My New Used Car

This morning, I woke up with excitement knowing that we're gonna pick up a van that is gonna be my very own car. It's second hand Nissan Quest that has considerably low mileage.
I've been hunting for a van these last 2 weeks, or I think since the truck went down. We used to have 2 vehicles, a dodge neon and a chevy truck. The chevy one day broke down and engine won't start. I prefer to have a van because it's roomy and powerful. After searched for several days, considering the specification, budget, and optional features, I came up with short list of the van mades: Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna, Kia Sedona, Nissan Quest, and Dodge Caravan. The features I love are: automatic transmission (it's killing me when driving in traffic with manual), leather interior, cd/radio, cold ac (you don't want to drive without ac, at least, not here in Texas), captain chairs in the middle row, power window, power door, power lock, 4 doors.
I went to because it has good deal on used car (and many other items, too). I made a list of the vans I found and then discussed it with my hubby, then we made contacts and came do the test drives or just looking.
Last week I found several interesting postings (including this Nissan Quest) and we made calls and appointments with the owners. Friday (August 7th, 2009), we went to Wells Branch to meet the owner of this Nissan Quest. He is a nigerian who live in appartment with his wife and two children. The van is neat and clean, the engine is clean with new battery, proved that it's been well taken care of. Once I looked in the interior I knew this is the van I like. It has everything I want, plus other features, such as sunroof, new tires, vhs player to keep little passengers entertained, and cd changer with 6 discs. We did a test drive, van runs smoothly, ac is cold, all power features work properly. I told Loel, this is the car I want. Then, we negotiated on the price and told him that we'd back to him later this afternoon since we had few other cars need to see that day.
We headed to downtown Austin to see two Toyota Sienna. None of them express my interest. Then we went to Citibank to get cash for the van. After that, we went to Anderson Lane to meet with Torry, a friend from Houston, and to have lunch. He'd been in Austin since yesterday for a short vacation before the school starts this week. We agreed to meet at Casa Chapalla for a lunch. Diane, another friend, joined us later.
After lunch we called the owner that we decided to get the van. But he didn't answer so Loel just left him a message. We went back home and took short nap. The owner called us back later and we agreed on a meeting him that evening. We gave him some down payment and the rest will be given on Monday, after finished the tittle transfer, etc.

I'm Pregnant!

April 15th, 2009 Today is the big day! I found out I'm pregnant!
Thanks Jesus! Praise the Lord!
To read more click here

Last Post-Surgery Check up

6 weeks after surgery I went for my last post-surgery check up. Dr. Blumhagen was happy to see the progress I made. I'm still vegetarian but no longer in 'mostly raw' diet, which made me feel better and more energized. I avoid dairy products (bye bye Ben and Jerry...). Some studies suggest that limited intake of dairy product would reduce risk of cancer, especially breast cancer. I am still doing routine walk on treadmill. I started driving around about 3 weeks after surgery, but I had to be really gentle when placing the seatbelt and when I hit break or clutch pedal. I even had sex with hubby a weeks ago..he..he.. First time in about 5 weeks!

Doctor asked me about our meeting with Dr. Teneriello, I told him we were still discussing about it. He strongly advised I do whatever Dr. Teneriello recommended and to not seeking any alternative way for help. Back in my home country, Indonesia, most doctors will support patients' needs for alternative treatment/remedies. I know many doctors who also perform alternative treatments such as accupunture, accupresure, or with herbal remedies.

My period came early again, and it was as lighter and shorter as last month. This time my cycle was only 24 days. I think it's normal for my body is still trying to adjust to new change. I'm happy that I was still able to ovulate regularly. That's a good thing.

