Tuesday, October 25, 2016

October 2016

This has been a good month overall for us. Steve has developed a daily routine of exercise, rest, and work! He is walking, running, hiking, swimming, and weight lifting.


He is doing really well and feeling generally good, save a few days just after chemo, when he is just more tired than usual. Here he is just after finishing a long day at the infusion center. He was fine, but the center was quite busy because many people missed their chemo days due to the typhoon on Friday. And there was a problem with the lab which caused a delay in his results...which delayed everything. Still we got home same day and a friend had made us supper! Lizzy played with Hannah and the boys handled everything else. I'm very thankful and proud of how all the kids have been very flexible and helpful. It makes a huge difference.

Each time we walk to the infusion center, we pass St. John's cathedral. St. John's is the parent church to our Discovery Bay congregation. The cathedral was built in 1849. Yes, 1849! It is a stunning old structure and is in complete contrast to the high rise steel buildings all around. This building has stood even through World War II when it was stripped of even its stained glass windows and used as a social club for Japanese officers. The Anglicans were displaced, but they continued to have services in the internment camps all over Hong Kong and are proud of the fact that holy communion was celebrated every Sunday even during the war. St. John's is an old building, but the church here is vibrant and growing. There are many outreach ministries and missions going on daily all over Hong Kong. It's doors are always open and Steve stops by to pray each time he heads to chemo. As we were leaving Monday night, we walked past the gardens of the cathedral and looked up to see the tower between the trees. It was stunning.


Lizzy and I have begun a Girl Scout troop here and are enjoying all our little scout friends. The girls are precious and are learning how to protect water. As part of our learning about water protection, we went on a voyage with Plastic Free Seas, a non profit that focuses on clean water and preventing pollution. Pollution of the water is horrible here and while it feels like a huge problem, every little bit helps. The girls are now working on ways they can help.

Riding the ferry to central

Four of the five Girl Scouts made the trip. Hannah, Lucy, Lizzy, and Rae.


It was a good day!


John, Paul, and Steve hiked to the highest peak in Lantau island to watch the last passenger 747 fly harbor for the last time. It was a cloudy day, but they were able to see it a little.


Paul returning late one evening after attending a leadership seminar with Hong Kong scouting association. We are awfully proud of this young man for stepping out of his comfort zone and accepting a leadership position in his troop. He is doing well with it and is patient and kind with the younger scouts.


Here is Sam making a speech about his fund raising campaign for childhood cancer! He did really well. Our priest was impressed and said Sam could fill in for him any time! Ha! Sam will be shaving his head October 31st. He's surpassed his goal already! We are super proud of Sam and his giving spirit.

Sam's inspiration for his fundraising and Lizzy's friend Hannah just celebrated her birthday. She is nine years old now and is doing well. She is a brain cancer survivor and just had scans which showed a tiny something that the doctors think is nothing but want to rescan in three months anyway. She had a book party and dress up as Gangsta Granny from the David Walliams book and Lizzy went as Ginny Weasley from Harry Potter. The party was great fun!


The rest of our days are filled with schooling, dog walking, cat entertaining, and college applications. I have no photos of me pulling my hair out, so instead here are some cute ones of the furry members of our family.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Found an oncologist!!

Steve and I spent the day meeting with two oncologists in Hong Kong. Pros and cons to both, but we felt very good about the second one we met. He is very well versed in treatment of colon cancer. He and his partners work out of a beautiful new oncology center in Central HK. Steve will have all his treatments, lab work, and even scans done in this center. It just opened in 2015, but this group has 100+ years combined treating cancer of all kinds. One of our friends in our bible study has multiple myeloma and she helped us to narrow down the oncology search.

Friends here now know about this whole situation, through church, Fedex, and our homeschool group. They've all offered to help in any way and have helped already in big and small ways. We are humbled and grateful to be so supported here and at home.

Our new doctor, Adrian Tse Cheong, told us that Steve is strong, healthy, and will handle his treatments well. He will have side effects, but we are already working to combat those. He said Steve has had the exact treatment he should have so far and was impressed Steve already had his port and was healed and ready for chemo. So, we will probably get started on the chemo next week.

In other news, kids are good! Boys have started back to scouts and Lizzy has started a new USA Girl Scout troop....with her mama as the leader. We've jumped back into church and homeschool play times. And Lizzy got to spend the day with her buddy Lucy while we were at doctors visits today.

