Denise Tam

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Stretched to be Shaped

Posted by Denise on November 11, 2014 at 8:35 PM Comments comments (0)

The buzzing was mostly annoying. But then came the vertigo that was also accompanied by nausea and followed by severe headaches. Did I have a tumour in my brain? For someone that has a history of cancer that was actually not so drastic of a question to ask.

 

The scan came back clean. I was put on some meds for the vertigo and it disappeared soon after. The buzzing in my right ear however increased and as it increased my hearing decreased when one day I just couldn't hear with it anymore.

 

I still remember walking out to causeway bay from happy valley along the tram line, a usual route I take to go to the gym. It was a hot summer day in May, the sun was out, and I was taking slow and careful steps as my legs were still swollen but recovering. I was still thankful though to be out of bed and to be able to walk that route that would have been unbearable for me just two weeks ago. The ringing was there and I knew I heard less but I didn't know exactly how much less until I placed the headphones in my ears to listen to some music when my left headphone dropped out of my ear and suddenly the music stopped. Did my phone stop working? Is the volume button broken? I placed the headphone back in my left ear and turned up the volume. Drums, guitar, singing- It came back alive. I took out the headphones from my left. Construction, cars, white noise. That's when I knew my volume button wasn't broken, but my right ear was.

 

The days and weeks that followed were dark when tests confirmed total loss of hearing in my right ear most probably due to drugs from chemotherapy that had damaged my nerves in the inner ear permanently.

 

"What more will you allow?", I asked God. "When will this end?"

 

My legs had been swollen since November and my doctors had given up on helping me which left me to help myself. We tried everything, or it seemed like everything, underneath the stars. The swelling would get a bit better but then it wouldn't. As if that wasn't enough after two battles with cancer I now had the hearing loss to deal with.

 

I felt like I was being bent and stretched in all and every way like a balloon. But the bending and stretching had really deformed me. I felt like I could no longer hold my form. If God was trying to shape me into something, I wasn't responding to His tugs and pulls. My emotional, mental and physical self felt like an overstretched balloon or perhaps even one that was about to pop. I wanted out. I needed out, permanently or temporarily. I felt like I was choking, like I was running out of air.

 

I'm too much of a wuss to take myself out permanently though the thoughts were certainly there. But temporarily, it was easy. Alcohol, soft drugs, food, relationships, busyness. The question is, would I do that to myself? And if yes, what would my method be? The temptations were there, many available and accessible.

 

I had one of those angel and devil conversations in my head for two or three days as I tried to find a way out so I could just stop feeling temporarily. That's all I wanted. I didn't need peace or joy or comfort I just needed to not feel anything. I prayed, "help me Father. I am so weak. I am so tired. I need an out."

 

Little did I know that my measly prayer was heard. The weekend after, I attended a healing conference with a friend where I found myself on stage and was prayed for by many and by the pastor himself. He placed his hands over my ears, called on Holy Spirit and Father God to come heal and my heart then hard at the beginning but now soft hoped and asked to believe in the prayer for healing. He lifted his hands from my ears and I felt a popping sensation in my ears. He spoke into my right ear and asked if I could hear him. I heard him say the name 'Jesus' as if he had spoken into my good ear in a quiet room, crisp, loud and clear, unlike other times where I would strain to decipher words especially in noisy environments. The doubting Thomas in me asked him to repeat himself and again I heard the name Jesus, loud and clear. I couldn't believe my ears. I heard! Praise God! We rejoiced and worshipped him in song as others received prayers for healing. The conference ended and my heart of despair, discouragement and weariness had turned into a heart of hope, faith and belief. The healing didn't actually stick and my hearing is still gone but the faith and hope stuck. On days where the despair creeps in, and believe me there are days like that, the memories of that day string back the faith and the hope in a God that heals, in my God that spoke to me directly, and a God that hears our prayers.

