mom was diagnosed with ALS. He took care of her to the point when she could only communicate with her eye movements.
After his mom passed away, he had an estate sale to clean up the house. He had the house painted inside and out, and got new furniture. It seemed like he finally could relax and take care of himself. We were so happy for him and teased him that he could settle down for life.
Who would have thought that God would take him home right there and then so he would have his eternal rest? We miss you, Randy! Whatever questions you might have in life, you are sitting down with Jesus, face to face, and got your answers now!