Denise Tam

Moments in Life



Posted by Denise on January 16, 2013 at 4:30 AM

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)

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1 Comment

Reply Richard
1:18 AM on January 18, 2013 
Valjean extended grace to so many others because it was extended to him. Many are also deeply touched as you share your experience. Thanks for letting us see into your soul. Praying for supernatural strength for your heart and mind this new year. rc