 

I have many moments of frustration with my right ear out of order but as I am learning to use only my left ear I am also learning to listen for His still small voice in my right with hope and prayer and belief that He will heal if it's in His will. Will you join me in hoping, praying and believing in this miracle healing?

 

Relief

Posted by Denise on October 24, 2013 at 12:05 PM Comments comments (4)

Chills came from deep within my bones and out towards my skin as I sat in the pew paying respects to a family friend's mother who passed away.

 

I first met Popo through the fish soup she made me when I spent some time at Queen Mary Hospital in August 2012 due to the relapse of my lymphoma. I never met her, but she heard about me through her daughter and son in law whom are friends of ours at church. And having had gone through cancer herself she knew it was important to eat nutritiously. Ah-li, her helper would bring me soup to drink almost every day. Although not having much appetite I always looked forward to the soup each time. Soup is my comfort food, Chinese soup to be specific. And with my mom spending most of her time accompanying me in the hospital she didn’t have time to make soup for me by the time she got home. Popo never knew, but God knew and He used her to bring just a little bit of comfort to my days at QM.

 

Fast forward in time and I was out of the hospital, in remission and back to my old energetic self. I decided to pay a visit to Popo one day so I could thank her in person. I usually don’t really know what to say to the elderly and to be honest my conversations with them are typically generic topics especially if it’s in my second language. But with Popo she jumped straight into sharing with me her life stories, whether it be about her travels around the world, her children and grandchildren, her savviness with stocks or her own fight with cancer. Popo never left out details or shied away from sharing her wisdom and experience with me, a complete stranger.

 

I only saw her again in two other occasions so despite the wealth of knowledge she possessed it was not her stock trading tricks or her strength in raising three children on her own after her husband’s early passing that struck a chord in me the most. Rather it was her openness to share, her constant and genuine gratitude in life and most importantly the joy she possessed within even in her last days in the hospital.

 

The farewell from her family and friends was a beautiful one that clearly showed how much she loved and how much she was loved.

 

I returned home from the funeral with the chills becoming more frequent and a splitting headache. That was the beginning of my two weeks of living in constant pain. The chills turned into a fever and the pain in my head turned up ten notches so much so that I couldn’t even turn my head without feeling like my brain was expanding. I never had such pain in my head before and I quickly resolved to taking pain killers, something I never do. The medication only brought slight and temporary relief. Sleeping was difficult with the constant throbbing and the pain was so severe at times that I felt like vomiting. Basically, if I wanted to function I needed to pop pain killers.

 

Meanwhile, Wen Ying, my old hospital neighbor and good friend was deteriorating quickly in the hospital. Her year of fighting cancer seemed to be coming to an end. During my own pain these past two weeks I couldn’t help but think about how much more pain Wen Ying had to endure on a daily basis. The pain in her back from the tumor, the pain in her legs, the pain in her chest from not being able to breathe properly, or just the heartache of having been bed bound for the past year staying in hospitals far away from her home in Xian- all this was reality for her for over a year and there was no ‘pill’ to take it away.

 

Sunday morning Wen Ying left to be with our Father in Heaven. Although I will miss her greatly I have great peace in her departure because I know she is in a better place and that more importantly she is no longer suffering.

 

How I met Wen Ying and our journey together has been one that only God can orchestrate. Just like how he used Popo to bring some comfort to me, he used me to reach Wen Ying and by reaching her we have expanded our family of Christ to include not only Wen Ying but also her father, mother, sister and cousin in China as well as her husband, mother in law and brother in law in India. I call that global outreach done locally.

 

When I look back on this story I can see how God had prepared everything in advance, from me learning mandarin a year before I met Wen Ying so I could communicate with her, to her being somewhat close in age to me, to the brothers and sisters I met in the church during my battle with cancer in 2009 that showered their love on me and turned me back to Christ. We’re all part of a beautiful picture God is painting and the best part is that He’s not finished and if you allow Him, He will continue to use you as his pencils and paints. I’ve learned that it may not always be the way you want to be used, it may even be painful and costly to you, but what joy and honor it is to be a part of our Creator’s artwork.

