Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day! Ahh!!

I love my mom so so much and would like the world to know. She is truly amazing and doesn't even have to try.

omg omg Oh MY G-D - couldn't have said it any better

In early April, my mom had her second CT scan. We learned the the tumor in the neck was no longer detectable - in fact, it simply said, "Normal CT of neck." From the top of my lungs, I screamed in disbelief and pure joy. I had hurried home when the report was picked up. As I entered the house, with every step, the weight on my shoulders became heavier and heavier. As I read it, I became so nervous. Then- the wonderful news. We thought my mom would now be eligible for surgery, but our oncologist said that instead, we would have to "watch and wait." For more than a month, my mother has been off treatment of any kind. We still juice regularly and take supplements. We have also started taking turmeric. My mom has also gone back to work. Truth be told, you wouldn't know she has cancer aside from the loss of her hair. My mom's a strong women and I am thankful for having her as my mother. The next CT scan is in mid-June. We're looking at going on a cruise before then. Praying for smooth sailing (and shrinkage/ disappearance of my mom's cancer).

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Do med students take a class on miracles?

I know. It was kinda silly. But I had to ask. My mom and I had lunch with  friends of the family. The daughter is in medical school. When I asked her, she simply responded, "Doctors don't believe in miracles. You heal through medicine. There is always a reason." But what about things that do happen miraculously? I've grown up on the Discovery Channel, 20/20- all those shows that that show stories of medical miracles. Within these past few months, I've also read about and personally met with individuals who have beat cancer. And I was curious to find out if medical professionals investigate the reason.  It's as though there are all these individualized cases of people being cured, and you just pray that you become one of them.

I met a pastor who had stage 3 colon cancer. Rather than opting for chemo, he did what every conventional oncologist will tell you NOT to do. He went to Mexico; the clinic there focused on hydra-therapy and finding answers in the Bible. His regimen now consists of carrot and lettuce juice, a vegan diet, and exercise. His tumor completely went away. He talked about "natural chemotherapy" which consists of filling a bath tub with very hot water to raise your body temperature, creating a fever and shrinking the tumor. After about 10-15 minutes, you drain the tub and fill it with ice cold water. The pastor also spoke about doing "cold rubs" every morning to strengthen/ activate your immune system by rubbing your entire body with a  cold, wet towel.

I do believe his methods worked, but I also know that I could never hose my mom down with cold water. We have changed a number of our eating habits; we juice regularly. Our juice usually consists of beet, orange, apple, blueberry, celery, ginger, asparagus, and carrots. Sometimes grapes too. It's pretty yummy. The funny thing is that my mom has always been a pretty healthy eater. She absolutely loves fruit and makes sure that when I go to work, I have either an apple or a banana in my bag. We also eat a lot of Chinese vegetables...and rice of course.

My theory is that if a miracle is going to happen, it is not because she ate enough carrots or was hosed down with cold water. Miracles just happen whether it is because of God or the energies of the universe. I've always told myself that everything happens for a reason. However, before, it had only applied to my theory on job searches (lol). I have to believe that everything happens for a reason. 

Monday, February 22, 2010

Choosing an Oncologist

When you're told you have cancer, you're thrown into this whole new world where the words "chemo," "cancer," and "treatment" immediately grab your attention and you try to find miracles at every corner. At least for me, that's how I felt. I regularly scan Google news and blogs for new cancer treatments and initiatives. From the start, I needed to find an oncologist I was most comfortable with. The vibes I got from the facility and the staff were also important. We met with three oncologists before finally making a decision.

These were my experiences at each visit:

First Doctor
Pros: Spoke my mother's native tongue and could communicate with her, conducted an exam to see if it had spread to her cervix (thankfully no worries)
Con: Older with more than 20 years experience, but seemed a bit jaded, bluntly said that my mother will have about a year to live, also did not fully explain the chemotherapy he would be using and its side effects
Conclusion: Not good enough for my mom. As my mother noted, "He looks like a farmer." He didn't seem aggressive and was all too brash.

Second Doctor
Pros: Although the doctor was young, he took the time to explain everything and had a nurse print out information about his chemotherapy of choice as well as the first doctor's. He took his time examining my mom and was patient.
Con: None. We almost went with this doctor, until we met with the third doctor.

Third Doctor
Pros: Impressive background (top undergrad and medical school, fellowship at one of the best cancer hospitals in the nation) and very hands on. She was the only doctor who had a computer in her office and actually showed us the CT scans. She also saw that my mother just had the port catheter procedure, but it didn't look right and called the surgeon directly to make sure it was okay. She also was the only one who said that she would get CT scans before the treatment began to "compare apples to apples."

All three doctors had different chemo treatments of choice: FOLFOX, Cisplatin Irinotecan, and EOX. We learned that while they vary in side effects, no doctor can say that one is better than the other. In the end, we - or rather I (as my mother relied on me to make the decision) just had to go with my gut and the doctor I trusted most.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

How it happened...

My mom discovered a swollen lymph node on the left side of her neck. She had it removed and tested. The biopsy revealed that it was cancer. The surgeon who removed the lymph node recommended we see a gastroenterologist for an endoscopy (where they put a camera in your stomach). On November 25, 2009, the gastroenterologist diagnosed my mom with stomach cancer. The next week, we met with a surgeon and in utter shock, we were told that the cancer was inoperable. Our only recourse would be chemotherapy. Since then, my mom has finished her first round of chemotherapy with hardly any side effects (cisplatin/ irinotecan).

Early stage stomach has hardly any symptoms. They are often misdiagnosed as other ailments because the symptoms sound similar...bloating, etc. The only real risk factor that pertained to my mom was that Asians have a much higher chance of getting gastric cancer. I urge everyone to find out about their own medical history and never ever ever take your health for granted. Find out if your own ethnicity increases your risk or chances of having certain cancers or diseases. Get to know your body. It can be as simple as looking at an image of the human body and knowing where the organs are. My grandmother and great-grandmother both lived into their 90s, and my grandmother's sister who was born in 1910 is still alive. My mother's diagnoses came as a shock because she did not experience difficulty swallowing, loss of appetite, and she is in fairly good health. She was not on any medication at the time of diagnosis.