May, 2010

RAMLA

The lump, which does not seem to be going away, and that tenderness has concerned me all week like  dark clouds, but trying not to think, I participated in RAMLA (Remote Area Medical L.A.) with a GOW volunteer, who was a nurse in Japan.

It was encouraging to see how great this magnitude of volunteer organization, RAM was.

First Visit To Breast Center

“This might be a cyst,” said a nurse practitioner.  Taking out a syringe from a drawer, she was going to puncture my breast to see if any liquid would be sucked out from the lump or not.  As I’ve never had a shot in my breast, it made me nervous, but I trusted the word “numb” of the  local anesthesia the practitioner said.

A needle punctured, but nothing came out.

“You can dress now.  I will order a mammogram and ultrasound in the next week.  Don’t worry, we are with you,” said she and left the room.

Covering my tender breast, I left the exam room .  I took the day off today.  Not feeling like going home directly, I decided to go to a shopping mall.

Since no fluid came out from the lump, it is not a cyst.

If it is not a cyst, is it possibly cancer?

While wandering at the mall, questions popped out one after another.

Then the cellphone  rang.  It was from George.

“The hospital moved up your appointment for Mammogram and Ultrasound to tomorrow.  You need to call to confirm.”

The moved-up exam made me think  that this was urgent and created more anxiety.

At a Japanese supermarket, I ran into Karen, who was a long-term friend.

“How are you?”  We exchanged greetings as usual.

“I found a lump.  I am on the way home from the hospital.”

“Really?  If you hear the result, please let me know,”  said she.

“Yes.  If it is cancer, I need lots of prayers!”  Replying with a smile, I left.

At home George was waiting for me anxiously.

“It was not a cyst.  The exam hurt,” I said.

He, who didn’t say much, was probably thinking of the same thing as me.

More Exams

Regret

I have been avoiding mammogram for many years because it is painful and there was nobody who had breast cancer in my family. The last time I had Mammogram was in 2008 when I had experienced the dull pain in my breast at night.  The result was negative.  In 2009 when I changed my insurance to Kaiser, the hospital had called numerous times pursuing me an exam of mammogram, but I always declined saying I had it in 2008. ( If I had listened to it, maybe I could’ve found cancer in an early stage.)

Women Power At Hospitals?

Walking into the exam room, I noticed I haven’t seen any male staff so far.“Men don’t mind to have female staff, but women do to have male staff.” A female technician answered my question.    In the near future, women might be the ones who lead the medical field.  I think about women power and the dark age for men.

White Oval Shadow

Lying on an exam bed, I stared at the white oval shadow of my mammography. The technician asked me to sign on a consent form for a biopsy just in case that a doctor may order.  The word “may” instead of “will” prevented fear like hiding it with a vale, but once a doctor came in, he said that  he would do a biopsy.

“You will just feel pinched. “ “You will hear sounds like this when I cut the sample of tissue,” said he making some clanging noise by the tool.  I trusted the word “numb” again.   Looking at the monitor of ultrasound, the doctor inserted the needle of the tool into the lump.  I was also staring at the monitor.

Clang. Clang. .

Each time as I heard the sound I felt dull vibration.  “How long has it been since you noticed the lump?” asked the doctor.  “Two weeks,” answering the question, I wondered maybe I should’ve noticed it earlier.

Being told that the result would come back in 3-5 days, I left the hospital with an ice pack on my breast.  Because It hurt and I could not get rid of the white oval shadow from behind of my eyes, I didn’t feel like going anywhere today.

Two Days After Biopsy

The pain has spread from the left breast to the left arm pit, right shoulder, back, and even to the right breast, instead of disappearing, and has made my heart feel heavy.

Though this Sunday is my turn to teach at Sunday School and need to prepare for it, I don’t feel like doing anything.  I am glad that I started working on it last week.  Only the conversations with Dr. Dodo through e-mails about this summer are uplifting.

“You Have Cancer”

Dimming Hope

As it is Friday, I might hear the result today.—-I wished for the good result, but I was losing the hope.

Probably this is really cancer.  If so, what will happen to the Japan trip, Grain of Wheat, job, and George?