 

Because though there may be pain and trials on earth, as Christians, relief is promised to us in the end when we meet Jesus face to face. Relief has come to Wen Ying and Popo who are both in heaven watching over their loved ones. And I am happy to report that God is merciful and has also extended relief to me and my headache.

 

Below is a poem I wrote for Wen Ying on the day she passed:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/denise-tam/choosing-life-amidst-deat_b_4134279.html

 

Moving Forward and Looking Back

Posted by Denise on September 6, 2013 at 4:30 AM Comments comments (2)

Sorry for the extended silence.

 

Silence (on my end) usually means I'm busy with things and life in general is going well. But don't fret, this post doesn't contain any bad news, just wanted to update you on life after my initial chemo treatments.

 

The consecutive rounds of chemo ended in January. For my maintenance I went back on a target chemo (Rituximab) in April and had a second round in June and another one in August. In between I was fortunate to take a spontaneous trip to the Philippines, reunite with one of my besties in Bali and get back into work which also translates into - spreading health and joy to those around me.

 

My reactions to the target drug is next to none and I've been bouncing back quicker each time. I'm attributing this to a stronger body now that I'm back at the gym and also to less toxins being in my body. I'm juicing my greens, making my green smoothies and mainly eating my home cooked food (I find myself staying up late looking through delicious and healthy recipes to make for my lunch the next day), but I know that this is only part of the recipe to stay healthy.

 

The other part- my stress levels, is what I've been trying to work on with the help of a doctor. I've only started seeing him recently but there's a lot of truth to what he says and so I will be working more closely with him in the coming months. Our minds can be just as big of a contributor to our health or illness as eating well and being active so I'm now on another quest to learn how to destress, to learn how to handle stress, and to learn how to avoid it. I hope to be able to share more with you as I discover more.

 

In the meantime, I'll leave you with my most recent Huff Post article that I forgot to post when it came out. After having just read it over again, I can list out more reasons why God chose to spare me, at least for the time being. Just in the past two months God has uniquly placed me and used me to encounter and encourage many who are struggling with cancer, whether it's through working at our health shop, friends with recently diagnosed family members or even through articles like the Huffington Post. He had blessed me with so much love, knowledge and genuine care from angels around me and now it's my turn to bless others in return. I'm looking forward to living, working and walking in God's plans and to look back another two months from now to see how He will change lives.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/denise-tam/why-me_b_3406850.html

 

FYI...Doc wants me to now have chemo every 8-10 weeks (saying that I'm 'high risk") as opposed to 12 weeks so I'm compromising and doing it every 11 which makes my next treatment to be on October 2.

A Mother's Strength in a Daughter's Cancer

Posted by Denise on May 14, 2013 at 9:05 PM Comments comments (1)

As published in the Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/denise-tam/mother-daughter-cancer_b_3253738.html


She was with me as we heard "it's most likely cancer" from the doctor's mouth.

I was silent.

She was furious. "If you're not 100 percent sure, don't say it's cancer," she snapped back.

She was with me during my first bone marrow biopsy.

I was in tears.

She was compassionate and helped wipe my tears assuring me the worst is over.

She was with me as I reacted viciously to my first chemo with cold and hot chills and extreme nausea.

I was in fear.

She was calm and held my hand and read Psalms 121 aloud to me.

She was with me when my cancer relapsed and I was rushed to the hospital with water in my lungs and stomach.

I was in a panic.

She was collected, did what needed to be done and packed my bags and called the necessary people.

She was with me at my weakest, on an oxygen tank but desperately wanted and needed a shower.

I was helpless.

She was my strength -- literally -- and helped bathe me just as she did 30 years ago.

She was with me as I battled the nausea and fatigue from the chemo.

I was miserable.

She was (or tried her best to be) up-beat and positive, praying with me and encouraging me to eat.

