Death

Eulorogy For Dear Brother In Christ

The long term chairman of TRIO (Transplant Recipient International Organization) JAPAN, Mr. Yoshio Aranami (73) passed away with colon cancer on March 3rd.

I got to know him about 18 years ago, when I started involvment in an international organ transplant ministry.
Since then he, who sent the patients to UCLA, and I, who welcomed them, have exchanged countless emails.

In the first Christmas greeting on the first year of the ministry, as I told him that I met God through the organ transplant support, and accepted Jesus as my savior, he replied saying he was also Christian. Learning we were equally yoked centering on Christ, I was so encouraged and excited.

He launched the organization because he lost his daughter, who was born with biliary atresia, in Australia, where he flew with her wishing for a liver transplant. Without compensation, he and his wife contributed their lives to support not only the patients, but also to promote organ transplants in Japan, where brain death was not recognized until 1997, and still has a few donors even now. He has saved so many lives sending the patients abroad.

One time when he was involved into a gossip, which was a totally false accusation, he bore harsh criticism and bashing, saying that the truth would come out eventually, and kept focusing on his ministry without fighting back his enemies.

In 2013, three years after my diagnosis of breast cancer, he received a diagnosis of advanced colon cancer. Unexpectedly, we became cancer friends, as well.

” Which would you like to try, a clinical trial chemo or conventional chemo?”
When he was asked by his doctor, he chose the clinical trial chemo without hesitation because he wanted to contribute his data for future patients–he told me.
While I seek clinical trials to save myself, he demonstrated one of the most important teachings in the Bible ; Love your neighbors as yourself. I knew he was a good man, but I renewed my respect more than ever.

With numerous hospitalizations and operations, there was a time that he was doing well, but after all cancer came back and around last Christmas, I received an email, which said he had no more options, but he wanted to continue his support for the organ transplant patients until the last day and so he did.

Christians believe the death is not the end. Actually it is the beginning of eternal life. In the Kingdom, where we meet our Creator, we receive a new body, which never gets sick or dies; there is no pain or sorrow; everything is perfect, much more beautiful than the earth, and we can live happily forever!

Learning Mr. Aranami is gone,I can’t help being down, but because of God promise, Mr. Aranami defeated death, entered into the Kingdom, and was healed from cancer. He must be full of joy. Looking at the sky, I want to say to him, “Congratulations! You did it!”

Sacrifice for Tomorrow’s Medicine

“Taking part in NIH research is entirely voluntary. ”
“You may receive no benefit from taking part. The research may give us knowledge that may help people in the future. ”
These were words written in the first paragraph in the first letter I received from NCI. I’ve learned that cancer treatment is a gamble, but it is more so in a clinical trial. Mr. Aranami, the late chairman of TRIO (Transplant Recipients International Organization ) JAPAN, who passed away last spring with colon cancer, had said he chose the clinical trial because he wanted to contribute to the future patients, but this week knowing the fatal tragedy which happened to a breast cancer trial participant, I realized again that this perspective is so important.

She was in the study of TIL (Tumor Infiltrating Lymphocytes) immunotherapy, which is very much like the dendritic cell vaccine: taking out the TIL, a part of the white blood cells, which can recognize cancer cells, increasing them to be able to attack cancer, and giving them back to the body. I was interested in this trial last year and blogged about it, yet as I read an article written by a doctor, who lost his patient in this trial, I changed my mind. Then later I learned more that in this therapy a participant’s entire white cells, which cannot recognize cancer, are destroyed by chemo and completely replaced with the increased smart TIL, which can recognize cancer. There is a brave woman who went through this horrific procedure and beat the cancer, but I thought this was a life threatening therapy.

The tragedy happened when the patient’s white blood cells were destroyed by chemo. She was infected. Although her new robust TIL were transfused quickly, and they really attacked cancer cells, her infected organs kept failing and never recovered.

If I imagine the terror of her, her family, and the medical team in the last weeks, when their hope crashed into hell, I become speechless.

Is it OK to allow such a dangerous trial? I wonder, but if an object of the study is the therapy’s safety, maybe death is unable to be eliminated, and behind of the medical advance, there must be lots of sacrifices like hers.

“Unless the grain of wheat falls on to the ground and die, it remains alone, but if it dies, it produce much grains.” -John 12:24

She became the grain of wheat for our future medicine. As if a craftsman makes a beautiful stained glass from broken glass, God is able to make something beautiful even from such a tragedy. I believe so and pray so be it.

Seeking DC Vaccine–Resolution On Birthday

Today is my 7th birthday since the cancer diagnosis and I became 62. Yesterday, the last day in NCI, Dr. Wood, the DC vaccine study chief doctor gave me a birthday cake after the long procedure of Apheresis ( collecting blood cells to make the DC vaccine) . I was so surprised and learned about her character again.
She has so much passion for the DC vaccine, which may cure so many men and women, and she cares for each patient. I thought I came to the right doctor.

The DC vaccine works slowly. Meanwhile cancer grows. We don’t know if the vaccine will catch up to cancer and destroy it eventually or is not working. Other words, I will be saved or die.

Because all the cards I had failed, this must be my last shot and the last gamble. Getting to know Dr. Wood, I thought I came to the right place to bet my life.

The Bible says, ” there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Jesus demonstrated this intimate love on the cross. If I die to save someone, that must be the best way to die.

I will go for the vaccine shifting my attitude, and aiming for this purpose. I want Dr. Wood to find the real cure and I am happy to contribute for her study giving myself. If I am cured, that will be more than awesome, and if I die, that’s also the best way to die. Cancer wants to take away my life, but I am going to give it to God’s Kingdom.

Once I shifted my focus, all the anxieties regarding the vaccine and cancer were replaced by His peace.
I’ll go as far as I can with the Lord, who loves me so much!