17 Dec 08
Dear Family & Friends,
At journey's end we often heave a sigh
Sometimes of regret
Wishing it could go on
Sometimes of relief
Thankful to have made it
But journeys never really end
Preparing you for
A new beginning
A new horizon appears
My cancer journey
Has been one of discovery
Of new strengths
Of renewed appreciation
Of old friends
I look back
I have grown
Now I look forward
To grow even further
As I start a new journey ...
The operation to close my stoma was a 20 minute affair which went well. There were the usual post op "horribles" like:
1. grogginess from the residue GA
2. nausea from the morphine
3. pain from the op site
4. phlegm from don't know where!
5. having to answer questions - "Elizabeth, Elizabeth, everything over ah. What is your pain scale? Where is the pain? You want to vomit is it?"
I thanked God that I could feel the pain which was a 7 on a scale of 10. It meant I survived the op! To cut the long story short - I am now home recovering and training my guts to work again. The lazy chaps have had a 8 month holiday and seem rather reluctant to get back to the same routine before they had this long break. But, as the doctor assured me - things will eventually get back to normal in about 2 - 3 months time!!! I still thank God!
It leaves me now to close this chapter. This will be the final update and I am sure some of you will begin to miss it!
Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers for my well being. I really see the love of God through each and every one of you.
Have a blessed Christmas and a wonderful 2009!
Liz (sans stoma bag!!!)
p.s. If you have enjoyed my little updates and want to read more of the gory (not glory) details, look out for my book - "This is I Elizabeth ... but who cares!" which will have a chapter on my journey with cancer. Will it be published and when? To both questions - I don't know!
2 Dec 08
Dear Family & Friends,
This saga has gone on for 8 months now and you will be pleased to know that it will come to a happy ending soon! (NO pun on the word "ENDing"!!!) I met my surgeon yesterday and Prof Eu confirmed that there was no leakage at the joining that he did in April. This was from a report of the Barium enema that was done on 26 November. He then set the date for the operation to close my stoma for Thursday 11 December 2008. I will check into SGH on Wednesday 10 December. Well, as my Oncologist Dr. Koo had told me : "Time to kiss your bag goodbye!"
The operation is a simple 15 minute procedure but it still requires for me to go under GA. I ask for your prayers for me to have a safe and smooth op; that the Lord will guide the surgeons and the technicians and that I will have a quick recovery. I want to thank you again for being with me on this journey of mine, providing the support and encouragement that has helped me make it to this point. I have just a short distance to go to cross the finish line.
Woon Yi and I look forward to a wonderful Christmas and thank God for His continued blessings in all our lives!
Have a great week ahead and a good break over the long weekend.
17 Nov 08
Dear Family & Friends,
My final chemo cycle ended on Thursday 6 November. They removed my pump and my Hickman Line. I was initially rather worried about it but the nurse did it so well, I hardly felt a thing other than great relief. I was to keep the pressure bandage on for 24 hours.
[The Hickman Line was inserted into a deep vein in my right chest. It was through this Line that the chemotherapy drugs were infused. The Line and area around had to be kept clean and dry to cut risk of infection. Thus, the no baths over the past 6 months!]
The nurse remarked that the doctor who inserted the Line did a good job as well as the person who helped clean my Line site (Woon Yi). It has resulted in me not having to go for re-stitching over the 6 months that I had the Line. A record of sorts I think!
The shower that I took 24 hours later was heavenly!
I still have a few tests to go for and will meet my surgeon on 3 December to discuss the closure of my stoma. I will then be free of my bag and that will be total freedom and a wonderful, blessed Christmas gift! Thank God.
I want to thank the good Lord for holding my hand on this journey that I am still on. I want to thank each and every one of you for being there at one time or other for me and with me.
Thank you for the time you gave to bring my name before God for healing; for the regular (some daily) emails, smses, phone calls, cards and visits to encourage me on; for the flowers, nutritious soups, chicken essence, bird's nest and other tonics that were often sent personally; for my favourite foods cooked and delivered with so much love and care to get my appetite going (sure helped me gain back my weight … and more!); for the careful cleaning of my Line site and my stoma area; for driving me to and from NCC for my chemo cycles every 2 weeks; for staying with me over the hours I had to be there so I would not feel alone or lonely; for sharing the boredom with me; for making time to lift my depressed spirit by taking me out for what else but makan sessions; for sharing my grief and rage when God took Ethan home and … for just being a friend. THANK YOU.
Please do not feel bad if you have not done any of the above … quickly close your eyes and thank God for my recovery lah!
Have a blessed week ahead and for many – Happy Holidays!!
Liz aka Cheng, aka Ms Poey aka Darling!