She's my dearest mom.

 


Understanding Cancer (at least part of it)

Posted by Denise on May 14, 2013 at 9:00 PM Comments comments (2)

Published in the Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/denise-tam/understanding-cancer_b_3120873.html

It was 4 a.m. and I couldn't sleep for the past three hours (a side effect from the chemo I was on). Lying in bed with my eyes closed but with my mind awake always leaves me frustrated so I surfing the net, catching up on news and watching mindless YouTube videos. After a while that usually does the trick and my eyes become heavy, but that night during my aimless surfing I stumbled upon Dating With Cancer from The Huffington Post's Generation Why and found myself suddenly awake.


Most cancer books or support groups are more like self-help books. They encourage and inspire, give you hope and equip you with inner strength to keep fighting. But many of the times they don't validate the pain, the fear, the disappointments and the loneliness of the fight. Often times we shy away from sharing our lows in detail in fear of being or feeling weak or even in fear of discouraging others.


Don't get me wrong, we all need a pep talk to move us along but sometimes we need to be in touch with reality as much as we need to dream and have hope.


Cancer patients or cancer survivors are always labeled as fighters or warriors, and though it is necessary to be that, people don't realize that it's also hard to live up to that title and that we have moments (many moments) of weakness. So when I read the stories in Generation Why the tears flowed in relief knowing that others were struggling, that many were in the same ring as I was, that the vomiting sucks, that the needles hurt every time (no you don't get used to it), that the decisions don't get easier, that the pain is real.


Generation Why has given us -- cancer patients and those affected by it, a platform that encourages and even celebrates vulnerable and honest sharing. And it is only successful because people are willing to share their stories without worrying about their pride, sugar coating their realities and having to always come across as a fighter. The stories capture both defeat and victories. It's given a voice to many who can't express these struggles or those who don't dare to acknowledge them. It's given us a chance to share something terrible together.


When a moment, an emotion or an experience is documented and hopefully shared, it is then and only then that people can come to understand, or at least try to. And hopefully with understanding compassion will follow and with compassion, empathy and perhaps even action of some sort.


If we want to beat cancer we must understand it. And not just the science or the medicine to treat it but the mental and emotional impact it has on cancer patients and their families. Because after all half the battle is a mental one.


I can't write for the family members but I can and will continue writing for the cancer patients -- documenting each jab with a needle, detailing the fears that come with scans even if they are just routine, and opening the door for others to understand what cancer does to a person. Because we're more than just fighters, we're people who have fears, disappointments, worries. We're people with feelings we hope others can come to understand.

 


Learning to Love Me

Posted by Denise on April 20, 2013 at 1:55 AM Comments comments (1)

Snoop loved to run off and get lost in his several acre playground- sometimes getting so carried away that he would lose track of time and forget his way home or even follow someone else home. Each morning he would anxiously wait for me to open my bedroom door and greet me with his wagging tail hoping I would open the door for him to play and of course do his business.


 

After being declared in remission in February, it brought more anxiety than relief. Of course I was relieved to have a body without cancer cells, but I knew that my work to bring my body back to health was only beginning. I no longer would have chemo as my safety net, I was bare and vulnerable. After much thought, research and God’s guidance that led me to specific people and the opening of doors, I decided to take some time to discover more cancer therapies in Europe and to learn more about my body.


I looked forward to my two weeks in Innsbruck. There was no real agenda either than a few medical treatments. It was going to be a time of great relaxation, a time away from HK and my life there, a time to write and think - a time of healing for my body, mind and soul.

 

I was blessed to stay in a big home in the woods with a girl and her two dogs.We experimented with different cuisines in the kitchen, shared some lifestories (some good, some bad), took trips into town together and made sure Snoop wouldn't run away (the troublemaker that he is). But I also had time to myself to take walks in the wood, to read for pleasure, and to do specific exercises for my body. As I wrote out my reflections in my journal at the end of each day my heart always felt unsettled and I couldn't understand why. I had looked forward to the peace and quiet but as much literal peace and quiet there was in Innsbruck I couldn't find it in my heart and mind. I usually had 'more' toreflect on in HK, my days were filled with productive activities so having nothing 'significant' to reflect on in Innsbruck took some time to get used to.


