Mom's cancer journey - Part 1

Monday, September 21, 2020

It's been a while since I write here. I decided to jot down my mom's cancer journey on the blog. I want to record this journey as we go through the valley of shadow of death and so I don't forget how God's hands holding us through this. 

Swab test, Rapid test, CT Scan, Blood test, Biosy, Endoscopy, Colonoscopy, Pet Scan, MRI, Lung Scan, more Swab tests, Mammogram, another Biopsy. Those are all the tests plus some more that my mom has to take since beginning of July. Mom started to have diarrhea since June and has lost 10 kg since. We brought her for CT Scan, which shown swollen lymph node behind her stomach. After so many tests and studied by internist, surgeon, pathologist, radiologist, and oncologist, they gave their final diagnosis: inoperable pancreatic cancer stage 4. Stage 4 because the cancer already spread to neck and left arm. It can't no longer be cure only slow the growth and spread. 

From the gene test, we learned her type of cancer was BRAF positive, the aggressive kind, which mean we likely don't have much time with her. 

For the first round of chemo, they will administer 3 drugs, which side effect include: numbness of hand and feet, diarrhea, dry skin, and spotty, weak, hick-up, insomnia, and constipation. 

She has to watch her diet and can't eat:

  1. Cold food or drink!
  2. Sugar
  3. Oily food
  4. Fruits: grape fruit, star fruit, and pomelo

From the beginning, we agreed that we will not hide anything from her. If you watch the movie Farewell, you would know that some Asian family prefer to not telling their elderly parent when they are sick but mom is very smart and since she is the one who will go through the treatment; she deserve to know and make decision based on the choices she has. 

The whole world is on lock down at this moment due to covid19 pandemic. Mom wanted to be treated in Singapore because Indonesia doesn't have the treatment. We contacted our amazing cousin who help connecting us to a caring, straightforward, and kind oncologist Dr. F. We also got chance to talk with other doctor but mom felt more comfortable with Dr. F so we ended up choosing him. 

The problem is we didn't know if Singapore would give us the permit to enter. Due to covid19 pandemic, they only give very few permit for one patient and one care giver. Even if we  got the permit, we have to be quarantined for two weeks but mom can receive treatment right away. The doctor said only small percentage of patient was given the permit. In less than a week, Singapore Minister of Health gave the answer that we were praying for: the patient may enter Singapore with one caregiver. Even the doctor told us it's a miracle, because so many patients apply but got rejected. We have God to thank for!

The original plan was for me to fly to Singapore with mom. Unfortunately, Indonesia was also on lock down and no longer issue visa for foreigners. Only Indonesia nationals or those who already has visa can enter. Since I no longer have Indonesian passport ( I have to give it up when I became U.S. citizen), my brother stepped up to be the caregiver who took mom to Singapore.

The toughest moment so far for me was when we have to break the news to mom. We already informed her about cancer but we don't know how bad was the spread. She asked the doctor at point blank: what stage am I? The doctor has to tell her the news:stage 4. She was shocked but she handle it well. Chemo start the next day.

I called her before the chemo to pray with her. Since beginning of this journey, mom would call me and ask for me to pray for her before any test so it has become thing we do. I can't hold my tears this time. I broke down in tears at the end of the prayer and mom had to turn off my call otherwise she would have a breakdown too before her chemo.

So grateful my brother can be there to encourage her and accompany her during the treatment. We were grateful that Singapore Minister of Health allowed him to come along to the chemo session. First chemo was done and now she has 2 more weeks before the next chemo. She had to take her daily medicine too.

She was okay a day after the chemo but pretty down today after seeing how much hair she loss. Eventually she will loss her hair in three weeks according to the doctor. Mom has curly hair. She likes it now but when she was young, she always wish she has straight hair so it is easier to take care. Before having kids, she wished if she has son, then let them have curly hair but if she has daughter, she hope that they have straight hair. Lo and behold, her silly wish was granted. 

So here we are ... walking, praying, crying. It has been such a roller coaster ride. We rejoiced when some test: blood test, endoscopy, colonoscopy, and MRI were clear. We cried when CT scan, biopsy, and Pet scan, confirmed the cancer and how much it has spread. I decided to slowly go through Psalm during this time and it has been such a nourishment to my soul. God's words is indeed powerful living sword. Please keep her and our family in your prayers. Thank you!