Saturday, April 5, 2008

I'm Back!

During the last two years of cancer treatment, many people told me how brave, positive, and inspiring I was. But I said it was easy enough to be brave and optimistic because I wasn't feeling the severe side effects that some of my fellow cancer patients were suffering. I said, "Let's see how perky I am when I'm dead tired, in pain, and vomiting all day and night."

Well, I got a taste of that during the last few weeks. I have to admit I wasn't very cheerful or inspiring. There were moments of frustration and weakness. I was so physically weak, I felt useless as a parent, friend, human being. The things that make me who I am were gone - my sense of humor, my energy, my brain.

I couldn't participate in a conversation, let alone make anyone laugh or bring anything positive to somebody's day. I was frustrated that I couldn't talk - talking led to breathlessness, panting, coughing, and in the last few days, an intense pain in my chest. I didn't like sitting among people, unable to contribute anything, having to allow people to speak for me or do things for me. I felt like an invalid. A voiceless, powerless, personality-less invalid. Not fun to be around.

After one particularly difficult day, I sat down with a friend in a cafe - an outing to cheer me up by giving me back some semblance of a normal life. She had to order for me, pick up the fork I dropped, get up to get me a napkin, even cut up my food and put mouthfuls on my fork for me. I told her, "I think this is the beginning of me doing all the taking and having nothing to give. I'm sorry I won't be much fun to be with from here on." That was a tough thing to admit.

It was tougher to see how my deteriorating condition affected the people around me. Family and friends who had seen me smiling, laughing, joking my way through cancer for the past two years suddenly saw me sitting in bed, head propped up by pillows, tubes in my nose, coughing, gagging, and holding my torso in pain. And when they offered help, I could only snap at them in frustration or dismiss their futile attempts to help me.

The pain got to be too much, so I finally gave in and started on pain medication yesterday. It's working wonders. Today, I felt better than I have in over two weeks. I had the second dose of my new chemo drug this morning and I spent this entire afternoon marveling at how great I felt. The coughing, breathlessness, and chest pain were almost all gone. I ran up an entire flight of stairs two steps at a time, when simply walking up five steps just a few days ago left me completely winded and coughing.

The best thing about this revival in me is the way it's affecting my family and friends. I had left a trail of sad, upset, disheartened people in the wake of my frailty these past few weeks. Today, they were even more pleased than I was that I and my smile were back.

Cancer isn't a solo journey. I'm taking a lot of people on this trip with me, whether I like it or not. I've got to be careful not to take us too low. And those of you who know and care about me... you should know that you may not be able to take away my pain, discomfort, or sadness, but your very existence in my life is something to keep me going.


Christine Raza said...

Picturing you running up the stairs two at a time makes me happier than you can ever know.

Tears streaming down my cheeks out of joy for you...

Love, Christine

Lisa said...

I am so glad you are back Shin!


david santos said...

Hello, Shin!
I desire a good return and good luck!
Have a good weekend.

Anonymous said...

Shin it was great to see you yesterday. Apart from jumping up those stairs two at a time, I cant believe that you were running round me and the girls to make sure we had drinks and food and that we were ok. Testament to who you are. it was so good to see you in your element, surrounded by friends and family who love you so much. Keep strong.

love, Vanessa

leighbee said...

The love, joy and happiness in my heart having just read your blog is beyond all description. I guess I can only describe it as OVERWHELMING?! You are beyond all "description" and are an increasing amazement to me! Such strength and determination from such a lovely lady. Thank you for being such a HUGE part of my life............Love you so much and can't WAIT to see you xxxxxxxxxx

Sasha said...

Hi Shin, Woooohooooo to two stairs at a time! Big smile on my face here! Now listen here missus, your friends are big enough and ugly enough, as my mother used to say, to look after themselves, so stop worrying about taking people too low! But that is just typically Shin to be concerned with the feelings and emotions of others.
Much love as always
Sasha x

Anonymous said...

Hi Shin, am so glad that you are back. Have been checking daily. Over here, am a little tired, exhausted. My 74+ years old dad has a mild stroke on Mon, and left his right hand no feeling now, cant even hold a spoon, mouth slanted, legs weak, just to name a few. Lost balance last night, and fell,and luckily onto my children table instead of direct to floor. Am staying with me, so here am taking care of my 3 children and my 2 elderly parents. Sorry, seems complaining. Just a sharing only. Take care, keep well. Good job, my dear, so proud of you always. Love, Yvonne Boon

Anonymous said...

