Tuesday, November 20, 2007


My sister who is a doctor wrote this in another site. I couldn't help but copy and paste it here as I have exactly the same sentiments...

November 17th marked the first month of my father's first intake of 800 mg of brivanib alanate - a tyrosine kinase inhibitor that is not yet available commercially - in the hope that it will somehow stop or retard the progression of his liver cancer, the way another drug of a similar class - sorafenib - showed the much-touted promise in another clinical trial published 4 months ago.

Asymptomatic that he was/is, we chanced upon father's liver tumors first week of September last year. By the last week of the same month, we had the diagnosis of liver cancer confirmed by histopath/biopsy. This is not happy news, especially in the light of the treatment option given - none.  Even then, I was already advised by colleagues (ophthalmologists) to look for clinical trials and enrol father in one. 

Before he was discharged during the biopsy, the hepatologist had a change of heart. (I could only guess why.) She suggested radiofrequency ablation (RFA). Father was readmitted for the procedure. This time the admitting diagnosis was hepatocellular carcinoma, and he was for RFA and percutaneous ethanol injection (PIE). The prognosis though was still guarded. Both procedures work for tumors of a certain size only. And although, Papa was not symptomatic, I knew that his biggest tumor was already bigger than the cut-off.

Another round of RFA was suggested to be done 3 months after, but only when the intestines clear out of the way. I remembered asking the hepatologist if father needed an oncologic referral. The reply was in negative. I believed her. And so we waited for the intestines to clear out of my father's right lobe. They never did.

During one of this hepatologic consult, Papa asked his doctor his life expectancy in the light of his medical condition. Without batting an eyelash, the hepatologist told him "6 months". I could kick my father at that time, in asking that question of someone whose "people skills" need a lot of improvement.

I remembered the advice I got at the outset of this battle. Our pursuit of the unconventional brought us abroad, only to find our answer  back home, specifically, while queueing at a bakeshop.  This couldn't just be serendipity. 

The most trying time came with the intake of brivanib, as like in any anti-VEGF, it caused my father's blood pressure to go sky high.  His 800mg-dose also sent him to liver failure, Papa had to be admitted.  But it was his high BP that almost crippled him.

All these have come to past now.

Two days ago, without his doctors' knowledge my father, with mother and Tim, hopped on a plane to go home (I could just imagine the number of strings my brother had to pull to get him a plane ticket).  When they landed in Iloilo, I got a real chirpy phone call from him.  He was so happy, you can almost feel his elation, it instantly erased my guilt in aiding him escape.

Today I'm just grateful.

Grateful that something is being done for his tumors; Grateful for his sassy, smart, sexy doctors; Grateful that they have the nerve to tell him, "Aba Dad, gusto niyo bang mabuhay o mamatay?  Kasi kung gusto niyong mamatay, wala na tayong pag-usapan, wag na natin pahabain to."

Grateful for the family and friends who truly care for him.  One suggested pranic healing, another went to Lourdes, France and included Papa in her intentions, still another wanted to give him holy water.  Instead of saying "duh!" and be exasprated, I/we said "thank you".  They do care for him.

But you see, the only one who can heal father is the Great Physician.  Direct to Him, no go-betweens.  The minute we lose focus of Christ as the center of our lives and everything that is happening, good or bad, things will not be right anymore.  I'm grateful we have Him in our lives, and in Him we live, and move, and have our being. Cancer or no cancer.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

'nice' journey to the woods...

Into the Woods is a two-dimensional musical of characters we were told when we were kids. Combining these characters in one story and giving them a bit of heart, then it unfolds and webs as they journey to the woods. And after having their wishes granted, major glitches surfaced. I first watched the recorded broadway musical when I was in college and kept a copy until now. The characters, or rather caricatures are so distinct from each other and each has their own agenda to fulfill. Watching the dvd was like reading a graphic novel until they entered the woods where everything became three dimensional.