11 Sep 08
Dear Family & Friends,
This is an update. Please do not feel obliged to reply. I understand how busy you working guys are. Just still uphold me to the Lord in prayer.
I have completed my 8th chemo cycle and can celebrate that I have only 4 more to go! Almost there!!! I must thank God that so far it has been ok. I get some nausea (no vomiting), soreness of mouth and throat and sometimes huge huge ulcers in throat and mouth (not all the time), some thinning of the hair (but still have hair!!!), and recently some numbness in hands and feet (not severe and can still button my shirts - with my fingers lah, not my toes!!!). I must feel really blessed by all your prayers, words of encouragement and comfort that has made this rough journey of mine easier to walk... knowing I am not walking it alone. God I know holds my hand and you guys have been by the side lines cheering my every step.
I hope to continue with the chemo schedule (every 2 weeks) smoothly so that I will complete my 12th cycle in early November. I can then remove the Hickman line from my chest. I will rest for a month and regain my strength and hopefully will be in peak condition to do the surgery to close my stoma in early December. I will then be free of my bag - which has been my closest companion, following me everywhere I go and taking all that rubbish from me - plus being my anti-rape device ... not that anyone has tried raping me! I will then be able to take my first proper bath in 6 months!!!! Hey, I do dry clean so none of your smart remarks! AND eat my first bowl of fresh salad....yummmmm.
OK. This will be all. I had wanted it to be short, sweet and funny!
Keep well everyone and keep close to the Lord.
Cheng aka Elizabeth aka Liz aka Ms Poey
22 Jun 08
Dear All, This is me - LIZ, finally off from my TV couch to the computer desk. I must thank Woon Yi for keeping all of you updated on my progress. Laziness is no excuse for dumping this on-going updates on her.
Please note that I will not be able to be as detailed or as medically accurate as her reports have been.
Basically, my body was not able to recover quickly enough for me to take my 2nd cycle of chemo in the 2-week schedule the Oncologist had planned. My liver function was abnormal (which returned close to normal a week later) and my white cell count dropped to 2.9 (normal range is 4 - 10) on first repeat test. The Oncologist decided to give me a little more time to recover and I managed to go for my 2nd chemo cycle on 18 June. My white count had climbed to 5.2. Thank God and thank you for all your prayers.
They took off one of the drugs and this has resulted in milder side effects. No nausea, no loss of appetite, less thinning of hair, fewer mouth/throat/tongue ulcers and NO cracked or bleeding lips! Of course being more prepared with olive oil and Manuka Honey has helped. Wonderful sharing from those who have walked this road before me. Thank you.
I have started on a regular walking programme and I believe this was what helped my body build up my white cell count (NO medical proof - just gut feeling!). My weight has also gone up to 53.7kg which is good. I can see my muscles getting back into shape... about time!
Much if not all of it was my fault - hibernating and vegetating in the TV room watching almost every programme on every channel from dawn to dusk PLUS Japanese and Korean DVDs!!! Bae Yong-Jun is a DREAM!!!!!!!
I am still on leave till end July. Sorry to be keeping you guys away - best not to be catching any bug at this point in time. Thank you for your smses and emails. They have kept me connected to you and the happenings out there.
At present I am working on my coffee table book on my travels and another funny book with Low Guat Tin. Have been reading but I tire quite quickly.
Thank you again for the many prayers offered up for me and the many tonics and gifts, the thoughts, care and concern and love. I am blessed and I thank God for each and everyone of you. God bless you all.
Liz (vetted, edited and approved by Woon Yi)
8 Jun 08
This is an update long overdued! Liz had said that she would update you on her own. I am sure she will finally do so, but just thought that I would fill in the gap while we wait.
The surgeon has confirmed that LIz does not need radiotherapy.
Liz had started her chemotherapy on 23rd May (Friday). She started her morning at 8am at Diagnostic Radiology Centre / SGH, for the insertion of a central venous line (for chemotherapy drug infusion) under fluoroscopic (x-ray) guidance. The waiting, procedure and observation took slightly more than 2 hours. She was down at National Cancer Centre around noon for consultation with the oncologist, Dr. Koo Wen Hsin. Blood tests done earlier in the week were reviewed and the chemotherapy regime ordered. She was registered at the chemotherapy suite and had the infusion of 2 drugs was started at 3.30pm. This lasted for a full 2 hours. The central line was then connected to a portable infusion pump that will deliver another drug for the next 3 days. She was discharged around 6pm - one full day at the hospital!
