Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Fuda Guangzhou experience

Done with fasting and Eid celebration! I promised in my last posting that I will write about my experience in Fuda Cancer Hospital.  I would say it was an excellent experience for me and my sister ~we had less invasive treatment of cryoablation and iodine seeding of which I can feel that the tumor has shrunk tremendously.  My sister also has made an excellent progress.  Before going to Fuda, she was using a cane and she had to use a chair while praying.  Now she can move around without a cane and she can perform her prayers just like a normal person, Alhamdulillah.

In front of the hospital

We spent around one week in Fuda as per the itinerary.  I brought along my eldest daughter who was on her semester break, to help us around.

Day 1 ~ Took MAS 9.35 am flight, reached Guangzhou Baiyun International airport around 1.35 pm. The flight was smooth, the funny thing was, my daughter cried of ear pain close to landing. The fare to & fro was rm1,420 per person.  We were greeted by a young lady at the airport, who took us to an ambulance van to bring us to Fuda Cancer Hospital. The trip took around an hour passing through highways and even dark scary tunnel. When we reached the hospital, we were brought into a single room with 2 beds. It was a very comfy room with clean toilet! All accessories were around like towels, shower creme, shampoo and even toothbrush & toothpaste! Slippers were also provided. We met Ricky, an Indonesian chinese who work there at the hospital. He can talk malay, what a comfort! We were greeted with orange juice & bread too. The registration process began, and I have to swipe my card for deposits for two persons, me and my sister. After that we had a tour around the hospital and to my surprise, they have prayer room for muslims too. Adding to my surprise, they even have halal corner at the canteen where we can have our breakfast, lunch dinner. They cater from an arabic restaurant and true enough, we have arab food in China! I was expecting chinese food here but it's ok, as long as we have food, it's really good enough. The surprising thing is lunch & dinner cost RMB50 each and the serving was quite big, even though the three of us shared food, we still have leftovers to bring into the room :-) When stomach is already full, the best thing to do was to get a good night sleep after a long tiring day.

Day 2 - The room was also equipped with tv and this morning my daughter discovered that they have channels including CCTV, CNN, some indon channels and to my daughter's surprise ~ the movie channels! At least she would not feel bored accompanying me at the hospital.  As for treatment, we had our blood, urine and feces taken for tests, and in the morning we went through ultrasound and x-ray.  We were free in the afternoon and took the opportunity to walk around the hospital for sightseeing.  There was a market nearby where we bought some fruits including lychee.  Usually we had lychee as a canned food, and we had it fresh while we were there :-)

At the hospital lobby ~ I look more like a tourist than a patient :-)

Day 3 - We were a bit worried that they never mention when the cryosurgery would be performed.  I then told them that I have already bought flight ticket on the following Sunday and I was worried that they cannot perform enough procedures during the time as I was made to aware that after the cryosurgery, I may need two days rest before the iodine seeding can be performed.  To my relief, they informed that the cryosurgery and the iodine seeding would be performed together the next day.  We had CT Scan in the afternoon for them to mark where they can poke in the needles for the cryosurgery and iodine seeding.

Day 4 - My case was the first one and was requested to be ready by 8:00.  They were very punctual indeed and sharp 8:00 they wheeled me to the OT for the procedure.  They put me on GA, and I felt that as as soon as I doze off I was woken up again and they were done with the procedure.  It was 9:30.  I was then put into and ICU for recovery.  I was attended by a Malaysian doctor who studied there and worked there as well.  When I was done, my sister was wheeled to the OT for her procedure.

I was supposed to stay in the ICU for a day, but since my condition was ok, I requested to go back to my room as I had to perform my daily prayers and it would be convenient to perform it in my room.  I managed to go toilet by myself for the ablution, the breast felt a bit sore but the pain was manageable.  Had I go for mastectomy, I'm sure I could not get up real soon (based on friends' experience of mastectomy).

After the surgery ~ can still smile!

The scar healed very fast coz' there were only three holes ~ two for cryo and one for iodine seeding.  If you wonder what a cryosurgery is, it is actually the freezing of the cancer cells to like minus 46 degree celcius and it was done by inserting the argon gas on the tumor to freeze it, followed by helium gas to bring back to normal temperature.  Cancer cells die off when in a very cold condition.  The dead cells would then be removed by the body through the normal elimination process of dead cells in our body.

As for iodine seeding, it is actually a low dose radiation in the form of seeds, the same size of a grain rice.  The purpose is to kill the cancer cells that has spread to other parts of the body.  I had five seeds inserted, while my sister had 30.  We were not supposed to be near babies and pregnant mothers as a precaution.  

Day 5 - Another resting day ~ I was given drips of chinese medication, they said ~ to make me stronger :-) I had a chest x-ray in the afternoon.  The rest of the day, we just browse the internet for our next mission before we leave China ~ shopping!  We mentioned to the nurse about our intention, and the doctor said they could only let us go the next day as we need to take another round of chinese medication day after.

Day 6 - I removed the bandage by myself and the wound healed nicely.  I had a good shower, excited over the fact that we could check out and head to Beijing Lu for shopping :-) When we were done with the drips we packed our things and ready to check out.