 

It took me most of the two weeks to really understand what was happening and tofinally really be able to enjoy the pleasure of doing things for myself andonly myself. My life is so cluttered with responsibilities and relationships(both of which bring great joy to my life) that time for myself is often neglected.


 

Not to sound selfish, but sometimes you need to be selfish- to love yourself soyou can love others. And I guess particularly when it comes to a physical illness like cancer, you need to love yourself to get better. Some times that love would mean eating healthier, better and longer sleep, or cutting down onwork. But these are all things that take effort to do and can even turn into stress. And so loving yourself can also sometimes mean simple play time for your self. As counter cultural as this is in our modern efficient society and especially in Asia, play time for your self entails time to yourself without any goals or intentions.


Although my two weeks in Innsbruck were certainly not all filledwith play time for myself, the few hours in the day that I did have for it wereconfusing, unsettling and at times frustrating. I always felt guilty knowing there were emails to write, articles and research to read, exercises for mybody to do. But Snoop and Pongo (the other dog) taught me that it's sometimes okay to say unashamedly "this is what I need, this is what I want" Since I'm not reliant on a person to open the door to let me out to play the ownership is on myself to allow myself to play.


 

As I got used to the no agendas in my relaxation time I slowly began to appreciate them. I can't say I absolutely enjoy them but I know that my body and mind need them. It's something I know I will need to always keep working on, particularly in HK but at least I can now accept it.


 

 

After 5 weeks of being away, I finally returned home to Hong Kong and began my first maintenance chemo on Thursday (April 18 ). It hasn't been easy being back in this city, with the pollution, the humidity, the pace, and the demands of life but it is still nice to be back with knowledge and a reminder that loving myself begins with me no matter where I live.

 

For more insight into how I'm handling life in HK, please read my piece in the HuffPost - Slowing Down in a Fast Forward City


Perfect Peace

Posted by Denise on February 6, 2013 at 9:30 AM Comments comments (4)

He says He gives peace not of the world, peace that surpasses all understanding, peace that comes with faith and believing - perfect peace.


I've heard this countless times, but it's only during the past few years - which were some of my most difficult, did I come to truly experience and thus understand what He means.


 

As I waited this week for my PET-CT scan results to come out, there were admittedly moments of doubt, but for the most part I felt peace and confidence. It wasn't from believing the results would be good, but that the results were in the hands of God and that whatever they were He would use them for good.


 

Turns out the results were fantastic. I am now in remission (no cancer cells are detected in the scan) and after several comments from the doctor that originally advised me to do the bone marrow transplant, I also made the decision not to do the transplant. The risks are too high, and honestly unreasonable, for me to take especially now that I'm in remission.


 

Instead I will be on a maintenance chemotherapy, most likely once every 10-12 weeks, the duration hasn't really been discussed yet but it is usually for 2-3 years depending. Typically your body usually can't handle too much more chemotherapy after that (apart from also being a financial issue).


 

As mentioned in previous posts, lymphoma is really unlike other cancers. Not only does it come and go, but the longer you are in remission the chances of a relapse increases. In short, the more years you live cancer free, the greater the risk of it coming back. It's completely contradictory to the definition of being 'cured' from cancer which is typically said of those who live 5 plus years cancer free.


 

Considering my age, the fact that Ive relapsed and was diagnosed both times at stage 4 doesn't give me much of an advantage. And the doc says its just a matter of time that it comes back.


 

I'm not going to get into the specifics of why I'm rejecting the option of a bone marrow transplant (you can email me if you really want to know), but I'll just say that I have felt God guiding me (for the very first time!) to this decision. If you've been following my journey since 2009, He hasn't made any medical decision of mine very clear at all other than this one.


