Friday, April 30, 2010

April 30 - feeling much better

My appetite and energy have returned.  I'm getting lots of meds today.  I've got  a total of 11 bags/bottles.  It started at 10am and finished before 5pm.
I got more CIC (Immunotherapy) injections on both shoulders.  My shoulders had just recovered from the last dose.  Now they'll be sore again.  I keep moving them so the meds will spread faster rather than just hang out in my muscle feeling like bruises. 
I found the schedule for Channel 6 - StarMovies.  In StarMoviesAsia.TV, choose location Philippines. 
CNN (Channel 4)  is back.  Channel 3 is now Discovery Travel & Living (Travel Channel and FLN).
Segs (Service Administrator) came by to visit.  He was the one who noticed that my energy was back.  He said I was smiling again.  Yesterday, I was just lethargic.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

April 29 - last procedure - details

April 28 (Wed) - The nurses started to prep me for the procedure around 5pm.  The last meal I had was the light breakfast the doctor had me take at 10am which was a boiled egg, milk and jello.   They took me down to the CT guided OR around 5.30pm.
While waiting, I met a Filipina mother who was accompanying her 10 year old son (who was still in the OR undergoing iodine seed implant).  It was their second time in Fuda.  They expected only local chemo, but due to the PET scan results, the doctors recommended iodine seed implant.  She had a hard time preparing her son.  She wished that the doctors warned them that the treatment plan may change depending on the scan results.
Then it was my turn.  They had me lie on the CT bed.  Then I had to sign the consent form.  Then more prepping going on around me and the I was out.  When I opened my eyes, I thought no time had passed.  I asked the doctor, "Finished?".
Doctor:  "Finish."
Me:  "How many cryo probes did you use?"
Doctor:  "4."
The wheeled me into the ICU at 6.30pm.  I had a feeling I'd be there overnight since my doctor probably went home and will only be able to order my return when she arrives in the morning.  Just like all my other procedures, no one bothered to tell mom that I was done in the OR and was in the ICU.  She did not even know that I would not be returning that night.  I remember my first two procedures, I asked the nurses in the ICU to tell my mom I was done.  They said, "Yes."
I was really cold.  Probably the general anesthesia.  The nurses put me under 2 winter blankets.  I also was not feeling like eating.  Around 1am, they asked me if I was hungry.  I did not think I could eat so I said no.  I threw up once around 2am.
This time, I knew I would not be able to get away from using the bedpan since they were pumping lots of liquids via IV.
The doctor came around 9am.  She said I only need to have x-rays done then I'll be brought to my room.  I opted to wait to go to the bathroom in my room.
We went to the x-ray.  The nurse noticed my discomfort.  I told her I had to pee.  After my x-ray, she brought me back to ICU.  I went to the bathroom.  Lo and behold!  It's a squat toilet!  It's a friggin' hole in the ground.  I was still a little weak but I concentrated on squatting and getting it done.  I was wobbly getting up.  The nurse was saying Careful! and Slowly!  Really?  There's no slowly coming from a full squat with your knees shaking.  No wonder ICU patients are not allowed to go to the toilet. 
She then brought me back to the room.  Mom was outside since they were still disinfecting the room.  They wrapped things up as soon as I got there.  It was nice to be back.
I could not eat all day.  I had jello.  Some congee (rice porridge) for lunch.  I was nauseous all day.  The weather was bad so there was no CNN or NatGeo.  O well...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April 28 - Cryosurgery (lung - anterior lobe)

Last night, the nurses reminded me that my cryosurgery is scheduled today.  I had been fasting since midnight.
This morning, my doctor came to see me to see how I was doing.  Then she checked for my schedule.  I was 7th on the list.  Probably in the afternoon, she said.  She let me have a boiled egg and some water.  So now I'm just waiting.
I'm not really worried.  The last 2 times I went through cryo, it wasn't so bad.  I expect a 24-hour recovery period.
I still have my neuropathy, though.  My fingers and toes are still numb and feel like pins and needles.  Control is getting better, though.  Yesterday, after accupuncture, the accupuncturist gave me a massage on my legs.  I complained that they were very stiff and numb.  The massage hurt a little while he was doing it but feels so much better now.  It might take a while for the chemo to clear from my body.
Another lung cancer patient shared to me that he's been doing coffee enemas for months.  This has worked to control his disease without chemo or radiation.  The coffee enema clears out the liver where all toxins go.  Interesting concept.  I might try it when I get back.

Monday, April 26, 2010

April 27 - noon - Naudlot - No mall :-(

When the doctor told me yesterday that I had no medications to take today, we made plans with our friends to go to the mall for lunch (dimsum).  I was soooooooo looking forward to it! 
As I stepped out of my room, my nurse said, "No!  You have CIC (Immunotherapy) infusion.  That will take an hour."  I was so pissed because I was in my room all morning.
So, since our friend's daughter was already at the mall (we were to meet at noon), I had Mom go with our friend.
Lesson:  If you want to go out, make sure your doctor and your nurse say it really is OK and you have no scheduled meds.
By the way, aside from the IV (cultured blood they took from me), they injected me in the rear.  (Oo, sa pwet.)

April 26 - can't wait for my break

No problem!  (My doctor always says this.)
My doctor told me that I will get a break from my meds (by IV) Tue and Wed.  So we've made plans with some friends to go to the mall tomorrow to have lunch at this dumpling place.  Maybe some shopping after.  Can't wait!
The meds I usually get are for lungs (clearing phlegm), liver function (2 bags), antibiotics (1 bottle of yellow liquid that looks like pee) and stomach (to protect it; antacid?).
I had my immunotherapy shots today (3rd dose).  I got one on each shoulder and another in the knee area.  The shots in the shoulders hurt after the injection itself.  It feels like a bump with a bruise under it.  So I usually move my shoulders to get the blood moving in that area.  The accupuncturist does the knee shot.  I don't know if it's because he's an accupuncturist and he's injecting in an accupuncture point, but I don't feel that particular shot.  Maybe just he's just that good.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

April 25 - Church

We planned to go to church today so I asked my nurses to hurry the meds so I can be ready to leave by 2pm.  The meds finished a little after 1pm so I was able to get ready in time.
We were to meet our nurses who were going to church with a group of other patients.  But outside the hall, even before 2pm, other patients were already gathering and planning to go to church as well.  They were holding hand-outs from the hospital that had the names and addresses (in English and Chinese) of points of interest around the hospital so patients can point to the place they want to go to a taxi driver.  (We didn't get one of these.  That is supposed to come with the welcome fruit basket.  I asked for one and they said they'll send me a copy as soon as they make more.)
I saw my friend from yesterday and we joined the group.  We opted to take the bus with the nurses and their group.  There were at least 10 of us.  Bus fare was 2 RMB per person.  We rode the 190 bus from the station near the hospital.  It was at least a 30 minute bus ride.
During the ride, an elderly lady got on and stood next to my seat.  I tried to get up and offer her my seat.  She shoved (surprisingly forceful at her age) me back into my seat and started chatting in Chinese.  I smiled at her and said 'I don't speak Chinese.'  But still she carried on.  She could have been telling me about her family or shopping list, I could only guess. 
They said there was just a 10 minute walk from the bus stop.  That was a long walk.  It's a 10 minute walk through the most congested city ever.  The dust and smog!  That cannot be healthy for anyone.  If you've ever walked EDSA-Kamuning (Manila) or Chinatown in LA during rush hour, that's how bad it was.  Considering that was Sunday afternoon, I don't want to see that area when they consider it rush hour. 
I hear that if you are late to church, the doors close.  We were late.  Good thing the doors remained open.  There was a LOT of people.  The 3.30pm mass is the only English mass.  Everyone who doesn't speak Chinese goes then.  The place was filled to overflowing.  Even the entrances were crowded.  Since I was tired from my walk, I stood at the entrance only for part of the service and sat outside for most of it.
The church itself (Sacred Heart of Jesus) is a big, gorgeous, Gothic church.  What surprised me the most was that there were a lot of Africans in attendance.  What brings Africans to China?  Singing hymns made me think I was in a Baptist church.  It was awesome for they sang whole-heartedly. 
On the way back, 4 of us agreed to split taxi fare so we don't have to do the long walk through the dust and smog.  Getting a taxi was another adventure in itself.  This is where the language barrier is really apparent.  The streets were super busy.  There were no taxi stops.  There were no stopping taxis either.  Maybe it was because the mass had just finished and church goers were all snapping up the taxis.
We noticed super compact mini-vans on the side of the road.  These are taxis that do not have meters.  You bargain the fare up front.  The first guy we bargained with looked too shifty so we tried a different corner.  Another compact mini-van with a driver and a lady assistant stopped.  She knew enough English to strike the deal (60 RMB).  So we all crammed in.  There was no 3rd row so we really were crammed.
The drive was another adventure.  Talk about close calls not just with other vehicles but with motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians!  The road was a 4 lane freeway, too! 
Needless to say, I'm not ever doing that (Church) again.  The distance, pollution and aggravation is just not worth it.  Channel 2 (The Filipino Channel) airs a Catholic mass every Sunday at 6am.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