I may not be able to see my elderly parents in Japan anymore.   Will I lose my breast and hair? ——-

The faces of transplant patients, who passed away, emerged into my mind.

On the way home from work I received  a phone call from George.  The hospital wanted me to call back by 5:00 pm, he said.  It was 4:30.

it must be about the result, I thought.

I rushed  to home and called the hospital without hesitation.   I gave my name, ID number, and told that  I had a biopsy this Wednesday.

After a short second of silence, the lady over the phone said, “I’m sorry, but you have cancer.”

My husband was looking at me anxiously.  Continuing the conversation over the phone, I gave him a sign shaking  my head.  The lady gave me the name of cancer; Invasive Breast Carcinoma, a date of next appointment, and the reminder that I should come with someone for emotional support.

Discouragement

I sat on the couch with George silently.  If I look at his eyes, I wanted to cry.  My mind stopped thinking of anything , or didn’t want to think anything, but I should do something. So I decided to walk our dog, Pepper.

I neither had appetite nor wanted to cook.  I put  out leftover meals on the table, but nothing tasted good. George didn’t want to eat, either.

“I can’t stand to let you suffer,” said he crying.  I cried being sorry to  make him cry.

We’ll Fight Together!

“We’re going to have a challenge, but the best thing is we have God. We will fight together.  We will face a day at a time and make the most.” We promised each other.

We decided to let our close friends know about the cancer, asking for prayers that I can keep faith in Jesus and He will give me the strength all the way to the end.

At night the whole body ached and even breathing was difficult.  It was like a torture and could not sleep at all.

Even If It Is Snake Oil

While Volunteering

On the way to serve for  a quadriplegic international student, Taka, with Yuko, a GOW volunteer, I told her about my cancer, asking for covering my coordinating job.  She has been volunteering since the beginning of this year, and participating every week. She should be the right person to be the coordinator.

At Taka’s apartment we made rice balls and while Yuko went to grocery shopping I was asked to do laundry.  In the laundry room, I felt light headed.

Perhaps because I didn’t sleep and didn’t eat, but maybe because of cancer.

Getting weary I prayed for the strength.

Fucoidan

I didn’t have appetite still and body ached.  I wanted to sleep, but I couldn’t.  With Tylenol, I finally  fell asleep.  I didn’t know how long I slept, but I woke up by a phone call from Noriko.  Noriko is the first volunteer in 1997 for international organ transplant support ministry.  She slept alongside the first organ transplant family in their apartment to support them.  She just came back from her wedding in Japan.  At the end of conversation, I shared about the cancer asking for prayers for me.  Then she asked me if I knew Fucoidan. She told me that her friend who has had advanced ovarian cancer, has been doing well with Fucoidan, an antioxidant supplement made from seaweed in Okinawa. She cotined saying that she was going to ask the friend if the friend could give me one bottle of Fucoidan.  Listening about Fucoidan from Noriko, I was fortified.  I googled Fucoidan.  the sites about Fucoidan sounded right and persuasive.

Noriko called back saying her friend was offering me a battle of Fucoidan tonight if it’s ok with me to meet her after 9pm.  I took this offer.  As I met her, I was surprised with her glowing face that didn’t look like a cancer patient at all, with healthy pink cheeks.  She told me that she has been doing well even though she was still on chemo and maybe that was because of Fucoidan.

I appreciated her meeting me though it was sudden request late at night.

Fucoidan may be just a snake oil, but right now I want to try everything.

Mother’s Day

At Church

More students than I expected came to Sunday School. Today’s lesson was about Lydia, who became the first Christian in Europe being baptized by Paul.  She was a successful businesswoman selling precious purple clothes in those days.  Natsu, an 8-year-old Japanese patient who came to UCLA Medical Center for a heart transplant last year, donated lots of Origamis to Sunday School at his departure for Japan.  We used those Origamis for this lesson.

Jesus came to this world to suffer and die.  Because he went through all kinds of afflictions, he understands our sufferings.  “Jesus who knows our pains is always with us.”—The message to students also spoke to my heart.

