Tag Archives: Gratitude Moments

Thursday photo prompt – Fading #writephoto

Sue’s Thursday Photo Prompt – Fading #writephoto

Journey through high and low

In the midst of worrisome illness

Heightened sense of mortality

No assumption of survival opportunity

Merely hope for Maker’s mercy

Every new morning was a gift.

Cloudy or sunny the sky might be

Trotting faithfully on the street

In hope of keeping up the physical strength

To sustain through harsh chemo therapy

What a profound gratefulness as treatment fading to the end

When the sun pierced through the clouds to welcome me

~

#writephoto

 Thursday photo prompt – Fading #writephoto

Gratitude Moments #8

May 17, 2009

After the surgery removing the tumors in the lingual nodes on the left hip area, I rested for six weeks. The third cycle of bio-chemotherapy started on May 6th. I came home on Sunday, May 10th. Twelve pounds of fluid was put on me and I looked like a little red plum. The swelling was almost intolerable. The left leg was a lot bigger than my right leg. The fluid was not circulating to my upper body. At this point, the nurses said due to the removal of the lymph nodes, and the nerve damage from the surgery; the circulation problem could be permanent. I surely prayed that it would not be the case.

The case manager from my primary care hospital referred me to lymphedema therapy to treat the swelling. The therapist measured the circumference of my left leg in 3 inches increment, from the ankle to the upper thigh. Then measured and compared to my right leg. The measurement served as a baseline. Each returned visit, she would measure again to check the progress. She gave me handouts of home exercise with instructions and graphic demonstrations. The instruction was to do the exercise twice a day. The rest of the day, I was supposed to sit in a reclining position with my legs elevated to a position higher than my heart.

Even though I started eating regularly, I felt tired. The blood test showed that I was anemic severely. The doctor prescribed iron 325 mg plus vitamin C 500mg for two month.

June 15, 2009

I checked in to the hospital on Wed. June 3rd for my final cycle of bio-chemotherapy. Strangely I felt okay when I checked in, but a couple hours later, I had a fever of 103 degree.  My doctor put “on hold” of all the chemo medication. Even though the hydration had started, but it was suspended. To cover all the bases, he ordered chest x-ray, ultra sound of my heart, and blood culture, to make sure I didn’t have infection anywhere. If the fever was caused by infection, the chemo medication would further weaken my immune system to fight the infection.

The doctor waited until June 4th afternoon when he got the blood culture result, and then started the chemo medication. After 5 days of chemo, he kept me one more day for observation; that made the 5 days treatment into 7 days. The doctor ordered IV antibiotic for all the days I was in the hospital plus 5 days home health care after I was discharged. At the end of the antibiotic, a blood culture was done again. Eventually I understood the doctor’s caution, because the infection was a dangerous thing when my low immune system couldn’t fight it off.  I was so glad that it was my last cycle of chemo.

A couple side effects were accumulated to the worst point. One was the swelling of my left leg. By the 10th day after I came home; it was still very, very swollen. It felt like it was going to explode. The pressure made my walking or moving was very painful because the fluid was saturated. I finally called the doctor, and he prescribed water pill to make me urinate more often. It helped but worked slowly.  After two weeks, both whole legs were still swollen all the way to the ankles; at least the pain was subsided.

Another side effect was the skin peeling off in big pieces on my feet and hands. After the skin was peeled off, the new skin was tender, sensitive, and painful. How I wished it shed like snake skin and came off nice and neat in one piece. The peeling and recovering of my skin took several months. But again, this was the last cycle; I had all summer to recover.  I told my daughter that at least after all, I got brand new skin. She said she admired my strength and was a good example to her. It touched my heart when she said that. If I could be an example to my daughter of faith and trust in God, it was worth all the physical suffering.

The fluid slowly but surely left my body. I was down to 114 pounds. I started walking back and forth on the street. After a couple weeks, I was able to walk around Laguna Lake with my husband. I even went to the gym swimming and used the machine to work on my legs. I knew people were looking at me because I lost my hair and looked very skinny.

My daughter Mercy who lived and worked in Portland, Oregon said she would come to see me in the summer. By this time, I had lost most of my hair. I was afraid my appearance would shock her. I took pictures and sent them to her intermittently; the side view and back view of my head, so that she was aware of the changes.

