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June 26, 2007 > Ivy Wu, a personal journey continues

Ivy Wu, a personal journey continues

The word "cancer" elicits severe emotions even among the bravest. For some, the reaction is profound depression, but over years of research and experience, hope is becoming much more than a faint glow on the horizon. Triumph over cancer is now commonplace and survivors are willing and often eager to share with others who face the dreaded diagnosis.

Fremont resident and school district board member, Ivy Wu, was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. She previously shared personal diary entries with TCV (April 17, 2007) commenting on early treatment. Deep faith and optimism has continued to support her personal journey. 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.


April 1, 2007, Sunday

Dear God,

Every weekday morning, I go to the radiation oncology center to get my 15 minute treatment. After changing into the gown, I go to the radiation room and lie down on the movable treatment table. A big robotic machine called a Linear Accelerator will move around and shoot a radiation beam on the precise area of my chest. Since the machine gets heated up easily and will shut off if it is overheated, the room temperature is kept very low; but the kind therapists will cover me up very nicely with warm sheets so that I am comfortable.

I haven't sensed any significant effect or discomfort from the treatment yet. Maybe a little more tired and thirsty than usual, but that's about it! I am still attending various district meetings, including our School Board meeting last Wednesday which went from 5 p.m. - 12 Midnight, our typical schedule.

My son, who is graduating this year, has been accepted to all 5 UC's that he's applied to. I am thoroughly humbled by his determination and perseverance to attain such high academic achievement, and truly honored to be speaking to him and a group of recipients at a Scholarship Luncheon today!


April 6, 2007, Friday

Dear God,

It is Good Friday today, but I'm not really remembering You because I have been too wrapped up with anger and frustration about random things that just popped up in my life suddenly and threw me off my schedule. On top of everything else, my car light just flashed yellow warning me to get an oil change and maintenance! I called the dealer to set up an appointment, and I told him specifically that it had to be ready by 11 a.m. or 11:15 a.m. at the latest, because I had to go to my treatment.

The agent assured me that my car would be ready before then, and I trusted him to take what I said to heart, so I wasn't watching the clock. By the time I checked my watch, it was almost 11:30 a.m. when my radiation treatment should start. I was furious! Didn't he hear what I said? Didn't he promise me that it would be ready? And the car was not even washed! It was hard for me to see that it was not totally his fault, because I should have been watching the time, too. However, at the moment, I was too upset to see my own fault, and I only wanted to blame him and anyone or anything that kept me late for the appointment. So, I snarled at the traffic lights for turning red on me, glared at an elderly man who took a long time to cross the street, and fumed at the road construction that kept the traffic flow slow.....

By the time I rushed over to the radiation oncology center, I was 15 minutes late! I was terribly worried and fully ready to apologize with all sincerity when I arrived, but the friendly receptionist made my apology unnecessary, because her smiling face and soothing voice assured me of her understanding. I started thinking to myself, why the big hurry and why the big fuss? Why did I get so worked up with anxieties and stress? No one at the Center was showing any disapproval or displeasure at me because I was late!

As I was walking to the locker room, a lady introduced herself to me as a patient whose shelf was right above mine. She had a scarf over her head, so I assumed that she was losing hair due to chemotherapy. She spoke with such gentleness and peace as she told me how she appreciated this article that I submitted to our local paper in February, because it described much of her feelings when she was diagnosed with cancer. Wow, how she encouraged me and put me into proper perspective right then and there! I probably would not have met her if I got there 15 minutes earlier, and I would have missed a chance to be blessed by her kindness.

April 14, 2007, Saturday

Dear God,

I guess my state of mind can be portrayed by this Chinese phrase "mao duen" which means "spear shield". It came from a little fable about a man who was trying to sell both spears and shields. He boasted to the crowd that his spears (mao) were so sharp that they could pierce through any object; and at the same time, he touted that his shields (duen) were so strong that they could withstand any penetration. The crowd jeered at him for making such a conflicting statement, and thus came the saying "mao duen".

I certainly experience "mao duen" from time to time when I get an ambivalent sentiment about whether to take an action, or what decision to make. For example, when I went to the Asian Pacific Islander Policy Summit Legislative Conference in Sacramento this Wednesday, I was fully charged and invigorated by the panel speakers including some of our API State Assembly Members. I want to follow their lead to commit more of my time, efforts, and energy to better educate our community about their civic duties and to better inform our policy makers as to the needs of our community; but at the same time, I want to enjoy the time I have with my family and I need to consider my physical health.

