The past two days have been quite tough with vomiting and fever, but I feel that I am on the path of recovery.
For the first time in two weeks, I could do the breezing exercises meant for enhancing our immune system this morning. My Chinese medicine doctor in San Francisco sent me the tape along with an assortment of medicines. Even though I had to stop taking his medicines for quite sometime because of nausea and esophagitis, this tape has served me well. It makes quite a bit of difference whether I start my day with the exercises or not.
One of my friends sent me several Qigong web sites (Japanese), after getting information that Qigong is effective to treat cancer. Reading these pages made me realize that most of the exercises in the tape share the same principle with Qigong.
Even though I felt a little feverish in the afternoon, it did not last long. It is so wonderful to be able to be out in the deck again, observing birds, squirrels, blue sky, trees…
An acorn fell to the deck. August is almost over.
Today was my chemotherapy day, but my white blood cell count is low again. Since I had to skip the therapy last week due to the same reason, my oncologist decided to give me Cisplatin alone (I have been taking both Cisplatin and CTP 11), with subsequent Newpogen (white blood cell booster) shots for the next 5 days. I have to learn to give the shot myself if possible! This may be one of the biggest challenges, because I have a needle phobia.
“Otherwise, however, you look great, and you are doing great. Your weight is rock-solid, with a half pound gain from the beginning of the therapy,” said the doctor. I actually am feeling very good today.
It seems that the culprit behind the low white blood cell is the radiation therapy. It is every day, and the location is so close to the bone marrow where the white blood cells are being produced. I was given homework by the oncologist to talk to my radiation oncologist tomorrow, to find out if he is changing or shrinking the radiation location soon.
Well, for me to say that I feel good today is almost a miracle.
I was feeling awful for about 24 hours from Sunday evening through Monday evening. I felt bloated and could not eat anything, and was suffering from dry heaves. The only comfortable posture I could take was the fetus position.
“ What happened to me? I have gone without chemotherapy for nearly 2 weeks, and I should feel great. Instead, I cannot even drink water. I need to be able to go through the chemotherapy tomorrow in order to make this treatment effective.”
Unfortunately my acupuncturist is on vacation. So I decided to call the masseuse whom I used to go to whenever I had stress related pains at my back and shoulder in my non-cancer days.
When I learned that I have cancer and started telling people, I was bombarded with all different opinions; from main stream scientific ones to holistic approaches and supplements; statistical numbers and ad-hoc case studies. Every opinion is well intentioned, but it confuses the newly diagnosed patient tremendously. During that time period, I had a dream that I am floating in a rubber boat on the ocean, and the gentle sunlight is radiating my esophagus with warmth, just like Alan Delon in the movie “Purple Moon.”
After awakening, I remembered the warmth that I always felt when my masseuse put her hand wherever my muscle had a knot; I imagine that it was “reiki” warmth. R-my masseuse has a very special healer quality, like my acupuncturist E. Simply talking to her calms you down and fills you with quiet but assertive energy. I made an appointment to get her treatment in June, but could not make it because my first surgery was scheduled very quickly.
Fortunately she had an opening, and we drove to her house yesterday.
She starts with the foot, and then gently loosens the whole calf, thigh, and the joints, one side at one time. Then she puts her warm hand on my lower abdomen, stomach area, then to esophagus, sandwiching with another hand at my back. Her hands emanate a tremendous amount of gentle heat. While her hands were on my upper body, I felt pain arise and move, and then realized that the pain is actually coming from my tumor area, the place that was assaulted not only by the tumor itself but also by all sort of treatments. While her hand was on those locations, I felt curing pain, but also felt light and normal as soon as she was done with that location and swished away her hands as though to throw away the toxin. When I was done, I was no longer feeling bloated.
R charged only for one hour, and I was oblivious to the time. When I came out of her house, Mark was waiting in the car, rather irritated because he had a plan for the evening. “ It took 2 hours!’…. Oh, my…I did not know that she took that much of her time…Thank you, but I do not know how to pay her back.
