Thursday, September 25, 2008

New Chemo, A Win For God?

I had a new chemo combination yesterday: Ixempra, which I had three weeks ago, but this time we added Avastin to the mix. That includes a bunch of other drugs to control the side-effects, as usual. I'll be going in for the next three days to get a G-CSF shot to boost my white blood cells. This is now the tenth new chemo regimen we've tried this year.

The infusion took about six hours because it was only my second time with Ixempra and my first time with Avastin. When they start you on a new drug, they make the IV drip go very slowly into your system, in case you have a bad reaction. Luckily, I've had no problems during any of my infusions. And so far, no side-effects. I slept through most of it because I hadn't gotten much sleep the night before due to the steroids I'm on.

My oncologist told me today that she's going out of town tomorrow for a week. She's going on a pilgrimage to Israel, she said. I should've asked her to tell God to prove himself by curing her patient, Shin. Tony has already said that if I were cured, it would be enough proof for him to believe in God and he'd go out and spread the word.

So... my doctor prays for me to be cured, I'm miraculously cured, Tony believes in God and tells all our friends about this miracle, our friends also believe in God, I live to a ripe old age and my kids have a mommy growing up. And my doctor tells my story to all her patients, who, in turn, believe in miracles, are cured, and believe in God. It's a win-win-win-win-win situation. So God, are you up for this?


Anonymous said...

Hi Shin,

I have spent a long time questioning my faith - I'm catholic - try to understand how things work; I guess the biggest 2 questions that I have ever asked myself are

1) Why does god let bad things happen to people?
2) Why doesn't god come out with some HUGE display of power to convert all those who don't believe?

These are my answers, I have spoken to alot of people of disagree with me and thats fine - we all have our opinions. I appreciate your position on God and the bible but thought I would share this with you anyhow..

In answer to question 1). Well I really view god as a parent. Like you and I we want to do what is best for our children we want to set the right example, protect them from harm etc etc. Sometimes it doesn't work out that way though - we can't protect them from everything. I believe God is the same, God wants what is best for us but it is not part of my faith that God can just intervene whenever God wants. Don't cross the road or you will get hit, don't smoke that cigarette you will get sick etc etc - We are here to live our lives, we have choice how to do this even though faith has "guiding principals". Many people with faith believe God is ALL POWERFUL and they apply there own defintion to ALL POWERFUL - I choose to believe he is like a parent - he wants the best but cannot always control an outcome....not sure if that makes sense.
2) with regards the BIG EVENT - well my take on it is why say you have faith - but only if it can be proved to you. I have faith because I choose to believe and not because GOD has cured my uncle, both grandmothers, grandfather, and close friend who all passed away from serious illness - but because I believe in what he did, his message and humanity.

You are right, so many people who say they believe do so because they believe they will get something back - well that is not the premise faith should be based on - faith should be based on a love of something so I totally understand why you, Tony and many of your friends are so cynical about faith. Whilst I pray to god for help - I pray that God will provide me strength not that God will do it for me.

Anyhow this is just my opinion. You have an amazing source of strength that you have often said in your blog comes from you, your family and friends. I am so happy you have this, many don't and are truely alone.

I hope this note finds you OK


Shin said...


If you think "God wants what is best for us but it is not part of [my] faith that God can just intervene whenever God wants", then I guess you don't believe God is omnipotent as Christianity says he is? So he's NOT all-powerful.

There's not much room for interpretation of the meaning of omnipotent and all-powerful. He can either do anything he wants or he can't. And if he just chooses not to, then we can bring his morality into question.

Like you, I've often compared the God-us relationship to a parent-child relationship. We don't intervene and micro-manage our children's lives; we give them the freedom of choice as they get older. God does the same for us. So thinking that God is going to step in to save some people while letting others die is a bit naive and egocentric.

As for your second point... faith is belief without evidence. If you want proof of God's existence in order to believe in him, then that's not faith anymore, is it?

Chrissy said...

I've been reading your blogs and I agree with some of your critiques on God and religion. Some days, I don't believe God exists, I get frustrated when people use religion as a crutch but some days I look around and I think maybe...

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of angels. Beautiful, fantastical beings who guide and protect us. When I was little, I believed without question and in my mind they were like fairies – we couldn’t see them, but they were there. They had wings and halos and if you ever saw one, you would know.

And now I’m “grown up”. And my angels don’t have wings or halos. My angels are my family and my friends. They guide me, protect me, and help me when I’m in need.

I can’t help but wonder if there is a God, if God puts these special people in our lives to help us knowing the struggles we will face.

And I think of you and I can’t imagine your pain and suffering. But then I think of Tony, Josie, Toby and Carol and I can’t help but think these are your special people, your angels, sent to help you, give you strength and support. Sent to love you and comfort you. And I can’t help but to see the beauty that is all around us and I can’t help but to believe there is something more.

