August, 2012

Hospital’s Efforts for Serving Patients

“Would you like to have some tea?”

A young girl wearing a blue jacket came to my chemo ward with a cart of tea and crackers.

She said she had various kinds of juice, tea, crackers, as well as water.

It reminded me of a food cart in a bullet train in Japan. (In a long distance train in Japan, a food cart comes to your seat instead of you going to a food car.)

Receiving some cinnamon apple tea, I thought this was a nice caring service.

She is a student who wanted to be a nurse, and does volunteering once a week in the oncology department.

If you go to the surgery waiting room, there is also a free coffee service, and in an in-patient building, there is a live piano concert by volunteers, regularly.  They are so good that the beautiful piano sounds invite patients from here and there.

Hallways are decorated with nice pictures and photos like a gallery, and through big windows the warm sun beams come in with peaceful green outdoor views.

Comfort dogs’  pictures

A gift shop selling plants wrapped with pretty ribbons, accessories, stuffed animals, ceramics, stationary goods, purses, and even jackets is also tasteful to draw attention.

Before my father passed, I visited him as an in-patient in a hospital in Japan. His room window, facing north, had an old yellowing curtain; the wall was dingy and empty; on the ceiling was a bare light bulb; and the only entertainment was a small pay TV. From the hallway there smelled a strong disinfectant odor.

I felt sorry for my father who had to stay all alone for weeks in such a gloomy place.  Later I heard this hospital was renovated, so hopefully it is now bright and cozy like an American hospital.

On every Wednesday in front of the hospital I go for the infusion, a farmer’s market is held.  Among fresh vegetables, fruits, pastries, cheese, and flowers, there is a live music performance as well.  Some people have a hard time to find parking spots probably because it invites not only patients but also the neighbors, but I like this vivid atmosphere and shopping there after the infusion is my routine.

Because treatments of  illness or injuries at a hospital is far from fun,  I appreciate hospitals making a great effort to provide a pleasant, comfortable environment like a hotel.

If I can ask one more thing, I would like them to upgrade the meals.  If that happens, I would never mind to be admitted.  Currently three hospitals in Torrance have been expanding their facilities.  I hope they will hire good chefs and make good restaurants! 🙂


Gifts I Cannot Repay

The women’s fellowship at the church gave me a house cleaning service.

They sent me a cleaning lady for a half-year last year, but when they found out that I would be continually on chemo, they generously sent me the same gift this year again.

Although I am on chemo, I don’t have little children, and don’t work any more.  I can still clean the house, but it is always so nice to receive the service.

Last week a team of mother and daughter came over to my house and made my house immaculate.

I have received such kindness from the church since the day George announced my cancer in 2010: Rejoicing or worrying together with me, the congregation has continually supported me.

I have received two big bags of get-well cards, companionships of walking, lunch, or tea, and even deliveries of meals!

My mother in Japan worried how I could thank people for all those kindnesses, but  the Bible calls these undeserved , un-repayable gifts God’s grace, and I have been receiving this grace since the very beginning of my battle against cancer.

Honestly, it is not always easy to publicize how I am doing; it is also difficult to receive the offers of help.  I have to humble myself to receive, which is difficult as well as to give.

As my mother concerns, if I start thinking that I am obligated to return those favors, I would not able to take them because it is just impossible.

In the Bible as Jesus was going to wash the disciples’ dirty feet, for Peter this act looked too good for him and he was afraid of taking it.  Yet Jesus answered, “ But if I don’t wash you, you won’t belong to me.”

If I were too proud  or too afraid of and had declined the gifts of the kindnesses, I would neither have developed the sense of belonging to the family of the church nor had the intimacy with God.

Several years ago, in Japan there was a family, who raised a million dollars worth of funds in just one night through a T.V. show, in order to come to the U.S. for  a heart transplant.  They came to L.A. with the T.V. crew, who made a deal with the family to make an exclusive documentary about their organ transplant.  After the long intense night of the organ transplant surgery, the crew asked the parents for a long interview.  The parents, who stayed up all night and were exhausted, asked if the mother could be excused from the interview, instead of two parents together.  They were told, “ Who you are asking such thing?  You’d better not to forget what you have received from us,” and they could not decline this demand.

I have thought if kindness had a hook, you might be caught for ever.

Yet, the Bible says we have to freely help each other because God first helped us by sacrificing His only son.

Jesus washed his disciples’ dirty feet because he wanted to set a good example for us.

Being thankful as a blessed receiver, I ask God to help me grow so that I can wash someone’s dirty feet just like Jesus’ disciples and give generously like the sisters and brothers in the Neighborhood Church who have reached out to me.



It’s Time for CT Scan Again

Since my last CT scan came back with a good result, in spite of endless side effects, which send me to a couch to lie down often, I have been enjoying this summer.

Now it’s time to have a CT again.

Is my cancer gone? I wonder.

I have learned Taxol usually works well for 2-6 months, and  as I’ve been on Taxol  for 4 months, it’s still possible to have another good result.

