Bald 'n Sassy

Life is for the living. Live simply. Expect less.

Archive for the tag “remission”

What’s next?

What’s next after cancer and treatment?  That is the question that patients such as myself are always asked by family and friends.  Though I can’t speak for all cancer patients but that thought continues to swirl around throughout the time when I was undergoing treatments.  I always remember my gynaecologist said to me is that “life must go on”.  That motto stayed with me till now.

With all the post treatment tests and medical appointments, I was eagerly waiting to hear the good news from the doctors’ to declare that treatment was successful.  The auspicious date is 20 January 2008.  It was such a huge relief for me.  But I couldn’t escape from visiting the doctors’ so easily.  The next 2 years are critical for any cancer patient post diagnosis/treatment.  The cancer could relapse within this period.  Hence, every quarter for the next 12 months was essential to monitor my progress.  I diligently followed the scheduled and performed all the necessary scans.  Each appointment when scans and PAP Smears are done, I was waiting in trepidation for the results.  It was two thumbs up each time.  What a HUGE sigh of relief!

After all the daily visits to radiation and medical appointments, I decided to reward my mum, sister and myself by going for a 5 day vacation to Hanoi.  The getaway is my way to say thank you to my family for the unconditional support and looking after me throughout the treatment. Yep, the three ladies was going to have a good time exploring the sites and streets of city.

I returned to work after the vacation after 2.5 months.  My then employer was very understanding of my situation to grant me the time off. I was ever so grateful to them.  Returning to work was a way a distraction away from what I had to endure over the last few months.  It wasn’t too long before I was travelling around Asia.  It may sound crazy to some people to throw myself back into a hectic schedule but this was my normality.  Well at least I am living to one of my nicknames, Crazy Chris.

I plodded along with work over the next few months.  Along the way, I had several in-depth discussions with close friends about my experience.  Going through a life changing incident, I keep coming back on the question of  “what’s next?”.  Whilst having coffee with a dear friend one afternoon in June 2009, he suggested for me to quit work and take some time off.  Do what I want to do.  One of my passions is travelling. I always love to do is to see what the world has to offer and smell the roses.  Later that evening, I was thinking about the conversation and contemplating the idea of quitting work to fulfill this dream.  By the early afternoon of the following day, I chatted to my boss and shared my plans with him.  He supported me with my idea 100% and accepted my decision to resign from my post.  The plan is stop work by end of 2009 and the first half of 2010 was ME time.

If you are curious, here was my travel itinerary for 2010:

26 January to 13 February 2010 – India with 2 other friends

20 February to  1 June 2010 – I was travelling alone around 10 countries in Eastern Europe, Austria.  Italy was added to the list where my mum joined me for 3 weeks.

Yeah to me!  If you must ask, I had a remarkable, fabulous, fantastic time experiencing the people and cultures.

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Cervical Cancer – My treatment, my story (Part 2)

It’s 11.18pm on Friday night.  I decided to continue my story on my cancer treatment.

So I left off where I had to have my hysterectomy surgery.  I made great recovery post operation that I was discharged 6 days. This was the third week of November 2008 when I left.  Boy, was I eager to get home.  Don’t get me wrong, the nurses at Mount Alvernia Hospital here in Singapore looked really great care of me. And I was also happy that my mum was able to fly from Sydney, Australia to help and look after me post surgery.  I needed my mummy at this stage.

I spent the next several weeks recuperating at home.  My mum being the very traditional chinese mother cooked all the right foods that would aid my recovery. According to my mum and many other chinese mothers’ firmly believe certain foods can help and while others I must avoid.  Take for example, chicken liver cooked with some ginger and sherry replenished the blood loss.  Another good example is specific breed of fish cooked with some chinese herbs could speed up the healing of the scar.  On the other side of the spectrum, consuming prawns and other shellfish would irritate the wound and this would slow down the healing process.  Even consuming soya sauce can darken the scar.  Yes, it is very old wives tales but there is some truth in traditional chinese medicine (TCM).

The 4 weeks healing period was also filled with follow-up medical appointments.  It was also my time to consult the specialist to plan out the radiation treatment. Endured all the pre radiation scans and test. I was blessed to be referred to a great oncologist situated at Mount Elizabeth hospital.  He sat down and walk me through the entire process from how it works and targeted radiated area. I even got to view of the scans of my womb post op. 28 was the magic number assigned to me – this was the number of radiation sessions I had to complete.  I would be radiated daily from Monday to Friday starting 5th December 2008.

When the day arrived for my first radiation session, it took a little longer as the nurses had to use a permanent marker to mark on my pelvic area.  These markers will be used to align the machine to make sure it was precisely targeted.  It took about 10 to 15 mins to be radiated.  While the machine rotates to radiate my front and back of my pelvis, I remembered looking around the room and saw there some posters of fishes and corals on the walls to ease the patient’s tension.  The first session went smoothly and the great thing was that it is pain-free 🙂

One of the side effects, I felt from day one of my radiation was fatigue.  Since my session is scheduled in the morning, I would be very tired just after lunch.  As nurses guided me, I took a nap when this happens.  As I progressed along the radiation treatment other side effects I encountered included pubic hair loss, darkened skin where it is radiated and diarrhoea.  In addition to no shellfish and soya sauce intake, I had to change my diet to a low fibre diet to reduce the tummy side effects.  Oh what fun!

Aside from the western treatment, I decided to complement my radiation with some TCM.  The TCM doctor recommended to take some ginseng and cordyceps to minimize the side effects of radiation.  TCM is a mind-boggling and you have to combine the right herbs is not easy.  So I bought a premium grade ginseng and cordyceps.  I would alternate between 2 herbs where it would be simply brewed with water.  You could say drinking the brew was a necessary “caffeine intake”.  Some chinese medicinal herbs don’t always have a pleasant smell and this is a deterrent for me.  If it taste awful, it would take me a little longer to finish drinking the brew.  I force myself to drink simply because it is meant to be “good for me”.  Luckily the ginseng and cordyceps had a nice after taste that I didn’t mind it all.

Come to 3rd week of January 2009, I successfully completed my 28 sessions of radiation.  I asked my oncologist if I get a certificate of achievement for completing all the sessions.  He laughed at me and said that he will work on that.  To this day, 2 years later, I am still waiting for my certificate.

Another round of CT scans and other tests were conducted not long after radiation to see if there was any signs of cancer cells still lurking around. Results looked great.  I was declared that my cancer is in remission.  Yippee!  Now I can return to living my life.

Next step was to pass the 5 year mark to be declared cancer free.

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