We are still on our plan to have a family. We've been trying for 4 years now and the stork hasn't deliver the baby to us, yet. We focussed on having sex around my fertile days, but now that my cycles became slightly shorter, I decided to pin point my calendar 11-13 days after my period. I used to make chart of my BBT (basal body temperature) in the morning before I woke up, checking my afternoon urine with fertility strips, and checking my morning saliva for any sign of fertility. You can find more info about fertility checks here. I stopped doing all those efforts maybe a year ago, because they just made me more depressed at the end, when I had period. Less stress made our sex more enjoyable, Loel could perform at his best, and we're both satisfied. Yes!

Meeting With an Oncologist

Dr. Blumhagen refered me to an oncologist specialist, Dr. Michael Teneriello whose office is at Texas Oncology near Mopac. I made an appointment with him a day after I got home from hospital. The earliest available date was on February 10th.
I was nervous and upset since morning. I was so glad Loel understood my situation. He came with me to doctor office. When we walked into the building, I felt like I was really sick. A glimpse of my father struggling with lymphoma, having chemo, and laying in the coffin, all was played in my mind. I saw people sitting in waiting room, old and young, women and men, different races, different stages. I told myself, I should've not come here. It really brought back sad memories of my father who lost his battle againts lymphoma non-hodgkin.
I filled out layers and layers of paperworks and returned them to receptionist who then gave me a bundle of book, pamflets infos and guides about cancer. The front folder says "I can fight cancer". What a nice way to encourage people, or is it to keep them feel sick??
After moments that felt like forever, a nurse called me in. Loel came in with me. She took my blood presure, checked my weight, and took my picture (for office documentation, she said).
10 minutes later, Dr. Teneriello came in shook our hands and sat down. He told us there was rare case of ovarian cancer in my age and that there was no evidence whether or not cancerous cells were left in my body after surgery. Pathologyst report after surgery showed there was no sign of cancer in other ovary nor other reproductive organs and inside my peritoneum. Or in other word, it was clean. They only found this damn cells in my left ovary that was removed. When I asked if ultrasound, ct-scan, mri or other testing device can detect any malignant cells, he said such detector would not show good result until the cells already multiplied/metastased at some point.
Dr. Teneriello said his patients usually were detected for cancer then went for surgery to remove the cancer. Not the other way around, like my case. He did not want to play guess and took risk and so he came up with this plan : he wanted me to go through a series of chemotherapy for 6 months, followed by an exploratory surgery (I will be cut open, from chest to below abdomen) to make sure the cells no longer there. Within that period and until at least for about a year after, we cannot try to have a baby. That's it, I said to myself, my whole life shattered into pieces.... I broke down and cried...
The rest of our meeting, Loel was in charge of questioning doctor because I was too depressed. If I agreed, doctor wanted to perform the procedure as soon as possible, no later than late March. He said I still can go to work and perform daily duties. The chemical they used in modern day is safer and less destructive than before. Side effects like nausea, vomitting, losing appetite and losing hair are still to be expected. But, most patients grew their hair back within a year or so. There is also club where I can join and share how to eat healthy during chemo, etc.
After the meeting, we went back to receptionist to get bloodwork and ct-scan form. Nurse gave me a bottle of barium to drink before the procedure which was scheduled next week. After blood work, we went back home. We barely spoke to each other, Loel grabbed my hand and said things will be fine.
Few days after that meeting, I'd been busy finding facts, literatures, natural remedies, alternative treatment, etc about ovarian cancer online. I really don't want to put my body into risky chemo for something that may not even exist. I talked to my sis-in-law, Laura, who is also an herbalist and has good knowledge in alternative treatment. She gave me infos and encouraged me to find alternative ways instead of chemo because it will destroy my body ability to heal itself, even though many experts said modern chemo is safer.
From what I've read, cancer cells are damaged cells that are mutated then multiplied and growth and kill healthy cells. Some substances can cause mutation (called mutagens) and some mutagens can cause cancer (called carcinogens). Those substance includes, but not limited, asbestos, tobacco, pesticides, etc. Everyone has cancerous cells at least twice in their lifetime. With good diet and lifestyle, our body can fight these cells and keep them in control.
Nowadays, lot of people have to deal with stresses (at work, at school, at home) and our foods are treated with pesticide and other chemical in order to provide the incredibly increased demand. Fortunately, more people now are also aware about these trends and choose organic-locally grown food, minimize stress, and do proper and balanced exercise.
I'm so glad that I have good access to abundant infos and it makes me feel positive about myself and of my body ability to heal itself. I discussed with Loel and I positively WILL NOT do chemo, or other procedure that could harm my body balance. It is risky decision but I was determined to change my life: start with good healthy diet and lifestyle.
Being treated in hospital twice also made me aware of how the healthy system in the US works. Hospitals, insurance agencies, and pharmacies systematicaly work to promote health through doctors, nurses, insurance agents, and so on. Patients come to doctors, they gave them prescriptions to take. Drugs have side effect, patients get worse, they need to be hospitalized. More drugs to take, more side effects occured, more complicated the case, more specialized will be involved. It's an evil cycle. Imagine, how much the hospital, or doctor, or pharmacy or insurance can make out of one patient in a year??
No. I will not destroy my body, I will nurture it, nourish it with vitamins and nutrients, I will exercise regularly and manage my stress. I promised myself I will change and live my life to the fullest.