Three weeks ago, when I talked with my oncologist, who came back from her maternity leave, she recommended I stay on the current cocktail for another two months if this coming CT result is good, and then change to Perjeta(Pertuzumab), a new drug approved by the FDA in June.

Though Perjeta is in the shadow of T-DM1, this antibody drug also has showed outstanding results in the clinical trials.  As it was approved with the condition that this is only for the patients who have not started any metastatic treatments and only with Herceptin and Taxotere, I thought I was not able to reach this drug, but surprisingly the doctor talked about this medicine as my next choice as if there were no barrier.

We didn’t discuss about the case of the bad result, but regardless of the result, I am thinking of changing from Tykerb to Perjeta soon if it’s really possible to use it, since my side effects are getting nastier and increasing.

Nobody except God knows if Perjeta will be effective on my cancer or will ease my side effects, and if the CT’s result is bad, I will go into another big storm.

Yet, my life is in God’s hand!  Believing so, I will go to take the CT scan tomorrow.

Cancer Is Stable

The email I was longing for came from the oncologist with the result of the CT scan I had last week. It said briefly “ stable,” and suggested that we would discuss details at the next office visit, which is this Friday.

Honestly, I was disappointed, as I had hoped for more shrinkage.  Yet, it could have been worse with growing cancer.  I have to be thankful for this result.

As I read other cancer blogs, there are some people who stay on the same cocktails for many months being stable with cancer, which doesn’t go away.  Yet I feel like the cocktail I had lost effect compared with two months ago, and even if I continue to stay on the same, I don’t think that the effectiveness will come back.  It may be the time to change the cocktail, which I was thinking of anyway because of advanced side effects.

I have read that weekly Abraxane, the new form of Taxol bound with albumin, has less side effects and more effect on cancer in some articles as well as some blogs in which the patients said that their metastatic cancer was gone by Abraxane only.

If Perjeta (Pertuzamab) is really available for me, I probably need it now.

In order to prepare for the meeting with the oncologist this Friday, I requested the copy of the CT scan report.   It is the time for a second opinion, also.

My life is God’s hand.  May He lead me to the right next step!

No Evidence of Disease!

Opening the door of an exam room, Dr. Lou, the oncologist, came in saying,” So it was stable. It was good news,” with a smile.

“ Yeah, I am glad that cancer was not growing, but I expected more shrinkage.” I replied.

“Well, all cancer found around the mediastinal area are gone.  So it is really good news,” said the doctor.

“ Are they gone?” Being surprised, I looked at the report in a computer together with her.

She read aloud the first line of the report:“ No significant mediastinal and hilar adenopathy (=cancer).”  I had thought that  “the no significant” was the change of cancer. I had misunderstood it! I blamed the report that should have been written with the words, something more clearly understood like “ improved” or “ not seen”, but certainly I felt better as I noticed the mistake. Pulling out the old reports in 2010 before the metastasis, the doctor also explained that other nodules described on the report could be benign as they have been seen from the beginning, and haven’t changed their sizes.

“ At least the visible cancer is gone and you have no evidence of disease now,” said the doctor.

Yay! Taxol was still doing its job, instead of losing the effect!

 New Drug Perjeta

I can’t expect any better than this news, but I have to continue the treatment because there must be still lots of invisible cancerous cells which have the stem cells that cause metastasis and relapse. I have to stay on this status of NO Evidence of Disease as long as possible.

At the beginning the doctor recommended that I should stay on the current cocktail at least for two more months, but I asked for the possibility of the new drug, Perjeta, which was approved by FDA in June this year for only newly diagnosed metastatic patients with the combination of Herceptin & Taxotere.

First she made clear that this condition would not be a problem for me because my insurance was provided from the same Kaiser system as the hospital, instead of the outside ones, as long as doctors can prove the usage is reasonable, safe, and effective.  If cocktails are supported by clinical trials for their safeties and effectiveness, they are allowed to be used.  As Perjeta is a new drug, the compatibility with other drugs is mostly unknown, but fortunately Taxol is one of a few drugs the clinical trial has shown the data.

“ It is the question of whether you want to use this card, Perjeta, now or later,” said the doctor.

I understand that all drugs are effective only for a limited time and eventually lose the power.  If I use it now, I will not be able to use it in the future.  Yet, I explained that I’d rather use it now and beat cancer as much as possible before it comes back, by switching it with Tykerb that failed to prevent the metastasis.

“You are aggressive, but I understand what you mean.   Let’s check if the pharmacy has the drug or not, and if they have it now, let’s start it today,” saying so, the doctor left the room.

I appreciated her spending time, already more than an hour with me, showing great understanding.

After all, as the pharmacy didn’t have the medicine, the doctor decided to start giving me this new medicine, Perjeta in three weeks. Meanwhile I will clear Tykerb out from my body stopping it tonight. I will be finally relieved from diarrhea!

“Trusting that He will make all things right

If I surrender to His will.”—from Serenity Prayer by Rheinhold Niehuhr.

The Lord moved a big mountain and made a path for me. God is good all the time!