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Archive for May, 2011


Karkinos

May 14, 2011

t means ‘crabs’ in ancient Greek. It was the term used by the ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates, to describe the tumor he saw with its clutch of swollen blood vessels around it. Tumors looks like crabs? Such a vivid picture to describe them. I happen to love these crustaceans.

I learned this from the book I am reading, The Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, winner of Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction. The book goes through the “biography” of cancer from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago and how the battle to find a cure goes on until today.  It is a fascinating and informative book.  It tells the story of the many patients diagnosed with difference kinds of cancers,  and their journeys taken.  It reminds me of my own and of those I know.

Each cancer survivor has their own story, a biography, a beginning. It was the day most often described in many ways: a day when ‘the train hits you’ or when ‘the rug was pulled under you.’  Mine was on March 20, 2008, Holy Thursday, when my doctors first used the ‘C’-word (cancer).  But it started the week before while on the last leg of a business trip in Brazil.

I had a bloody stool episode and had a colonoscopy done in Rio. The Brazilian doctors knew right away but did not tell me the diagnosis: colon cancer.

“Show this specimen slide to you doctors in the US and they would know.” Said Dr.M.

I decided to go home when they told me my only option was surgery. I took it plainly like I just needed a bad tooth pulled out, and after go back to my normal busy life. No c-word. Nothing.

Then…bam!

I thought about that moment when Jamie (my PT) told me recently that her colleague and my friend, Noreen, may have cancer of the lymph glands or lymphoma. I staggered from the news. I imagine the influx of emotions she must have felt that forced her to take this journey.

Then there are the numbers thrown at you or discussed delicately around, like mortality rate, survival rate, prognosis, etc.  Yes, dizzying array of new data to process.

“Oy veyes. Don’t fradraiken me a kup” (Oh my. Don’t mess with my head) as my Jewish friends would say.

Welcome to my world, Noreen.  Don’t worry I will be here for you and others.  Just take it one step at a time.  Each day from this moment forward is a gift. It has always been like that but now it has new meaning.

Your biography of cancer just started. You will do well.

Cheers.

PS:  Chemo day tomorrow…woohoo!

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Baby steps

May 8, 2011

“o on your left side and lift your right leg sideways for me.” Asked Dr. N, the sport medicine doctor.

He put some downward pressure on my leg and it just collapsed. Damm, I thought. Another injury again. I really need to listen to my body and not rush my miles buildup. I have been having this pain in my right knee for the past couple of months and I was hoping it would just going to heal by itself.  But it was not getting well inspite of ice packs, stretchings, and Advils. The pain is in the inside part of my knee and is different from an ITB injury. The pain comes after the run not during the run.

“You have patellofemoral pain or runner’s knee, a misalignment of the kneecap due to tight hamstrings. You need rehab. Are to see Jamie?” He asks.

“Yes.”

Jamie is my physical therapist who did wonders to rehab my other knee due to ITB problems. It will be good to see her again. She is my ‘dominatrix’. She tortures me with all these gadgets aka exercise equipment.

After seeing Dr. N, I called Jamie and it seems news travel fast.

“I hear you are injured again?” She greets me.

“Yes. I mean…yes, madam.” I caught myself right away and hid the fear in my voice…haha.

The good new is, it is still early in the running season for me to recover. Got to take baby steps like Ethan. The boy is growing up fast. He is just learning to respond to his surroundings. At 13-days old, he is telling everybody in the house that he is the master. The new ‘alpha’ of the pack. He wakes up early morning and cries, and his mom gives him milk.  Burps, then sleeps.  What a life.  He does not like his pacifier and would just spit it out.  He is starting to smile and of course, I go crazy.

I need to be like you, Ethan. Just chilling and taking in all what life has to offer.  I would not go for the pacifier either unless it is dipped in beer.  I got your back, bff.

Cheers.

P.S.  Happy Mom’s day to all the mothers.

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Witnessing life this time.

May 1, 2011

ast Monday, April 25, I got to witness the beginning of life. His name is Ethan, and he is my first grandchild. Born April 25 at 10:56 am and is a hefty 8 pounds, 19.5 inches baby.

Living with cancer gets you to witness death of friends or the possibility of one’s death. Since being diagnosed with cancer three years ago, I’ve had front-row seating to how cancer affects you and the people around you. It has been a roller coaster journey for me. I have told you about the passing of dear friends, or those I have not met, and how they have affected me. This time let me tell you about witnessing the birth of  life.

Doctors, especially ob-gyn doctors, see the birth of life everyday. I am sure it was an ordinary working day for Dr. W, my daughter’s doctor. But to me it was not. It was the fulfilment of God’s joke on me. You see, when I was in despair from my treatments I asked God to let me live long to see my grandchild. Now here we are.

My daughter, Abby, clung to me in pain as Ethan was rushing to the finish line. Wait…wait, the doctor is not yet here (it was only the resident who was assisting).

“Breath, Abby. We are going to bring this baby out with all the love we have.” I coached her.  She was in pain, in tears, and sweating.  The epidural was not working properly.

Just in time Dr. W came and we all got to business. Push…push…push. Go Ethan go.  Abby gripped and hugged me hard.  OMG. First the crown of the head, then the face, then the shoulder, arms, body, legs, and feet. The birth of my grandson, Ethan.   Wow.

“Would you like to cut the umbilical chord?” The doctor looked at me.

Me? I looked around to my daughter, my wife, and the baby’s father. Why me? That was a familiar: Why me? Like the question I posed myself when my oncologist first told me I have cancer.

“Are you comfortable with your cancer?” The doctor looked at me.

The two question may seem different and yet it can be answered by the same response to the other: acceptance or denial. Do I accept the scissor or deny myself the blessed opportunity? Do I accept I have cancer or deny this scorn exist?

But alas, I was not going to deny myself of the opportunity of bring this baby to this world. He represents hope: hope of a better life for himself, hope that I will be there for him as he grows up.  Snip.

I am glad you are here, Ethan. You bring new meaning to my life because you gave me an opportunity to see what’s its like to be a spoiling grandparent.  We will be good buddies, you and I.  You have my permission to call me Dude. Sincerely, your BFF.

Baby Ethan in my arms, wife and Abby

Cheers.

PS:  After Ethan was born, my wife and I went to see my liver surgeon, Dr. A, regarding my elevated liver function test.  He said there is nothing to be concern as long as my tumor count is low and that it must be from the monthly chemo I am receiving.  Thank you!  Two good news in one day.  Life is wonderful.

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