We came home to our sweet animals completely happy and well cared for by our helper Janice. She spoiled them rotten and while they were happy to see us...they now greet her like a long lost friend whenever she comes!

It's been rainy all week. Great sleeping weather! Helped us recover from our jet lag. Here's the view off our back porch....or as they call it here our terrace....

It was wonderful to see most all of y'all during our trip home. I have a feeling the next 10 months will fly by and we will be home for good before you know it.


Monday, August 29, 2016

July and August 2016

July and August 2016


July and August 2016 will be one of those times in our lives that we will always remember. July began with anticipation of our first visit to the United States in a year. Our plan was simple. Steve would fly out first, land in Chicago, attend an aviation law conference, then the children and I would fly into Chicago and we would all go to the EAA AirVenture air show. When Steve picked us up, he was tired and not feeling his best. We chalked it up to jet lag and went on to Oshkosh the next morning. The next evening, Steve felt even worse. After some discussion with two of our medical friends, Pat, a nurse and Michael, an ER doctor, they helped me convince Steve to go to the ER. A new friend, Wayne, took us to the ER and stayed with us, even entertaining Lizzy. The ER found Steve to be severely anemic, which meant he was losing blood somewhere. Follow up visits were made in Oshkosh and in Alabama with our friend and Doctor Tom Perkins, who arranged more testing, including a colonoscopy. A mass was found in Steve's colon. A CT scan followed and then surgery. The surgery removed 18 inches of his colon, including the mass and about 12 lymph nodes surrounding that area of his colon. After testing of the mass and lymph nodes was complete, we learned that Steve has stage 3B colon cancer.


I'm sitting again in a waiting room of a hospital while Steve is having a port placed in his chest through which he will receive his chemotherapy each time. As Steve has said several times, this has been the worst vacation ever.


Or it's been the best...depends how you look at it. I believe in people are put into our paths for a reason. Steve wouldn't go to the doctor when I asked him to go. But he listened to Pat and Michael. They've been our friends for 20 years and this year, they helped save Steve's life.


An astute and caring ER Doctor in Oshkosh woke up a hematologist at 11pm on a Saturday night to discuss Steve's situation. That hematologist was the first person to lay out a plan for diagnosing Steve and he was the first person to discuss the possibility for colon cancer. This spurred Steve into action and he called Tom Perkins, another friend and physician in Alabama, who began making plans for Steve before we even got to Alabama.


Once he arrived in Alabama, Tom did lab work and arranged an endoscopy and a colonoscopy for Steve the next day...the NEXT day.


Steve had his colonoscopy and endoscopy with Dr. Mehra and before we left the hospital Dr. Mehra's nurse had scheduled a CT scan for the next day and a surgical consult for the next week.


Upon completion of the CT scan, we decided to walk over to the surgeon's office and leave the disk containing the CT scan...the sweet secretary listened to us and began looking through her magic computer and found Steve an even earlier appointment with the surgeon. We met with the surgeon and surgery was scheduled for that Monday.


In 13 days, he had a colonoscopy, a CT scan, lab work twice and had to prep for both the colonoscopy and then the surgery. He is exhausted. I am tired, but he has been and continues to be a good patient and very brave through all of this.


We met with Dr. Lakhanpal, an oncologist. His recommendation is for Steve to have 12 chemo treatments over 24 weeks. He will have one treatment every two weeks for 24 weeks and then he will be done. The specific drug combo for treatment of colon cancer is FOLFOX. It is three drugs, 5FU, leucovrin, oxaliplatin. He can be considered cured after 5 years, but if he has no reoccurrence after 3 years, the incidence of relapse goes way down. Steve wants to pursue treatment in Hong Kong using the same protocol as prescribed by Dr. Lakhanpal. We have reached out to all our Hong Kong friends for help in finding the best oncologist for Steve's type of cancer. Our wonderful Hong Kong friends have sprung into action and are calling and emailing all their medical professional friends to find us the best oncologist.