The final bill for me was around RMB 35,000 ~ I'm very pleased as it was much cheaper than I expected.  My sister's bill was around RMB 40,000 coz' she had more iodine seedings and other medication than mine.  We then took a cab to a hotel near Beijing Lu.  Feeling quite lost because we don't know any mandarin but were pleased to have discovered the road that was like a shopping heaven  :-)

Beijing Lu!

The mission continued on the next day.  I was quite surprised that only three day after a surgery, we managed to walk a long distance and long hours, shopping, in and out of outlets to find souvenirs for our family as well as place to eat.  We went out around 10 am, came back to the hotel around 6 pm, and  went out again at night til the shops closed at 10 pm.  Just can't imagine where the energy came from :-)

In front of one of the shopping centers 

On the next day, we packed our bags and checked out around 11 am.  Such an excellent customer service, the hospital driver picked us up at the hotel and drove us to the airport, and brought us to the check in counter for us to fly home :-)

All in all, it was an exciting experience and I'm really satisfied with it.  Friends that has not met me for quite some times, say that I look good, much better than before.  I plan to go again soon for the immunotherapy.  It is a procedure to strengthen my immune system so that in the future my immune system can fight the cancer cells by itself.  And for it, I need two more trips, to extract my blood out for them to culture and boost my T-cells, and a month after, to infuse the T-cells back into my body.

At the hotel lobby ~ ready to go home!
I’m proud to be the first Malaysian malay to have treatment at Fuda Cancer Hospital :-)  Few weeks back, there was a news saying that one of our MPs died while receiving cancer treatment in Guangzhou.  I checked with Fuda and they had no patient by his name, thank God!  There are lots of cancer hospitals in Guangzhou and various treatments available, and we have to do our research to find out which one suits us.  But then again, if God says it's our time already, regardless of where we are, we still will 'go'.  Just have to be prepared all the time...

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Progress so far

Months of silence! I'm alright, alive and kicking, Alhamdulillah. Updating from the previous post, few month after I'm done with the chemo, I got my menstrual again. This is certainly not a good sign since my cancer is ER/PR positive. Sad to say, the lump grew bigger again. In October 2013, I began to feel the pain on my back again. I began to see this Ustaz who practise using Qur'an recitation to transfer the cancer cells to a kemboja plant. It sounds silly but it works! I went to see the Ustaz every week day by day the pain went away and as at now I don't feel any pain anywhere. Though I went for an alternative treatment, I still seek the conventional method. During an appointment with the surgeon, he advised for another round of chemo to shrink the lump before having a mastectomy. I have no other choice and agreed to his proposal.

I started on an oral chemo with six cycles of xeloda. During each cycle, I took three tablets in the morning and three at night for 14 days, rest for one week and continue on next cycle once the blood report is alright. I had to take some b6 pills to counter for the side effect of numbness on hands and feet. I did not take it regularly in the beginning coz' I don't feel any numbness anywhere. But when I got blisters on my feet, I began to take the b6 regularly :-) Other than that, the skin got extra dry that I need to apply mosturiser frequently. Appetite was good throughout ~ proven by the weighing scale :-) I'm now 57kg, gained 10 kgs from the worst reading recorded during my sickness. I'm now done with the oral chemo and the lump has shrunk to a good size for surgery. But I'm now thinking twice whether to have the surgery. Trying to run away again eh!

Sometimes in March, as I lay on my ceragem having my daily massage, I came across a blog ~ "I'm keeping them", story on an American who preserved both breasts by going through cryoablation instead of mastectomy.  Cryoablation is a procedure whereby the tumor is injected with argon and helium gas to freeze the cancer cells.  Needles are inserted to the tumor, guided by CT scan.  Once frozen, the dead cancer cells will be absorbed and removed from our body through the usual removing dead cells process.  As if I found the light at the end of the tunnel, I contacted the author for further leads and I came across Fuda Cancer Hospital where the cryoablation can be performed.

Once I got the contact, I began emailing the consultant for details.  My concern was the $$ that I would have to spend for the procedure.  They required that I do a PET/CT scan to see my current stage.  PET/CT scan was done in May and at that time the size of the tumor was around 4.5 cm.  When I sent them the result, they estimated that the cost would be around RMB 50K - 60K.  I decided to proceed with it for these reasons :

  • My OKU daughter has just gone for a hip surgery which required her to be on cast for three months.  I have to manage her ~ carry her to the bathroom, bath her, feed her and basically do everything for her.  If I go for mastectomy, I wouldn't be able to do all the chores,  and who would?
  • Most of the cases that I came across, who went for surgery, had recurrences on other places.  Loosing the breast is a sad thing, having a recurrence is double the blow! 
  • People I know who went for surgery, had a tough time during the healing process.  It was really scary to learn about other people's experience & I can imagine myself going through it! I chicken :-)
  • And one last thing, as long as I live, I'd rather spend my hard-earned money to my benefit :-)  Believe it or not, people tend to take advantage over our sickness ~ I nearly lose some money due to a dishonest buy & sell transaction!
Got to stop here, will update on my experience with the cryo :-)