Monday, 27 May 2013

the Big Scare, C that is

Monet in the 2011 Death Ride, top of Carson Pass
It's hard to believe that my super healthy, non-smoker athletic sister - note that she was a butterfly stroke champion swimmer in College, Miss Body Building California after College and currently, a regular Tour of the California Alps-Death Ride biker - was recently diagnosed with the "Big C".

Cancer has become so dreadful that if you hear news of someone close diagnosed with it, it's very difficult to
think positive.  That's why when we learned of her condition, we were stunned, frozen, shocked and flabbergasted.

Early this year, on February 20, she said "it was my heart that told me I had a lung problem. I did not know until we [we referring to her partner Jim] had a CT scan. We found out after surgery, [that I was] diagnosed as Stage 1, Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC).  Most of the lung cancer patients know they have cancer at stage 3 or 4, when it is too late and has metastasis in other organs."

With this news my sister Chato was already in panic and she made plans to travel to Berkeley where she lives. In case you don't know, Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States among both men and women. Current Genomics in 2010 reported that there were over 200,000 new cases per year, claiming more lives than do colon, prostate, ovarian and breast cancers combined.
Monet now totally vegan, at Millenium 

As I said, my sister doesn't smoke and is extremely healthy and strong. Mind you, she bikes centuries (100 miles) for practice.  The signs and symptoms for this particular malady are not obvious e.g. the coughing up blood may be mistaken for tuberculosis. Mayo Clinic lists the following signs and symptoms: a new cough that doesn't go away, smokers cough, coughing up blood, shortness of breath, chest pain, wheezing, hoarseness, losing weight without trying, bone pain and headache.

The lungs are the most important organ in the body for breathing and this, provide oxygen to the blood. Note though that Pope Francis had his lung removed when he was a teenager 40 years ago. So, we can survive with one lung.

There are five lobes in the lungs - three on the right and two on the left. Her surgeon Ashish R. Patel, MD removed the top right lobe. The report from the lung lobectomy and lab test indicated as she shared "The best news is the cancer is located only in the right lung and has not spread to any lymph nodes. I don't have to go through chemo or radiation."

We were jubilant with the news. Early detection is indeed the secret in the 'Big C'.  However, on March 2. she relayed that there was a minor surgery complication, a chyle leak.

sister bonding in Berkeley with nephew Enzo
Because of the minor complication, she changed her diet completely. She said  "Per surgeon, I have to follow a very low calorie and non-fat diet for 10 to 14 days days then introduce fat very slowly to the system. I will have an x-ray this Sunday to make sure it is not draining in my lung cavity. The surgeon will call me if this is the case. When I start introducing the fat on March 11, I need to have x-rays done to make sure it does not collect in the lungs. If this does not work. I may need to do surgery to close it. I still have that plastic bag glued on my side belly. So far, no leak."

in her element
With this news, Chato decided that we should all fly to Berkely immediately.

I must say that in three months time, her recovery was remarkable. She looked well, strong and fit in her usual cheerful, all smile demeanor. It was only when she climbed a flight of stairs and heard her wheezing that we realized she was not yet fully recovered.

She has completely embraced  Dr. David Servan-Schreiber anticancer diet to prevent cancer to reoccur in her body.  She said "I do not eat eggs, dairy (even yogurt), meat, poultry and pork. Maybe fish once in two weeks for omega-3. Most of my food sources are from vegetables, fruit, beans, legumes, seeds and nuts and whole grain. Very little oil in my cooking."

My sister has always been the strong one in the family. With her steel determination and courage, I'm sure she'll manage to overcome this setback. In fact, she is already training for the Death Ride this July. The course is extremely challenging, the distance is129 miles (207 km), 15,000 feet climb,  covering five mountain passes from Turtle Rock Park to Monitor (8,314 ft) to Ebbets (8,730 ft) and Carson (8,580 ft). This time, she'll be in tandem with her partner instead of riding solo. Good luck sis!!

No comments: