Saturday, October 19, 2013

Join Us in Prayer

As we begin another step in this journey, we ask all our family and friends to join us in our Novena prayers starting on Oct 21...9 days before Bud's stem cell transplant process begins.

I am sharing with you our own family's daily prayers which I first heard my kids recite, by heart, when they arrived here from Manila on Apr. 26. Apparently, my mom had taught it to them in the 2 weeks that we were separated.  

I was crying when I first heard them say this because it was clear that they meant every word of it --- and to myself, I was asking, "How can God deny these kids what they are asking for?".  But He didn't, He has given us all that we have asked for and more. 


Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. 

Prayer for the Intercession of Pope John Paul II
O Blessed Trinity, we thank you for having graced the church with Pope John Paul II and for allowing the tenderness of your fatherly care, the glory of the cross of Christ, and the splendor of the Holy Spirit, to shine through him.  Trusting fully in your infinite mercy and in the maternal intercession of Mary, he has given us a living image of Jesus the Good Shepherd, and has shown us that holiness is the necessary measure of ordinary Christian life and is the way of achieving eternal communion with you.  Grant us, by his intercession, and according to your will, the graces we implore, hoping that he will soon be numbered among your saints. Amen. 

A Miracle Prayer Habit for BUDDY

O Father of life, we come before you for help. We commit to you with perfect trust as Buddy goes through his healing treatment. Protect him in his hour of pain. Endow Ria with superhuman strength and perseverance. Guide the hands of everyone who shall touch Buddy with Your healing touch! Grant them wisdom and success that the outcome of all their endeavors will only be a sign of Your Light and goodness. Lord, grant Buddy forbearance through these trying times with cheerfulness and thanksgiving for Your miracle soon to unfold. Let these moments be a beacon of faith for Buddy, Ria, Luis, Nadya and Bianca. May they be witnesses of a faith experience for all! May all our love and prayer devotion be Buddy's healing balm.
Lord, finally, let your Easter Sunday experience descend upon Buddy specially, and his entire family! Infuse in Buddy a drop of your blood and alter all that is not from YOU in his system!
All these we pray by the blood of the Lamb, in Jesus' mighty healing name! Amen
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Amen. 
Our father...
Hail Mary... 

Saint Faustina Kowalska's Healing Prayer for Divine Mercy 

Jesus, may Your pure and healthy blood circulate in Buddy's ailing organism, and may Your pure and healthy body transform his weak body, and may a healthy and vigorous life throb within him, if it is truly Your Holy Will.
O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of Mercy for us, I trust in You. 
Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and the whole world. Amen. 

Prayer to the Infant Jesus of Prague

O Infant Jesus, I run to You, begging You through Your Holy Mother
to save me in this need for Buddy to be healed,
for I truly and firmly believe that Your Divinity can defend me.
Full of trust I hope in You to obtain Your holy grace.
I love You with all my heart, I am painfully sorry for my sins
and on my knees I beg You, o Little Jesus, to free me from them.
My resolution is to improve and never more to offend You.
Therefore, I offer myself to You, ready to suffer everything for You
and to serve You faithfully.
I will love my neighbour as myself from my heart for the love of You.
O Little Jesus, I adore You, o Mighty Child, I implore You,
save me in this need for Buddy to be healed,
that I may enjoy You eternally, with Mary and Joseph see You
and with all the angels adore You. Amen.

You may choose one or all of our prayers, or you may have a prayer of your own.  Thank you all for the love and support you continue to give us.  We couldn't have come this far without you.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The beginning of a new beginning

And so it begins.  Mayo Clinic called last Thursday, Oct. 10.  Ria and I were driving home and I heard my cell phone.  The voice was Brittany, the lady from Mayo who I've been talking to whose team has been telling me every week "we're talking with your insurance company".  My insurance company contacted them early Thursday morning and provided the final approval that everyone was waiting for.  "You're scheduled to start your stem cell bone marrow transplant on Oct. 30".  Here it is, right in front of me (snapshots below of the schedule, it's 29 pages long!), the long-term solution.  After Ria and I met with Dr. Gertz last Aug. 12, we said then, "the best timing would be end of October, something like Oct. 30, so that we could be home before Christmas".  You sometimes get what you ask for.  I just looked at my schedule and the tests will start from Oct. 30.  We'll be in Rochester until approximately Dec. 12.

 I'll be sharing more about what is happening over the next few weeks.  This is my first ever organ transplant so it's a bit scary.  But, after the wild ride of the past 6 months, we're ready for anything and we've always known that this is the solution.  In the meantime, I'll share some numbers that people may find interesting:

26: This is the # of Velcade (Bortezamib) injections I've had since our journey started.  Velcade is the very potent chemotherapy treatment that has helped me to recover so quickly.  To anyone who has had a subcutaneous Velcade injection, I can share your...... well..... experience.  To put it simply, a Velcade injection hurts.  Actually, it REALLY hurts.  It also leaves what looks like a burn mark on your abdomen that stays there for a very long time.  That being said, in the past few months, I've always looked forward to my Velcade injections every Tuesday.  I knew that the chemo was there to help me, so I learned to live with "The Ouch Factor".