The side effects of chemotherapy did not kick in till a few days later. The initial discomfort was in getting use to having the line attached and carrying the pump around 24h a day for 3 days - comes in a pouch about 10x18cm and probably weighs between 600-800g! She had to master the technique of sleeping with her ileo pouch on her left and the central line on the right! The area (central line) has to be kept clean and dry. And extra care is required during shower. Dressing needs to be changed, and the line flushed with heparin saline to keep it patent once a week.
Liz was relatively well till the Monday when she was scheduled to have the pump removed (completed full load of chemotherapy drugs). She had loss of appetite and nausea, followed by development of mouth ulcers / blisters and some lip bleeding. The appetite returned after 3 days and the ulcers healed soon after the use of aloe vera gel and olive oil. There has not been any significant hairloss to date.
Liz's appetite has been improving and she is currently on Prosure and Ensure supplements to strengthen herself. She has been taking her bird's nest drink but the essence of chicken will have to wait till completion of the chemotherapy - "too heaty".
Her next round of chemotherapy will start tomorrow - changing from 3 days infusion with the 72h pump (over weekend) to 2 x 24h infusion. Need to go in on Mondays and Tuesdays for the 2h infusion and home with 22h infusion, returning on Wednesdays to off pump (every 2 weeks).
Thank you all for dropping by to keep her company, cooking for her, bringing food, and taking her out.
Please pray that:
1. The results of the blood tests done last Saturday are good - for review tomorrow before her drug infusion
2. Liz's body will be able to tolerate the drugs well - minimal effects on bone marrow / blood count, liver and kidney function, less side effects e.g. nausea, loss of appetite and mouth ulcers, no nerve injury (numbness)
3. Liz will have strong immune system to protect against infection and fight tumour cells
4. The surgeon had completely removed the tumour cells during surgery (did not spread beyond the single lymph node that was removed)
5. Tumour cells are chemosensitive and there will be no recurrence after her chemotherapy
6. Liz will remain cheerful, and continue to have faith, strength, peace, joy and comfort in God.
Will keep you updated.
30 Apr 08
Thanks for all the prayers.
Liz saw the surgeon today and the histology report was out. Both good and bad news.
Mucinous carcinoma arising within a tubulovillous adenoma with high-grade dysplasia (moderately differentiated) - cancer arising from a polyp
Infiltration into submucosa but not the muscularis propria (pT1) - deeper muscle layer not involved
Number of involved lymph nodes (regional lymph node metastases)- 1 out of the 11 removed (pN1) --> Stage 3; Duke C
Proximal and distal margins free of tumour
Earlier CT scan of liver – normal
Although the tumour / cancer seems superficial and early, any lymph node involvement makes it a Stage 3. Surgery alone may give a cure rate of 60-70% but added chemotherapy may increase that by a further 10-20%. 50% of patients who have chemotherapy may benefit, as only 50% of such tumours may be chemo sensitive. Liz has opted to go ahead with the chemotherapy.
The chemotherapy is usually scheduled about a month after the surgery. She has been scheduled for the insertion of a Hickman's line (for delivery of chemotherapy drugs) and to commence chemotherapy on 23rd May. She will be on the FOLFOX regime, using 5-FU and oxaliplatin. Side-effects should be minimal as these drugs are usually well tolerated. There will usually be a slight drop in white cell and platelet counts. Other than for allergic reactions, people who are unable to tolerate oxaliplatin usually complain of numbness due to sensory neuropathy (effects on nerves). This neuropathy may take up to 2 years to recover. But there is no motor dysfunction. She will require 2 days of 24 hours continuous infusion every 2 weeks that will last 6 months (12 sessions). She will not require in-patient treatment. Drugs will be delivered and monitored for 2 hours at the hospital and she will be discharged home with the infusion pump that will deliver the drugs for the next 22 hours. This will be repeated for 2 days every 2 weeks.
The closure of the ileostomy / stoma will be postponed till after the completion of the full course of chemotherapy in order to not have unnecessary disruption to the chemotherapy regime (can only resume a month after surgery).
Her oncologist, Dr. Koo Wen Hsin will be discussing with her surgeon, Prof. Eu to see if she will benefit from radiotherapy. Radiotherapy is usually more effective for local disease / spread but it has higher risk of complications, such as stricture of the rectum / surgical / anastomotic site.
Please continue to pray that:
1. Liz will be able to eat and sleep / rest well and build up her body for the coming chemotherapy.
2. Her surgical wound will heal soon (currently improving but still oozy and requires daily dressing; small area at right corner, near the stitch has some slough).
3. The surgeon has removed all the tumour / cancer cells and that there is no need for radiotherapy.
4. Safe insertion of the Hickman’s line, no complications.
5. Tolerate chemotherapy well, no complications.
6. All cancer cells have been cleared or will be cleared.
7. Liz will continue to have faith, strength, peace, joy and comfort in God.
I am sure Liz will have her family and friends to walk this journey with her.
