September, 2015

Jesus Loves Me

It was Sunday. The day to go to church.

Although I received the next options from Dr. Slamon, thinking of being off the treatment already for a month, my heart was overcast with anxiety, again. Yet at the church, my anxiety was replaced with peace.

Lyrics of the songs and the message of the pastor touched my heart.
The smiles and the kind words from everyone comforted me.
Testimonies of friends’ faith journeys deepened my appreciation for them, and as I thought how blessed I am being surrounded by such outstanding sisters and brothers in Christ, I was filled by God’s tender love and my gratitude overcame the anxiety. Though I had to change my posture several times at a pew being attacked by muscle cramps, I was even joyous.

God loves me. He is with me. Then even if I go down to the “ valley of the shadow of death” I don’t have to be afraid of anything. Even if my body falls apart, God is preparing for me a new body, which will never be sick or die. For the ones who believe in Christ, death is not the end but the beginning of the glory. It is a victory!  I was encouraged.

The following is one of inspiring hymns we sang at the church.

Jesus Loves Me

Next Chemo Is Abraxane

In a meeting with my primary oncologist, I decided to try Abraxane with Herceptin as the next regimen.

I was hopeful with the immunotherapy TIL trial, but learned that if I wanted to be in the trial, I had to fly to Bethesda to have a surgery to remove a cancer tumor, it would take 6-8 weeks to grow lymphocyte (a kind of white blood cell), and I had to admit to an ICU for four weeks for the infusion because of the high risk. The trial seems to have so many obstacles that I decided to leave it for the future and start conventional chemo, which are already available, first.

Abraxane is basically the same chemical as Taxol, which I used twice. Then, the chance for Abraxane to work looks very slight, but according to the oncologist, there are many cases to use Abraxane after Taxol failed. If it works, it may be great just like Taxol bringing me into a remission. The side effect, peripheral neuropathy, is another concern. After Taxol really damaged my nerve system, I am afraid that Abraxane may worsen it. Yet until I try it, nobody knows how effective it will be or how bad the side-effect will be.

Meanwhile, I will also have a gene test to find out if my cancer is susceptible to Afinitor, which is originally a hormone positive breast cancer drug. Dr. Slamon recently discovered that it is also effective for HER2 positive, which is my type, if the certain genes are susceptible.

There is one more chemo, Gemzar, I haven’t used yet, but the oncologist told me to save it for the MM-302 clinical trial. MM-302 is an antibody drug just like Herceptin. The trial compares MM-302 with Gemzer or Xeloda. Since I already used Xeloda, if I want to be in the trial I have to be a “virgin” for Gemzer.

I am so grateful that now I have several cards to play with. I will start Abraxane next Friday.

Infusion After 5 Week Break

A nurse first told me that the next available date for the chemo would be the 16th, but Asking her to squeeze me into the chemo schedule, I went to Kaiser to start the new regimen, Herceptin and Abraxane, yesterday.

Though my appointment was at 1:30, the chairs were all full and I had to wait for 90 minutes. Yet outside it was over 80 F. Here inside had AC and I didn’t have to wait for another week. I had no complaint but was thankful!

I started off from Abraxane. This is the same chemical as Taxol, but there were no pre-meds, and it took only 30 minutes.

The 2nd was Herceptin. I have had it since the very beginning of the treatment in 2010, but because I was off for five weeks, a nurse said that the infusion had to be done like the first time. So it took 90 minutes instead of 30 minutes.

She also warned me that I might have a fever, chills, or nausea as side-effects of Herceptin, and she was right. Coming home, once I laid down on a couch, I became feverish with headache and nausea, and didn’t want to do anything but listening to gospel songs from ipad. Herceptin has been so mild that I’ve had no side effects for the last five and a half year treatments, but surprisingly it was one of the toughest nights.

I will have Abraxane 3 weeks +1 week off, and Herceptin every week at least three cycles. Hopefully these harsh side-effects are one time only and from next time it will be easier.

2nd Week Of Abraxane

It has been already a week since the last infusion.
The lab result yesterday showed the lessened white blood cell counts as I was afraid of. Last weekend when I wound up running a fever for three nights, maybe the numbers were lower.

Today the infusion of Herceptin took only a half hour instead of 90 minutes last week. At home I am resting and go slow, but hopefully no fever this weekend.

Prayer

It was not even 3AM, but I was so awake that I decided to get up. Saturday morning, after I walked at a beach with George, although it was only 30 minutes, I got exhausted and slept all afternoon. Probably that was the reason. Yet, compared with last week, which was the first week of Abraxane and Herceptin, this week,
I had a good appetite, no fever, and was able to walk. I am grateful.

I opened up emails, and found an email from a virtual breast cancer community, where people share their good and bad news, or encouragements and comforts.

Among many journals, one read:
” the metastasized cancer in the liver grew and now the biggest one is 7.5cm, and 3cm ones are found about 20. Does anyone have any good advice? Please help my mom!”

How about a surgery or radiation to cut it out? I wondered, but I knew I was out of my league. While thinking that someday my cancer may grow big like her mother’s, I was rather observing the reality of cancer, which doesn’t stop, but keeps growing.

Last Tuesday I saw ” War Room” with the Bible study class. It was the great inspirational movie about how powerful prayers were.
Mrs. Clara, one of main characters, who called her closet, where she prays and talks with God, a war room, said that a prayer is not a wish list with ” amen” at the end. When we surrender to God asking what He wants us to do, and are ready to obey Him, we will receive what we were really looking for.
George says to pray for someone just like how we want to be prayed.