When I got home, another friend delivered dinner. In addition to a wonderful meat dish and salad, she cooked a hearty chicken vegetable soup! That was the food I needed after 24 hours of not being able to eat anything! Believe it or not, I ate three bowls of that delicious soup.
After starting the treatment, I am witnessing mysteries of life. I admire and respect the advance of Western medicine very much. Without the nighttime feeding with J-tube, I would be skin-and-bones by now. The nausea caused by the chemotherapy is countered by amazing mixtures of medicines. Only the logical and coolheaded analytical approach made this advancement possible.
However, there is a different kind of cure and healing in holistic approaches such as acupuncture and massage. Their results are difficult to quantify, but there is a lot of data and case studies. A lot of times patients need this kind of cure desperately.
Even though I am a totally literature/letter-oriented person, I have studied linguistics, whose approach is theoretical and logical. Since that training, I became extremely suspicious of writings without proper footnotes and statistics.
But I am becoming much more humble and open to the other approach, facing and watching the mysteries of life unfold in front of my eyes.
I went for acupuncture yesterday, and it was a "spa" like experience again. When you get a sickness like cancer, the amenity become increasingly limited, and you tend to forget "regular" fun and comfort. Acupuncture is one of the few normal luxuries.
While the needles were in my body, I was imagining myself at the white beach with deep blue water on Japanese tropical island, where I visited with my parent a few years ago.
During the consultation yesterday, the radiologist suggested taking milk and honey 10 minutes before eating in order to ease the esophagitis: the combination creates a temporary wall in the esophagus. This works!!
So the following is what I ate today (All are high protein items):
Breakfast: a bit of banana, steamed salmon, miso soup with a lot of tofu
Lunch: Edamame beans, steamed salmon
Dinner: rice, Natto (fermented soy beans)
In addition to this, I am making 3 cups of power shake using whey protein, soy milk,ice cream, and fruits. I am spending good portion of my time, eating, drinkig, and taking medicine/supplements.
In the afternoon, one of my Japanese clients called from Detroit. I was working with him from last fall on a major project, and must have gone to this meeting dragging the J-tube tower unless the daily radiology was going on. I had worked with him on a different project in the past, and shared many ups and downs; he is almost like a comrade who fought in the same war.
Toward the end of the last project he fell ill with stomach cancer. He is 100% recovered now, and we were working on a different project this time.
"Mayumi, how did you learn that you have cancer? I did not know that I had it till I started bleeding."
"There weren't many symptoms. However, a persistent cough was annoying for the interpretation job, and I went to the doctor."
"It is really true that we never know that we have cancer till very late, because there aren't many symptoms."
"Mr..., do you remember that I was late for one meeting in Detroit last time? I fell asleep on the bed without knowing it...I could not believe that I did it. But maybe that was a symptom."
"Actually the day before I bled, I was very tired. It was a beautiful weekend and I was outside, and I could not do anything. That must have been a sign."
This is a typical cancer patient's conversation. Cancer never shows its identity till very late. Most of the time, it is not the symptoms of the cancer that changes people's life, it is a doctor's words, "you have cancer." With that announcement, you have to become the "patient," even thyought you still feel normal, and you still can do a lot of normal things.
"Well, here I am, after removing 3/4 of stomach. You are younger than I am. Get better, and let's work together again."
It was a wonderful telephone conversation, maybe because it was so close to the work, and because it was a phone call from the comrade who has gone through many pains together before.
I am spending the weekend in Maine again. Since my chemotherapy starts on Monday (actually from next wee k on Tuesday), this is a wonderful recuperation routine.
I started a complementary Chinese medicine protocol from the middle of the week, which provides more than 10 kinds of herbal medicine and supplements. As my cancer is in the esophagus, I cannot gulp down a capsule or a pill. I tap the powder out of the capsule into the wax paper, and take it with water. This process takes time, and some of them taste awful. And it almost feels like a ritual.
