Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Round 1

Unfortunately, I come back with yet another post. I had hoped that the last post would be the last post ever regarding cancer, but as we all know, remission in cancer is a tenuous reality.

You have all been so vocal in your caring, your warmth and your love for Shirley, that it seemed necessary to me, to update this blog regarding my mom's health. She started experiencing some pain beginning of November. The doctors, in response to this pain, decided that chemotherapy was the best course of action to take. So, Shirley began her first round of chemo a couple of days before Thanksgiving (November 26). She finished it that same week. It has left her pretty weak.

But to know Shirley is to know a warrior, a fighter with a heart larger than the universe. She continues to fight and is on her road to recovery from her first round of chemo. She is scheduled to start another round of chemo a few days before christmas.

Thankfully, we find that we are surrounded by friends, family and a lot of love and support in our special city by the bay.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Life Energy Found!

Here is what I hope may be the last post ever! And first off, thank you all so much for all your thoughts, support, and sympathy.

Seven months ago now, my mother, Shirley Lee was diagnosed with metastatic cancer. We have received amazing news. A little more than a month ago, my mother was pronounced in remission!

Here is a letter she has written on her battle with cancer. I hope it provides you with as much inspiration it did me:

I was informed seven months ago of my diagnosis with Stage IV terminal cancer and started shaping my plans to leave my beloved school in order to initiate treatment. Since then, the expressions of compassion, encouragement and support have been overwhelming.

Well, I now have some very wonderful news to share with you. My last two pet-CT scan results, how doctors screen for cancerous cells in our body, were very very good. The doctor pronounced me “in remission.” For a cancer patient, this is as good as it gets.

While this news is amazing and wonderful, cancer is an insidious disease and can sometimes come back. Therefore, I must remain vigilant and focus on sustaining these positive results.

The journey from the time I was first diagnosed with metastatic cancer, with estimated three month to live, to a state of “remission” has been about seven long months. Like anybody else, when I was first diagnosed, I was in shock and completely devastated. How could this be? I’m so healthy and fit. Plus, this timing could be any worse! After all, the beginning of the school year is the busiest time ever.

Therefore, with the eagerness to get well, I accepted the treatment my oncologist arranged for me without asking too many questions and fully anticipated returning to work immediately after. After two rounds of chemo treatments, however, I lost my strength. I felt frail and totally defeated. All the doctors could say was that the chemo treatment would reduce the severity of cancer and prolong my life. I realized at that point that there was no cure.

Afterwards, it was difficult to maintain a semblance of hopefulness. I was suspended in limbo, and at a complete loss at how to plan my future. Was I supposed to plan for a life of six months, a year, five years, 10 years? Suddenly, I saw an end to what I was convinced would be ever-lasting. Neither school nor my vast experience in life ever taught me how to plan a future filled with so many unknown variables. How was I supposed to move forward? The array of emotions sank in, depression, uncertainty, fear, hopeless and anxiety……

Looking back now, what pulled me out of this dark hole and helped me gather the courage to maintain a positive outlook was my inner strength and passion for life. As a child growing up in Taiwan, I was immersed in the teaching, learning and practice of “Eight Virtues + One” at home and in school. The “Eight Virtues + One” has served as my guiding light through my many trials and tribulations in life, and this was to be no exception.

“yi-義” helped me to find the confidence and the guts to face the fight against cancer. “xiao-孝” and “li-禮” allowed me the courage to deliberate on and choose an unconventional treatment. “ren-仁” and “ai-愛” taught me how to gladly and freely accept everybody’s thoughtful encouragement and assistance. “zhong-忠” supported me in staying focused on and disciplined with my treatment choice. “he-和” and “ping-平” helped me to find my inner strength to create a healthy mindset, which was essential for healing.

Every day over the past seven months, I have devoted a full day’s work to practicing qigong, learning more about the philosophy, training my mind to concentrate on healing imagery, and focusing my energy to activate my self-healing system. With the passion to live a productive life and the determination and discipline to succeed, I have seen the fruits of my labor and the reward of being able to live is just priceless.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

