Longer Than a Postcard 2015 “Hope” Family Picture; The Extended Update

Love family postcard stomach cancerIn 2014, we closed the year with LOVE. As a family, we found that there were so many unknowns… but that LOVE had gotten us through the toughest year imaginable. This year, we closed 2015 with HOPE. I have to admit that picking that particular word was an easy decision…  After all, we got through the year with LOVE and HOPE.

So, without further ado… the updates:

stomach cancer dad shigeoShigeo:  My dad started the year with a post-gastrectomy endoscopy. The results were wonderful; no signs of recurrence and no scar tissue.  Although, we were relieved, there were still many problems that weren’t addressed such as intense stomach pains and chronic weight loss. In February, the doctors found that the radiation from the prior year, damaged his pancreas. His pancreas was atrophic and no longer producing enzymes. He would forever need medication. In March, we (my dad, Tom, and I) flew to Washington D.C. to lobby congress for more research dollars for stomach cancer—esp. H. Pylori causing it. We got many of our fellow congressmen on board. Unfortunately, my dad was sick during the trip, and once we got back, we understood why—His red blood platelets were dangerously low and he had to have his very first blood transfusion.

A couple things happened in April. First, my dad stopped all treatment for his gastric cancer. The targeted therapy my dad was receiving on a bi-monthly basis for the last year was over along with the hydration infusion. Second, my dad started seeing an East-West doctor (think Chinese medicine), and third, monthly B-12 injections were introduced. We never figured out why he needed a blood transfusion the month prior, but we did know, that we had to move on. At the end of May, our lives changed for the better when we added our current nutritionist to my dad’s HOPE team. She has done a wonderful job of “fixing” his digestive system, and making him almost whole. Not. Quite. There. Yet. But. Almost.

The second half of the year became routine. Other than the CT scans every 3 months, life started to go back to normal or whatever it means. In October, they removed his port-a-cath. In November, he finally reached his 2 year mark of diagnose. Yay! It means less doctor visits! This journey has not been easy and it’s far from over –but he has HOPE, and that’s the most important. We still need to figure out the B-12 deficiency problem, and then there’s the weight issue—however, the future looks promising.

anna oAnna: My mom has been a tremendous help with my dad’s recovery. If I could describe her in one word, the word would be patience. In the 22 years I’ve known her (I’m not telling you my real age!!), I would never have said that my mom is a patient person… caring, yes; loving, yes; compassionate, yes… but patient is very new. She has calmed down from the person who needed answers yesterday, and is now so much more easygoing about what my dad needs. I cannot say it’s easy for her either watching my dad shrink to less than 100lbs, or him getting sick after she spent all day in the kitchen… yet somehow, she gets around to doing it all over again the next day. It has to be hard watching my dad have his bad days, but she’s become a superstar! On a side note, as my dad is getting better and her time is freeing up, she has been going back and forth on her quiche business.  She’s found an A+ kitchen and packaging… and really all she needs now is courage to start it! Here’s HOPing!


Aki SmithAki: As for me… Somewhere during the year, I found HOPE. There wasn’t a particular moment or event where this light switch went off … and I’m like “Oh Yes there is HOPE.” I think it was gradual…very gradual. I’ve always been super focused on my dad’s recovery and future… I forgot about mine.  But as my dad’s appointments became less and less, I found TIME– to think about my own passion and all the lessons I’ve learned.  I found that I enjoyed helping others… in whatever form possible and I found so much inspiration in other people coping with stomach cancer. As my HOPE grew, my FEARS slowly, slowly shrunk. It’s strange how that works. So, very strange.

One thing I couldn’t do last year– was plan. I could schedule my dad’s appointments, but plan something for me…forget about it. Recently, because of HOPE, I can plan for the future. I can talk about April 2016, or September 2017 , and even though it feels weird, I can do it. I’m very much looking forward to 2016!

Jake: Jake, our dear sweet, forever puppy. He’s just so wonderful. Always… Even when days are so bad, he gives us HOPE.

Tom smithTom: My husband; the man who never lost HOPE… even when I had the worst doubts, he always knew… Dad will survive this. He’s the rock. At the beginning of the year, the idea that my dad’s treatment were ending soon despite recurrence being at 86% made me go crazy. Yet, Tom stayed strong. He would drive us to appointments when I felt weak—and my dad always knew, “oh, Tom coming?”—this is a serious appointment.  Sometimes I wish I could be that brave… but I’m glad he is for the both of us.

Outside of stomach cancer, this was a growing year for Tom too. He made some amazing discoveries about himself and who he wants to be. He also made some career changes, and has tapped into the volunteer world in a major way! It’s funny how much LOVE can change a person.

So…as we close out the year of HOPE, I am hopeful that next year, we might have a five letter word such as PEACE or FAITH. Hmmm… a five letter word requires a fifth person to hold it…


P.S. Soon to be announced is very important endeavor that we are all working on… Stay tuned.

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