Monthly Archives: February 2009

Clarification on ‘targetted tumours’

When talking to the Oncologist yesterday I wanted to know why only four of the metastases in the liver had been targeted. These were all showing good reductions, but why hadn’t they targetted the others that show ‘no change’? I was informed that the radioactive spheres in liver targetted all tumours, including those outside the liver (hence my radio-active state for those weeks affected my whole body and others could not be too close to me)

It is merely a question of semantics with the physicians and radiologists. They have targetted the largest tumours to measure their progress. The minimal size of the smaller ones makes it too difficult to accurately measure them.

I have another CT scan next Tuesday and am hoping for more good news.

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Posted by on 28 February, 2009 in Medical


Others have their moments too.

I remember my mother reciting a ditty to us when we complained as kids: “I complained I had not shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.”

Yesterday at chemo Bronwen and I sat across from a young couple in their early thirties. It was obviously her first time at chemo and they seemed a bit nervous. The staff were brilliant with them – I don’t know if  nurses are picked especially because of their manner. I wonder if you can educate that empathy into staff without it being patronising. They are just so natural. (That’s the Christchurch Oncology staff anyway!)

I’m not sure what cancer the lady has. Her husband was showing pictures of their two young children (both pre-schoolers) who were being looked after by his parents. The wife talked of how she had left school at 16 and found a job and that had been her only job. She only had one boyfriend and she met him at work and now he is her husband and father of her children. It was a lovely idyllic story until along came the dark shadow of cancer to invade her life.

In an earlier blog I wrote about my concerns for Bronwen as she looks to eventually facing a future alone. How much more are those questions going through their minds?  How do they hold back the tears when they tuck their little treasures into bed at night? And each other? What does he say to her and what is he not able say? How does she refrain from burdening her husband even more while she desparately needs a shoulder he is fortunately and obviously providing?

My heart ached for them and I prayed to the only One I know who can help and be the “everlasting arms underneath them” 

As they left the chemo clinic she reached over and took his strong hand and looked up and smiled into his gentle face. They snuggled together as they waited for the elevator. A million dollars for your thoughts!!

My own eyes watered up and I reached for Bronwen’s hand. There are so many out there with their private griefs.

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Posted by on 28 February, 2009 in Devotional, Family, Medical


Damocles Sword

Remember the emotional build-up before important exams?

Spare a thought for spouses of cancer sufferers. 

In an earlier blog I mentioned I am grateful for the time I have to set things in order and create memories before my demise, whether that be sooner or later than predicted. 

I confess though that there are times I think if I died from a good swift heart attack it would be kinder and cleaner for Bronwen. Like a surgeon’s scalpel, the separation would involve a quick clean break. The grief would be traumatic but immediate. With a terminal cancer verdict there is a gradual tearing that takes place: a thousand deaths to die before the final one. (It is nice to consider total healing, and be encouraged to pray for one, the reality is that the success rate for cancers once secondaries are in the liver is zero. It’s just a question of extending the time.)

It is tough watching Bronwen having to handle the waiting period. Of course we are enjoying every moment we can, but there is always the Damocles sword hanging over the festivities: the inevitable realisation that one day she will be visiting places, eating and doing things alone. Part of the problem is that right now I do not appear to be sick, I have very little pain and have almost as much bounce and energy as I’ve always had. The thing is, we both know it will not always be like this.

The anticipation of a future without a loved one is hard on the emotions. What do you say to the person who will be left behind? Platitudes are empty. Expressing sympathy for either spouse’s situation can stir up sadness as much as not expressing sympathy can.

How should the terminally ill patient deal with it? There is a feeling of helplessness when I see the tears for there is nothing I can do to hasten my demise or my recovery. There are times I just have to let her cry. Any counsel seems inappropriate and telling her we must focus on each day without looking ahead is easier said, for both of us, than done. All the patient can do for the loved one who will be left behind is to pray and know that “the eternal God is our refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms”. 

