March, 2015

Power of White Cells

The biopsy of the mandible where the dentist collected the specimen came back with no evidence of cancer.

I was confident 99%, but I am so thankful that I could rule out cancer, which the oral surgeon told me was a possibility.

The newest high tech, the white cell clot is also working so effectively that a picture of an x-ray taken at the dentist office last Friday, a week after the removal of the implant, showed already the new construction happening at the big hole on the mandible.

Seven years ago when the same dentist did the implant, he used pig’s stem cells to grow wider the mandible, which was too narrow for the implant. Back then I was very impressed and thankful for the technique he used, but the new therapy of the white cell clot, which was made from my own blood, looks much more powerful and effective.

Our immune system God designed is just amazing. What our white cells can do is utterly incredible. Looking at the x-ray, I was so fascinated that I asked the dentist if the same technique was used for the immunotherapy, which would be able to kill cancer cells.
“ The idea is the same, but I don’t know,” said he.
If the white cell can do such a powerful work, cancer vaccine, which enforces the immune system where the white cells take a major role, seems very promising.

I wonder how far the study of cancer vaccine has progressed, and felt very hopeful that someday soon I will find a news caption, “ Revolutional Success of Cancer Vaccine” or something like that!

I felt good and was thankful for God’s guidance of this dentist.

Finally Found Comfy Shoes for Hand-Foot Syndrome

Just less than two weeks after I started Xeloda, I’ve already experienced a side effect, blisters on my sole.  It was mere blisters, but on my sole it hurt so much that I barely walked.

After holding-off therapy for two weeks due to the oral surgery, I resumed it as the 2nd cycle last week.  Wishing to avoid the blisters this time, I was hunting for comfy shoes for days, and finally I found them.

1)   The shoes have to be flat or low heel.

2)   They have good cushions under the feet.

3)   The front is open so the toes won’t touch the shoes.

4)   I can wear them even with socks or dressing.

5)   I can wear them for nice occasions, too.

Those were the conditions of the shoes and here are the shoes I found.

They were made by Cobb Hill ($100).  All the bands have velcro so I can adjust the size as I wear socks or have dressing on the feet.  They are light, comfortable, steady, and look feminine.  Now I should be able to walk without worrying about blisters and I love them!

What Chemo Did to Teeth

I went back to the dentist for a root canal this time.
Shooting the anesthesia, the treatment began, but shortly after the dentist asked me,

“How long will you have chemo?”

I answered, “ No end. My cancer is metastatic, so I have to continue for the rest of my life.”

Then he and his wife as his assistant, who were looking at inside of my mouth together, conversed in Chinese. (Yes. The dentist is Chinese-American.)

As he continued his work a little more, his wife turned off the light upon me, and the treatment, which was supposed to be for two hours, was done in less than an hour.

“Instead of a root canal, he put in a filling. He will explain the reason,” said the wife.

Sitting at front of my x-ray images, he started:

“ The reason why I asked about chemo was, if you continue on chemo, your immune system becomes weak, and it will have effects on the root canal,”

“Because you said it didn’t hurt, I put in a filling. If it starts hurting, you have to have the root canal, but let’s see.”

According to the dentist, the bone cell has a cycle; birth to death in 3-6 months. Once an old cell dies, it is cleaned up and a new cell is born. Yet in my case he is concerned that this cycle is affected by the low immune system and the regeneration of the bone process is slow.

“So, you mean it’s a side effect?” I asked.

“ Maybe,” he said.

“Then, the same problem may happen again?”

“ Yes.”

Really? Oh my God!

My blood cell count has been in the normal range except during the first regimen when I had to be admitted to the hospital to boost up the number. However, as I have been constantly on chemo for the last five years, the oncologist also told me that my immune system was probably weak now.

After listening to the dentist, I thought;

1) I am longing for a cancer vaccine, but the longer I wait being on chemo, perhaps the less it will be effective because the vaccine relies on the immune system.

2) The amount of the radiation I have received from CT scans, which I have taken every 2-3 months for the last five years must be enormous and may have affected my body, too.

3) Cancer survivors live longer compared with 10 years ago, but the reality is that the longer the battle becomes, the more it becomes complicated and difficult.

3) I should strengthen my immune system.

So, I ordered AHCC, a supplement.

The Facts of Cancer

A little while ago, I read news that a recent study revealed that breast cancer patients often didn’t know much about their own cancer.