April 25 - 10 am - Movies and books

Channel 6 - StarMoviesAsia.TV
They constantly show this URL on the top left of the screen.  The schedule on the site does not coincide with whatever is on.  No where to get the schedule. 
I just finished watching X-Men (the first movie).  I just love how Cyclops and Wolverine get on each other's case.  Hilarious!  (It's stupid funny, but it is funny.)
Wolverine:  Don't shoot.  It's me.
Cyclops:  Prove it.
Wolverine:  You're a dick.
Cyclops: OK.
I have also been able to read Percy Jackson and the Olympians books 1 and 2.  Let's just say it's no Harry Potter (I'm a very big fan of the books).  Although I must admit i can't put the books down.  I want to know what happens next and I'll probably read the whole series.
What don't I like about it then?  It's the way it was written.  It's really targeted for the American youth.  It's very contemporary American.  Harry Potter was written for the British youth.  I just find it more exotic since I'm not around the English often.
But I do love the plot and the pace of the book.  Like I said, I can't put it down.  The author successfully melded ancient Greek mythology and the modern American culture. 

April 24 - 8pm - My first jaunt outside

3rd Floor Cafe
Mom heard of the 3rd floor cafe yesterday and wanted a cup of coffee.  I was itching to go out so I accompanied her. 
Mom had fresh orange juice and I had rose milk tea.  She was asking the waiter if the orange juice was fresh and the guy said yes - fresh!  When mom sat at our table, I told her that I wasn't sure if the guy understands the word fresh.  He knew rudimentary English.  All menu items had pictures so it was easy to point and order.  I thought 'fresh' may not be part of his vocabulary.
So I was pleasantly surprised when we heard the whir of some juicing machine and the smell of fresh oranges.  All their juices are made fresh!  Although watch the prices.  Mom's orange juice cost 18rmb (US$3).  Same price point as Starbucks.  We heard a bad review on the food so we skipped on their food items.
The Outside World
I really wanted to walk outside so Mom gave me a tour of her favorite stores and introduced me to English speaking store owners.  It was a nice day out.  It must have been in the mid-70's (Fahrenheit).  It was a typical Saturday afternoon.  Kids running around.  Families out and about doing laundry or just hanging out.  We were out about half an hour.  It was nice to touch the ground with at least my toes.  Saying Hi! to Mother Earth from the opposite side of the planet!  (Awesome!!!!)  Soaking in energy from this side of the world.
On our way back in, as we were getting into the elevator, a lady asked if we were Filipino.  She just got here and wanted to ask someone about their experience and how things work. She was meeting her mom here.  She travelled from the US (TX) and her mom was coming from Manila.  Her mom will arrive 10pm tonight.  She was downstairs to get a meal card. 
Another Fuda fact for newcomers:
The hospital does not take cash for food.  You need a meal card to eat either at the cafe or the delivered food service.  One thing they never tell you up front is that they require a 15rmb deposit for the card.  So the first time you give money (let's say 100rmb), they only load the card 85rmb.  You get your deposit back when you check out and return the card.  The next time you reload the card, they put in the full value.  The cashier doesn't explain this very well.
Back to our new friend... That was an awesome thing she did.  She looked for someone to talk to.  Her only requirements were that we spoke English (most Filipinos do) and that we had the time and inclination to do so.  The first patient (family) she tried was checking out and hurrying so she didn't really get a chance to talk to them.  We hung out with her at the cafe for a couple of hours giving her tips and tricks for newcomers.  When looking for "mentors", find someone who is settled in.  Between treatments, there really isn't much to do.  I find most patients (and companions) very open and friendly.  You'll find them in the lobby, at the hall near the nurse station, or at the shared kitchen when they cook.
By the way, since our new friend had not had lunch yet, she ate at the cafe.  Not too yummy.  Neither was their fresh apple-carrot juice (they had run out of orange).