I'm done with the 3rd week of radiation treatment, and in about 2 - 3 weeks when the BRCA test result comes out, I will find out if I have genetic mutation. If I do, then I may have to go through bilateral mastectomy which means more operations, more treatments, and less time to do things that I want to do. Wow, Lord, I can't go there right now because it overwhelms me just thinking about it!

Anyway, I sense the tug in my heart. I want to live a life that is meaningful, engaged, and fully devoted to serving others, but I am in a "mao duen" situation where I must be concerned about my own health and family first. I want to be like a spear (mao) to charge at full speed, but a shield (duen) is set up to protect me from getting out of bound and out of whack. In this regard, mao and duen are really for the purpose of keeping me in check and balance, and not to cause more confusion or conflict in my life!


April 22, 2007

Dear God,

A lot of discussions and analysis have been made all over the world about the Virginia Tech shooting rampage last week. I've been feeling quite overwhelmed by the development of the case. Lord, what went wrong? Not just with Seung-Hui Cho, the 23 year old Korean American English Major Senior at VT who mass-murdered 32 people on campus, but also with our society, education and family system?

Coming from an immigrant family background myself, I understand the hardships that many families go through to adjust and fit in the new environment. I see many parents trying hard to seek the best education and career opportunities for their children. They strategically move to attendance areas of schools with high testing scores and college admission rate; they are willing to work at all costs so that their children can afford to go to prestigious schools. I also see many students endeavoring to excel under peer pressure and family expectation. They take extracurricular activities, multiple AP courses, after school tutoring classes, and leadership program to make their college application look more appealing. There's hardly any room for fun and creative activities and playtime.

Are some of our students in situations similar to that of Cho? How many of our students are feeling lonely, discontent, lost, angry, jealous, helpless, suicidal and vengeful? Are many of our parents and families disconnected and in denial, thinking that there cannot be any problem with their children? Are many of our parents or guardians working so hard to maintain a living that they don't know what's really going on with their children's lives? Is our society and education system becoming such a high pressure cooker that it drives our students to academic excellence at the expense of their social, emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual well-being?

What is the purpose of education? If our students are taught to work hard and do well at school so that they can attend a good college, then go to graduate school, then pursue a good career, then make a lot of money and have power, then aren't we equating education to money and power? Is that what education about?

I wonder how Cho would have turned out if he felt appreciated and accepted for who he was, and saw the value of his life. With a more positive self-image, would he have made different choices in life? What about some of our kids who see no worth in themselves because they have been put down so much mentally, emotionally, intellectually or physically? How can we help them develop self-esteem? If they can see what immense potential and rich assets are within them, wouldn't they turn from destructive thoughts and hateful attitude to kind actions and benevolent deeds?


April 25, 2007 Wednesday

Dear God,

How beautiful is the voice of my oncologist's nurse when she called and left me a message yesterday saying that my BRCA test result is negative! It's not so much that I don't need to go through bilateral mastectomy, at least not for now, but that my daughter is not a carrier! I will feel so guilty if my daughter turns out to be a carrier! As a parent, I don't mind so much if I suffer, but to see my children suffer, especially on account of me, is absolutely heart wrenching and unbearable! Thank You, Lord.

April 28, 2007 Saturday

Dear God,

I sometimes feel very discouraged and condemned by some fellow Christians who mean well but lack understanding of my situation. They give me advice and admonishment thinking that they are doing me a huge favor; they quote Bible verses at me as if I don't know these words myself; they focus on my weaknesses and failures instead of looking at the efforts I've been making to overcome and the good things I've been doing.

The wise thing to do, at least to me when someone wants to "help" me, is to be empathetic to my plight and gracious to my needs. It will definitely work a lot better with me if someone tries to stand in my position, to understand my view and share God's grace with me, instead of just preaching at me with lofty words and rebuking me unrelentingly.


Final entry for publication:
May 20 2007, Sunday

Dear Family and Friends,

I'm done with the radiation treatment last week. Other than being a little more fatigued than usual, I'm doing very well overall. Thank you for your prayers.

Throughout the 7-week radiation treatment, I've had plenty of time to rest, think and pray, and I have come to some important decisions. I cannot redo a lot of things that happened in the past or undo my breast cancer; but I can move beyond the past hurt, mistakes, and loss to press on toward the goal that is set before me. In the 2-1/2 years that the Lord has allowed me to serve in the capacity as a School Board member, I have become clearer as to the purpose of my living.

I just want to take this opportunity to thank you all for your care and support for me and my family. To some of you who have to put up with me from time to time as I experience moments of frustrations and resentment, I seek your understanding and forgiveness. I feel like a person who has been given a new chance to life again, and I hope to live it better this time.

Love in the Lord,
Ivy

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