 

Apart from the chemo I will also be on the search for new, alternative, integrative and holistic treatments to kick this thing far into the end zone and  keep it there for the rest of my hopefully long life. My new goal which will probably be a lifetime one incorporated into my daily life is to have the best defense tactics to tackle the tricky plays lymphoma has up its sleeves.


 

It can get a little scary thinking about the future and what could happen. And although the future is unknown, I have peace that He knows, that He knows the game plan, that He will equip me with strength and more courage if it does come back and that He's even won the game for me. And so I continue on this training He's set out for me with peace and assurance that in all things God works together for good.


 

(Thank you again and again for your endless and fervent prayers, support, love, encouragement and kind thoughts. I couldn't have gotten here without you all!)

 

Freedom

Posted by Denise on January 16, 2013 at 4:30 AM Comments comments (1)

Over the Christmas holiday I like many others paid to sit in a dark room to either fight off tears or give in to them as we watched the famous story of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo unfold in song on the big screen.

I grew up watching the musical several times on broadway and singing along to 'I Dreamed a Dream' and 'On My Own' as I played them on the piano (when I should have been practicing my own pieces). Watching it as a movie and at least 10 years older, I have come to better appreciate and understand the story that's full of grace, mercy and forgiveness, but also a story that portrays so unashamedly the struggle of identity, hopelessness and physical and spiritual poverty.


 

As a little girl I connected with little Cosette and was distracted by the love triangle of Eponine, Cosette and Marius. This time around, I found myself entrapped in Jean Valjean's character also known as 2-4-6-0-1, a convict that served 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread. The fact that Hugh Jackman played the role of Jean Valjean certainly contributed to the initial allure but it was the internal and external conflict of being a convict even as a free man that captivated my heart.


 

I felt his anguish and hatred towards the world. I understood his desire to start afresh and decision to run from his past. My thoughts may not be the same but at times I also feel trapped by this diagnosis and at times even haunted.


 

Lymphoma, particularly follicular lymphoma is a tricky cancer to have. Unlike other cancers follicular lymphoma is like the wind, it's sometimes undetectable but you know it's there and can make itself known wherever and whenever. The fear is that it will come back in the form of a tornado.


 

My last chemo (hopefully) will end on Tuesday. I'm writing this in my hospital bed having just finished one day of the target chemo. Throughout the past month or so, I've been researching on the transplant, other options and praying ever so hardly for God to guide me in this decision. Im thankful that He's been present and I can sense Him leading but it hasn't been easy. There's been disappointments, doubts and fears to face. And it's been difficult adjusting to thinking about the unstable future rather than focusing on the next month of chemo where I'm pretty certain how i'll react to it and can even time quite accurately the days I take to recover.


 

Doctors say the transplant will give me a 50% chance of preventing the cancer from relapsing. But the 2 year transplant related mortality rate (specifically, ablative allogeneic transplant) is between 34-40%. These figures are hard to ignore when making a decision but I know that if God leads me to the transplant He can work beyond these statistics and there should be no fear in that. What is difficult though is if He does ask me to walk this path and having to go through another 1.5 years to recover from the transplant (not even a full recovery). Physically I think I could handle it but mentally and emotionally I am already drained.


 

Jean Valjean eventually learns to accept his past as convict 2-4-6-0-1 and eventually stops running from it, finally freeing his soul. Similarly, I'm learning how to live with follicular lymphoma and how to place my future in His hands knowing that He has come to set us free.