Anonymous said...

Hi Shin,

Totally agree - I don't need evidence to believe - those who do don't really believe.


Shin said...


At the risk of sounding like the kind of cornball I like to poke fun at, I'm going to say that what you wrote was the most beautiful description of God, fairies, and angels I have ever read or heard.

I'd like Toby and Josie to think like that. I'd like to believe that as well. I DO think that the special people in my life are my angels.

Tony, Toby, and Josie are my angels, and if that weren't enough, Tony's entire family - you're all I need to believe in angels and the goodness of human beings. On top of that, I have all the amazing friends I've met throughout the years. I think I have more than my share of angels and many more than I deserve.

writerinresidence said...

Shin, for what it's worth, I truly believe He is up to it, to that, and to so much more. Be open to the possibilty and be strong!

Rahul said...

Hi Shin

Have been pondering the God/parent analogy. The problem with the analogy is that God is omnipotent, and as all parents know, parents are not. Therefore we let our kids make mistakes, knowing that they may get hurt. But we also know that hurt is inevitable, that we can't always be there to protect our kids and that even if we are there we may not be able to stop them suffering.

The big question is, if as a parent you were omnipotent, would you let things happen to your children the way that God lets things happen to his "children".
In other words if you could truly banish all suffering would you still allow it to happen because it is "character building". I don't think I would. If suffering is inevitable than we should learn from it, harness it and use it to strengthen ourselves rather than allow it to weaken us. But if it is an optional extra, I think I will skip it all together.

Big Hugs


Anonymous said...

But you tell us you don't believe that God exists, so why are you asking for a "win-win" situation from God?

Is it because you are throwing the seeds of doubt out there for people to react to?

I don't believe in God, and I would never entertain that we could do a bargain with someone who doesn't exist. Even if that were the case, life doesn't work like that. Does some part of you think that maybe he does exist? If so you must feel like you and your family are being punished, which is wrong.

Life is life, and some of us are dealt rough cards, it's really unfair. I think it's really rough. But I don't think we can blame God for it. Well, because he doesn't exist, for one!! And blame your genetics and pesticides, but don't blame yourself for anything. You are amazing.

Shin said...


I will remain open to the possibility, but if it doesn't happen, what will you conclude?

Anonymous said...

Continuing on from my last entry which was the one about no god, no blame, I'd just like to say, that whilst I don't believe that God exists, and religion is tailor-made for humanity because we need to believe in something greater than ourselves (even since life began, I suspect), I do believe that your energy and life force will be around for a while, even after death. It lives in the memories of the people that miss us when we're gone and it exists in our children, and in their children. I even believe that we can communicate with the "dead" for a few weeks after they've died. I don't know why I believe this, maybe as useless as believing in god, but it gives me comfort, and I suppose that's why we all believe in different things - nothing wrong with it if it brings you strength and comfort, then that's okay!

I don't look for anything outside of myself to make me happier or deal with situations (although a few million dollars would come in handy) and I think that when we "pray" we are actually asking ourselves for something, not anyone outside.

Shin said...


If, as a parent, I were omnipotent, I might resist interfering and allow them to make mistakes such as choosing the "wrong" university, partner, or career. But I would never stand by and let them die of cancer.

And God, supposedly, is omnipotent AND loves us, his children, more than any human can love.

So what can we conclude from this? Either God is NOT omnipotent or he does NOT love his children as much as I love mine.

Shin said...

Anonymous re: Win-sin situation,

I don't believe that God exists in the form that has been created by the religions of the world. But I'm open to the idea that there is a power or force of good in the world. I'm not sure what form that takes - something as concrete as a supreme being or just the combined force of good in all humanity and in nature.

No, I've never felt that I or my family were being punished. Punished for what? By whom? Even if there were a God, I find no reason to believe he's punishing me or my family.

Throughout this cancer experience, I've never felt the need to assign blame for what is happening or ask "Why me?" I just haven't.

As for making a bargain with a God I don't believe exists... that was a bit tongue-in-cheek. But I'm open to the idea that IF there is a God and he cures me, a lot of good could come out of it.

But will I believe in God as a result? I doubt it. I'm more likely to believe in the miracle of science and medicine rather than a miracle of God. But I'm sure my miraculous cure would boost a lot of other people's faith in God. And there's no harm in that.

Shin said...

Anonymous re: communicating with the dead,

I've seen enough movies about communication between the dead and living to come up with some good ideas to test this.

So I've told Tony about a secret code that only the two of us know about and said I'll try to contact him if I can. I'm not that serious about this, but hey, why not give it a try?

Anonymous said...