April 24 - 3pm - untethered

I was being infused (via IV) with medicines from 9am to 2pm.  It's pretty much got me tethered to the bed.  My IV pole is stuck to the bed so I keep my movements within a certain radius.  I only go to the bathroom if I have to.  Don't want to unhook and re-hook my bottles unless necessary.  This really bugs me.
But it's 3pm now and currently, I'm untethered.  What am I doing?  Sitting on my bed blogging.  Shouldn't I be up and about?  What really bothers me is that I don't have a choice when I'm tethered.  Now, I choose to sit on my bed because I feel like blogging.  I can get up whenever I feel like it.
Alright, I'm getting up.

Friday, April 23, 2010

April 23 - 6pm - youth advantage

Today was a good day.  I felt good enough to get up and walk.  (I've been doing that since yesterday.)  Despite the cancer, my body is strong and it heals fast and heals well even from trauma like cryosurgey.  Given, it's minimally invasive.  But I'm so thankful to see that parts of my immune system still works.   My youth is a definite advantage.  The nurses are surprised that I'm up and about in less than 24 hours.
I truly believe I can beat this.  Now, even more so.
Mom got some rambutan (spiky Malaysian fruit).  YUM!!!  Haven't had that in years!
Here's a list of what you should bring if you ever come to Fuda:
1) toilet paper (6 roll pack - you can buy more at the supermarket if you run out)
2) paper towels
3) towels
4) everyday wear for the patient - pajamas (nice ones so you can move around the hall in them)
5) toiletries
6) utensils + plates + bowls (depends on what you like to eat in; microwavable)
7) tabo - if you don't know what this is, you don't need it
If you are a first timer, you are given:
1) a fruit basket
2) 2 rolls of toilet paper (you don't get any replacements)
3) 2 pairs of rubber slippers (useful)
4) 2 hand towels
5) bucket
6) 2 glass cups
Other interesting tidbits:
1) each room has a water dispenser.  1st 5-gallon bottle is free.  10rmb per refill
2) they won't give you accupuncture/traditional chinese medicine unless you request it
3) I was advised to bring a rice cooker.  Mom and I opted to order from their food service since we don't eat much.  You'll save so much more if you eat out or cook your own food. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

April 23 - a little sore but otherwise ok

A day after my 2nd cryosurgery, I'm doing ok.  There's some soreness and minimal pain.  I can walk to the bathroom (since I refuse to pee in a bedpan).  So, I'm pretty good.
When they took me yesterday, they took me down to the ultrasound guided operating room (as opposed to the CT guided).  The nurse opened the operating room door.  The other patient wasn't done yet!!!! I had to look away.  Then a stream of Chinese ensued.  In my head, the dialogue was like, "Hello, we're not done yet!!!".
"Well, what will I do with this one then?"
Why is it that when we can't understand the language, we assume they're arguing?
So, I waited out in the hall for a little while.  A nurse opened the OR door and started to talk in rapid Chinese - and ended her sentence with 'OK?'  <big smile>  Mixing of English and Chinese.  (Are you a Firefly fan?)  hmmmm...  Its happening!
I'm skipping over the actual procedure since I was asleep for most of it anyway.
They took me to the ICU around noon.  Like I said, I was just a little sore.  They wrapped me up really good.  (Parang naka bigkis.)  I wasn't going through jet lag anymore so I wasn't in the least sleepy. 
(TMI to follow - don't say I didn't warn you.  Skip this paragraph if you're squeemish.)
I wanted to pee around 2pm.  I asked if I could go to the bathroom.  The nurse said maybe tomorrow and setup the bedpan.  No matter what I did, my bladder refused to cooperate.  So I told the nurse maybe later.  My doctor came to see me at 4pm.  She asked how I was and all I could say was I had to pee really bad!!!  I told her I was fine otherwise so she told me she'd get a nurse to bring me to my room.  I said, "Good!  i can pee there!".  At this point, I was really hurting.  It had to be the bedpan.  I'm cursed with a very stubborn bladder.  Only  a little came out - enough to take the edge off.  They brought me back to my room before 6pm.  My nurses there let me go to the toilet like a normal person.
Moral of the story:  Pee before any medical procedure.  Unless you've got a catheter.  Or if you're a guy.
On the way out of the ICU, I saw a great sign:  Female Clothing Exchange (It was the Changing Room).