Usually we know little about cancer except it is a deadly disease until we are diagnosed with it. Yet, because the cure is so difficult, but the information is overwhelming, if we lack the knowledge, it may cause confusion, unnecessary fear, or wrong decisions.

So I collected the cancer facts, which may be misunderstood, but important to know.

1. Healthy cells keep a cycle of reproduction from birth to death, but the cancer cells never die and keep growing. While the healthy cells communicate with each other sending signals to regenerate new cells or terminate old cells that grew to the limit, cancer cells send wrong signals or ignore the signals without following the order.

(Since last week I have heard the big scandal that Hillary Clinton didn’t follow a White House rule and kept federal information in her own email account even after her resignation from the Secretary of State. It is interesting to know that whether it is in the human society or the world of the nature, not obeying the order is harmful and may be deadly.)

2. The immune system fights against foreign objects such as bacteria and viruses, recognizing them as invaders, but it can’t recognize cancer, which the healthy cells mutate into.
The theory of a cancer vaccine is to take out a part of the immune system, such as a white blood cell, educate it to be able to recognize cancer, and send it back to the body.

3. In the lab, cancer doesn’t grow in an Alkali environment, but the PH of a human body is set stable and corrected if it changes to too acid or alkali by the body system. Therefore even if we eat or drink alkali food or water, they can’t prevent or shrink cancer.

4. Cancer is named based on the primary location or organ cancer first grows. The metastasis or secondary cancer happens as the cancer travels from the primary location to a different organ or tissue through blood or lymphatic fluid. For example, if cancer grew in the breast first and traveled to lungs or the brain, it is still called breast cancer instead of lung or brain cancer.

5. Even if cancer cells flow into lymphatic fluid or capillaries, most of them can’t survive. When a flowing cancer cell sticks in a capillary and penetrates through the capillary wall into a different organ, where it is comfortable for the cancer cell to grow with the nutrition, the new tumor starts grow.
This appears to me that it takes a while for cancer to grow or metastasize.

6. Lymph system works as a filter stopping cancer or abnormal cells as well as a fighter against infections.
If cancer cells get into the lymphatic fluid, they are carried to lymph glands. Cancer cells may die there, but if they survive, it is called lymph node spread.

7. Cancer grade tells how aggressive cancer is. The higher the grade is the faster the cancer grows and spreads.

8. Cancer stage tells how big a cancer tumor is or how far cancer is progressing.

Stage 0 or carcinoma in situ: There are a group of abnormal cells in a particular part of the body. They may grow into cancer in the future, but this status is too small to form a tumor.
Stage 1: The tumor is small and stays in a primary location of organ.
Stage 2: The tumor is bigger than stage 1 and may include lymph node spread.
Stage 3: The tumor is bigger than stage 2 and there are cancer cells in lymph nodes in the area.
Stage 4: cancer cells spread from the primary organ to a different organ or organs. This is the end stage, but is not necessarily the end or terminal condition, in which cancer has spread too far to treat. In fact there are a quite a few stage 4 patients who have experienced remissions or survived more than ten years.

9. Surgeries and radiation therapy are local treatments, which focus on only a particular area or region of the body. The local treatment is not good enough if there is a possibility of metastasis, and a systematic treatment, such as chemo or hormone therapies, is needed.

10. According to Mayo Clinic, sugar is a vital energy source as well as protein for not only healthy cells but also cancer cells.  However, neither consuming sugar makes cancer grow faster nor refraining from sugar stops growing cancer, except that a large intake of sugar may cause weight gain or diabetes, which are risk factors of cancer.

11. Some people are worry that a microwave may cause cancer, but this is not true. It is safe as long as a plastic or a container is microwaveable. If they are not suitable for a microwave, toxic chemicals may leak from them.      
If you cook vegetables or fruits with a microwave, add a little water to them so that the loss of nutrition, which is easily destroyed by heat such as flying, steaming, grilling, or boiling, is minimized.

12. At last most importantly, even if the condition becomes terminal and the death gets near, there is still hope. God who created heavens and earth has sent Jesus for us. Because He paid the price of our Sin on the cross, and resurrected three days after, defeating death, the people who believe it can live forever even after death.

GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME!

Through Cancer I found Treasure in Genesis

As I thought about cancer, which never dies and lives without following the order, I noticed there was a parallel with the story of Adam and Eve, and now I feel like I understand why God kicked them out of the Garden of Eden better.

The Story of Adam and Eve

In Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, after God created the heavens and earth, He created Adam and Eve, the first humans, and gave every animal and plant to them.

