I lost my voice. I have writer’s block. I don’t want to spend my free time thinking about. I don’t know… I don’t know… I DON’T KNOW. But really, I do know. I am my father’s caretaker, assistant, scheduler, insurance agent, nurse… whatever else you can call it. I do it all, and my father, well, he needs to fight the cancer. That has always been the rule, and it’s no different today. However, somewhere on this “fuck-you-stomach-cancer” journey, I got scared. Really scared… and I just stopped. Stopped writing, stopped updating…. My hopes of raising gastric cancer awareness, creating a stomach cancer community, and sharing our trials & tribulations went out the window.
The funny thing is that I search for stomach cancer blogs every day. EVERY DAY! I want to know what’s next for my father. I want an online support system. Someone I can relate to. I want to know… Where they able to get cured? What’s life like living without a stomach? How do you gain weight? What are the side effects from chemo? From radiation? Did it come back? The worst part is that there are NO stomach cancer blogs out there. Well, no, that’s not true—there are some gastric cancer blogs out there—but most of the authors had succumbed to the cancer and some of them are outdated—in terms of new medical advances. Despite the lack of personalized written material, my guide in this battle has been Trish. She passed away five years ago, but her words live on forever. She has been my inspiration and my cancer navigator; and I’ll forever be thankful for her strength and courage. I strive to be like her because I know my father’s battle could help somebody else. I just wish I wasn’t so damn frightened to tell our in-progress story. I wish I could just be raw, open and honest!! No matter what!!
It hit me hard when I watched a surfer being rescued this morning on Breaking News. The waves were unusually high; the surfer was caught in a ripe current very, very close to a rocky jetty. Four lifeguards swam to save this guy— fighting against all the elements— when they realized that they could not get him to shore. Minutes went by, and I started to wonder if I was watching the final moments of someone’s life. I was glued to the TV set and hoping for a positive outcome. Most of us are guilty in this regard… Breaking News. We’ve watched car chases that have gone wrong. Yesterday, a surfer was rescued in Malibu, but later died. So, today, when they re-play that rescue, they distort the guy. I’m guessing they do it out of respect, but it still doesn’t change the fact that whoever watched that breaking news on TV yesterday; they were witnessing the final moments of his life—whether they knew it or not.
Well… that’s what it feels like. How can I write about an amazing man in the fight of his life without knowing the outcome? What if this just goes so very, very wrong? It has been a long 9 months since he was rushed to the emergency room. It has been a long 6 months since he lost his stomach. And it has been a long 4 months since my last post. It’s pretty lonely here; not knowing what happens next… Not having another soul to identify with. So, it’s time to start NOW. I will be updating the micro blog and staying on top this blog regularly. Oh… and the surfer I watched on TV survives. A lifeboat appears out of nowhere and all four lifeguards and the surfer climb in.
WARNING: Below are Gastric Cancer Statistics
Note: It took me at least a few months before I even looked at the statistics, and then it took me a few more months to accept them. I just know that I believe in my dad, and I believe he will get through this.
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Gastric cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related death in the world. In the US, there is very little research and funding devoted to it. We use research from Japan and South Korea, but FDA hasn’t approved S1 which is the chemotherapy drug they use in Japan. Instead, my dad received FOLFOX (which was designed for colon cancer), but doctors use it for stomach cancer as well. There are no standard guidelines when it comes to gastric cancer. There are many recommendations. Since we don’t have mandatory screenings for stomach cancer (like we have for colon, prostate, breast), most people have it diagnosed at a later stage. Stomach cancer symptoms are very similar to heart burn, acid reflex and so on. The survival rate of Stage IV is 4%. Luckily, my dad was diagnosed at Stage IIIB—but his odds aren’t exactly great either. I’ll let you google that on your own. So, the research we do get from abroad tend to have a high margin of error due to the very small pool of qualified participation. (It’s usually caught early in Japan). It’s really a catch 22. I once read this girl’s blog (she died within months of diagnoses). She was really hoping for any cancer but stomach cancer. She knew she had cancer in her stomach, but she was hoping it originated from somewhere else like the breast or lymphoma. It was very sad. But that’s the truth.