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

April 22 8am - cryosurgery (liver)

I'm just waiting for them to pick me up for my procedure.  The "Please be fasting" sign on my bedside reminding me not to have the juicy ripe mango in the fridge.

TV - I'm watching too much.  A lot of TFC (The Filipino Channel).  One thing I do appreciate is that they sign off at 1am.  They play the national anthem and stop broadcasting.  That's unheard of in the US.  They want to be green?  How about signing-off TV stations for 4 hours at night?  Who watches infomercials anyway?  Is the cost (in dollars and environmental costs) really worth 24 hour entertainment?

I do miss the Philippines.  It's summer there now. (It's all I see on TV!)  Mangoes are ripe.  I miss sitting under the shade of another tree (Mango trees have a LOT of ants on them) while eating mangoes.  Sweet or sour.  While there's liempo (pork belly) on a grill nearby...  ooooohhhh!  FOOD TRIP!!! 

Or a dip in the beach.  Wonderful saltwater soothing the senses.  Fresh fish!  So fresh you can eat it raw!  You buy them from the fisherman directly!

Now, I am regretting not passing by Manila while I'm here in the area. But I'm glad I'll see my cousin Tel in Hong Kong if only for a few days. 

Actually, I don't regret it too much not going home at this time.  It's election season.  Philippine politics makes my skin crawl.

April 21 - wanderings

Tomorrow, I'll do more cryosurgery (liver metastasis).  So I'm fasting again starting midnight.  The doctor asked me today whether I was ready.  YES!  I'm feeling a tightness on my right side from the last cryo.  She said that the lung needs to be trained to expand fully.  She was happy to hear I was ready.
Today was the 3rd session of acupuncture.  I'm actually feeling more control in my fingers. 
Cost of 1 acupuncture session in the US = $100.  In China = $10.
For the first time today, I wandered out of my room.  I was searching for funny English signs.  I'm still compiling those.  I felt a little guilty for poking fun at their English but I wouldn't go anywhere else for cancer treatment.  That does not assuage my guilt but I still need my small amusements

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

April 20 - Please be fasting

I miss Facebook.  Really.  My network in my fingertips.  I didn't do much today.  I had an infusion of more antibiotics since my doctor was still hearing sounds when listening to my chest. Nothing on TV to distract me.  Just felt like a really long day.  The good news is that my body finally realized it's not chemo.  I was able to eat a little while doing the infusion.  No nausea.  Yay!
I have a blood test tomorrow morning.  There is a sign near my bed saying "Please be fasting".  No food or water from midnight onward.  Blood test is at 7am.
I had my second accupuncture treatment.  It didn't hurt too much today.  My body is starting to get used to it.
I started my herbal tea regimen.  The herb is called the caterpillar fungus (Cordyceps sinensis).  This is what the write-up says...
Cordyceps sinensis is a valuable herb in China, and together with ginseng and deer horn the three major Chinese herbs are known as tonic.  Chinese medicine practitioners believe that the Chinese caterpillar fungus will be absorbed into the lung and kidney meridian, nourishing both lung 'yin', and kidney 'yang'.  Mainly can treat kidney deficiency, impotence and wet dream (who wants to be rid of that?), waist and knee pain, post-disease sickness, weakness after a long period of cough with bloody sputum, spontaneous persperation.  This medicine is the only one that can balance both yin and yang.
People claim it is majical.  Since ancient times, it is known as "the grass of the Gods".
It really looks like little caterpillars.  Doesn't taste bad.  I'm not going to fantasize about an ice cream in this flavor but as teas go, it's alright.  According to the resident Chinese medicine practitioner, it compliments immunotherapy making it more effective.