2 Weeks After Surgery

I gradually stopped taking hydrocodone and take tylenol instead. Pain was slightly going away, but numbness and tingling sore were still there.
A week after my surgery I had my period which was 2 days earlier than I expected. It was lighter and shorter than before. I think it's normal considering I only have one ovary now. Oh well, at least it means less money spent on feminine napkins..he..he..
February 3rd, I went to Seton hospital for staples removal. I was a bit scared and even asked nurse if she would need to numb the area before does the procedure. She smiled and told me not to worry. The procedure was painless, I only heard scissors works and staples thuds and felt a bit pull and stretch on my skin here and there. She did great job!
She even told me about this scar treatment called "mederma" to fade the appearance of the scar. I only used vitamin E for the scar. I bought it in soft gel, cut it and rub the oil around my scar.
I didn't need to see Dr. Blumhagen and went straight home after that.

After Surgery, Day 3

I was so happy with Lilis and Sef's visit. They stayed for about 2 hours, we still had more to chat but they didn't want to interrupt my resting time. It was funny how we came up with topic after topic everytime Sef pointed at the clock and gave sign 'it's time to go' to Lilis he..he..

I thought I'd sleep better tonite since my stomach stopped gurgling (it was still gassy but not so much) and my appetite was well satisfied. I was wrong. I had to ask for Vicodin which helped me sleep for few hours. My body temperature rose up a bit that made nurse watched over me more closely. It turned back to normal after few hours without any medicine.

My breakfast today was biscuit with scrambled egg, a bowl of cereal with a pint of milk, a cup of orange juice, and a cup of tea. Yum! I felt the movement afterward, but only some discharge and more gas. The steamed veggies I had yesterday have not reached the end:)

Dr. Blumhagen came and checked on me. He was happy with the progress I made and approved my discharge consent. I asked him about the care of incision, the diet, the exercise, etc. He said the nurse will give me some paperwork with 'to do list' later on. The incision doesn't need special treatment, I can take shower (hot or cold doesn't matter), only I have to make sure the incision area clean, well dried, and well aired. I can only wear loose fit dress, preferably cotton, nothing tight nor 'unbreathable' materials. The staples will be removed after a week in his office, which I have to call to make an appointment for. Doc also gave me a direct-after hour number of his just in case I have any question or emergency need. He said I have no special diet whatsoever, I can eat whatever I want, just like before the surgery. I'd probably have a bit constipation as the side efect of the surgery, which can be easily treated with OTC (Over the counter medication) such as Dulcolax. And my bowel movement should resumes in few days. He shook my hands, patted my shoulder, and left.