Re : Blame & Punishment

I'm so glad you don't assign any blame. I think I am just a bit shocked by your fascination with God - why be so facinated when you don't believe? Is it because you are keeping your options open, or is it because you are just a generally open person who likes to have a bit of a lively debate?

I think I've probably answered my own question, already - I think it is because by the very nature of your blog, religion will be openly debated. It's a wonderful forum.

Anyway, good luck with the chemo, hope the new combination zaps those pesky tumours in all places well and good. I'll be "praying" inside of myself for a happy outcome.

Shin said...

Anonymous re: blame & punishment,

My fascination with God... I'm not sure I'd call it a "fascination". The topic just keeps coming up because many of the readers of this blog seem to find it an interesting topic.

Also, I grew up with religion. I had a father and brother who discussed theology and philosophy the way most guys talk about sports. I went to a university that required me to take courses about the major philosophers and theologians of the Western world. I have three ordained ministers in my family.

So religion and philosophy have played big roles in my upbringing and education.

Anonymous said...

Well, you'll be the best person to turn to in a mid life religion crisis?

What do you think about people who believe in supernatural forces? like the people who claim they've been "taken by aliens for a day"

I would like my kids to be taken away by aliens for a day, maybe they would come back as human beings the next.

Ha ha!!

E xx

Anonymous said...

Re: Philosophy and God

Does it make you feel left out, then, being an outsider in a family who's whole purpose is supporting God, and you don't believe in that very thing?

Do you feel an outsider?

Just interested.

Coming from a religious family and having a mother who taught me not to believe in any religion, and who is quite independent about her thought, I think - and being the only one in my family not to believe in any religion or Gods, (My Mum is the reason why I'm so open minded about gods, but the rest of the family is quite anal about Catholicism) I can understand the pressure. But it's not pressure, i's about belief. And if you don't believe, there's no way anyone can talk you out of it.

Not the bible, ministers or anyone.

It's just in there. You are quite scientific, like me and S, even though you have a literary back ground, dear, you are more suited to Science. You have such a clear, analytical mind which is so brilliant, even if addled by drugs.

It's a switch. You are brilliant at both, I can see you being an oncologist because, actually, you probably know more than the average oncologist.

Shin said...


What do I think of people who believe in supernatural forces, like those who believe aliens have taken them for a day?

I think they're nutters until they prove themselves otherwise.

Shin said...

Anonymous re: philosophy and God,

I DO feel like an outsider in my family, but not because of my lack of belief in God and religion.

My sister doesn't believe in God, either, but I think she feels even more strongly about it, calling herself atheist. I wouldn't call myself an atheist because I don't presume to categorically deny there is no supreme being in some shape or form - just not the form so far imagined by the religions of the world.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for being honest, I understand your way of thinking a bit more.

I think you are right.

There's no god,so millions of people around the world are wasting their time daily going to Church. Think about it, mosques, churches, etc//

Waste of time!! Lets get all those people who are into Churches get into organic farming instead!!

The world would be so much better off!.

Actually, it's all going to boom now in Indonesia - Organic farming.

Shin said...

Anonymous re: church and organic farming,

Maybe we can get the churches behind organic farming. I've seen what Christian fervor can do for a cause!

ALI KATI said...

Rain falls on the just and the unjust.

It's only that the unjust often steals the just's umbrella!

Anonymous said...

Hi Shin,

Came across a quote that I thought you would like considering your chat with some bloggers yesterday about angels:

"We are each angels with only 1 wing, we can only take flight by embracing another"

Take Care


writerinresidence said...


But what if it does happen?

All I can say is my conclusions,in any event, are not likely to affect what I believe in. As you yourself have said - faith is belief without evidence. And I cannot help my faith.

Have a wonderful weekend with your angels, my friend.


Shin said...


That's a nice image. I must be getting corny and soft in my old age. ; )

Shin said...


You say, "I cannot help my faith." On the contrary, I think your faith helps you.

Larry Sopala said...

I like your reasoning - positive mental attitude along with a sense of humor! I'll say a prayer,too, that God does his/her part.

Leighbee said...

Wow! This ones caused a stir!!! Funny isn't it?! The old saying is never discuss politics or religion!!!! Does anyone have any definition of an "angel"! Has occured to me we mention them often - "she's a little angel" etc. I even told my son his sister was playing with the angels - NOT something I recommend - lead to all sorts of stupid and unnecessary conversations and worries! BUT why do we refer to them....and WHO are they?!

Shin said...


Somebody once pointed out that it's a bit creepy to refer to children as "little angels" because angels are dead.

Doubting Thomas Tang said...

Hi Shin,

Sorry I felt so tempted to post again though I should know better. Your last 2 paragraphs ignited a reponse from me. I beg you would be open minded to read what I have found here:

I believe you will find the writings there very christian and reasoned circularly. But I sincerely hope that you will still give it a go as it summarises what I would have tried to explained to you in my own words.