Monday, April 19, 2010

April 19 - still recovering

I had more medications infused today.  No nausea but no appetite either.  Finished at 3pm and was eating a little bit at a time.  I developed a little bit of a cough.  Little bit of blood coming out.  They gave me a nebulizer.  Maybe tomorrow, an herbal tea.  The treatments are really a fusion of east and west.  They gave me an option to say no to any of the procedures but I'm willing to try it out.
An accupuncturist came to see me.  I told him about my neuropathy (numbness in hands and feet).  He did accupuncture with electricity (like a muscle stimulator connected to the needles).  It hurt a little.  He said that's to be expected if I'm not used to it.  I also had to get used to just needles last year when I did it in the US.  I'll be doing this everyday for a week then twice a week after that.  I had mentioned my interest in accupuncture before I got to see the guy.  The hospital did not insist on the therapy. 
Segs came to say hello (the Filipino nurse who is in the welcoming committee).  His name is Segundo (meaning "second") and he's got III tagged on his name.  I asked him your name is "The Second - The Third"?.  Yep.  Ok...  He's organizing a gathering for Filipino patients so we can socialize and share rides to church on Sunday.  I also need a recommendation for a good dumpling place nearby.  Hehehe...
He also said that the episode of "The Correspondents" featuring Fuda is available on YouTube.  Just search for Nestor Bonifacio.  It's mostly in Filipino but they show how the procedures are done.
There's nothing interesting on TV tonight.  There are only 6 channels.
1 - The Filipino Channel (ABS-CBN)
2 - NewsAsia
3 - National Geographic (Military Monday is on tonight)  :-(
4 - CNN (All about the Iceland eruption)
6 - Star Movies Asia (some B movie with Denise Richards and Neil Patrick Harris is on)
7 - hospital channel (news featuring the hospital - mostly in chinese.  They show "The Correspondents" episode regularly.)
I'm actually sleepy.  Looks like jet lag is finally letting go.  Hopefully, I'll sleep through the night.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

April 17 - 18 - recovering from cryo

The weekend was pretty much the same.  Spent most of it in bed.  Most of the time tethered to some infusion bottle.  It's not chemo but antibiotics, anti-inflamatories... etc.  Unfortunately, my body is more difficult to convince.  I'm nauseous and I'm vomitting every so often.  I can't eat.  It's probably memories associated with infusion.  My body thinks it's chemo and it's reacting accordingly.  I'm trying to let go of the fear but it's difficult when you are then and there.  The doctor made the infusions go faster so that I was done by 4pm.  She says patients get meds 3 or 4 days after the procedure.  So, I may have 1 or 2 more days ahead of me.
When I'm not being infused, I feel fine.  Not much appetite but I can eat jello.  You know how in the US, after a procedure, they always feed you jello? 
Jello story:  Saturday morning, I asked Mom for some jello so she dressed and went to the nurse's station.  The doctors were having a stand-up meeting.  She goes in the middle and asks where she can get some jello.  Of course none of them know what jello is so, they Googled it!  After reading what it was, someone chimed, "My baby eats that!".  They wrote the chinese name down on a peice of paper.  Mom went to the grocery and got it.  When she returned, some doctors were still hanging around the nurse's station.  Mom showed them her bag of jello and told them, "I got it.  For my baby!"

Something funny happened on the way to x-ray. First thing Sat morning, a nurse came by to take me to the x-ray section downstairs. SOP for lung procedures to make sure there is no extra air or liquid in the lungs. (There was none.) Anyway, I needed to go to the toilet so I stood up. The nurse looked shocked. (This is significant in a later entry.)

When I was ready, I rode on my wheelchair. At the x-ray station, I stood up and next thing I knew, my pants fell to my knees. My nurse again was shocked and surprised. I really can't understand why they give me XL pjs. Not even for asian standards will I fit in those. Apparently, I did not draw the drawstring enough. My nurse did that for me and fixed me to look decent before leaving me at the x-ray station.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

April 16 - Cryosurgery right lung posterior lobe

About 7 am, a nurse came in to draw blood.  I was dreading it since I was so dehydrated.  I had been fasting since midnight and I already had difficult veins (drawing blood from me is a pain).  Anyway, we pointed out the fact that I had a port (this circilar thing connected to my jugular making access to my blood stream a lot easier).  One look at it and the nurse left and came back with the necessary equipment.  They needed 60 ml of blood for immunotherapy culture.  2 huge syringes.  It took time but she got it.
Around 9am, they picked me up to bring me to cryosurgery.  I changed from my cute pjs to official hospital garb (didn't want to stain my stuff with betadine).  The hospital pjs were huge!  I was drowning in it.  One size fits all and they were thinking of big European men when they were making this (Rob could fit in it!). 
They had me lie on my tummy in a CT scanner.  They used the CT scan to position the cryo probes right at the tumor.  When they started the IV, they used my port. Phew!  Last thing I remembered was that the doc was poking me in the back then everyone left the room and the CT scanner started.  Next thing, (I thought no time had passed) I woke up in the same position and everyone was disconnecting me from IVs, monitors, etc...  Then they lifted me from the CT scan bed to another gurney and flipped me on my back - not quite like a pancake but carefully.  My brain was like - Then it must be over and I'm lying on my wounds!!!  Then I felt the soreness in my back.  Owie!!
Off to the ICU.  It was 11am.  Mostly, I slept through the pain.  They did start immunotherapy.  They injected me with CIC on the upper left arm in the ICU.  I was hungry and nauseous at the same time.  Must be the general anesthsia.  
Around 5pm, they took me back to my room.  It was good to see mom.  I knew she was nervous.  A nurse came in to do more immunotherapy shots on my left knee.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