Loel came in and asked the nurse of the paperworks I have to sign before I leave. Cathy was the nurse in charge that morning. She explained what to do and what not to do and had me sign on some pages. Here are some of the list:
- do not lift or carry heavy object
- do limited household chores, such as dusting,
- avoid cooking or anything that require standing near fire/stove
- light exercise: walking is recommended, gradually add the distance
- do not stand up for long period of time
- do not drive until at least 2 weeks post op, or when I feel comfortable wearing seatbelt
- avoid having sex, nothing into the vagina, for at least 6 weeks (yaiks!)
- take pain killer as needed
Loel brought me the mask I asked last nite. I hope this will help reducing my allergy symptoms.

We finished with paperwork, Cathy called the volunteer to bring up the wheelchair for me. Loel got all my stuff and went down to get the car. I asked him to drop by Costco pharmacy to get my prescription. We argued at this: he wanted to drop me home then come back to get the prescription cause it will take time to fill it, I said we were close to Costco and I'd be OK sitting in the car while my prescription was filled. I won! he..he.. It was though, I sat there for about 25 minutes trying to hide my face when the cart pusher went close he..he..Loel came back with Hydrocodone (a generic name for Vicodin), a pack of spinach and some cereal.

We were home! Jasmine was a bit crazy, she missed me so much. I had to be really careful with her because she jumped and stomped around. I laid on the bed and realized how tired I was and I didn't even walk much. Loel made me some veggie burger. Yum! Then, I took one hydrocodone and fell asleep.

I woke up feeling sick, and I realized doc didn't prescribe me with antinausea medicine. Gosh! I called doctor's office right away, it was Friday and the clinic was almost close. The nurse said she will try to get the prescription for me if not I had to get OTC Emetrol. She asked which pharmacy I wanted to have it filled, I said Costco because I'll get best rate. At 5PM nurse called me to say she got the prescription. It was Prometazine (generic for Phenergan). Loel went to get it. They had trouble finding my prescription. Apparently it was prescribed by Dr. Steven Solomon, not by Dr. Blumhagen. The nurse really tried at her best!

Oh, it was so good to be home again! The incision was still sore and the skin along the incision was numb. I took hidrocodone after dinner, and took Maalox to reduce the bloating. I couldn't sleep until after 3AM. It wasn't the pain, I had so much going in my mind. Loel wasn't in our bedroom. He slept on the sofa because he didn't want to interrupt me with his bad cough. When I finally fell asleep, I dreamed of my dad, my mom, of happy moments we had. I missed them...

After Surgery, Day 2

Cross on the wall

January 22nd,

I woke up in pain and sweat. I called nurse for some pain medication. Greg came in with Vicodin. He asked if I want one or two. God! Just give me that damn pils!! Few minutes later I became more relax and calm and fell asleep. I woke up 2 hours later when a nurse came in to check my vital. Watching tv and read a book and went back to sleep.

Greg came in his shift asked if everything is OK and measured my urine and checked my vital signs. Few minutes later Leonada came in and checked my incision and heard the gurgling in my stomach. She smiled and told me to walk some more. Another nurse came in with a tray of... liquid food. I'm bored!