22: Years ago that I used to sing in the Holy Name Choir.  Last Sunday, Oct. 13, I watched Nadya and Bianca singing on the same choir chairs that I used to sing in, singing some of the same songs.  I never would have thought all those years ago that my daughters would be up there singing during mass.  

20: Pounds I've lost since this all began in January.  I lost more when I was in the ICU during April and May but I don't want to count that.  I'm still at my high school weight and despite my fairly healthy appetite, I haven't gained much back.  Ria said I'm now at the optimum BMI so let's hope that after the transplant, I can maintain my high school look.

7: Weeks that I will never forget as that is how long I was on dialysis from late April to early June.  I took so many things for granted before, but after losing my kidneys for almost two months, I never realized how lucky I was to gain them back.  I looked back at my GFR scores (the ones that measure kidney function).  The scores were really low from April to mid-May.  They accelerated back to normal function after May 22, my birthday.  Great birthday present don't you think?

6: Months since Ria and I arrived in the USA, went to Mayo Clinic and began this journey.  Seems like a lifetime ago!  In some ways, it's a new lifetime as thanks to God, a whole lot of prayers, and some fantastic doctors and nurses, I made it back from the brink in late April/early May.   

4: The average # of times the nurses tried to get an IV into me for the past two months.  Since I've been having Chemo every week, my veins have started to revolt against having these IVs stuck into them and basically said "You aren't coming in here Mr. IV needle".  Even the best nurses, who used to be able to get the IV to work on the 1st try previously, would miss.  However, last Oct. 8, which was probably my last Chemo session until the transplant (and hopefully, last one ever), my nurse got it on the 1st try.

Innumerable and immeasurable!: The amount of prayers, love, well-wishes and the support that I've received from family, friends, friends of family.  I can't thank all of you enough for helping us get this far.  We still need your prayers for the upcoming months as we go through the bone marrow transplant. Thank you!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Waiting for the call from Mayo

It's been awhile since I made a blog post.  It's been a busy few weeks.  Kids are settled in school.  The home situation is settled.  Work at Global Sources has normalized. Work hours are a bit different (7-12 at night, then mornings until about 1-2pm) but I've gotten accustomed to it and it works out just fine.  Previously, things had become a "new normal" and that at times, I would forget that I had cancer.  Well, I don't forget anymore.  Every day, I'm thinking of it. Nothing to worry about, my multiple myeloma is still in remission and I feel great.  But ever since Aug. 12, when I met Dr. Gertz, there's been a waiting game, waiting for the next steps towards scheduling a bone marrow transplant.  This is the long-term treatment for my Multiple Myeloma and Amyloidosis. 

Why the delay?  Actually, there isn't a delay.  Mayo Clinic needs to have their internal recommendation ready and then they contact my insurance company.  Both Mayo Clinic and my Insurance company have contacted me and have told me that they're talking to each other to work out the details.  Once they've agreed, then the "Schedulers" come in.  Then we'll know what will happen and how to schedule it.  The process for a bone marrow transplant isn't exactly simple.  There's 1 week worth of tests, 1 week of stem cell extraction (you're sitting in a chair for 8 hours a day).  It's similar to my dialysis treatments from 3 months ago (seems like a lifetime ago).  Then, there's the "reset button", where there is a massive chemo dose, followed by infusion of my stem cells.  Then recovery.  Through this process, there will be immunity issues which we'll have to deal with.  Also, we'll need to deal with a departure from our new normal.  The kids will still be going to school during this time so we'll need help to take care of them while at Mayo Clinic.  We'll have to work out all of the logistics soon enough.  We've made it so far and I'm pretty confident we'll be able to get through this as well.   I still have other signs that I'm still not even close to 100%.  For obvious reasons, I can't lift heavy things.  My bones are not exactly super strong.  My skinny arms and legs are still, well, skinny.  My face looks like it's fat because of the corticosteroids even though I'm at my high school weight.  As an aside, I always get comments from anyone Filipino who sees me via Facetime or Skype "Ang taba taba mo na!" or "Tumaba ka na".  To my English speaking friends and family, loosely translated, that means "You look so fat now!" or "You've gotten fatter!"  It's not a negative thing (actually can be considered a compliment), considering my skeletal appearance a few months ago.  The meaning is that "you look healthier!"  That being said, my hair is starting to thin out from the weekly chemo and anti-nausea. During my weekly chemo sessions, unfortunately, it averages 4 tries before the nurses are able to find a vein that "sticks".   

Then, we have to do the normal things that people in Minnesota need to do, i.e., buy winter clothes.  When we left Manila in April, we only had two suitcases and nothing for winter.  Kids didn't have coats, booths, gloves, etc.. Well, they do now and they're ready for the elements.  Whether they have the thick skin that people in MN have, not sure yet but we're ready!  

We also have holiday planning to think about.  Nearly a year ago, we planned for a family reunion over New Year 2014 in the Philippines and in Boracay with Mike's family and my parents.  Well, they're all going, except for us!  We'll be staying here.  No worries, we'll enjoy our 1st Christmas here and New Year in Minneapolis while they'll all be enjoying the beaches of Boracay. 

My insurance company just sent me an email saying that they will be calling me shortly to confirm the approved treatment.  OK, that's a positive signal.  We're almost there.  Will let all know when this will happen, and then the journey will continue.