27 Apr 08
I am back! I really must thank dear Woon Yi for keeping all of you updated in such a detailed fashion. I have come to appreciate this quality that doctors seem to possess - the quality of the need for accuracy (which we lesser beings see as being fastidious). Thank God for this quality. I thank God for Woon Yi too!
I am slowly recovering, feeling a little stronger with each passing day. The surgery sites are still painful and one remains stubbornly infected in-spite of the daily dressing regime.
I am also slowly adapting to life with a bag! It remains a weird feeling for me to "handle" my own intestine. Plus point is that I will never need to rush to a toilet! Well, for the next 2 months at least.
I would like to put the past 10 days behind me - they were incredible 10 days that, if I were a tree, would have added 10 rings to my bark!!! I can only thank God and each and every one of you for your thoughts and prayers for my successful surgery. Thank God. Thank you.
My focus now is on recovery. I will take each day as it comes and take this a step at a time. The histology report is due next week as is my review with the surgeon and the stoma nurse. I will work it out from there.
Well, here I am - I am back...
24 Apr 08
Liz will be discharged from the hospital this afternoon!
All is well except for her wound that will require daily dressing at home.
She has been given a list of food to avoid (high fibre - can cause blockages). Those of you who may want to prepare food for her will need to take note.
Food to avoid:
Apple skins (apples offered must be skinned!)
Orange rinds (juice ok)
Green leafy vegetables (soups or blended vegatables are ok)
Meat with castings (sausages, hot dogs, bologna)
Basecamp will be opened to visitors daily from 11am-1pm and 7-9pm, starting tomorrow. Please do not come if there is any chance of you spreading an infection to Liz. Thank you for your understanding.
Please continue to keep her in your prayers.
23 Apr 08
Liz has been making steady progress.
Her intravenous drip was removed yesterday and she was allowed porridge / low residue diet. No more morphine to cloud her head. She is on oral antibiotics and Panadol as and when necessary (not taken since this morning).
All her tubes and drains have been removed and she can walk reasonably well on her own. She has not ventured out of her room yet for fear of catching any unwelcomed bug. She has even managed to have her 1st hair wash in 5 days.
The only problem now is a little infection in her lower abdominal wound (like a Cesaerian wound). They had to remove 2 staples at the right corner and flush the wound. Hope the infection will clear soon and the wound will heal well.
We will be meeting the stoma nurse tomorrow morning to learn how to manage the stoma.
If all goes well, hopefully she can be discharged by Friday. Will ask the surgeon again tomorrow.
The histology report may be out early next week.
Please continue to pray for her smooth and speeedy recovery. And that the histology report is favourable - early, low grade tumour, no invasion of deeper layers, no spread to lymph nodes. Thanks again.
Will keep you updated.
21 Apr 08
Liz had low grade fever last night. That has settled this morning. She says that she is feeling a lot better, and thank you all again for your prayers. They have reduced the morphine at her request and she is still on clear feeds / fluid only. She will be allowed to go to the general ward later today.
Please continue to pray for her.
20 Apr 08
Liz wishes to thank you for your prayers, care, concern, encouragement and support.
She was admitted in Singapore General Hospital on 18th April (Friday), for ultrasound and pre-op staging CT. Surgery was done on Saturday morning (19th April) at 8am. The total procedure including prep time in OT was about 5 hours. She spent 2 hours in OT recovery before she was transferred to the Surgical High Dependency Ward.
She is alert and more comfortable today as they have adjusted her morphine infusion. She had fever last night but that had settled this morning. She is on 2 antibiotics, ciprobay and flagyl. And has been allowed clear feeds / fluid today. She has been advised to try to sit up, exercise her legs (prevent clots in veins), breath and cough well to clear her phlegm (prevent chest infection).
The surgery was a success. They have removed the tumour with the required clearance margin and some surrounding lymph nodes. The reanastomosis / rejoining of the gut was done and she was given a diverting colostomy (opening to an external bag for faecal waste) to rest the anastomotic site (joining site) to reduce the risk of leakage. This will be closed in 6 to 8 weeks’ time. The intra-op finding was good but can only be confirmed when the histology report of the lymph nodes is out.
Please pray that:
1. Liz will remain in good spirits
2. The pain will lessen and she can cough and move comfortably
3. The wounds will heal well
4. Her immune system is strong
5. The fever will not recur
6. She will not have any complication, leakage or infection
7. The surgeon had removed all tumour cells
8. All the lymph nodes are clean
Many of you have expressed the wish to visit her in hospital. She appreciates your concern. But she is not having any visitors for the time being as she needs to rest and also to minimize the risk of catching any infection. Will inform you when she is ready for visitors.
