Wednesday, April 9, 2014

One year ago....

 It's been one year since Ria and I arrived in the USA!  Here I am, one year later.
Can you tell what my favorite color is?

The memories from a year ago are still so clear.
* March 31, 2013 - Ria reads the report that I'll never forget:
Diffuse marrow signal abnormalities in the pelvic bones and bilateral proximal femurs... Correlation with clinical findings and other dignostic modalities (e.g. bone scan) is advised. Possible Multiple Myeloma, Leukemia or Lymphoma.
 * April 1, 2013 - Dra Ona (oncologist) tells us to go to Mayo Clinic as soon as possible.  I contact Mayo Clinic that day to get an appointment set up.
* April 1, 2013 - We told the kids "Daddy may have cancer, we have to go to the USA".
* April 5, 2013 - Luis and Nadya leave for CISV camp.  I had no idea when I would see them again.
* April 5 - I say goodbye to my Global Sources Manila team, telling them that I need to go on emergency medical leave and that I'll be gone indefinitely.  I tell them that I'll return someday.
* April 6 - We have a despedida dinner/mass with my Estrella/Sanchez family.  I tell them that whatever cancer this is, it's picked a fight with the wrong person.
* April 7 - We have a despedida lunch/mass with the Mojicas.  I receive the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.
* Same evening - Dinner with the Maningats/Luceros.  I'm so weak and I can't eat anymore.  I hadn't packed yet.  I throw some clothes on top of my luggage and then fall asleep.
* April 8, 4am - I wake up and find my luggage packed.  For the 2nd time ever, Ria packed my bags for me.  Bianca rides with us to the airport in her pajamas and with Tita Trinna.  I hug Bianca and tell her I'll see her soon. 
* April 8, 8am - For 1st time ever, I ride in a wheelchair at MNL airport.  I could barely walk.  I ride in a wheelchair during the layover in NRT.  From NRT-MSP, I flew business class.  Despite the lie-flat seats, i was so uncomfortable and in major pain.  I couldn't eat, even though b-class food looked really good.  I couldn't sleep.  End up watching most of Season 2 of Game of Thrones.
* April 8, 1130am - Arrived in MSP.  I can barely walk down the air bridge to immigration.  We can't find our luggage.  Realize that it was offloaded from the carousel earlier so it was sitting on the side.
Ria lifts everything, all four luggages.  I see my parents outside of immigration and customs.  I'm totally exhausted.  I see my dad's face and the look of shock.  Being a dad, I think I would have felt the same way if I saw my son looking this awful.  I walk so slowly that even my mom (bad knees, back, arthritis and all) leaves me behind.  I had this strange feeling that after all these years, at age 44, my parents have taken up their former roles and are back to taking care of me.  Once a parent, always a parent.   

Our lives had suddenly turned upside down.  The journey had begun, one short year ago today.  No need to rehash 50+ blog postings (you can see them all here), but I'll share with all what has happened in the past 2 months.

One month ago, 1st week of March '14, I went back to Mayo Clinic for my 100 day checkup.  Here's a summary of the results:
* I'm cancer-free, no signs of multiple myeloma and amyloidosis
* All my immunity is on track and coming back to normal.  In most cases, bone marrow transplant patients need to be on antibiotics for one full year.  Dr. Gertz (my oncologist who I can't say enough good things about) takes me off of all of the antibiotics saying I don't need them.  After months of sometimes taking 13 medications a day, I'm down to a simple antiviral (Acyclovir) each day.  
* All my test scores, hemoglobin, white blood cell counts, platelets, etc.. were normal or very close to normal (and improving)
* Kidney function, liver function, heart function are all either back to normal or near normal and soon to get normal.
* Excerpts from Dr. Gertz's report:
"His stamina has returned completely"
"Reflexes are brisk in all four extremities"
"Heart has regular rate and rhythm"

I may not have shared this in past posts but due to the cancer/chemo treatments/transplant, some things had been affected, i.e,
* I stopped sweating.  I.e., I didn't sweat from March last year throughout the rest of 2013.  My sweat glands had apparently been affected by either the amyloidosis, the chemo, or both.
* My feet were affected by the chemo.  From my ankles down, my feet felt they had novocaine in them.  I couldn't feel them.  Chemo treatments sometimes affect the nerve endings in your feet.
* As you may have seen in photos, I lost my hair on my head from the chemo.  No surprise there but I also lost the hair on my arms, legs, everywhere else except my eyebrows. Just a reminder as to how I look with no hair, here is another photo!

Christmas '13 photo of me with my hot girlfriend!

What's happened since?
* I'm running/biking 30-45 minutes every day now.  And yes, I'm sweating again.  Yes, I use deodorant now (again)!
* I was walking in my bedroom in the dark the other night and I stubbed my toe on the bed frame.  I'm writhing in pain but laughing at the same time.  Ria says "What's wrong?".  I tell her "Wow, I can feel my feet again!!"
* The hair on my arms and legs are coming back and the hair on my head is almost back to normal, except, it's thicker and for whatever reason, my hairline is lower! 

I still need to stay vigilant.  Multiple Myeloma and Amyloidosis can come back.  I have to get my blood checked every 3 months and back to Mayo Clinic every 6 months for a full checkup.

But, through it all, our upside down lives couldn't be better.  Cases in point, other, important things have happened (that are totally not cancer related):

* Nadya finished 2nd in the city spelling bee (WOW!)
* Luis was on the A honor roll at BSM for the 1st semester
* Bianca was top of her homeroom class for spelling and will soon have her 1st communion

Ria and I know there's some reason for all of this happening in the past year.  Not really sure what it is.  We can't be more thankful, to God, our wonderful, super flexible kids Luis, Nadya and Bianca, my parents, Ria's mom, my brother Mike and his family, my cousin (and cardiologist) Ruffy, Bernadette & family, my internist and sister-in-law Trinna, Ria's brothers and sisters,  my dad's bible study group, my mom's prayer group, our Estrella, Sanchez, Mojica, Maningat/Lucero families, my best friend John, his wife Laura, Steve & Chris and their families, my Global Sources family and friends, my Thunderbird, Notre Dame and BSM friends (thanks Christine!), Laura and John A., our close family friends, the Balcoses, Sees, Pietruses, Asuncions, Romeros, Jaojocos,  my tennis buddies, my team from Mayo Clinic, my team from Park Nicollet, DaVita, I can't name everyone.  Thank you!

Since videos seem to get lots of interest, I'll post two Youtube videos here that relate to our experience in the past year. 

1) The first one is from Queen.  I want to emphasize the "WE" in this song. I couldn't have won this 1st battle with cancer without all of you, thus "WE are the..."

2) The 2nd video is from Lea Salonga.  Have a look at the lyrics, they're really relevant to what has happened in the past year, and the road that lies ahead.

 Thank you so much all!

Armando (Buddy) and Ria


  1. I can't believe it's only been a year! Glad to see you and the family are doing so well.

  2. Very happy for you, Ria and the kids! God bless your family Buddy!

  3. So happy to see this Buddy! Well done!