December, 2016

Is Vaccine Working?

Since the 1st shot of the vaccine, many things have been happening in my body. Yet the cancer has not been shrinking yet. The CT taken last Monday to see if there were blood clots in the chest showed that the biggest tumor went from 4.7cm to 5.1 cm, and others also increased in size. The doctor said this was to be expected and if the vaccine works, the tumors stabilizes or shrinks at earliest in two months.

I worried about brain metastasis when the vision loss happened though, the doctor said there was nobody who developed brain metastasis after participating the vaccine trial. This is good news!

If a patient has the brain metastasis, she/he is not allowed to be in the study. The reason is that the skull like a tight box, has not much room for the brain to swell with the inflammation as the result of the immune response to the vaccine and because of so, it could be serious.

As the inflammation is a necessary process of the healing, I am not sure if we can call it a side effect. Yet the inflammation in the lungs can cause not only pains and coughs but also fluid accumulation. My lungs also have accumulated fluid, which is a cause of the cough and the shortness of breath, according to the doctor. I may need to withdraw it at the next visit. Medical sites say that the procedure is safe and simple taking about 15 minutes or so with a local anesthesia, but what if I cough during the procedure? I am nervous already.

Chemotherapy is hard on the body, but the vaccine is not an exception, either—I am learning. Anyhow this is the option I chose. Believing that God is with me, I have to keep moving.

Abundance Of Counselors

Laying on a couch, I was sensing George decorating the ornaments on the Christmas tree.

As if a broken old faucet drips only a little water though it’s open, I have so little energy that I have to depend on George for everything even decorating the house for Christmas.

The narcotic cough drug makes me sleepy so much that I am not taking it during the day. Then today the constipation medicines for a side effect of the cough drug caused diarrhea and that took me into the bed. Either taking the cough drug or not, recently my activity level is minimum and I am resting most of the day.

I have noticed for a quite while that when I sing with my piano students, I get out of breath quickly though, last time when I visited NCI, as walking around the huge clinic here to there carrying a heavy backpack took me out of the breath, I wound up using a wheelchair.

Walking for a short distance from a parking lot to a restaurant, as I greet a friend, I am out of the breath, again.

The doctor at NCI suggested to withdraw the fluid accumulated in the lungs at the local hospital if the shortness of breath becomes serious. Yet, my local primary oncologist I saw yesterday said the accumulation was still a little and the withdrawing is not necessary as of now after listening to the lungs. The shortness of breath as well as worsening cough is due to the progression of the disease, but her advice was comforting.

As I informed that the cough drug, oxycodone was so strong that I could not do anything, she suggested a different drug, hydrocodone. She said all the narcotics have pretty much the same side effects, but this may be a little milder.

At night besides the stomachache, I experienced chest and back pain as well. I was worn out coughing hard all day long, too. So I tried the new drug. I slept well without the shortness of the breath, pain, and cough. On top of that, I feel better this morning! I feel like I can go out.

The Bible said the wise abundance of counselors will lead to success. I am glad that I could get a good counsel. Before I run out the energy, I want to catch up as much as possible.

Counting Blessings, Keep Moving

The day when I posted the last blog, I could go to three stores. Yet this week, I am out of breath just walking out to the car, or opening the gate.

Since last Sunday, Soh has been visiting from SF taking care of shopping, cooking, cleaning up, and doing the laundry with George. I feel bad doing nothing, but if standing for even 10 minutes is difficult, I have to just accept their kindness.

While I held off on a cough drug, I recovered the appetite, but since I resumed the new cough drug, I lost the appetite again and the stomachache came back.

Usually I enjoy Christmas concerts or home parties around this season, but this year I have to decline all the invitations.

The things are getting tougher than ever, but as I look back this year, I recognize that I’ve received so much kindness from so many people like the Hawaii trip, house repair project, house cleaning service, food deliveries, caring phone calls and emails, monthly cash gifts, and even in Bethesda I made a friend who visits me at NCI offering a ride and a room to stay. I feel so rich. I feel like I am in the big loving tender Hand. The Hand of God who promised never to forsake me.

Because Loving God is with me, I can walk on this sharp plunging “Valley of the shadow of death.”

Next departure for the 3rd vaccine shot will be this Sunday. A Forecast said the next week in Bethesda will be only 33 ℉ while LA is 64℉!

The cough, shortness of breath, and the cold weather—there are concerns I have to overcome, but if God is in this choice of the vaccine, nothing is impossible. I pray for the safe trip and the successful vaccine shot.

The 3rd Vaccine Was Postponed

Since last Sunday the shortness of breath has been worsening day by day. Being worried if I would be able to fly to Bethesda this Sunday, I emailed both doctors at NCI and at local Kaiser.

Two doctors talked over the phone and agreed to take the chest X-ray to determine if I should fly or not. I took the x-ray on Wednesday. Though the result was supposed to come right away, I didn’t hear it even next morning.

Meanwhile on Thursday as the shortness of breath became constant even with small activities like dressing or going bathroom, I decided to go to the urgent care to ask for an Oxygen tank as well as the x-Ray result.

Then there I was immediately given oxygen tube and told to be in the hospital because I might have pneumonia.
I didn’t have a fever, but declining and worsening the health so fast makes sense.

