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Archive for April, 2014


A different world: Part 1 of 2
April 29, 2014

DDr. R is a different doctor from my oncologist, Dr. M.  For one, the former is a more of a researcher and the latter a clinician.  I am entering a different world this time– new surroundings, new people, new hospital, and new treatment.

The difference with my former hospital is noticeable.  My “old hospital” is relatively small and I am very much familiar with it.  When I walk in the cancer center, I see the familiar sights of nurses and patients who are all hooked up to their chemo infusion pumps.  It has been my “home” for the past six years.  I practically know all the nurses there, and they know me.  I have my favorite chair which allows me a good view to the healing garden of the hospital.  I have spent many hours here; met new friends, and have said goodbyes to those taken by cancer.  The familiarity of the surroundings evoke many memories, including the sterile smell of chemo.

I am about to turn a new page.  I got in to a clinical trial at University of Chicago (UofC), which will be my “new home”.  It is different from my old hospital; much bigger and further from my house (15 miles vs. 1.5 miles).  The staff, specially the nurses, are highly trained with lots of acronyms following their names (and they even have business cards to give.  Impressive.).  At Uof C, before Dr. R sees me, a Fellow (board certified doctor in specialty rotation) sees me first, then the doctor.  At my old hospital, a medical student/s checks me first then my oncologist, Dr. M.  I can get use to this.

I go to a cancer specialty area too: the research center.  You might say that the research center is the last stop for those fighting cancer, it is the “outlier” practice.  Anything goes here.  The people I see at the waiting room are different too; some are very sick while some looking normal.  They come from distant places too and the presence of their families accompanying patients are noticeable.  I am among them now; people who have exhausted their options.  We are human guinea pigs or lab rats or those who can offer hope to others.

 

“Thanks for coming at quick notice.” Dr. R said upon seeing me.

They called during my lunch break and was asked to come in two hours.  Also, this is my third time to meet him for a consult.  He and I still needs to warm up to each other.

“A new phase 1 clinical trial just opened up and I think it fits you.  It is an immuno-therapy treatment for drug x (not sure if I can divulge the name, but it is also a tongue-twister), combined with an FDA approved drug for colorectal cancer.”

We are bonding now, doc.

Without stopping he tells me the details for the drug and the objective of the trial: to determine the effective toxicity level or safe level of the drug.

“You must decide now if you want to enter the program”  Gulp.

To be continued…

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Life and opportunities
April 24, 2014

II have been away for Easter.  My wife and I spent our Easter holiday in Kona, Hawaii.  It is our first time in Hawaii and like all first-timers we enjoyed ourselves.  What is not to enjoy?  Constant sunny 80F (26C) degree weather and low humidity, when it was cold in Chicago.  There’s the rich savory food, turquoise water, awesome snorkeling, and mouth-watering luau.  All tempting for my knee-buckling wishful vegan taste.

It was a long shot for me to go to Hawaii.  This trip was booked last October not knowing if I was going to make the trip.  I was still undergoing chemo back then and was still scheduled to do more.  As a present to my goddaughter, Miranda, I booked the trip anyway.  As Easter week approached, my confidence peaked knowing that I will make it to Hawaii.  I was not disappointed.

Aloha!  My sense were primed to soak in the paradise experience.  It helps when I have been off chemo for a couple of weeks.  We explored the island, worshipped the sun, and ate.  One of my most memorable experience was a boat ride to marine reserve  near Captain Cook’s monument, Kealakekua Bay, to go snorkeling.  I have done snorkeling before when I was young, but to go snorkeling in the reefs of Hawaii was beautiful.  My sense were over loaded by the experience; each breath I take was precious, the colors were radiant, and the fishes playful.  I had just describe to you what life is all about—precious, radiant, and playful.  I felt alive…while my wife got sea-sick.

Before coming to Hawaii, I already see life differently because of my cancer.  I see it in the radiant eyes of my grandson, Ethan, feel it in the caring touch of my wife, and in the nurturing attention of my family and friends.  But put me in Hawaii and the experience: of snorkeling with the fishes, watching spinner dolphins, feeling the warm sun, savoring fresh fruits, walking in the lava fields, and sweating in the lush tropical jungle, is just an immersion of what life has to offer.

It is an understatement to say I enjoyed Hawaii.  Having said this, I still look back where I came from and marveled at how opportunities present themselves.  It makes me look forward to new things or a surprise around the corner.  I may not know what happens tomorrow or whether I will be back in Hawaii, but I will always cherish the current moment for it is a gift.  Dreamily, I still hear the soothing roll of waves coming in caressing the white sand beach.  I still see the romantic rhythm of the Hawaiian dance, as it lulls me to forget my cancer.  And of course, I can still taste the savory saliva-inducing ahi poke….ha!  Mahalo.

Mingling with the natives.  Love it!

Mingling with the locals. Love it!

Cheers.

P.S.  I maybe starting chemo again using an experimental drug.  Will write about it.

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Life does not stop.
April 6, 2014

I still don’t have any news if I am going to be accepted in the University of Chicago Medicine clinical trials.  It has been a couple of weeks now.  While waiting I have been keeping fit.

Yesterday, my wife and I did 5.7 miles and the previous week we did the 8K (5 miles) Shamrock Shuffle with my oncologist, Dr. M.  He was such a trooper, inspite of having little or no training, he completed the race.  He was tempting me to take a shortcut at the halfway point,  but I just laugh it off.  (“Let’s take a cab.  I’ll pay.”)  LOL.  I am sure he was sore after that experience.

I am totally amaze at the new experience I am having as I am getting weaned off my chemo toxins.  The food taste better, the air is fresher, and life is much sweeter.  As I gain my strength back I am able to run longer too.  It feels like I am putting distance between me and my cancer.

But alas, that may not be so.  Last Thursday, I went back to the hospital to have my chemo port flushed (it gets clogged when not in use).  I also had my blood test.  My CEA level (tumor count) still show elevated and it moved a few points again.  Nothing significant, but it is still a reminder that I am not cured.

Lift does not stop whether you have cancer or not.  It works the same for any other disease or problems.  Since life does not stop, it is best just to get up, move, and make the most of it.  Doing nothing is not an option for me.  There are new things to do and many things to learn for cancer to stop me.  It may slow me down, but it will not take away my thirst for what life has to offer.

 

Quinoa pasta with garlic and vege sauteed in olive oil.  Bam!

Quinoa pasta with garlic and vege sauteed in olive oil. Bam!

Cheers.

P.S.  I would like to thank my friend and cancer-survivor, Noreen, for treating my IT band problem.  I love her.  Lastly, Palm Sunday is coming up.  Can you say “Aloha?”

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