Welcome back gal!!

Anonymous said...

Great to have you back my love. Have been checking daily and thinking of you. Fantastic news that the pain meds have made such a difference. You're in my thoughts every hour of every day. Mel xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Anonymous said...

News flash from the Respiratory Therapist...there is no medal for being a hero. I know, I've looked! There are no buttons, flags, or trophies. I have to cajole patients into taking pain meds all the time. We humans try very hard to "tough it out", but the truth is that the meds improve quality of life. The trick is to take enough to be pain free, but not enough to be fuzzy-headed. If you are free of pain, your inspiratory effort is greater, your functional volume is higher, and you get more oxygen to the tissues. Stop beating yourself up for being human, and use the tools at your disposal-oxygen, pain meds, and whatever else your doctor has up his sleeve. I'm thrilled that you are feeling better. I've missed your daily postings. I was worried.
Pati(Phil's sis)

Rebecca said...

Hi Shin
I don't know you well at all just from the brief meetings we have when you collect your salmon, but I have thought to myself what a gorgeous person you are.

When I heard through Teresa what you have been going through over the past couple of years I was shocked, sad but mostly inspired as I would never have guessed the suffering you had been going through - I was even more inspired when I went to your blog for the first time on Thursday evening. I have to admit I could not stop the tears. After meeting your helper on Thursday to hand over your salmon I knew things must not be great,I spoke to Theresa (who directed me to your blogspot). You are so incredible!!!

I did find it very emotional and at times hard to read as it is what my father has been going through for the past 10 years -he like you is a real fighter, just when we think the end is close, he bounces back. He is an incredible man. He was told 10 years ago that he had 3 months to live. His cancer is extremely rare and only 7 cases in the world have ever been documented.

Even though we are extremely close, he has never spoken to us in any great detail about the physical and emotional ride he is going through and has been through - he is a medico himself and I think the knowledge he has of the disease he doesn't want to upset or worry us too much...little does he know we are all google addicts!

Reading your blog is kind of like reading his mind because he has gone through all of it, the pain, anger, remorse, but never ever has he given up hope, and he like you, is always worried about how the cancer is affecting those closest to him so he tries to shield us from it - as you say, it is not a solo journey... we are with him whether he likes it or not!

He has just come back again from the brink, and to see his old smile and his cheeky sense of humour back, is priceless to us as I am sure it is to all those who are close to you. I read your blog this morning and was so thrilled to read how much better you are.

As Dad said to me many years ago when this all started - you can have all the best medicine and medical advice in the world but if you don't have hope, you might as well surrender. Never Surrender your hope. Allowing pain management is not giving in's making the most of modern medicine!

I hope you don't mind that I have read your blog - but Thank you for the inspiration - you are amazing!

Looking forward to seeing you at the next pebble bay salmon drop!!


ps-in reading your blog, I discovered that you are friends with Ringo! Such a small world, I was great friends with her when we both worked in HK at CLSA - and saw them briefly in Singapore before they left the first time.

leighbee said...

Dear Rebecca...............

I have just read your contribution to Shins Blog and you have brought ME to tears!!!!!! Many thankis for sharing such personal feelings with us all. It is incredible how many strong and loving people are out there and I applaud you ALL...............

Kelly said...

Dear Shin,

Joe and my mum will be so happy to hear that you are feeling better.

My mum, especially, feels extremely exasperated cos shes not able to communicate with you. I keep them updated on your progress from what I read in your blog.

You are in our thoughts even though we dont get to see you often and will refrain from asking about your condition as Im sure you are already having to repeat it more times than you care for.

All the best to you and your family. Please let us know if we can help out in any way.

Kelly, Joe, Mum and Lucy

Anonymous said...

When I saw you last week, having trouble breathing, coughing, oxygen prongs up your nose, the lot, I didn't for once feel that you weren't you. We laughed. We laughed and laughed. You arranged the oxygen tubes against your neck as if they were flowing locks of gold hair. We looked at photos of beefcake. You were all over it.

Anonymous said...

What is the Pebble Bay Salmon Drop - sounds intriguing

DiDa said...

just been through a really bad break up. it seemed my whole world was ending. but compared to what you're going through now, i realise how insignificant my so-called problems are. you give me strength. reading your blog lifts my spirits.