 

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. (Romans 8:15 KJV)

Release & Relief

Posted by Denise on December 9, 2012 at 9:05 AM Comments comments (2)

"There's a 40 percent chance of preventing a relapse"

"You're young, so you have a 10 percent chance of death during the transplant, it's usually between 10-15 percent"

"The chances of your sister's cells attacking yours (also known as graft versus host disease) is about 30-50 percent, even with you and your sister being a perfect match"

"Around 20 percent of patients will go through more than one transplant (due to transplant failure"


 

These statistics recited by Dr Li, a transplant doctor at QM ran through my head. We had a scheduled family conference with him on Wednesday. Other than going out to celebrate my mum's 60th birthday just the day before, it was my first time being out of the house since I was discharged exactly one week earlier.


 

The day was long. From 12:30 when I arrived at the hospital to 6:30 when I left, I hardly had any moments of peace. Running from one floor to another, worried about my Hickman which was blocked, chasing after nurses to give me the time of day, and just listening to doctors predict your fate meant physical, emotional and mental drainage.


 

That night as I lay in bed in the quietness of the night, a sudden rush of despair enveloped me. They did a good job at scaring me. Other than a few statistics it wasn't really anything I haven't heard before but it was as if I heard it for the first time.


 

I lay there for a while in self pity, alone, but with so many thoughts and questions all collecting in my head with no where to go.


 

How I wished there was someone that I could talk to. Someone that understood everything. Not just a cancer patient, or a lymphoma patient, but a Christian woman who is young, single, and living with a relapse of follicular lymphoma in Hong Kong.

I needed to know somebody just like me had gone before me, that they figured it out and things were going to be okay.

I'm more than just a cancer survivor.

I'm also a woman that has embraced each scar on her body from surgeries and tests and has claimed proud ownership to a shaved head but struggles with the thought of the chemotherapy possibly causing infertility later in life.

I'm a Christian who is thankful to have her faith, hope and community not only stand by her but also walk with her but struggles with where to draw the line and when to just let go and let God.

I'm single and fortunate to have the time to be selfish, to have the time to work on personal goals, to fight for myself, but as a single I often wonder when I should date again, whether it would be fair for my partner to carry such baggage with me, whether anyone would love a damaged me.

I have follicular lymphoma. Lucky in some sense to have a cancer that responds so well to chemotherapy, but unlucky in its characteristic of coming and going as it pleases like a bad case of house bugs with the transplant being the closest thing to a complete extermination.

I'm currently living in Hong Kong, a beautiful and great city, with some of the most amazing friends, my dear family, great doctors and not to mention mouth watering food, but I'm starting to feel like I can't keep up.


 

You fight so long, you fight so hard and (frankly) you fight so well just to be defeated in the next round. Is it really just about the fight? How many more rounds will I have? Will it stay down this time around? Do I do the transplant with all its risks or do I simply stop after the cancer is gone and just trust God? How can I ask Michelle and Ka to put their life on hold for me? Will i be well enough to celebrate Christmas with my next chemo on the 18th? When will I be able to travel again? What is God trying to tell me?


 

I let these thoughts brew for a while until I released them to God in the form of tears and thanked Him for being the one that truly understands, for collecting my tears in the palm of His hands, for being the one that knows my heart, not because He's a Christian women, single and living with a relapse of follicular lymphoma in Hong Kong, but simply because He created me and died for me. One last teardrop fell onto my pillow, one of gratitude and humbleness, before I fell asleep that night with a smile on my face and peace in my heart.


 

"You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book." Psalm 56:8 (NLT)

 

Child-like Honesty and Faith

Posted by Denise on December 2, 2012 at 5:30 AM Comments comments (2)

"I loooove women," Carlos proudly announced, pouting his lips out as he outlined a woman's body in the air with his hands.


We all burst into laughter. Bed 38 and 39 were reunited again for my fourth chemo this past Monday. I was having an infusion to increase my extremely low immunoglobin before my chemo when Carlos, a family friend, surprised us with a visit.


He entertained us for a good few hours with stories from his days with beautiful women and his traveling adventures around the world all of which have ended in how God has come through for him. His stories were full of life, full of details. He included sound effects and even acted out some of the scenes. We were all laughing but deep down we were more amazed and impressed with his honesty and vulnerability in sharing his life both past and present and the little details in between.


