We were met at the airport by gracious friends (three cars!) to caravan both us and our belongings to our new home. Our landlord was waiting for us to give us keys and we were able to immediately unload all eight large suitcases, four roll-on suitcases and four backpacks. What a blessing everyone was! After living in 861 square feet (two bedrooms, one bath) for five years, we feel blessed beyond belief to be in an 1800 square feet, three bedroom, two bath home with a breakfast nook, a dining room and a study. What an amazing amount of space for us! It's even bigger than the house we sold seven years ago.
Because we had no beds and because we didn't really want to sleep on the floor, we stayed in our friends' house for a few days. The first thing we did was go shopping for mattresses on the 4th of July. It was a good thing to do . . . plenty of great sales out there. We decided to buy trundle beds for the kids (sleepovers and guests) and they were delivered on Friday. Art's and my king size bed wasn't able to be delivered for almost a week, so he and I slept on the trundles in the kids' rooms before ours arrived. While the kids didn't mind too much, they were only too happy when our bed showed up. They now are waiting for us to get bookcases and shelves for them so that they can start to put their fingerprints and design all over their rooms to make it their own.
We've been scouring Craigslist and have pretty much gotten what we needed in styles that we liked. This is actually the first time in our 15 years of marriage that we've put a house together as a couple. When Art and I married, he married a Victorian-decor loving woman and I married a bachelor-brown decor loving man. The two styles didn't really mix, but we didn't want to buy a whole bunch of new furniture.
When we sold our home, we had it professionally staged and the stager did an amazing job! She used the sofas I always wanted and the decor I longed for. Art really liked it as well. We took lots of pictures and said that if we ever needed furniture again, that we wanted that look. That's just what we've done. Purchased comfortable sit-on-me couches and love seats, with more streamlined tables and chairs. We're having fun with it, but now that the basics are out of the way, we'll take our time on the others.
(We'll take pictures when we have wall decorations up.)
We had a marathon session with my new medical team in San Francisco on Thursday. We are a good fit and the new oncologist is continuing with the plan put forth by my HK doctor. There are a few things that she disagreed with, but those were minor. The biggest hurdle was getting pre-approval from my insurance company. Because I'm a transfer patient from Hong Kong with an international insurance plan purchased in Malaysia but underwritten by Aetna Global in the US, it was quite a bit of trouble for the administration to get the approval. However, they stuck with it, wouldn't take no for an answer and after two days of working the phones, they had the necessary paperwork, etc. I'm very impressed.
We've enjoyed meeting with friends and having the kids have some downtime. So many people are helping us in so many ways . . . taking the kids to fun places while we do shopping and doctors' visits. Except for the medical part, it feels like we are on vacation, just like any other summer. However, next week, we're starting up summer "homework" to help the kids prepare for their transition to American schools. The kids have used Skype to call their best friends back in China and that has made them (on both sides of the ocean) very happy. The kids' transition is going very well, although they waffle between being happy to set up their rooms to being very bored. It will help us all to be in a better routine next week.
Art and I have been in contact with many of our friends back in China. We love our fast internet here that allows us easy communications. We miss our friends so much and are grateful that we have friends here to soften the landing. We are so incredibly blessed all around the world with our relationships.
I had my first chemo in San Francisco on Thursday, July 12. I needed to be at the blood lab at 8:30-8:45; in the breast clinic at 9:30 and in the infusion lab (chemo center) at 10:00. I got to the blood lab right at 8:45 (because I forgot the directions on how to get the hospital and we went the wrong direction), and made it to the clinic on time at 9:30. (Everything is in the same building.) However, it kinda sorta went downhill from there. That 30-minute appointment ended up being over an hour. Got to the chemo center and they didn't have the paperwork for the actual chemo order yet. Then the pharmacy had to prepare the drugs. There were lots and lots of people getting chemo, so I didn't get a needle stuck in me until 1:00! My doctor was quite concerned over the conditions of my veins, but the nurses in the chemo center had no problems finding a good one and got me stuck in one try.
The drip lasted only an hour, but there were plans and appointments to make. I didn't leave the medical center until 3:00! Art was with me, though, and we enjoyed being together.
Just like during the early days of diagnosis, I'm spending a lot of time in doctors' offices. On Friday, the 13th, I've got three appointments -- one with a genetic counselor. I'm going to get the BRCA gene mutation test to help us make a decision about the type of surgery I may need. If I test positive for the gene mutation (which indicates that a person has a greater chance of getting breast cancer and ovarian cancer) then I will have a double mastectomy, as well as removal of my ovaries and uterus (I have a sizable fibroid in my uterus.). Additionally, my maternal grandfather was a Russian Jew and there is a link between Ashkenazi (eastern European) Jews and increased risk of breast cancer. Now, note, I'm not at an increased risk . . . I already HAVE breast cancer. But if there is a genetic link in my DNA, then we want to remove the target spots for recurrence.
At 2:00, I will receive the shot to help boost my white blood cell counts and at 3:00, I will get a baseline ultrasound to measure how much the tumor has shrunk since my last chemo.
The UCSF Cancer Center is one of the top treatment centers in the United States. In HK, my clinic was rather small . . . the UCSF center is HUGE! It's like a factory with an army running the place. Appointments appear to be suggestions, although, they do their best to keep things on schedule. Another thing that this journey to healing has taught me is that it doesn't pay to get upset of being late, etc. I always bring my knitting, my netbook and other things to keep me occupied. I was very productive yesterday!
My tumor has shrunk 94% since diagnosis! It is now less than one inch total area and a lumpectomy would be in order, provided there are no indications of increased risk for recurrence. I meet with the breast surgeon for the first time on Friday, July 20 and will schedule the surgery for the last week of August or first week of September. We won't be able to make final decisions on the surgery until the results of the BRCA testing (will be back in about ten days), but we can get things in motion.
MY LAST CHEMO IS IN THREE WEEKS ON AUGUST 2! WOO HOO! Momentous date. I'm doing quite well after this most recent chemo (insomnia and loss of taste are the constant recurring side effects). In the meantime, my hair has been falling out again (my poor pillowcase is covered in little hairs each morning), so I'm probably going to completely shave my head again about a week after my last chemo so that they hair can grow in uniformly. The family has been quite humorous in their suggestion that I shave it into a mohawk, or an arrow or various other funny designs.
I think this is one of my longest blog posts ever! We are so incredibly blessed in so many ways. Just as God provides for the sparrows of the air and the lilies of the fields, He has been providing for us every step of the way. His faithfulness never fails.