Please do not get the idea that Bronwen’s life is one of continual moping and misery. Like any grief, before or after loss, tearful moments can happen without warning and without any logical reason behind the timing. Most of the time we are doing well and making the most of every day and experience. 

Whenever you come across people watching loved ones under a death sentence, ask God for wisdom to know what to say. It seems best to me to just talk about today and God’s blessing on the present for that’s where He promises His grace and strength.

I am not good at this blogging business. I like to keep my musings to myself. I am not used to letting people into the recesses of my soul where I turn things over. Please be patient as I discuss such personal and confusing issues that I am working through. If it reflects what other people have thought, and have felt guilty or silly for thinking it, then we’re in the same club. If you’ve not been there, then don’t jump all over me.


Posted by on 26 February, 2009 in Devotional, Family


Update on Liver Tumours

Last Friday I had a chance to see the cross-sectional scans of the liver – not a pretty sight! I can understand why the scalpel is not an option at this stage. It looked as if someone had taken a paint-brush, dipped it in paint and flicked it at a canvas. The lesions are scattered all around in varying shapes and sizes.

The good news is that as a result of the Radioactive Spheres inserted into the liver there has been a marked reduction in the size of the four targeted lesions. For those who like details, those reductions from 30 October 2008 to 5 February 2009 are as follows:

Liver segment 2: From 37mm x 20mm to 18 x 10mm 

Liver segment 4a: From 29mm x 22mm to 16mm x 13mm

Liver segment 5: From 22mm x 14mm to 7mm x 7mm

Liver segment 6: From 12mm x 12mm to 7mm x 6mm

There are two other measurable lesions, one 3mm and 4mm that were non-targeted and remain unchanged. There were also another 3 or 4 smaller lesions and I must assume at the moment that these also remain unchanged. I am not sure why all of the lesions were not targeted when the spheres were inserted.

The other piece of good news is that there appear to be no lesions in the mesentery nodes after all. There are also no new lesions and “heterogeneous liver enhancement has improved since the previous study on 5 January 2009

The status of the primary cancer in the rectum was not identified in the latest scan but I am told that it is probably reducing along with the rest of the tumours! Albeit, some of the tumours elsewhere have not reduced. Then again, they haven’t grown either so one must draw encouragement from the smallest details.

Overall, I still feel pretty perky. The worst day of my fortnightly cycle is the 3rd day after chemo when I get pretty flat and tired, but not so much that I am too incapacitated.

Sorry – there are no photos of my liver to go with this medical report!!

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Posted by on 17 February, 2009 in Medical


Visitors from Singapore

The day after our sibling reunion one of our dear friends from Singapore, Pastor Patrick Low arrived with two of his elders and their wives. Their sole motivation in coming was to spend time with Bronwen and I and to take us ‘dining’, the #1 Singaporean pastime. We have known Patrick and Christian Community Chapel for more than 30 years and have walked along many similar pathways with him and the church. They brought love and greetings from the church and individual cards and letters from the members.

The church is a very loving one and has also shown practical demonstrations of their generous spirit in the past, not just to us but to the persecuted church in India and other ministers in the USA who have passed through deep valleys. Although it was a very busy week with travelling from restaurant to restaurant and returning to our abode for the mandatory afternoon rests, we were very much encouraged by their visit and greatly refreshed in spirit.

The picture was taken in one of the fine dining establishments in Christchurch (the award-winning Curator’s House at the Botanical Gardens). From left to right: Willy Tan, Yow Kin Cheong, Dr Patrick Low, Doris Cheong, Bronwen and Joyce Tan.


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Posted by on 17 February, 2009 in Photos, Uncategorized


Silence on the blog front!

Sorry for the silence on the blog front for the past 10 days. After the sibling reunion we entertained other guests in Christchurch but from the house where we were we did not have adequate access to the internet to keep the journal going. I will post some more reports over the next couple of days

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Posted by on 17 February, 2009 in Medical