After the Sunday School, I went to the worship service.  Behind of my pew, there were Michael,  an assistant minister, and Barbara, Senior pastor’s wife.  Both of them gave me a big hug.  They already knew about my cancer through George. I was so moved by their care that tears flew.

At Home

Afternoon, my sons, Roy, Soh, and his wife Pinky came over to celebrate Mother’s Day bringing lots of cheer and big smiles as usual.  at the table for lunch, they shared thanks for me.  I, who became sensitive recently, was overwhelmed by each of their appreciations and could not hold tears.  George tried to read Proverbs 12 for me, but he became, too,  emotional.  Lots of food, smiles, laughter—-Being surrounded by loving family, I felt so much loved and blessed.

2nd Visit To Breast Center

A 16 year experienced Nurse Practitioner explained the diagnosis of my cancer, treatment options, and coming appointments. 
The size of the tumor in the breast is 2.5 x1.3 x 1.3 cm.
Grade 2 out of 3, which is most aggressive.
There is another tumor, 1.7 x1 cm, is in the left lymph nodes, but a pathologist did not get a clear reading.

According to NP, my cancer is probably between stage 2b and 3a.  Possibly the surgery will be on 5/21.

As I asked questions about pain on the right side breast and under the right arm pit after the biopsy and possibility of metastasis, she declined my doubts saying the possibility of double breast cancer is very rare and breast cancer moves slowly, though she ordered another ultrasound of my right breast and biopsy of my left lymph nodes.  This meeting relieved George, but I am still concerned about metastasis.

Informing To the Worksite

I informed about my cancer to the principle  at my worksite.

I was transferred from a Middle School to Carr Elementary as a Special Ed. paraeducator  about three weeks ago and then soon after I found cancer.

Since then I’ve been missing work often and I will miss more.

Though I was new for the school, he understood my circumstance so well with compassion and told me that taking care of health needs to come first. Also he said some of staff have been going through the same experiences.

I am relieved and thankful for my new boss.

2nd Opinion

An oncologist at Torrance Memorial, we were referred from our friend Mike, immediately accepted our sudden phone call for an appointment and spent almost 1 hour with me.  As I asked if I could start my treatment from chemo followed by a surgery, he suggested that I should ask the pros and cons from Kaiser though he emphasized starting surgery and then chemo was pretty standard in the U.S.  He also denied the possibility of metastasis saying cancer moves slowly.

Sisters in Christ

Yesterday my dear British friend Susan came over to encourage me, and tonight Bill and Maggie invited George and I for dinner.  Maggie, who is a private school teacher has been praying with her students for me every day, welcomed us cooking Asian food to make me feel at home.  Dina and Cathy who had a Bible study at school together now have been praying and  sending scriptures through e-mail for me.  I am blessed so much!

First Sunday After The Diagnosis

Ma (Mother-in-law) came to sit with me for a Sunday worship service all the way from Temecula driving two hours.

Roy and Soh also showed up at church and surprised me.

Thank you to my family for supporting me!

Ma left without having lunch since she had to visit one more person by the evening telling me, “I LOVE YOU!”

Truly I have received much more love since I was diagnosed with cancer. With George, I now do everything together: playing chess, reading a book, taking a dance class, walking our dog, going to shop, visiting doctors, and more.

I realize again that I am loved and blessed. I am grateful!

First Meeting With a Surgeon

My cancer is just at the borderline between lumpectomy, which has 7% of chance of coming back, and mastectomy, which has 1% of chance of coming back–said a surgeon.  Because of my concern of the tumor in the left lymph nodes and I have a preference of neochemo, she said she would refer me to an oncologist finally! According to her, we have a 6 week window.

Lymph Nodes Biopsy

A doctor inserted a needle to my armpit for a biopsy looking at an image of the ultrasound.  Then He ordered mammogram again to confirm that the sample tissue he just cut out was the right one which had been caught in the first Mammogram.  Thankfully the sample was taken from the right spot. Otherwise,  it would have meant I had more tumors developed.

If the biopsy result is positive, the doctor will order CT and Bone scans because I have a high chance of metastasis.  Though I am concerned the bad result of the biopsy,  around this point , the doctors would say that cancer grows slowly and it takes a while to spread, and I cannot get quick appointments like before.   It is very frustrating.