April 15 - Treatment plan

At 4pm, the doctor came in with the PET scan images/result.  It's official.  I'm Stage 4.  There is some metastasis in the liver.  Although, there is much improvement in the lungs.
Treatment Plan:
Apr 16 - Cryosurgery on lung (posterior lobe)
          - Immuno therapy - take 60 ml blood, culture 8 days then infuse back for 4 days.  Subcutaneous injection and accupuncture point injection with medicine which can improve immune function 4 times.
Apr 22 - cryosurgery and iodine seed implant on liver tumor
Apr 28 - cryosurgery and iodine seed implant on lung tumor (anterior lobe)
discharge: May 4  (estimate)
see Fuda Hospital site for more details on the treatments (
I'm super excited.  The liver metastasis does not faze me.  Mainly since there is a plan.  I have every confidence in my doctors.
I asked after discharge, what next?  I'll need a PET scan after 4 weeks or so.  Perfect. I was trying to get a scan before I left.  Insurance was giving me a hard time so it was postponed to May 29.  Perfect timing.  Then it all depends on the result of this scan.

April 14 - PET scan

They told me the day before that I'll have a PET scan today.  I can't have any sugar.  Only 2 boiled eggs in the morning and a pack of milk.  I was allowed water.
Being used to having PET scans, I knew I could not have any metal in my clothes (They did not tell us this before we left.  We were informed right before the test.)  I had my PET scan outfit on - t-shirt, sports bra (no clasp), garterized pants (no buttons or zippers).  Mom could not come since the shuttle was full.  There were 3 other patients.
It was done in another hospital about an hour away.  They fed us after the test.  I left the hospital at 11am.  Got back at 4pm.
I was still dealing with jet lag that night. 

April 13 - settling in

Didn't really do anything this day.  Mom changed some local currency.  A security officer escorted her and others to the bank.  They told us that in the future, we need only request for escort to the bank the day before.  She bought some fruit on the way back.
We also put in our security deposit (about $3K).  They give us a daily accounting of expenses.
Connected to the internet for the first time.  Banged my head against the great firewall.  No Facebook.  (I still get e-mail notifications so I read messages to me.)  No blog (  Blog workaround:  Blogger has this function where you can e-mail your posts for automatic posting.  I asked my cousin to help set this up.  Viola!  My cousin is also admin on xyzHopes and she updates the status.  (Thanks, Yas!!!)
I can access e-mail sites: google and yahoo.  Mom accessed her Hotmail.  I'm on chat via yahoo, skype and google.  I've got Trillian so I can monitor my chat accounts at the same time from one application.
Chat has helped me to deal with jet lag. (Thanks, Lisa!!!)  It helps to have friends in opposite time zones.
Food is amazing.  I'm describing hospital food.  The hospital is associated with a specific restaurant that delivers food to the rooms.  The nutritionist takes your order.  (You have the option to get from somewhere else or cook your own.  Since mom and I don't eat too much, we opted for their service.)  Tip: it helps to have your own utensils.  