My family and friends continued to pray, send cards, emails, and phone calls to provide support. Since my husband was back to school to get the MRI and CT licenses, he was not able to take me to all the appointments. My friends signed up to give me rides to different appointments. One friend was driving me to the doctor’s office. She said she wanted to make sure she had a chance to give me a ride before I didn’t need it anymore. My husband switched his internship schedule as often as he could to care for my needs. I was very weak physically, but my heart hugged all these people whose love for me was incredible.

P.S. I had one more surgery and radiation before the treatment was over.

Gratitude Moments #7

April 29, 2009

My surgery was on March 12 and was discharged on March 19. The melanoma doctor, Dr. O’Day, said I could rest for six weeks before the next bio-chemotherapy. During these six weeks, I had to get strong physically and nutritionally. By this time, my vomiting had subsided. My appetite was increased. It was a good sign because I could eat as much as possible. I needed to gain at least six pounds in six weeks. With this mindset, I ate whenever my stomach allowed. I ate ice-cream every day. One friend teased me by saying that, “Go ahead and eat ice cream before you have to worry about weight gain!”

 Several of my neighbors had been our friends for twenty some years. They invited us over for dinners. One neighbor, Doris was especially hospitable, she invited us almost every weekend. Her son, Randy, my husband’s best friend, barbecued steaks. Doris said, “Miriam, eat. The meat will help to replenish your blood.” I did, I ate the biggest piece of steak on the platter. She was so pleased that I could eat. She told everybody included her dental hygiene patients that I ate the biggest piece of steak.

The chemo drugs burned all the cells in me, good and bad. I was down to skin and bone. Another issue was the burning that dried up my skin. I soaked in the hot bath for an hour each night. After the tough skins got soften a little bit, I scrubbed off the dead skin gently. After drying off, I put layers of lotion, and thick cream, and then lotion all over my body. The cream only served as sealing of my skin. As soon as the cream dried up, I felt itchy everywhere. It would take months down the road for the new skin to be the replacement of the dead skin. Soaking in the bath before bedtime helped me not to feel itchy at night. There were a few nights I could not get enough hot water for the bath, my husband boiled the water on the stove and carried pots of hot water to fill the bathtub. I could never forget about what he did for me!

As far as my body temperature, it was very difficult to describe. On one hand, I didn’t have enough blood to keep me warm, so I bundled up from head to toes in a warm spring time. Yet the drugs continue to burn and made my skin sensitive and hot. Bedtime was a drag for me. When I went to bed, I put a sheet between my legs so they would not have direct contact. With covers on, I would be too hot. Without covers on, I would be cold. So I just put a sheet over my upper body. I took medication to help me sleep, yet all the discomfort took three or four hours to be calmed down before I felt asleep. My husband kept very quiet when he got up in the morning. I had the mask on so the sunlight didn’t wake me up. It was about nine or ten o’clock when I woke up.

During this time, the world was thousands of miles away from me. The pain, discomfort, and weakness were ever present. This was also a time I felt the Lord was right next to me. I talked with Him all the time. I just said to him, “Please help me through this. I need to get well. I need to be well for my husband and my daughter.” His assurance gave me hope. His Word gave me strength and endurance to take a tiny step at a time. I knew I could make it.

Daily Prompt:  Replacement

Daily Prompt: Hospitality

Gratitude Moments #6

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.

Gratitude Moments #5

March 23, 2009

I had blood transfusion on February 18, 2009. It took 1 1/2 hours preparation and 6 hours of transfusion.

After the second cycle of bio-chemo treatment, my body system was really messed up.  The warning of side effects on paper became reality to me. I lost 10 pounds in 7 weeks! It sounded like a commercial!  But nobody wanted my kind of diet plan though.  I lost half of the hair, not quite bald yet.  Two more cycles of bio-chemo would make me bald. I didn’t shave my hair, it fell off gradually, but I was hanging on to every thread of it. At one point, my husband said I looked like a punk!

The worse side effect was my skin because the medication burned my skin.  It was very dry and itchy day and night.  Medications for itching didn’t help.  Sometimes I was awake all night scratching.  I drank constantly to flush out the toxin in my kidney. The burning sensation also didn’t let my legs touch each other, so a sheet was put in between to reduce the irritation.