I called Noriko again asking to have lunch together to get some cheer.  While chatting with Noriko and her husband,  three hours flew like an arrow.

Appreciations and Concerns

I‘ve been teaching Piano at ABE Music for 15 years.  The owner, Mrs. Abe, gave me Fucoidan wishing my full recovery.  It was a surprise and made me so grateful.

At night, Ryo & Soh came over for dinner.  With them there is always laughter and cheer.  As they were ready to go home, we laid up our hands together and cheered, “We’re going to beat cancer!” George and I were deeply thankful that the two boys have become good grown-ups.

After they left, I Skyped my mother in Japan.  while my 87-year old father was in a hospital because of a gallstone, she was down, but as now he is getting better, she also seems feeling better.  I haven’t told my mother about cancer yet.  Listening to her, I thought giving another bad news about my cancer was too much for my aging parents, but  how should I say about the cancelation of this summer’s trip to Japan?  I know they are looking forward to it.  It made me depressed and sad.

In the bed, I had a hard time to sleep because the pain in my left knee and scapulas; the cough seemed getting deep.  I hope they don’t have anything to do with cancer.

Another Good Day

I went to a Farmer’s Market with George in the morning, and then went to the wedding of Michelle and Johnny。 The young couple, who made  a vow to love each other,  was so beautiful. I wish them to live happily for ever.  Another good day.

Walking on Water

George spoke about out challenge of cancer at Sun. worship service as “Walking on Water” reading from Mathew 14:22-33.  It would be scary if you look at the storm, but instead, focus on and believe in Jesus, who is faithful to us, and even if we sink, he will save us if we call for his help.

After the sermon, so many people came up to me saying, “I had breast cancer, too.”  “My daughter has breast cancer, but she is survived.“ And “We will think about you and pray for you.”

Peggy is a cancer survivor, who was told she had 6 months to live because of melanoma – 25 years ago.  She asked me what I wanted to do when I beat cancer.  I said, “if…” then she corrected me saying, “NO. Not ‘if’, but ‘when’…”  When I beat cancer, I want to go to Japan to see my family first, and then have a big party inviting all people who support me to celebrate God’s faithfulness!

with Peggy

 

Anxious to Meet Oncologist

George received a phone call regarding the appt with the oncologist, which would be 6/4.  “Isn’t it late?” he asked, but was told that the surgeon said it would be still acceptable.  If I have to wait for meeting the oncologist until 6/4, then the treatment or surgery will be further away from then.  I may have metastasis though, is it really OK to wait so long?  I am worried.  Knowing my worry, Dina keeps sending me e-mails: DO NOT FEAR! TRUST THE LORD, WHO LOVES YOU SO MUCH! I AM PRAYING FOR YOU EVERY DAY!

Frustration of Making Appointments

As no phone call has come for CT and Bone scans, I call the hospital, and then was told I need to make an appt. by myself.
For biopsies the hospital made appts for me. I wish I had known I needed to make appts by myself so that I wouldn’t have wasted two days.  More surprisingly, I was told I needed to make an appt. for blood test a week prior to CT scan.  CT will be hard on kidneys so I have to check if my kidneys are healthy enough but it will take a week to get back a result.

What?!  That means my appointment for a  CT will be in two weeks.  After I hung up, I called back to ask further questions, and then I was told I need to go to Panorama City for the bone scan, that probably takes 90 mins from our house.  Now I was totally confused, but I called the number I received following the instruction.

The operator explains the reason why I need to go to Panorama Kaiser; because of nationwide shortage of nuclear medicine, the dye, the local Kaiser has canceled bone scans already for three weeks and doesn’t know when to reopen.  The good news is now I am told hat I need to wait for a blood test result only for three days instead of one week.  I called Panorama Kaiser to make an appointment, and left a message, but no call back today.

Soon after the frustration, I got a delivery from Amazon, which I had no idea.  Inside the box I found a Snoopy! It was from Peggy, who knows I like him.  How sweet she is!   I haven’t done anything for her though.  This is another grace and eased my frustration.