In case some of you may want to send flowers, fruits or tonic, Liz is allergic to the pollen of most flowers – causes her nose to run. Fruits are ok but as they are perishable, she may not be able to consume them all. Tonics with herbal medication are not too suitable as she is concerned with their effects on her white cells and lupus (her pre-existing medical condition). She only takes BRANDS essence of chicken (without ginseng) and Birds Nest soup. No “sheng yu” essence – too fishy for her. Home-cooked soup / food will be appreciated when she is home. Just some pointers.
16 Apr 08
So sorry but this is finalized. The op will be done on Saturday 19 April at 8am Singapore Time.
As I told Joo Ann - "I am concerned that these changes in op dates might just confuse dear God as there are so many people from different parts of the globe praying for me ... with different op dates and times!!! But HE is God so I am sure HE will work this out!! Ha ha ha ... sure hope he also knows that Cheng is Liz and Elizabeth is Cheng and we are all the same person! I am sure He does!!!"
Ha ha ha ... God is good! I sure hope He has a sense of humour...
Much love to all,
Cheng also known as Elizabeth and Liz
15 Apr 08
Dear All, Latest update. Surgery postponed to 24th April. There was a hiccup with my CT scan. Apparently, because I have drug allergies I need to protect myself by taking steroid over 3 days before doing the scan that involves injecting some contrast (dye) into me.
So, they must do the CT scan... which will now be done on Saturday. So the surgery can only be done after that and Prof Eu operates only on Thursdays.
Thanks for the prayers. It would appear that you will have to do the marathon instead of the 400m dash!
I always believe that things happen for a reason - a good one. One good one is that I will get to celebrate my 56th birthday out of the hospital!!! No, don't worry - you won't be dragged to the zoo!!! Or the Bird Park or the ....
Sorry but please do continue with your prayers for me.
Trusting in the Lord ...
15 Apr 08
Thank you for all your prayers.
I met the surgeon on monday and he will do a key hole surgery to remove the tumor and some gut on Thur 17 April at 11 am. So fantastic right?
OK have to go do my CT scan today. Blood tests, chest x-ray, ECG all done yesterday. Checking into my SGH Spa Resort on Wed at 2pm.
Anticipating that I will be sitting on my "throne" the whole night so that I will have a beautiful and clean gut by thursday morning!
Please continue to pray for me. I can feel God's hand holding mine and know that He will be there with me for now and always. Amen.
liz aka cheng
12 Apr 08
Dear Family, Friends, Colleagues, Citizens and Others,
I recently went for a scope and found a 10cm polyp with cancer changes. That's the bad news. The good news is that the ulcer with the cancer is at the top end of the polyp and there is this 10cm buffer to the muscle tissue.
I will be meeting the surgeon on Monday to set the date for the surgery which should be soon. It appears that they will be able to cut off the segment with the cancer and join back the good parts. Thank God for such advance medical science that allows for such a procedure.
Please pray that:
1. The cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes,
2. The surgery will be successful - that they will be able to join back the 2 ends well so that there will be no leaks (yikes!),
3. God will guide the hands of the surgeon and the other medical staff in attendance especially the anesthetist,
4. I will continue to be in good health to take the surgery well
5. My recovery will be fast.
Those of you who know about this and have been praying for me - thank you. I am ok - surprisingly calm about it taking a day at a time and appreciating everything and everyone around me. I have full faith that the Lord will be walking with me on this rough road and will hold and sustain me through the love of my family & friends.
Funny how one's perspective of life and things can change overnight. So many things that were important are no longer so. Of course family & friends remain important to me... and the boys (Jordan & Ethan) and food and fun and laughter and walks in the forest and reading and ...
Also gets one thinking of what one really wants to do in the limited time given. Actually, we all have "limited time" - just that we don't think about it. Really brings to fore our own mortality! But our Father is gracious and I hope for this 3rd chance at living life to the fullest. For those who know - my 2nd chance was given to me in Nepal in 1995. I thought I was going to die there!
I thank God for my sense of humour, so please do not expect to hear or see a moppy and sad me. I remain my cheerful self and basecamp remains a place of solace and laughter.
Lastly, I would encourage everyone to keep fit, eat healthy and learn to let go. Life is indeed far too short.
I will appreciate sms, calls and visits... but maybe later as I am trying to avoid picking up any cough, cold germs... E mails are good - the type of virus they catch won't get to me!!!
Keep me in your prayers and I am confident all will be well in His time.