My surgery was on March 19, 2009.  I went into the surgery room at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday.  There were two procedures for this surgery.  They set up for the first procedure, and it took more than 1 hour for the first procedure. Then they had to change the setup for the 2nd procedure, and took more than two hours for the second procedure.  It was 9:00 p.m. when it was done.  I was under full anesthesia the whole time, and woke up at 10:30 pm.

I couldn’t go to sleep, of course, after sleeping for 8 hours.  I was in pain.  There was a patient controlled pain medication button.  The nurse said, “Don’t wait until you’re extremely painful to press the button, when it started to come, press it.” I couldn’t tell time in the dark and kept pressing the button when in pain!  When daylight came, I felt dizzy.  When I ate, I threw up. On top of it, the doctor put a nerve block on my left leg in addition to the full body anesthesia.  So the day after the surgery – Friday, I couldn’t stand up at all because I couldn’t feel my left leg.  The doctor didn’t discharge me on Saturday.

The surgery removed the set of inguinal nodes which was invaded by cancer on the left side of my body. Lymph nodes are for body fluid circulation. The function of inguinal nodes is for the fluid from the lower body to circulate to the upper body; then to the heart, and circulates back to the lower body. Now my inguinal nodes were gone. The fluid that wanted to circle through it would hit a wall. Two draining bottles with the tubes and needles were inserted in the surgical area through incisions to catch the fluid. I was to record the amount of drainage daily to determine when to remove the tubes.

The discharge was delayed by one day because of the dizziness and vomiting. The surgeon said he got everything, the cancer cells were gone; and the CT scan didn’t find anything unexpected. God had mercy on me. I didn’t deserve it, but He spared my life.

I went home to rest for about four weeks before the final two cycles of bio-chemo treatment.
inguinal-nodes

Daily Prompt: Gone

Gratitude Moments #3

I started the first cycle of treatment on January 7, 2009 as scheduled. During my hospital stay, I wasn’t able to take a shower. As soon as I got home on Sunday after discharged, the first thing I wanted to do was to take a shower. I had no memory of how it happened, but my husband said I was so weak that I crawled to the bathroom to take a shower. The next day, I wanted to give the update to my family. These are a couple emails I sent to them during my resting weeks.

January 12, 2009

Dear family and friends,

I came home last night.  I should have been discharged at 11:00 a.m. but my potassium, magnesium and electrolytes were low, so I was put on IV for 17 hours to replenish those elements before I was discharged.

During the hospital stay, every minute was like forever. Eventually the medication worked into my body, so did the side effects. One medication burned my skin to red and purple, swollen, and dry. I looked like a red balloon. It will take 10 day for the color to get lighter. I had chills every day. The shaking could only be stopped by injection of medication.  The vomiting and diarrhea happened every day also, so I just stopped eating. With all the fluid going in from IV, I weighed 15 pounds more at discharge than at admission.

Today, Monday, January 12, I went to my first IV hydration in the doctor’s office – to flush out the toxicity, plus getting more mediation. A home nurse will come the next three day to do the same thing. The same routine will be done for next two Mondays at the doctor’s office. Each IV hydration last for 2 1/2 hour.

Today I felt there’s a hole in my stomach asking for food, so I ate.  Again, there it went through vomiting, nothing stayed in the stomach. So far my energy level is about 20 percent.

Thank you for your prayer and support.

I love you, Mom (Miriam)

======

January 23, 2009

Dear Family and friends,

I want to thank Jolyn for coordinating all the rides to and fro the doctor’s office and scheduling for people to bring us meals.  It reduced a lot of anxiety on Lynton because he traded his internship days, so that he could take me to the doctor’s office 3 times every cycle – those are early appointments and have to leave at 6:30am.

Also thank you for all cards with the encouraging words.  I feel like I’m resting peacefully on a soft but strong bed of prayer support, with no struggle, no reasoning, no anxiety, no anticipation, no worry, no “plan’” except hope; great hope to get well.  I have no questions for God, except a grateful heart.

Thank you for being in my life. Your prayers will carry me through to the end. The doctor wanted me to eat as much as possible to get fattened up for the next treatment.  The medication zapped out almost everything of my life.  My white blood count was so low that I had to put some gel in my nostrils twice a day; so that I wouldn’t catch any germs, because my body had no ability to fight off any bacteria.

I love you all, Mom (Miriam)

Gratitude Moments #2

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……

« Older Entries