As I told the doctor at NCI what was going on, she said,”You will not make it. Let’s postpone until the holiday is over.”
According to her, if cancer trumors in the lungs get big, it is common to develop pneumonia.

I will be discharged tomorrow with antibiotics, oxygen, and a wheelchair. I pray that the antibiotics helps me to get off from the oxygen tank or the wheelchair ASAP so I can fly to Bethesda again for the 3rd vaccine!

Sent from my iPad

No More Bethesda, No More Vaccine

A doctor at the hospital concerned about my complain of dizziness, which I had thought a side effect of narcotics, and ordered a brain MRI.

Today she said, the MRI showed some abnormalities which are probably cancer rumors.

With brain metastasis, I can’t continue the vaccine.

The blind incidence, which had happened at Baltimore rental car center three weeks ago, was probably a sign of the brain metastasis as I was afraid of.

It was shocking and sad that I was dropped out from the trial so fast, and facing the brain metastasis I was so afraid of.
Yet, I have to accept and adjust to the new situation quickly.

The doctors at Kaiser are moving fast to come up the new strategy, and probably I will have a radiation therapy to zap the tumors next week and soon after going back to chemo.

I am holding God’s hand tightly.

Thy Will Be Done

“The chest progression is worse than the brain tumors,” said the radiation oncologist who visited me at the hospital bed last night. According to him the mass in the lung causes the shortness of breath and shooting the cancer cells to the brain.
Looking at the CT taken today, the radiation oncologist may treat the lung mass first before the brain tumors.

Until two weeks ago, I was driving the car and expecting to fly to Washington D.C..
Yet now circumstance has changed 180 degree and heading to the worst.

A nurse came and asked me, “So how do you think about this situation? ”

” One at a time. Depends on the CT result, the situation may change. ….I’m a Christian, so I’m not afraid of death. The death is like going to the new world. I just don’t want to suffer on the process of dying.”

Listening that the nurse was Christian, too, I continued.

“Since I decided to follow Jesus, my life has been in God’s hand. He knows the best for me. If He says this is the time for me to go Home, it must be the right time. If He thinks I should live a little longer, He will give me more time. Even suffering and agony, the Bible said, ‘compared to the glory waiting ahead, it is just for the short time.’ So I have to focus on that.”

Pleading for the miracle, I pray “Thy Will be done on me.”again.

One More Miracle

First, I’d like to thank everyone who emailed and sent comments with cheers, encouragements, and prayers!
I read all of them with tears of gratitude. I don’t have enough energy to write to each of you, but please know that I am deeply grateful!

Email From Autistic Young Man

Among the many heartwarming emails, there was an odd email from my previous special ed student, to whom I was assigned as an one on one assistant during his middle school years.
In the English environment of a public school, he as Japanese, enjoyed talking with me in Japanese, and even let me talk about Jesus or pray since he was a churchgoer.

Even after his graduation and my retirement, he has kept emailing me every now and then, and we have continued short conversations.

As he has had anger and violence issues, he has been at a group home for several years now, but recently in his email, he wants to deny his past school history, saying like,

“Don’t call me X! That’s not my name. I didn’t go to YY school. I don’t know A or B( person’s names) everybody lies to me and upset me!

Talking with his mom, I learned that he regrets what he said or done to hurt some people in the past and wishes to delete his memory.

“X, it’s OK. You don’t have to deny or lie about your past. God forgave you already and accepted you as you are. You are free! You can live in the truth. God loves you! ”
I wrote him back.
Then short reply came.

” I lie!”
I thought God healed him. The x-student accepted the truth, and became free.

Being able to see one more God’s miracle, with tears, I thanked for this special relationship God gave me.

Resuming Treatment

As cancer in my lung became so huge, the radiation therapy was opted out, and now only chemotherapy is left as the option. I started Herceptin and Tykerb yesterday. It’s the 3rd round to use this combo. In May this year when I learned Herceptin and Abraxane were not working anymore, I added Tykerb as the 2nd time. Yet in Oct. the biggest tumor became almost double size. It was a bitter experience and seems obvious that this combo won’t work anymore, but if this is the choice of the doctor’s team, I have no say. The doctors want to add Haraven, one more chemo later.

I started the brain radiation today, too. I was curried by an ambulance for an hour drive from Harbor City Kaiser, where I have been admitted, to Sunset Kaiser, and there I took a CT and many X Rays to make a mask to cover my face and head completely, and then received the whole brain radiation. Gammer knife, which only targets the tumors, was not recommended me. I will receive this therapy for a week.

Trying to help my breathing, the steroid, which elevates sugar level, was also increased. Hence, I am taking insulin at every meal. Yet, since last Thursday when I was hospitalized, first time I feel getting better. With Japanese food, I got appetite back, too.

Everything is now so intense that I feel like the doctors are working so hard to save my life. I am deeply thankful.

Tomorrow is the Christmas Eve. I am hoping to go home.

Just like the intensifying treatment, at home the family and friends are also increasing the circle of the support and making sure that my needs are completely filled according to George.
How wonderful blessings!
My cup is overflowing with God’s Grace. He is with me!

May this wonderful Saver’s name be praised all over the world!
Marry Christmas!