Maybe it was a mistake that I got to watch the filmed stage version of Into the Woods before I got to watch the stage version of New Voice. Then again, who can actually resist Bernadette Peters? Lyn Sherman's version of the much coveted role of the Witch was a breath of fresh air. Although I sure do hope she does get a lot of it (air, I mean) before singing the difficult lines of Sondheim. One crisp singer would be Crisel Consunji as the hooded little girl. Im just not sure about the height though, she seemed taller than the baker's wife Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo, who in the other hand shone on the second act. Bits and units all cut and chopped perfectly. 
Amazingly, this is one company of tall people, Cinderella is not cinder at all. Despite that fact, Cathy Azansa managed to be this wishful ingenue who grew 20 years older in the second act. Remarkable performances would be Juaqui Valdez who was able to put humanity in the two dimensional character Jack (as in Jack and the Beanstalk) and Tommy Abuel who on the other hand, sans the singing, remained to be as mysterious as his role's name yet truthful and most intense among the rest. Remarkable  improvement is needed for the Grandmother who can do some exercise in enunciation as understanding her lines seated from the audience area is reduced to nil. Also, I am not sure if the very 'Filipino' (translated to-- Lucita Soriano) attack on the role of Jack's mother worked making the whole thing 3D. Generally, I will not call the the performance fantastic as it can still be pushed to the edge because you know that there is a wealth of talent in the cast. 

A friend warned me about the set. The warning was apt. Minimal and austere, the woods became a printed tarp on a wall with doors. The play opened with this claustrophobic feeling that the actors might just bump into each other in the first scene. The thrill to the journey did not become as exciting as the stage did not change into this magical forest. But as I said, I was aptly warned. I was not disappointed. It was with the costumes that I was not warned. I was not sure if they are scrimping on budget or they just want to use what they already have in their closets. Unforgivably, the lights, however minimal with no special effects, were not seamlessly cued. 

Into the Woods is a social satire equipped with splotches of wit. It brings one questioning about what was read to us and about our lives right now. It is a reaction to stories we have memorized (especially our generation) and telling the story after the 'everafter'. Exposing the gore and the uncouth with desires to point out the flaws of these children stories, and yes, about the flaws that we do have after we go out of the theatre. New Voice Company's Into the Woods is not free from flaws. In fact, there is quite a number of them that even none-theatre goers can see immediately. Yet, the musical is still worth seeing.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

casting cares

I was in Paris when my sister told me that my father got enrolled in a program which might be able to help him with his liver cancer. It is a clinical trial program conducted by this drug company in the US. We prayed for it to happen and it was an apt birthday gift for my mom. 

My dad started to take the meds right away. Medicines that are still on its final testing stage before it goes out of the market with approved claims. Three days later, he went back to the hospital with his complaints. I really don't know the reasons but he was advised to stop taking it momentarily until his test results will be ok. It was yesterday when he started to take the tablets again, in smaller dosage. This, accompanied by a cocktail of tablets to counter the other effects. It was last night when he again felt ill and weak again. 

I have known my dad to be this invincible principal of the elementary school where I attended. Robust and authoritative, everybody respected him.  I feared him during those times. As I grew up, I have always been my mother's son. My two sisters look like him and I look like my mom. My going to college was his greatest test for me. And my not graduating college was his biggest disappointment. I have been told that I'm never like my sisters who are achievers. I don't have the letters after my name. And he would constantly remind me of that for several years. And for several years, I detested the fact. At the back of my mind, I would tell myself that the day will come when he will actually be proud of me. 

It was last night that he told me that I should take care of my mom when he's gone. I told him that we are doing something about his illness so he better not think about it and just be well. He answered me that he wants to be out of the program as he may not be able to take the side effects of the meds. I was dumbfounded. I told my mom about it in front of my sister and my mom was just quiet. She tried to keep her emotions and went into their room. Midway going up the stairs, she bursted into tears. I know my hug was not enough to console her. As I pray for healing for my dad, and strength for my mom, I have to doubly pray for guidance for all of these. 

He told me that I should take care of my mom. I know that he is proud of me as his son. Yet, I can only pray the set-up is different. 

I'll continue on praying.