Before he left he asked us to pray for him and he humbly knelt down as my mom, Raja (Wen Ying's husband), Wen Ying (from afar) and I laid hands on him. It was the first time Raja prayed out loud but it was a prayer so simple and so child like in words and in faith that brought tears to my eyes. He wasn't comfortable praying aloud but inspired by Carlos' openness (my belief), he took the leap of faith and did so (also because Carlos wouldn't take no for an answer). Raja thanked God for Carlos and for the stories he so openly shared, he thanked Him for the laughter and momentarily forgetting life in the present. And then he ended by boldly asking God to heal both his wife and me, claiming God to be the ultimate healer.


Back track a few weeks prior...


The recovery from my third chemo was a lonely time. It was difficult being stuck at home with little to no energy and I felt that people in Hong Kong were just too busy for me or to be bothered with my thoughts or complaints. But God reminded me of His constant presence and was even gracious in blessing me with friends from the past that either came to visit me in HK or reconnected with me through other means.


Dre, Carm and I were often times joined at the hip. We were a 3 for 1 package deal. We have been with each other through highs, lows, break ups, hook ups, bad hair cuts, bad hair dyes, fanny pack days, Modrobe wearing days, arguments with family, arguments with friends, embarrassing 'i wish i were dead' moments, the belly aching, table shaking, cant breathe from laughter moments- life in general was often shared with them. The age difference between the three of us never mattered and as life brought us to different parts of the city and later country and world, we always made a point in meeting up at least once a year. This time one flew from Vancouver and the other Toronto. We laughed and reminisced about the old days and also caught each other up with life in the present. We aren't ones to keep each other updated very often but whenever we do it's as if we were there in each others' lives.


Then came Beccy's email, a dear friend I met from my time in Beijing. During the two years in Beijing, we shared almost every meal together, met at the 'jian bing' stall at 7:30am every morning before riding our bikes to school and shared many great laughs and frustrations over certain 'China days' or incidences. She has since traveled the world and now resides in the states and despite being the extremely busy woman that she is, she has also made every effort to come see me during some of my most difficult moments dealing with this cancer. In both our busyness we also don't get to speak much but a recent incident allowed for us to have what would equate to a several hour conversation but over email.


Another unexpected visitor from undergrad popped on into HK. Since my move to Asia we have probably exchanged a total of 10 messages but when we met our conversation picked up right where we left it- the times when we shared notes in preparation for an exam or shared a drink or two or three or four.


Life and even fundamental beliefs are now different for all of us but the basis for our friendship never changed.


I could go on about my other visitors and the friends (old and new) in my life but the stories would be similar. Whether it's relationships from childhood, undergrad, brief times abroad or friendships made just within the year or two, it is the openness to share as well as the giving of time whether long or short that has been the life force of these relationships.


Sure, sharing a common love for food helps (especially when it comes to being friends with me), as do memories that can keep us laughing into our old age but the one thing all of these friendships have in common is the vulnerable and honest sharing we have with each other. It's in the honesty of sharing not just our joy and successes but also our fears, anger and shame that has brought these people into my life and has kept them there.


As we grow older we become more conscious. There's more baggage to cover up, more pride, more shame, more self awareness and the awareness of the people around you. You can see it even at a very young age. A two year old can ramble on and blurt out the darnest things (often truths) but the older sibling is often the more 'well mannered' one, sitting at the table offering polite and respectful replies to questions asked. I don't know how society has molded us to be so robotic but i think we can all benefit from some child like responses in our adult relationships.


Carlos and Raja were great reminders for me to be child like in both my faith and expressions. The latter doesn't always come naturally but it often just takes one to lay the cards out on the table for the other to follow.


And so since God has blessed me with these beautiful relationships I felt the challenge to choose a relationship in my life that lacks both or either time and vulnerable sharing and work to infuse both of these qualities into it with the hopes that they will be blessed in return.


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