New Normal

This is a reblog of the post I did a year ago. I updated the first line of the post.

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This month marks the 8th anniversary of Remission from my cancer!!

What was my normal schedule and activities all my life until 2008?

Getting up before 6:00 a.m.

Rushing to get on the road to go to work

Multitasking on the job and loving it

Keeping up with cooking dinner and other chores

Keeping up with all the family and social activities

Traveling one to three trips a year

What happened from summer 2008 to summer 2009?

Melanoma Cancer

Six months of chemotherapy

Four surgeries

Five weeks of radiation

What is my new normal?

Thank God for retirement, or else I would not be able to do the following:

Deal with the side effect of chemotherapy – lymphedema on the legs

Unable to fall asleep until the numbness and tingling of my legs subside

Time to get up would have to depend on the time I fall asleep the night before

Running errands is as big a job as climbing mountains

Making two to three stops are manageable, the fourth one has to wait for another day

Elevating my legs and resting is a daily route, whereas years ago I considered it as wasting time

Exercise is a necessity, not a luxury

Priority is the key to manage my schedule

Something for my spiritual, physical, mental life, and make time to be a blessing to others

No promise is made to do everything and I don’t feel guilty if I can’t do it

God bless my being, even when I can’t measure up with my doing!

~

Contribution to Debbie’s Forgiving Fridays

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52 Weeks of Thankfulness – Week 7

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This is the 52 Weeks of Thankfulness – Week 7 at Haddon Musings

I had written eight posts about my melanoma treatment. I need to write one more to complete my story. I emerge it as part of my Thankfulness. So this week I am thankful for going through the journey of cancer treatment and have been in remission for almost eight years.

August 13, 2009

My bio-chemotherapy came to the end. I just needed a couple more procedures done before the completion of treatment.

When I had my first cancer surgery in October 2008, the surgeon removed all the cancerous tissues except one cancerous lymph node. He sent me back to my primary health care provider and oncologist for chemotherapy. Due to the lack of communication, the referral didn’t get any attention until two months later. I went to the oncologist’s office, sat in the waiting room, demanded for attention. Finally a case caretaker came to talk with me. I cried and complained, saying that my last surgeon requested chemotherapy within four months before the cancer entered my brain, and it had been two months already.

The next day she called the case management office. The supervisor of the office took over my case. She made all the arrangement of tastings and obtained the authorization of referral to a melanoma specialist.

By the time I started my first cycle of treatment in January 2009, the cancer in one lymph node on the right hip area had invaded the whole set of inguinal nodes on the left. So the cancer went from stage II to stage IV.

I went through two cycles of bio-chemo and one surgery and two more cycles of bio-chemo. At the end of June 2009, I completed four cycles of in-patient treatments and one surgery. By this time, the first cancerous lymph node had shrunk into a dead tumor. Dr. O’Day, the melanoma specialist, and the surgeon agreed that it was a good idea to have one more surgery to remove the dead tumor. I had the second surgery done in early July, 2009. The surgeon removed one larger tumor plus 15 smaller dead tumors.

The final procedure was the radiation. Dr. O’Day ordered two sets of radiation. The first set was five days a week for four weeks in the pelvic area. The second set was once a week for four weeks. I met with the radiologist. She aligned me with the radiation machine, marked the tattoo on my body so that each radiation would be done in the same position. She further explained to me the side effect and the possible damage of the radiation. My husband is a radiology technician. He discussed the situation with Dr. O’day. Dr. O’Day decided that the damage would have outweighed the benefit. Therefore he cancelled the first set of radiation. I only needed to do the second set. I started the second week of July and completed it in the first week of August 2009.

Before I entered this journey, I didn’t know where it would have taken me. I only knew that if God didn’t say He was done with me, I had no right to decide to quit. I had to take the chances presented to me and trust him to guide me through. All I could do was to take one day at a time. There were so many nights that I didn’t have any sleep because the chemo drugs burning continuously. My body was so hot and the skin was so sensitive. Knowing that I didn’t have to go to work the next day helped to reduce my anxiousness. Throughout my treatment, my family and friends were my greatest support.

I do believe there is a reason for every season, and for every suffering. With God’s help, I could look beyond the suffering, even when I was right in the middle of it. In the end, I was able to count the suffering as my blessing.

Post note: The highlighted links are linked to the previous 8 posts. I continue to suffer lymphedema (swelling) on left leg, and nerve damage on both legs resulting in tingling and poor circulation.