East and West

We are finally at the end of the year, and Shirley is feeling well!
She has been, for the last month doing intensive qigong, at least 4-5 hours a day and then working at the same time.
And the results of a recent doctor's appointment were better than expected. One of the tumor's has shrunk in size, which is great!
But this month, I think, more than anything has really been instrumental in learning about how east and west view cancer and how to treat cancer. Western medicine seems to be more combative in treating cancer, as the goal is to kill the cancer cells. The difficulty lies in the fact that while killing cancer cells, we inevitably kill healthy cells as well, and the patient feels like crap, at least for a while, i.e. during and after treatment.
The east, on the other hand, through it's different modalities, all seek to live fairly peaceably with the cancer. The goal is to coax the cancer away, but to treat it as a part of your body and to try to communicate with it. It all sounds a bit far-fetched, doesn't it? But TCM has been around for a while, and well, you never really know what will work.
In any case, whatever treatment anybody uses, belief and confidence in the treatment is key (hence the placebo effect).
Shirley has used a mix of both western and eastern medicine, and difficult to differentiate out the results with the treatment, but something is working, at least a little! So, we continue to be optimistic and believe that whatever treatment she uses will work and will continue to work!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Time keeps marching on!

Shirley took myself (her daughter) and her two granddaughters to Taiwan this past weekend. And she took care of us while we were there with her, no small feat for somebody who just finished 2 rounds of chemo!

These were taken a week before we left for Taiwan, when we went to her house to relax and play.

We went to see our oncologist before we left for Taiwan. We have decided not to go through with the 3rd round of chemo. The treatment is just too harsh on the body. I find it demoralizing, so I can only imagine how my mom feels. In any case, the doctor has provided us with other options, such as doing oral chemotherapy. So we are looking into it, but I think my mom has found an alternative treatment that really suits her.

I think she is really going to pursue qigong, and she is pursuing it with a vengeance! She does qigong about 6-7 hours a day. But for those that know my mom, she has a very strong mind, and I believe this suits her because this is an exercise of the mind. I will hopefully start on my journey through qigong as well. I want to learn more about this and do it myself to understand more intimately what my mom is experiencing!

Taiwan was great to spend time with the family and eat LOTS of yummy yummy food. We all had a wonderful time and it was relaxing.

Friday, October 17, 2008

First Day at School!

The week following the chemotherapy treatment was pretty tough. It seems that she experienced side effects typical of 5FU usage, but it was still pretty tough. It was difficult to eat and sleep, but 10 days later, she is almost back to her old self!

And to mark the occasion, she made her way back to school on Wednesday for the first time. And her first official day back at work was on Friday, just in time for the annual school staff/faculty photo.

Here is one taken at home!

Here is one with Celeste, her youngest granddaughter.

Today also marks the first day in a week long intensive course in Qigong.

Qi means air, breath of life, or vital energy that flows through all things in the universe.

Gong means the skill of working with, or cultivating, self-discipline and achievement.

Qigong means the skill of cultivating vital energy. It is a modality of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), using the mind rather than needles, herbs or massage to direct qi.

Her next chemo session is scheduled to begin the 3rd of November. We have decided to delay the 3rd session of chemo to try out qigong and an appt with a TCM doctor.

We will also try and schedule into there a visit to Taiwan to visit with my grandmother (Shirley's mom) and the rest of the family!

My mom won't say it, but she loves and appreciates the comments on the blog! So, students of ISF and even former students of CAIS, please don't hesitate to write comments on the blog if you want to as well! We welcome all positive thoughts!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Chemotherapy: Round 2

Shirley made her way back to Hong Kong on the 30th of September.

She started her second round of chemo on the 3rd of October. She finished just yesterday, the 8th of October. I came back from San Francisco with the two girls on Tuesday. We made it to Hong Kong just in time to pick up my mom from the hospital and take her home. We spent the evening with her.

She is in good spirits, although physically, this round has been rather tough.

Everybody from the ISF Community has been so supportive and helpful. We appreciate this enormously, and know that we would not be surviving as well as we are without your help and support. I thank you for being there when I cannot.

San Francisco

Shirley decided that it was time to pay a visit to her home of more than 30 years. The city where both her children were born and reared, where she made her life when she ventured out of Taiwan at the ripe young age of 23.

I took this picture while we were in San Francisco. I thought it particularly suitable for this blog. This is Eden, Shirley's eldest grandchild.

We went to the UCSF Cancer Center to obtain a second opinion. We were accompanied by an old family friend, Alice Carnes. She helped us through the visit with humor and a new set of ears, and for this we are very grateful. The doctors at UCSF told us that we were receiving excellent care at the hands of the doctors in Hong Kong. Shirley is receiving top of the line care, and it was nice to get a second opinion confirming this.

Shirley was able to see friends, friends and more friends. This made the visit worth every moment of that harrowing 12 hour flight! I know that my mom misses you all, as we all do!