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April 11 - en route

The flight was delayed about 30 mins or so.  Thank goodness my connecting flight from Hong Kong to Guangzhou was also Cathay Pacific so they'd probably wait for us.  While waiting for our flight, I made last minute calls to friends and family to pass the time. 
The flight itself was alright.  It was very long.  14 hours.  We all had individual TV's with on-demand programming.  I watched It's Complicated.  I read most of the way.  Only got up once  - 4 hours from HK.  I should have gotten up more.  I was really stiff.  But there's not a lot of room.  It's really cramped.  And I'm really small already.
When we got to HK, the connecting flight was boarding already.  We were escorted to our gate.  There was only enough time to rush through security and walk really fast to our gate.  Thank goodness this flight was only 30 mins.
We arrived at Guangzhou at 11:30 pm (Apr 11) local time.  I was exhausted.  So was Mom.  It was a nice surprise to see a Filipino nurse in the Fuda welcoming committee.  At least I didn't have any languge barriers to hurdle after a long flight.  They met 9 patients at the airport that night.  Mostly Filipino.
It took a 30 minute bus ride (private bus) to the hospital.  There was no room assignment for me so mom and I were put in a shared room temporarily.  It was late, I was tired.  At that point any bed will do. 
The other patient we were sharing the room with was a Filipina from Cebu.  It was her second time.  She told me of her experience.  I also met some of the doctors.  They gave us a private room the next day.  Having your own bathroom makes ALL the difference.  I'm in the 7th floor in the new hospital.

April 10 - Stop over: SF

We arrived in San Francisco April 9 at 3pm.  My eldest brother picked us up.  I love San Fran.  Mainly because I have so much family there - so many wonderful memories.  It feels like home.  It's like I never left.  Even if I had not been there in 2 years. 
That afternoon, we did some last minute shopping.  I went to Half-Priced books to stock up on reading material for China.  Payless for comfy sandals.  My other brother met us for dinner.  It was an awesome re-union. 
The next day we all went to our cousin's baby's baptism at San Juan Bautista.  It's a 300 year old Spanish mission overlooking the San Andreas fault.  My Aunt loves this church and taught us all to appreciate it.  After the ceremony, the priest took me aside for Anointing of the Sick.  I was so happy to receive this sacrament right before I journey to the unknown.  The reception was in a local restaurant serving authentic Mexican food.  YUM!!
More shopping later at the Gilroy outlets.  Mom needed some shoes of her own.  I stayed in the car with the kiddies.  They had their game consoles and various toys.  I still got to talk to them about movies, school, etc...
We all went to Sunday mass as a family (Saturday vigil).  Then another cousin came to visit that night.  We were laughing until our guts burst!
The next day we had breakfast at IHOP near the airport.  That's a bit of a tradition in our family since it's the closest restaurant to the airport.  2 other cousins met us there.  More laughter ensued.
It was difficult for me to leave San Fran.  I just got there.  I miss the feeling of being ensconced in my family's embrace.

April 9 - Leaving On A Jetplane

To my utter amazement, I had enough funding to start my trip to China.  The outpouring of love and support from my friends and relatives has been (and continues to be) overwhelming.
One last hurdle, I expected my travel documents to arrive last week.  As of Apr 6, I was pulling my hair out in frustration.  I had planned to leave Apr 7!!!  I made an appointment with the right government agency.  After 3 appointments in as many days, I got my docs, called a travel agent and got the tickets.
Why did I use a travel agent?  I asked for open return tickets (where I can arrange the schedule of my return flights at a later date).  In as much as she couldn't give me that, she gave me refundable tickets.  If for any reason I needed to adjust my return trip, I need only to e-mail her and she'll take care of it.  Plus, I was still working full time and I had not packed yet so time was of the essence.
What about work?  I had always planned to work from China.  But it was logistically difficult to arrange.  So, my boss convinced me to take time off so I can concentrate on healing.  
Mom and I packed the night of April 8.  We were booked on the noon flight to San Francisco.  That Saturday happened to be when my cousin was having her baby baptized.  So we planned to spend the weekend with family in the west coast before heading to China.  I wanted to break up the trip so it wasn't so gruelling.
Since we made the travel arrangements at the very last minute, I didn't have a long goodbye with my hubby and daughter.  They had known the plan for a couple of weeks.  I had really planned to leave after Easter so I could get back before Burke's First Communion.  I left a big box of goodies (mix of candies and toys) for Burke.  She should get one goodie a day (much like an advent calendar) and that should last until my return.
And thank goodness for Burke's group of surrogate moms.  They organized a schedule to help Mike with after school care for Burke.  She was super thrilled to find out she would get play dates every school day!
That's the blur I left the East coast in.  I was trying not to think too much into the future because I had no idea what to expect in China.  Anyway, I needed to concentrate on the task at hand.  Too much to do in so little time.  The next thing I knew, I was kissing my family goodbye.  Leaving on a Jetplane was playing in the background in my head.