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Please share your thankfulness by participate at Haddon Musings

Gratitude Moments #7

April 29, 2009

My surgery was on March 12 and was discharged on March 19. The melanoma doctor, Dr. O’Day, said I could rest for six weeks before the next bio-chemotherapy. During these six weeks, I had to get strong physically and nutritionally. By this time, my vomiting had subsided. My appetite was increased. It was a good sign because I could eat as much as possible. I needed to gain at least six pounds in six weeks. With this mindset, I ate whenever my stomach allowed. I ate ice-cream every day. One friend teased me by saying that, “Go ahead and eat ice cream before you have to worry about weight gain!”

 Several of my neighbors had been our friends for twenty some years. They invited us over for dinners. One neighbor, Doris was especially hospitable, she invited us almost every weekend. Her son, Randy, my husband’s best friend, barbecued steaks. Doris said, “Miriam, eat. The meat will help to replenish your blood.” I did, I ate the biggest piece of steak on the platter. She was so pleased that I could eat. She told everybody included her dental hygiene patients that I ate the biggest piece of steak.

The chemo drugs burned all the cells in me, good and bad. I was down to skin and bone. Another issue was the burning that dried up my skin. I soaked in the hot bath for an hour each night. After the tough skins got soften a little bit, I scrubbed off the dead skin gently. After drying off, I put layers of lotion, and thick cream, and then lotion all over my body. The cream only served as sealing of my skin. As soon as the cream dried up, I felt itchy everywhere. It would take months down the road for the new skin to be the replacement of the dead skin. Soaking in the bath before bedtime helped me not to feel itchy at night. There were a few nights I could not get enough hot water for the bath, my husband boiled the water on the stove and carried pots of hot water to fill the bathtub. I could never forget about what he did for me!

As far as my body temperature, it was very difficult to describe. On one hand, I didn’t have enough blood to keep me warm, so I bundled up from head to toes in a warm spring time. Yet the drugs continue to burn and made my skin sensitive and hot. Bedtime was a drag for me. When I went to bed, I put a sheet between my legs so they would not have direct contact. With covers on, I would be too hot. Without covers on, I would be cold. So I just put a sheet over my upper body. I took medication to help me sleep, yet all the discomfort took three or four hours to be calmed down before I felt asleep. My husband kept very quiet when he got up in the morning. I had the mask on so the sunlight didn’t wake me up. It was about nine or ten o’clock when I woke up.

During this time, the world was thousands of miles away from me. The pain, discomfort, and weakness were ever present. This was also a time I felt the Lord was right next to me. I talked with Him all the time. I just said to him, “Please help me through this. I need to get well. I need to be well for my husband and my daughter.” His assurance gave me hope. His Word gave me strength and endurance to take a tiny step at a time. I knew I could make it.

Daily Prompt:  Replacement

Daily Prompt: Hospitality

Gratitude Moments #5

March 23, 2009

I had blood transfusion on February 18, 2009. It took 1 1/2 hours preparation and 6 hours of transfusion.

After the second cycle of bio-chemo treatment, my body system was really messed up.  The warning of side effects on paper became reality to me. I lost 10 pounds in 7 weeks! It sounded like a commercial!  But nobody wanted my kind of diet plan though.  I lost half of the hair, not quite bald yet.  Two more cycles of bio-chemo would make me bald. I didn’t shave my hair, it fell off gradually, but I was hanging on to every thread of it. At one point, my husband said I looked like a punk!

The worse side effect was my skin because the medication burned my skin.  It was very dry and itchy day and night.  Medications for itching didn’t help.  Sometimes I was awake all night scratching.  I drank constantly to flush out the toxin in my kidney. The burning sensation also didn’t let my legs touch each other, so a sheet was put in between to reduce the irritation.

My surgery was on March 19, 2009.  I went into the surgery room at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday.  There were two procedures for this surgery.  They set up for the first procedure, and it took more than 1 hour for the first procedure. Then they had to change the setup for the 2nd procedure, and took more than two hours for the second procedure.  It was 9:00 p.m. when it was done.  I was under full anesthesia the whole time, and woke up at 10:30 pm.

I couldn’t go to sleep, of course, after sleeping for 8 hours.  I was in pain.  There was a patient controlled pain medication button.  The nurse said, “Don’t wait until you’re extremely painful to press the button, when it started to come, press it.” I couldn’t tell time in the dark and kept pressing the button when in pain!  When daylight came, I felt dizzy.  When I ate, I threw up. On top of it, the doctor put a nerve block on my left leg in addition to the full body anesthesia.  So the day after the surgery – Friday, I couldn’t stand up at all because I couldn’t feel my left leg.  The doctor didn’t discharge me on Saturday.