I can’t give any advice to that lady whose mom was agonizing with the growing cancer in the liver, but I can pray.
I can pray for people, who are suffering with the same disease as mine, that God will get rid of tears, fears, desperation, and pains, open up a door of an effective treatment, restore His hope and peace, give time as long as possible to be with the beloved ones, and most importantly may their trust in God grow stronger and stronger standing firm on the Rock.

Off Chemo Again

Since the number of white cell count ( Neutrophill) went way down the border line, as I was afraid, the doctor stopped chemo, Abraxane infusion this and next week.
That means I could get only 63 % of the full dose in this first cycle. A five week break from chemo felt so long that I eagered to get back on the treatment, but here again! I am off chemo not even finishing the first cycle.
I am so disappointed, but it was also true that I was not doing well for the last two weeks running fevers, feeling sluggish, and having some aches and pains. I know that if the white cell count is low, I am susceptible to any disease.
From tomorrow, I will give a shot of Neutrogena, a drug to boost up the count, for three days. Hope that will help me go back to battle quickly.

After the consultation with the doctor, I went to a chemo ward to receive only Herceptin, an antibody drug, had a chest x-ray and a urinary test just in case, and then went to the pharmacy to pick up Neutrogena. It was about 1:30pm. I walked out to a parking lot, but made a U-turn deciding to go to an urgent care to take care of some pain I have experienced for last three days.
I remembered that organ transplant patients, who have to use drugs to suppress their immune system for the rest of their lives, could die because of it. I am not using immunosuppressants, but right now I am like them, and today is Friday. I’d better to see a doctor instead of regretting later.

I had to wait for about two and a half hours. After all, a doctor told me that the pain may be caused by mild urinary tract infection and prescribed an antibiotic. I went back to the pharmacy to pick it up. When I got home after stopping two grocery stores, it was after 5pm. I left home this morning around 8:30. what a long day! I was exhausted but hope I will feel better tomorrow!

How I Came to Love Jesus: Faith Journey Testimony #1

The Lord has been so good to me. He has been watching over me even before I got to know Him. He has been faithful and guiding me to His path according to His amazing plan with Grace and Marcy. Coming to know there is God who loves me was the very best thing that has ever happened in my life.

Beginning

I was born and grew up in Japan, where Christian population is less than 5 %. My parents would worship their ancestors and multiple gods, but because next door was a church, they sent me to the Sunday School and the preschool, which belonged to the church. I loved both schools and enjoyed listening to Jesus’ stories and singing hymns. I learned how to pray just like learning how to use chopsticks and would pray every night.

But as I grew older my mind was getting crowded with other interests, and especially when I encountered Mormons, who told me as a middle school girl, they were the true Christians, while my Sunday School teacher told me to stay away from them, for the first time I learned there are false churches, and teachings. I got scared and concluded that the religion was too dangerous to pursue. I stopped going to a church or praying for next 20 +years until I married George.

Marriage changes our lives, and my case was not an exception.
When George proposed me, he asked me one thing, “ Will you seek God with me?”

That time George was an English Adult School teacher, and I was a typical Japanese who believed whatever, people said, had a superpower including charms and fortunetellers. I was ignorant about God, but arrogantly said to him,
“ No problem. I used to go to Sunday school and I know Jesus already. Christmas is His birthday and Easter is His resurrection!”

I thought what George was asking me was like going to Starbucks every Sunday. Peace of Cake!

So George took me to Neighborhood Church. It was 21 years ago. My English was so poor that a pastor’s message was way over my head. I was so bored and reluctant to go there.

George also started an ESL Bible study at our house inviting his students. I joined the class, of cause, but I had attitude thinking like, “ Adam and Eve were the first human beings? No. A monkey is our origin. Adam lived for 930 years? Are you telling me to believe such a fairly tale? You are kidding me!”

On the other hand, I was showing our boys Japanese traditional festivals, or seasonal customs, all of which were some forms of worshipping idles or gods, and everything what I did became subjects for questions for George. “ Why do you give food to those dolls?” “What is this ornament? What does this mean?” He constantly asked questions, which was annoying, and I felt like becoming Christian is quitting Japanese. I didn’t like it at all.

Then God moved His piece.

Testimony #2: God Was Coming After Me

George, who worried about my spiritual growth, suggested looking for a Japanese church.

So I did. I found a small Japanese church congregating at current Double Tree Hotel. On the first day when I met the Japanese pastor, who learned that George used to be a pastor before he became an English teacher, he immediately told me that he wanted George to work for his church. He wanted to build a bilingual church and was looking for English speaking pastor—he explained to me.

It was crazy, but all of sudden George became a part-time pastor in the Japanese small church and I, who was not even a believer yet, became a pastor’s wife. On top of that I was asked to be George’s interpreter. That forced me to pay my full attention to what George spoke to the congregation and Bible verses he read. I didn’t have time to yarn any more.

God moved the 2nd piece.

Since I was not Christian, George and I were not equally yoked. We didn’t have a good start of the marriage. We were arguing constantly. However, each time George got upset and left for somewhere, he came back with apology.

Saying,” I am sorry,” is very difficult for me even now days, but he was able to do so, and as he said, “ I’m sorry,” my calloused heart got soften and I could say, “I’m sorry,” too. I was curious why he could become so humble.

Then one day I noticed he was praying. He would say to me, “ God is offering His hand to us. We only need to take His hand, and then He will transform us.” That’s it! George is patient and humble because he is holding God’s hand. Then me, too! I want to hold His hand, too! —It was the first time I truly desired to get close to God.

Geo holding God's hand

A birthday card I made for George in the year when I noticed he is holding God’s hand and I desired it, too.

God moved the 3rd piece. This time it was the game changer, the very powerful piece.