Then He said, “ You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” (Genesis2:16-17)  With abundant gifts, He gave only one rule. The thing Adam and Eve had to keep was just one, but one day the serpent tempted Eve.

“ Did God really say not to eat from every tree? “
“ No, you won’t die! “ “ God knows that your eyes will be opened.., and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”

The words, “like God” was so desirable that she couldn’t resist. She invited Adam and broke the rule—ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge.

At once, they felt shame being naked, and when God came to look for them, they immediately hid. When they were found and asked if they broke the rule or not, Adam gave an excuse saying, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.” He blamed not only Eve but also even God. Eve also blamed the serpent instead of admitting that she was wrong, and apologizing.

This part is so true to every human.  Though I hear some people say, “ Why did God create the tree of the knowledge or the serpent in the first place to make Adam and Eve fail?” this is exactly the same pattern of Adam and Eve. We always blame God as we hit troubles, and if I were Eve, I would be tempted just like her, and give the same excuse. It’s because the story of Adam and Eve is our story.

Death came into our world because of Sin as God warned them. The perfect paradise was distorted, and the relationship with God was broken.  Then God said,  “Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!”  So God banished them from the Garden of Eden.

The Parallel of Cancer and Humans

Becoming like God, knowing both good and evil, means that humans decide what is good and evil, instead of obeying God’s judgment. God gave us the commandments and rules to follow, but we want to ignore them and make decisions by ourselves. The values of good and bad seem timeless and absolute, but without God, they are relative.

What if such humans, who ignore the orders God made and live selfishly without fearing Him, live forever? I am afraid that the result would be just like cancer.

We have to die because of our Sin, in which we broke the relationship with God, but His Grace is much bigger than the punishment. Banishing Adam and Eve from Garden of Eden, God also made the plan to save us and our relationship with Him by sacrificing His own Son.

History means His Story; two thousand years ago, at last His plan was accomplished through Jesus. Now it’s a matter of time that death and evil will be vanished. Through cancer, I found a treasure in Genesis. There is God, who is beyond our imagination! Just amazing.

Thy Will Be Done In Hospice Care

I knew that the idea of hospice care came from the Bible, but a Youtube hospice documentary video titled, “Letting Go” helped me understand and appreciate it’s work more.

“Hospice”, which has the same root word as “hospitality” was originally a place or shelter for travelers who were sick or injured to rest during the mid century. Then it evolved to be a place for people who travel from this world to next world to rest, or an institution that provides palliative care, instead of a treatment for cure, and to help people to close their lives on the earth. In the U.S., most of hospice cares are provided at a patient’s home supporting the family members who surround the patient rather than separating him/her from the family in an isolated environment.

In the video, there was a scene where an African-American woman, who was told that she had a month to live, had a conversation with her priest. He told her that nothing was impossible for God, and as he could survive from colon cancer, she would be able to be cured also if she prayed hard. Listening to him seriously, she and her family determined to believe that God would heal her from cancer.

Yet, in the next scene, a hospice staff showed her concern: “ She has a strong faith, that supports her, but the same faith that assures her to recover from the illness keeps her from facing some work most patients are doing during this point of illness: evaluation of how things were going, things she was pleased about, the things she regrets, the need to speak to the members of her family advice, thanks or forgiveness.”

Even though cancer progressed and she lost so much weight, a family member encouraged the woman saying that she looked stronger, as if everyone had a hallucination, and as the woman was told that cancer was actually getting bigger, she believed that it was because the prayers were not hard enough, so she had to pray harder.

At last when the patient was an inch away from the death, the hospice chaplain asked the patient’s son, who could not accept the reality, ”You don’t want to pray unless she is healed?” “Letting her go is letting her down?”

When we face death, the video told that we go through four stages such as 1) denial 2) anger 3) bargaining (ex: If I prayer harder or do more good work, a miracle may happen.) and finally 4) acceptance.

Watching the process of dying was very tough, but because of so, I learned how significant it is that the goals of hospice are not only to easy physical pain, but also emotional pain; pain from regret, anger, and grief so that a patient and his or her family can go through such tough stages and find peace.

Not My Will But Thy Will Be Done

Noticing that the priest gave the woman the wrong hope, I also thought about the difficult role of a spiritual leader. It is true that nothing is impossible for God. Yet His plan may not be the same as our wishes, and if we assume that our prayers were always granted, or demand to be granted, isn’t it an act of arrogance or disobedience?