The surgery removed the set of inguinal nodes which was invaded by cancer on the left side of my body. Lymph nodes are for body fluid circulation. The function of inguinal nodes is for the fluid from the lower body to circulate to the upper body; then to the heart, and circulates back to the lower body. Now my inguinal nodes were gone. The fluid that wanted to circle through it would hit a wall. Two draining bottles with the tubes and needles were inserted in the surgical area through incisions to catch the fluid. I was to record the amount of drainage daily to determine when to remove the tubes.

The discharge was delayed by one day because of the dizziness and vomiting. The surgeon said he got everything, the cancer cells were gone; and the CT scan didn’t find anything unexpected. God had mercy on me. I didn’t deserve it, but He spared my life.

I went home to rest for about four weeks before the final two cycles of bio-chemo treatment.
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Daily Prompt: Gone

Gratitude Moments #1

Daily Prompt: Year

Daily Prompt: Hopeful

New Year invites us to look ahead, not to look back. I would like to put this in a perspective.

Looking back may remind us the mistakes we had made, thus encourage us to do things differently. Looking back to our achievements boosts our energy to go even further. Looking back to the dangerous spots we had bypassed, the near-death encounters we experienced caused us to ponder: “Who am I to have survived when some did not?”

It is grace that I could cross the threshold of 2016 and step into 2017. This time of year in 2009, I was getting ready for my first bio-chemotherapy. It was a nervous moment to face the outcome of unknown; yet it was a chance I willingly accepted because of my love for my husband and my daughter.

I have to go back a little bit further in time. During my regular annual physical check up in the summer of 2008, my doctor told me that the fibroid in my uterus had grown rapidly within a year. He referred me to my gynecologist. My gynecologist confirmed that it was time to have hysterectomy done. He said, “You are not planning on having more babies, aren’t you?” I giggled without giving an answer.

The hysterectomy was done on July 31, 2008. At 10:00 p.m. on August 1, my gynecologist came to the hospital room to inform me calmly that I had melanoma in my uterus. Even though the uterus was removed, but the cancer cells were still in my female organ area. He told me that all the referrals of testing and surgery were made. He left me his cell phone number because he was going on vacation the next day.

The surgery to remove the cancer cells was done in October. One thing that I still don’t understand till this day was that, the surgeon removed all the cancer cells in the tissues except one cancerous lymph node. He referred me back to my primary care hospital for chemotherapy treatment.

Through a lot of miscommunication, I waited until December before I got the attention of the supervisor of the hospital case management. Then I was referred to a Melanoma expert in United States for treatment. The first bio-chemotherapy treatment was scheduled to be on January 5, 2009. The case management supervisor personally arranged all the CT scan, EKG, Lab work needed to be done before the treatment.

During November and December of waiting time, my cancer went from stage II to stage IV, because the cancer from one lymph node had crossed over to the other side of the body and invaded the whole set of lymph nodes.

This time of the year in 2009, I was waiting for my first cycle of six-month bio-chemotherapy.

The story will be continued…….

Chill and Shiver

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Daily Prompt: Shiver

The unstoppable chill and Shiver

Are still as vivid as present.

Lying in the hospital bed,

While chemo drugs

Dripping into my vein.

“As the side effect of chemo drugs,

You’ll have flu-like symptoms

Such as chill and shiver.” The nurse said.

With anticipation yet not knowing

When it would happened,

I was helplessly waiting.

Oh, it came!

I clenched my teeth,

Tightened my fists,

Curled up my body,

Tried to hold it still.

No! Useless effort!

A button I had to press.

The nurse came with

A shot to the IV into my vein.

The muscles relaxed,

The shiver subsided.

I was good for the time being,

Prayed for strength and endurance

Until the next round coming.

 

 

New Normal

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Today marks the 7th anniversary of Remission from my cancer!!

What was my normal schedule and activities all my life until 2008?

Getting up before 6:00 a.m.

Rushing to get on the road to go to work

Multitasking on the job and loving it

Keeping up with cooking dinner and other chores

Keeping up with all the family and social activities

Traveling one to three trips a year

What happened from summer 2008 to summer 2009?

Cancer

Six months of chemotherapy

Four surgeries

Five weeks of radiation

What is my New Normal?

Thank God for retirement, or else I would not be able to do the following:

Deal with the side effect of chemotherapy – lymphedema on the legs

Unable to fall asleep until the numbness and tingling of my legs subside

Time to get up would have to depend on the time I fall asleep the night before

Running errands is as big a job as climbing mountains

Making two to three stops are manageable, the fourth one has to wait for another day

Elevating my legs and resting is a daily route, whereas years ago I considered it as wasting time

Exercise is a must, not a luxury

Priority is the key to manage my schedule

Something for my spiritual, physical, mental life, and make time to be a blessing to others

No promise is made to do everything and I don’t feel guilty if I can’t do it

God bless my being, even when I can’t measure up with my doing!