Shin said...

Doubting Thomas Tang,

Thanks for recommending the Web site about prayer. I had a quick look but would like to give it more thorough consideration before responding to it, so I'll comment on it later.

Anonymous said...

An angel has 2 meanings, one is a spiritual being believed to be a messenger of God, the other, informal meaning, which we tend to use in day to day life "you're such an angel" means someone who is pure, kind and beautiful.

Don't think we can take all religious meanings too literally in this day and age. It's a bit like "you're so gay" - that used to mean "you're so happy", then "you're so homo" now, "you're so cool"

Language evolves, like religion and thought patterns.

Shin said...

Anonymous re: meaning of "angel",

Don't people tell children that when somebody dies, he goes to heaven and becomes an angel?

"You're so gay" means "You're so cool"? I've never heard it in that context. Interesting.

Anonymous said...

Hey Shin, re "ANGELS"
I've never told my kids that when they die they go to heaven and become angels, and that was never said to me. But I know plenty of people who will say to me on a day to day situation "oh, you're an angel" or "you're kids are angels"

It's just day to day speak.

Re "Youre so gay" - it's the "in talk" now - I was a bit perplexed because I received a text from a teenager telling me "you're the gayest person I've met" - apparently it's a big compliment and has nothing to do with one's sexuality. You're out of touch, lovely!!

E x

Shin said...

E re: angels,

Online dictionary definition of angel (one of many):

a deceased person whose soul is regarded as having been accepted into heaven.

I think that the meaning of "gay" used in the context you describe is a throwback to the original meaning - cheerful, happy, fun-loving, good-natured, etc., which, in today's teen language, is the same as "cool".

Anonymous said...

Okay, well "angel" obviously has many meanings and depending on what context we use them in, it shouldn't lead someone to think of someone of something that is dead. But used in a colloquial sense, I have no problem in calling my kids "angels" - although it doesn't trip off my tongue very often, have to say.

Re: Gay - yes, I think there is some come back to the politically correct regard of the word in it's original sense, which can only be a good thing. I don't have much regard for politically correct words by and large, but you could argue that the word "gay" was stolen from the English language and used abusively, so I'm glad the correct meaning is being reapplied.

E x

Anonymous said...

You have to believe, too, no?
I've had some amazing events in my chemmo story to let me know that I am not alone, maybe more spirituality, less Goddogma. But for those who accept this reality it exists. Besides our cells somehow are intuned to our beliefs, in France the liver is 'le foie' (also meaning belief). It is where we store our belief? And when at the time in my life I had none to little I find my self with a little liver cancer. Cancer. Curious. In any way, I believe I am helping to cure myself by thinking I can. It seems to work for me.

Shin said...

Anonymous re: liver cancer and faith,

Actually, the French words for "liver" and "faith" may look similar, but they come from two different Latin words:

Le foie (liver) comes from the Latin word for liver, "ficatum".

La foi (faith) comes from the Latin word for faith, "fides".

Interesting that they look similar, but as far as I know, there's no etymological connection, just a coincidence.

I think you have a good, positive attitude that can help your road to recovery. I wouldn't underestimate the power of such an attitude in dealing with the disease, no matter what the outcome.

Cynthia said...


I read your blog occasionally. I'm quite intrigued by the God or No God debates that have been going on, in your comments and in the posts. I'm a Christian myself. But I'm not saying anything here. Just saying... maybe you could try this.

Get two bottles. One for God. One for whoever. The one causing you cancer. Put an equal number of pebbles in them and pray. Talk to God. He's not a difficult person to talk to, or, He is as difficult as you imagine Him to be. But each time your prayer is answered, add a pebble for God, from the bottle of the other person. We see at the end of some time. Sounds good?

You must know, Shin, that your life story has everyone watching. Being able to blog just another day could well be a gift from God. It's present, isn't it.

Shin said...


The problem with your bottle suggestion is that it presupposes a number of presumptions I'm not willing to make.

1) The "one causing your cancer". No one, no entity, is causing my cancer.

2) I have no problem praying. I do it every night with my children. I just don't pray to the Christian God, but a force of good that I believe lives within all of us - the human spirit, not the holy spirit.

3) God should have better things to do than answer the prayers of one woman. He should go save child soldiers, victims of pedophiles and rapists, not to mention solving the on-going problems in the Middle East, Sudan, Somalia, and on and on. When he's finished answering those prayers, then he can come to me.

4) I think it's the ultimate arrogance to believe that God will save me because I ask him to. My request has THAT much weight with him? And what kind of God would make saving me contingent upon whether I actually humble myself before him to ask? Now THAT's arrogance.

The god I believe in, the all-powerful force of good in this world and in humanity is far, far better than the God Christians describe.