We are so grateful for how this unfolded. I am exceedingly grateful for all the medical staff we have encountered. Pat and Michael at Oshkosh, our friend and excellent nurse, Laura Stanley, the ER staff in Oshkosh, Dr. Tom Perkins, Dr. Mehra and his nurse Gina, Steve's surgeon, Dr. Heinzman and his staff, and Dr. Lakhanpal, the oncologist, plus the kind and competent nurses working Outpatient surgery and general surgery at St. Vincent's East. Of course, our family's and friends have been so supportive and helpful to us. Steve's parents, my parents, our aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers, cousins, church family, and friends from Hong Kong to Alabama have taken care of children, rallied around us, are praying for us, and are standing in the gap for us. One after another, God placed the exactly the right people in our paths and has continually made the rocky places smooth for us.


And now, this is my public service announcement space.... If you are 50 years old, have a colonoscopy now. Don't wait. And if you have a family history of colon cancer, start sooner. Our children will begin colonoscopies at least by 40. Take turmeric. Daily. It is good for cancer prevention and helps with improving/delaying dementia. It is cheap and easily found in capsule form.

I do not know the exact path we will take from there, but I know God knows and I am trusting in Him completely.


Saturday, July 2, 2016

JUNE 2016!!!

It's June and that means only 3 more weeks till we get to go home for a visit. We are all so excited! We are all excited for different reasons though...Lizzy wants shoes and clothes, the boys want food, and I want American groceries! Just want to go to the grocery store and be able to purchase food in large quantities.. You know, a weeks worth! And not have to schelp it home in a trolley... I wanna drive a CAR! And turn on the radio and sing out loud.

But anyway, we will be in the states for a month, spending a week in Oshkosh, WI! Then down to Alabama. Ahhhh....just saying it makes me happy!

John rowed on our church's dragon boat team this year. Called the Two by Twos, the team did great this yea. They earned third place in the community race and 5th team (out of 40 teams) overall. It was a fun day, though hot, but a nice community day out.


Beating the sun the Chinese way...umbrella style.

Lining up...two by two. GET it??

Heading out to the starting line.

Watching from the shore

Finishing a heat

End of the community race!


We spent the day with a friend from church, who volunteered to show us around the neighborhood in which she teaches. She is an English teacher in an all boys Catholic school. The only westerner in her school. She loves it and the neighborhood. It is a solid working class area. Here is her school. They leave at lunch each day to eat in the local area, home or restaurant or a packed lunch in the park.

This is the nearest park.
Lots of turtles!
Lovely pagodas.
Old banyan trees
Then we walked to the Sam Tung Uk museum. This is area refurbished into a museum for the cultural arts. It was originally a Hakke walled village of the Chan clan built in 1786. The clan lived here until the 1980s then were moved out, the village restored and made into a museum. Very interesting place, with exhibits showing what life was like in the early days of the villagers.


Kids with Moira, who is originally from England, but has lived in Hong Kong for over 20 years, raised three kids here. Her husband is a computer programming expert of the PhD in math variety. Super nice folks.

Scale model of the village

Traditional Chinese dresses in the Hakke style
Paper crafted masks, used for traditional dances during parades and festivals
Dinner table and benches...they must have had skinny hind-quarters.

A handmade Qin, an art form being saved by the cultural arts division.

Puppet theatre

Huge wet market

It was four stories in one building and the length of two streets! All kinds of food available....Fish to ginger root.

The younger kids and I joined some homeschooled friends and went to the Hong Kong Musuem of history - Roman navy and Pompeii exhibit. We went via MTR. Here we are waiting on the train and making silly faces.

No pictures were allowed in the exhibit, but it was really cool. Lots of ancient artifacts of the Roman navy and also some of the body casts of the Pompeii victims. It was a very enjoyable day out.

Photo op!

We enjoyed some of our regular activities, including gymnastics, church, and homeschool play days. Then the school year finished and half of Discovery Bay left town... No kidding! We enjoyed one week of just hanging out with friends before they left for holiday and then concluded the week with a visit to the HK Philharmonic. Turns out, we know 7 of the members from church and scouts. One of them, Sheleigh-cello player married to a viola player gave us tickets. It was a very cool experience for us all, especially for the kids.

About to board the Star Ferry
On the Kowloon side of HK.


Waiting for the concert...John and Paul sat in the balcony with a couple other church friends.


Warming up...Truly, this group is amazing.

Hopefully, the next time you all hear from us, it will be in person!! Pray for safe travels for us. We cannot wait to see everyone!!