Thursday, August 15, 2013

Back to Mayo - 4 months after the journey began

August 10, 2013
It's Saturday, Aug. 10 and I feel great.  4 months ago today, we were off to Rochester to the Mayo Clinic as we had just arrived in the USA to begin our journey.  I remember how weak I felt, how uncertain everything was, and how I knew something was very wrong with me physically.  I was waiting for the Mayo Clinic doctors to confirm my diagnosis that I really did have Bone Marrow Cancer (Multiple Myeloma) and Amyloidosis.  We didn't know what would happen after the diagnosis.  Our kids were home in Manila with their Lola Julie, not having any knowledge of where they were going to be 4 months down the road.

What a difference 4 months makes.  The two stints at the ICU, renal failure, viral pneumonia, GI bleeding, atrial tachycardia, along with the amyloidosis and multiple myeloma will always be a vivid memory.  However, the more vivid memories that  I experienced first hand were the power of prayer of friends and family and the hand of God to get me through those trials.  I also experienced the best skills of cardiologists, nephrologists, dialysis nurses, hospital nurses.  I learned (quickly) that family is more important than anything.  My kids flew to the USA and we're all together now.  

4 months later, my cancer is in remission.  The prayers have worked!  The chemotherapy medication is working.  My kidney functions are back.  No more dialysis.  4 months ago, I could barely stand up and walk.  Now, I can go biking for 40 minutes a day.  We have moved into a new home in Plymouth MN which we really enjoy.  My kids are adjusting to life in the USA and getting ready to start school.  I'm working again and contributing to my very supportive company, Global Sources.

Life has become.... a new form of normal.  It's nothing that we expected even at the beginning of this year, but we now enjoy our new lives. Nadya said to me the other day.  "Daddy, sometimes I forget you have cancer." Well, I don't forget...  I've learned how to manage it day-to-day.
We've also done some very enjoyable things.  We celebrated birthdays and holidays with friends and family who visited us.  We spent time with Mike's family in Chicago.  The kids have learned how to go fishing.
My new office.  Working from home
Aug. 3, the Mojica Kids at Wisconsin Dells

Aug 9, Luis and Nadya with a huge fish!  

We went to Wisconsin Dells to a huge waterpark.  We've visited Valleyfair.  I've spent a lot of quality time with my childhood friends.  Experiences I wouldn't trade for anything.

Reality check.  I did have an Echocardiogram on Friday where my Cardiologist (Dr. Ruffy Festin, my cousin) told me that my heart is not 100%.  It's slightly improved from May but I still have a # of issues.  On the positive side, I don't have an irregular heartbeat anymore and my previously very loud heart murmur is no longer very loud.  That being said, it's a bit of a wake-up call that I still have health issues that I need to pay attention to. 

I'm going back to Mayo Clinic on Monday, Aug. 12 to talk with Dr. Gertz, the physician who provided my original diagnosis.  What's next?  My oncologists in Minneapolis have said that I'm a candidate for a Stem Cell Bone Marrow Transplant because I've recovered so quickly.  The doctors have all said that a Stem Cell transplant (using my own stem cells) is usually the best route towards long-term remission of multiple myeloma.  The questions in my head are flying prior to the visit.  Now that life has stabilized, kids are starting school soon, we've moved in and settled in, I'm working.... are we ready for the process of a stem cell transplant?  This is a long stint in the hospital.  Are we ready to go through that again?  So soon?  Now that everything seems to be stable?

Aug. 12, 2013
Walking through Mayo Clinic was a bit emotional this morning.  Reason being, I hadn't actually walked through Mayo Clinic previously.  The last two times I was here, I couldn't walk.  I could barely get out of a wheelchair.  Now, I felt almost like a tourist enjoying the sites.  Ria, the kids and my dad came with me.  Oh yes, they took blood from me and ran lab tests.  I had an appointment with Dr. Morie Gertz, one of the premier Hematologists/Oncologists in the world (this is not an understatement, he's that good).  I'm truly blessed that God placed me with Dr. Gertz, as he knows my disease better than anyone.

April 11, 2013, 1st visit at Mayo Clinic
What a difference 4 months make.  Same place!
We talked to Dr. Gertz about my condition.  He went through all of the results of my tests, including my Kappa Light Chains (measurement of cancer activity), protein level, troponin, heart condition, kidney functions, etc..  He noted that in April, that if I had gone ahead with a stem cell transplant, he didn't feel that this would have been survivable at that time.  He said that I'm not the same person now.  My condition has improved so much that I should now proceed.  A successful stem cell transplant of my own bone marrow has a very high chance of putting the cancer in long term remission.  Dr. Gertz said they have 55 cases of patients at Mayo Clinic who have had 10 or more years of remission from Multiple Myeloma and Amyloidosis after Stem Cell Transplant.  The only reason it's 10 years of measurement is that these drugs haven't been around very long.  He said the failure rate was 1-2%.  He also noted that I can't be on Bortezamid and Cytoxan indefinitely as these chemo medications can eventually do long term damage to my organs.  Post the stem cell transplant, there are regular checkups but, if it works according to plan, no need for further chemo.

This is fantastic news!  But, there is anxiety attached to this fantastic news.  Life has become so "normal" again and now I (we) have to get our mindset to go through potentially 6 weeks having tests, harvesting my own stem cells, major chemotherapy, infusion of my stem cells, recovery, etc...  The kids are about to start school.  It will be very difficult to be away from them yet again.  Luis said immediately to Ria and I, "you're leaving us again??" Ouch, didn't expect that.   However, the short amount of time (relatively) needed to go through this procedure is probably a short period of time compared to the long-term prospects of cancer remission.  The answer is obvious.  This is a new light at the end of a tunnel.  A potential gateway to long-term full recovery.

The question now is timing and logistics.  As my brother Mike said to me the other night, this is something we have full control over in terms of when to make it happen.  He also said that at this time, "You're not dying.  in April, you had to make fast decisions because you were dying."  A bit blunt, but true.  Yes, we'll make it happen.  Stay tuned for when.  My thanks to all of you for your prayers and thoughts.


  1. Thank you for sharing! I join your family in prayer. Please remember --- it's always Springtime with God as He makes all things NEW.

    God be with you, Ria and the kids.

  2. Very happy to see the good news!

  3. Hi Armando, Happy to see this positive growth. Its inspired us that You're a fighter who don't put down weapons soon. We (New Delhi) team are happy to see you back. We're waiting for your New Delhi visit (whenever u r fit for international travel) and will cleberate your win.

    Wishes are always with you :)

    (New Delhi)

  4. Hi Armando! What wonderful news of your miraculous recovery, and all the turnarounds since April:) Thank you for continuing to share your story. We will not let up on our prayers, dear friend. How glorified God is in your journey :)

    Carmina del Fonso

  5. Loving the good news, Armando! Keep it up and wishing you the best.


  6. You are always remembered in my prayers. Continue to hope for the best. God is in control of our lives.

    Hebrew 11:1
    Now faith is being sure of what we hope
    for and certain of what we do not see.

    Stay blessed,