The Bible says that with fear, Jesus prayed hard even to the point of sweating the blood as he pleaded to remove the cup, the coming crucifixion, from Him. Yet, at the end of the prayer, He said,” Not my will but Thy Will be done.”

Our prayers have to be the same as His. We have to trust and believe God even if His answer is different from our wish. We are able to do so because His Grace is sufficient and there is the great hope even after death: Because our suffering last for a short time, but the joy is waiting ahead of us that will last forever!

Finding God, who loves me so profoundly that He sent Jesus to die for me, was the best thing that has ever happened in my life. Thy Will be done in and through Hospice care!

sunset

Sunsets near our church sent by a friend of mine, Peggy. How magnificent and beautiful God’s creation is!

夕焼け

 

Going To Japan Again

I was not sure if it was a good time to go to Japan because George and I have so much stuff going on this year, but as my mom will be 88 this summer – and that is a big special number in Japan – George encouraged me to go saying, “ This may be the last time for your mom or for you to see each other. “
So I decided to go leaving on 4/7 for two weeks.

Roy, our elder son, first left for Japan with his friend today. Using a Japan Rail Pass, which allows non-Japanese tourists to ride on trains as much as they like for a certain period of the time, he is going to travel all over Japan with his friends – including two more in Japan – besides seeing my family.
As he was sick last weekend, I told him the night before his departure to buy Tylenol and masks at LAX reminding him that Japan was still very cold. Although he is 32, I am worried if he could get around safely without getting sick or getting into troubles over there that is a foreign country for him. Then he told me that I should watch myself for the safe smooth travel, too.

He is right. This time I have to travel all by myself. I can’t lift up my left arm because of the lymphedema and the aftereffect of the radiation therapy. I am also concerned with hand-foot syndrome, peripheral neuropathy, and muscle cramps. So I requested a wheelchair service at the airports, LAX and Japan. With this service, at least I can minimize all troubles at the airports.

For the younger son, Soh, and his wife, Pinky, who are leaving for Japan a week after me, this trip is the first one to travel all by themselves, as well. Since they don’t know Japanese, I am worried if they can make it with a four-hour travel from Tokyo to Toyohashi, the hometown of my sister, exchanging the trains.

Anyway, I am thankful for them who decided to make efforts to see my mom to express their appreciations of many years with me. I am also thankful for George, who cannot make it because he is in the middle of his job transition but still encouraged me to go, and at last for God who allowed me to go once again despite of all concerns.

Why I love “ Mermaid” and “Happy Prince”

When I was a child, I loved picture books.  At bedtime, lying down next to me, my father would read them for me, and his voice and some illustrations in the books still remain in my memory vividly.
“ Mermaid” was one of my favorite stories:  A mermaid who fell in love with a prince, whose life she saved from a shipwreck, made a deal with a witch. Giving up her voice, she received a human figure but she was warned that she would become bubbles and die if she could not win his heart. She, as a human, got close to the prince, but he fell in love with a different woman misunderstanding that she was his savior instead of the mermaid, who could not have a voice to explain the truth. Finally though there was a choice to go back to being a mermaid and live by killing the prince, she chose to become a bubble.

If I think of the story now, a message of “love is a long suffering” was so profound even for a child that it touched me.

“ Happy Prince” was another story I loved very much. On the way to a southern country before winter would come, a swallow was asked by a statue of Happy Prince to deliver gems, which decorated him, to the poor. The swallow accepted the request and became a servant of the prince, but eventually the winter came and the swallow was frozen to death.

Both stories made me cry because they suffered and died without being noticed despite their loving deeds. Sometimes we ask, “ Why does such a bad thing happen to such a good person?” Yet even many children’s stories have told that good people also suffer, and the reason why we are still moved by such stories is that the tragic heroes or heroines never complained about their tragedies but patiently bore them and keep demonstrating their love until they die. It’s touching.

John 14:6 says that Jesus is “the only way, truth, and life. No one comes to the Father except through me (Jesus).” It sounds narrow minded and exclusive, but if we notice that no one else but Jesus was the one who took the suffering and died for our Sin, it is very understandable.

Jesus was the Son of God, but men made him naked, spit on him, humiliated, mocked, lashed and killed him. Nevertheless, Jesus, who was agonizing on the cross, pleaded for us saying, “ Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Jesus, who suffered and died for us, who didn’t know Him as Son of God, the savior, must have been the model of “ Mermaid” and “ Happy Prince”. It is painfully beautiful, powerful, and this is not fiction but real! As welcoming the Easter week, I wish and pray that many more people will know Jesus as our savior.