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April 17, 2007 > Ivy Wu, a personal journey

Ivy Wu, a personal journey

Even with recent advances in medicine, early detection techniques and a positive prognosis for many, a diagnosis of cancer brings an array of emotions - terror, anger, fear, dread, sorrow - for all involved, patient, family, friends, associates. Seen as an ultimate life challenge, most people would not list "joy" as a response to breast cancer. But Fremont resident and school district board member, Ivy Wu is not "most people.

Last year, Ivy delayed her routine mammogram from August until December. A suspicious growth that may not have been detected earlier was found. True to her deep faith and optimistic nature, Ivy has infused letters to friends and her personal journal with humor and positive thoughts. In order to help others who may be faced with similar circumstances, Ivy has opened portions of her journal of personal thoughts and observations to TCV readers.

In Ivy's words, here is how it began:

When my surgeon called Feb. 15 and asked me to go to his office with a friend or family member, I anticipated bad news about my biopsy report. Sure enough, they found cancerous cells in the calcification mass taken out of my breast a few days before.

But instead of feeling as if it was the end of the world or sinking into tremendous self-pity, to my own surprise I was actually filled with joy and thanksgiving.

"Wow. I get to experience what many cancer patients go through. I will finally have a way to relate to those people who suffer from the tremendous physical pain that I have heard so much about, but understood."

Throughout my life, I have been well and fit. My doctor has commended me on being "disgustingly healthy." Praise the Lord that this experience will help me to be more sensitive to the needs of, and better prepared to help and comfort, people who are undergoing illnesses and treatments of this magnitude.

I need to go through a lumpectomy surgery and a sentinel node biopsy, followed by radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and/or chemotherapy.


February 26 - Monday

Dear God,

I started yesterday feeling really, really stressed and frustrated. Not only because it was pouring out there and both of my kids were not feeling well, but I also felt overwhelmed by the amount of work before me. I had to study school board materials and reply to emails of many parents requesting funding for their science labs. I also needed to wash all the blankets and bed sheets, because the surgeon wanted me to be kept germ-free before my surgery. So many friends called, but I have no time to answer every call or to meet with them.

As I was singing worship songs during Sunday service at church, my eyes welled up with tears of helplessness. Lord, I can't do it. It's too much for me! How can I take care of my children when I am so overtaken by work and worries? How can I serve our students, schools, and parents when I feel so tired and burdened? How can I receive all the kindness from my friends with patience and humility? How can I be protected from the haunting shame and guilt for having a failed marriage? How can I be a good testimony to others if I feel so weak and discouraged?

The day ended well despite its rough start. Both of my kids felt better; all the email was done; my friends got together to pray. I'm still not quite done with my study of the board materials, but I can work on them today. I will go into the surgery early tomorrow morning, and I'm thankful that I have friends who will take me to the hospital, and friends who will take care of my children while I'm gone.


February 28 - Wednesday

I woke up this morning at the hospital feeling great! No more nausea or vomiting, and having no need of any pain killer! Even though it was a lot of fun since I checked in to the hospital early yesterday morning, I didn't think I'd want any more "fun"!

While at the holding room, I told the nurse that I'll have my eyes closed when she pokes a needle into my vein. She said that she will have her eyes closed, too! The Radiologist warned me that there'd be some pain before he injected me with the radioactive tracer. When I said, "I didn't feel the pain." He said, "Sorry to disappoint you!"

My heart is filled with joy and thanksgiving, because I feel so loved and supported. I guess I have always been either too proud or too afraid to receive kindness from people, because I didn't want to owe anyone any favors! How God opened my eyes to see my own foolishness and other people's goodness. As I mentioned over and over, I truly believe this is an experience to be shared so that others can benefit from it. How we should keep up our faith and positive outlook to see every incident in life as an opportunity to learn and to help others for God's glory.


March 2 - Friday

Dear God,

It just feels so quiet today. Guess everyone wants to leave me alone so that I could rest and not be bothered. But, being such a high-strung person who constantly has efficient use of time on my mind, it is really hard for me to just sit around and take it easy!

I don't understand why Chinese people have so many customs to follow. People who just gave births, or just had operations should not bathe because there's a chance of catching cold; or go outside the house, because the wind might be too strong, or there might be too many germs; or eat certain food, because they inhibit healing... I get annoyed thinking that so many people are telling me how to run my life now, even though I know they mean well and are truly acting out of love and care for me. Being an independent and decisive person as I am, I really feel constrained by my current state!

It's just too quiet around the house. My children have a busy schedule so they are not around. Even though Mochi, our puppy, barks a lot for attention and food, it doesn't help since I can't play with him, lest I catch some bug from him!

Many friends are telling me that this is an opportunity for me to rest, but I don't really want to rest! There are so much to do, and so little time to do everything! I guess I am being overly anxious and zealous. Please help me see that the world will go on without me, but my family will be at a terrible loss if I don't stay healthy. I really need to learn to just sit back, relax, give some thoughts as to how I should spend my time, and make some changes so that I can go for the long haul. Thank You, Lord.


March 6 - Tuesday

Dear Family and Friends,

This is to give you an update of my pathology report that both my surgeon and oncologist discussed with me today.

All four lymph nodes taken out are negative, my hormone receptors are positive, and I am in stage 1 breast cancer. That means I don't need chemotherapy. However, I will undergo a few weeks of radiation therapy followed by a five-year hormone therapy, both of which may cause some side effects.

I will get second opinion from oncologists and radiation oncologists in Palo Alto before my radiation therapy starts.

Thank you for the prayers and kind support. I've certainly taken a lot for granted, including friendship. I am humbled by what the Lord is doing in my life and very thankful that He is giving me a new outlook toward life through this experience - a life of practicing more "Let go and Let God".

I've tried very hard to gain people's approval by working hard and performing well. Now, I am taking the advice from many of you to just take it easy and enjoy life more by slowing down, taking better of myself, and not being easily affected by what people think or say about me.

I also realize that God really loves me for who I am, not for what I do. When I am being too hard-driven and high-strung, I tend to make others around me feel uptight and uncomfortable; but when I am more relaxed and less critical, I find others around me more easy-going, too.

So, if you find me not as energetic or high-spirited the next time you see me, I hope you will see that as a result of my letting go and letting God more, not just an effect of radiation therapy!

Take care and God bless,
Ivy

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