Saturday, September 12, 2009


Will you think that you’re all alone
When no one’s there to hold your hand?
when all you know seems so far away
And everything is temporary, rest your head
I’m permanent
“Permanent” by David Cook

I struggled for quite some time as feelings of doubt and uncertainty set in. I had asked Dr. Scotty if he could send my pathology slides to the main MC center located in another state to get a 2nd reading on them. He readily did that for me, and the readings came back to confirm that what I had now was non-Hodgkin; but they further added that the original mediastinal mass was also non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma unlike the lymph node which was still read as Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This meant that I had both components of Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma from the beginning. When I asked Dr. Scotty which chemo would I have received had this piece of information been known from the beginning, he said that they would have given me the R-CHOP (used to treat non-Hodgkin) rather than the ABVD regiment that I received. Hmmm, anger and frustration were definitely not easy to get rid of at this point. It did not help when people close to me were upset too about the delayed diagnosis of the non-Hodgkin’s part of my lymphoma. A part of me wanted to be angry forever, and wanted to escape to another center for care with new doctors who were infallible and error-free. But the more rational part of me knew how ridiculous that was; pathologists are humans prone to error like any other; they did not maliciously single out my biopsy slides that day and decide that they were not going to read them fully. Plus, I could tell how frustrated Dr. Scotty was upon getting the new readings; he was doing everything he could to treat me fully to ensure that I was not only treated temporarily but cured indefinitely.

My dad, being the wise man that he is and having the ability of knowing what to say to turn any situation around, sent me an email upon hearing this news titled “can we forgive?” In it he told me how what happened is in the past, and that we as a family should focus our energy now on deciding what the next steps should be. He said forgiving and moving forward will help keep our spirits high and our minds clear so that we can make the right decisions. It was his email that reaffirmed my thoughts about, eh maybe not forgiving quite yet, but definitely trying not to think about what could have been, and concentrating on what should be done.

On the top of my list of what should be done was seeking other opinions. Dr. Scotty was very open to me getting 2nd opinions, and in fact encouraged me to do so. I wanted to travel to another renowned cancer center in Texas to meet oncologists there and get their opinion on what the next steps should be in a case like mine. Dr. Scotty informed me that he could contact an oncologist there and get me an appointment. My main reasoning was to see if their treatment plan matched the plan Dr. Scotty and the other oncologists had for me, and to come back to MC for treatment.

Unfortunately, my body had other plans for me as usual. I had left the hospital on a Monday after the pancreatitis episode, but by Thursday I was back in the hospital again for a recurrence of my pancreatitis. This time, Dr. Scotty really did not want to wait anymore before giving me the salvage chemotherapy. Their plan was to do salvage chemo regiment for two-four rounds, and then go on to a stem cell transplant (which is done to reduce recurrences and increase the chance of a cure.) He convinced me to start the chemotherapy, and said that I could always go to Texas after the first chemotherapy. I was wiped-out after that chemotherapy (salvage treatments are delivered at a higher dose than the initial chemotherapy), and I knew I was too tired to go to Texas. Plus, I was slowly losing interest in going somewhere else; I felt comfortable receiving my care at MC, and I was scared that going somewhere else may end up confusing me further. I was slowly getting my faith back in the plan they had for me…I mean my main concern was always the pathology readings which I already got a second opinion on.

Like a bullet-proof vest, this cancer experience is making me immune to reacting to bad news…the more bad news I receive, the less and less I react to it. Tears have pretty much dried up, and when they do come they are in the form of a major breakdown once in a while. Plus, when you’re sick and nauseous for more than half the hours of the day, you don’t want to waste the rest of the hours crying. Instead, I spent the rest of the time when I wasn’t nauseous either sleeping (because of the beautiful powers of the antiemetic lorazepam) or thinking how awesome it felt to be nausea-free! But, along the way the bullet-free vest allowed some bitterness to leak into my soul, and take residence there for some time. The bitterness was not directed at anyone in particular, it was mostly irritation at this little thing called: my life!

During this time I also went on strike on praying and “connecting” with God. As I told a friend, I was not exactly angry at God. I just felt that maybe what I have been praying for was not God’s plan for me. What if maybe God’s plan for my life was not cure from this disease? Most of the time believers speak of how they don’t always know what God’s plan is, or that His plan may not coincide with their plans. Well, why should it be different in my case? I just got tired of asking for something that may be the wrong thing. But, I wasn’t even praying for strength and peace of mind that I had been praying for before. I just felt numb for a while. And I felt drained. My strike lasted a few weeks until one night I was finally home in my bed about to go to sleep. I was alone, and I found myself having a one-sided teary conversation with God. I asked him to strengthen my faith whatever the outcome of this battle may be. Slowly, I hope that I would be back to asking God again for strength and peace of mind. In the meantime, I am letting those around me take charge of praying for my healing. That is what sitting at home for many months being useless does to a person, it makes one lazy…

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger
and clamor and slander be put away from you,
along with all malice.
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted,
forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
Ephesians 4:31-32