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!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Chemotherapy: Round 1

Shirley was diagnosed with metastic cancer on August 27, 2008. She told me about it on Friday, the 29th of August. That same evening she was admitted to the hospital to verify that the tumors found in her liver were indeed malignant. They confirmed that the very next day.

On Wednesday, September 6, she started her first round of chemotherapy. She was scheduled to be discharged on Monday, September 11. She left a week later than anticipated due to an unexplained fever. The doctors never found the source of the infection, but at least they were successful in choosing the right antibiotic to fight the infection. She was much better and out of the hospital on the 18th of Sept.

She was extremely happy to be home. She chose that week to announce news of her illness to the ISF Community.


Some background information:

Shirley Lee is currently the principal of the ISF Academy in Hong Kong. She has been in this position for the last 3 years and is currently in her 4th year in this position.

Prior to this, she is probably the most well known for being the founding director of the Chinese American International School in San Francisco, a bilingual and multicultural experiment that has become a model for schools around the world.

This blog has been created because Shirley Lee was diagnosed with metastatic cancer on August 27, 2008. And there has been so much concern and love from colleagues, students and friends that it seems only fitting to have a website that keeps everybody up to date on my mom's progress in her treatments and the evolution of my mom's health status.

Who I am:

My name is Lily Panyacosit Alisse, and I am Shirley's daughter. I live in Hong Kong as well (funny how life works that way, given that it was a lot of luck for us to land in the same city as my mom) and take care of my two daughters (i.e. Shirley's 2 granddaughters!) at home.

Shirley also has one son, Tawal Panyacosit, who is currently Director for API Equality (don't forget to vote NO on Prop 8!) in San Francisco.