The heap of the powder on the piece of wax paper reminds me of the Woody Allen movie scene …wait, may be it was from Benigni’s movie. Anyway the guys start sniffing cocaine with straw in the movie. I instead take the medicine orally.
The Chinese protocol is provided by the Chinese herb and acupuncture specialist in San Francisco.
His protocol divides the week into two parts, following the chemotherapy routine. During the first part his treatment centers around good circulation: the chemo medicine has to circulate through my body to get the best effect. The latter part of the week is planned to enhance my immune system and cleansing the body of the dead cancer cells.
The supplement prescription provides quite a few positive results.
First, I have to eat three times a day even if I do not want to, because most of the supplements have to be taken three times with a meal.
Second, I end up drinking quite a bit of water because of weird tasting medicines, which helps cleansing my body.
Third, either one of the herbs or a combination of the herbs helps stool movement. I do not need to take the “stool softener” anymore.
Fourth. It seems some of the supplements are giving energy lifts, and I feel stronger.
Fifth, the melatonin that is a part of the protocol is helping me sleep though the night very soundly, and I started having refreshing mornings.
Also, his protocol insists upon a strong connection between the mind and body. He suggests that I should not even watch the TV news during the resting period. He also recommends doing a cleaning/reconciliation activity during the latter period that is a cleansing period, such as settling a dispute, cleaning the closet, and writing an over-due letter.
It makes you feel so good and clean when you finally write a thank you letter that you owed to your friend, or make a telephone call. This makes sense!
Anyhow, with this Chinese protocol and acupuncture appointments, my week seems to be getting full. I am grateful that I can have a certain schedule to enhance the quality of life during the chemo/radiation therapy.
I had my third chemotherapy treatment on 7/10 (Monday.) Even though I was apprehensive about how the night would turn out, it was much better than I expected: partly because even the chemotherapy has become something of a routine, but also because I am learning to take "antinausea' medicine pro-actively.
I went to the acupuncturist for the first time in my life today. I like the holistic approach of oriental medicine. Also, in the past I had a few empirical experiences with Chinese herbal medicine that proved much superior to the western medicine. Even though I have a little bit of needle phobia, I dicided to try, and the result was very relaxing and wonderful.
My friend R who is going through chemotherapy in San Francisco for her breast cancer is using the Chinese medicine supplement/accupuncture protocol to complement her chemotherapy. Her blood count has been wonderfuly good, and she is currently down in Costa Rica to see her business client while going though the chemotherapy. Since R is a person who does background research throughly before doing anything, I felt very safe to use the same doctor.
Since last week, I have been working with this doctor via Email and telephone, and obtained the protocol that included accupuncture, Chinese medicine supplement, exersise, imagery last Friday. My oncologist looked at the protocol on Monday, and said to go ahead.
My accupuncturist E (female) was very tender and kind, and explained which accupuncture point does what very clearly. What was interesting was how she took my pluse. She took three kinds of pulse, saying each pulse tells a different function of your body. According to her, my kidney (in Chinese sense) is weak. Then she asked me to show my tongue. Looking at the surface color of my tongue, she said that my body is "moist."
Since the San Francisico doctor gave a few accupunture suggestions in the protocol, she used that as a guideline.
Because it was my first experience, she inserted 12 needles on my arms and legs and feet. With that I rested for a while, and dozed off. Then she gave me a few more along the spine, and had me rest; again I dozed off. She gave a gentle massage to my back to finish off, along with a big glass of warm water. It tasted very good.
What was amaizing was that I felt totally normal during the therapy. I did not feel that I am here because of the cancer, but I am here in order to alter the balance of my inner body. I have not felt "normal" in this sense since the cancer diagnosis, and it was a wonderful feeling.
Also, I felt wonderfully fatigued and sleepy after the treatment, and took a nap at home. What a wonderful nap! It was only for one hour and a half, but it was so deep that I thought that it was morning when I woke up. I have not had a sleep of that kind since the insertion of the J-tube.