Doctor came and checked on me. He heard the gurgling on my stomach and asked if I passed out gas. I said not yet. "Well, I'm sorry Maria, but I have to hold you here one more night. I just want to make sure everything is alright then I can let you go. OK?" I asked if there is medication I can take to get this gas out. He said there is none. "Just walking, walking, and more walking. It's the only way to get your bowel movement back to normal and that way the gas will pass out easily." I asked him if I can have veggie juice and smoothies. He said very thin veggie juice is OK, but not smoothie. He then sat down and became more serious,"Maria, I have something to tell you. The result from pathology clinic came today and it's not so good. They found what we call 'clear cell' on your left ovary. Clear cell is cell that arise from ovarian tissue and in most cases is malignant." I was shocked, stunned, couldn't find word to say. God, is it not enough for me that I have to go through this new challenge? Doctor said more, but I just couldn't digest the rest. What I could comprehend was that doctor found cancerous cell and that it's related to ovarian cancer and it was like the end of the world to me. He wrote in a piece of paper, "I will refer you to Dr. Teneriello, he's a good gynecology oncologyst. If I have a family member with the same case I would positively refer them to him." He continued,"Please Maria, don't go to chiropractor, or herbalist, or anything like that. Call this doctor first. Meet with him and discuss what further treatment you should get." I asked him, "what do you mean? Is it like chemo?" "I don't know. Maybe you have to undergo another surgery to remove your right ovary, or your lymph node, or maybe chemotherapy or other treatment. Or may be even better, you do not have to do anything else. But, please go talk to him first. OK?" We talked for another 5 minutes, he patted me and told me things will be alright and went out. No. Things are not gonna be alright for me. I can't believe I have cancer! My dad died of cancer, Lymphoma non-Hodgkin. But, I changed my diet, I've been being vegetarian for 4 years now. Why do I still get this bad cell?How? I was so devastated. I cried and asked God why.

Loel came with juice and smoothie I asked the night before. Once he sat down I told him what doctor said. He came to my side and said sorry,"I know it sucks, it's hard, not just for you but for both of us. If only there is anything I could do for you to make you feel better?" I said,"How about a walk?" So, we went for a walk. In and out the aisle, went down to the lobby and came back up to my bed. He helped me sitting on the reclyner on the side of my bed. And we changed topic. We decided to leave this topic behind, and Loel kept telling me to focus on my recovery and to think positive. I told him to take the smoothie back since i'm not allowed. He went back home around 12.30PM and said will come back around 5PM.

After finished my lunch (another serving of liquid food), I felt the urge of going so I stood up, and went to restroom. Just when I sat down, I released the gas, a lot of it..ha..ha.. I was so happy I called nurse to tell doc to see if I still can go home today. Leonada came if few minutes later. She smiled at me and said,"You just made this up so you can go home, didn't you? I told her I didn't,"I have proof and it's in the toilet." he..he.. She checked and said,"Well, congratulation then! I did call doctor but he wasn't there. I left a message with the nurse, so we just need to wait till he return my call. Meanwhile, I'm gonna call kitchen to see if we can get you a real food." Real food? Whoo hooo...! Ten minutes later a nurse came in with a tray of steamed veggies (carrot, green beans and green peas), a roll with butter, a cookie, a pint of milk, and a cup of tea. Wonderful! I wolved it down like a hungry beast he..he.. I called Loel immediatelly telling him what happened and that we're waiting for doctor to return the call to get the discharge permit. Lilis called me asking how I was doing. She said she wanted to come tonite with her husband, Sef, if it was alright with me.

I sit down on recliner with Loel beside me
No call from my doctor. Ugh! That means I have to wait till tomorrow. Loel came with smoothie he made this morning. Now I can have it. We went for walk. Sometimes we had to make stops to laugh, it hurt me badly ha..ha..When we came back to my room, it was almost 6.30PM. We watched Simpsons and the dinner was served: veggie burger with fries, a bowl of green salads, a creamy pudding, orange juice and a cup of tea. I shared the burger and fries with Loel and had the rest. This really satisfied my 3 days of starvation:) I went to restroom afterward, more gas came out and whatever left in my bowel after surgery. Loel left me around 7PM.

Lilis visits me with her husband, Sef
My eyes got tired of reading. Nothing interesting on tv. I heard knocks on the door and voice,"Maria? Are you there?" A familiar face came out the door. Lilis! She came with her husband, Sef. They brought me some donuts, Round Rock donuts, the best and only in Round Rock. I ate one and it was warm and puffy. It reminded me of the fresh local donut we used to have in Surabaya. We exchanged stories. They told me about their bad holiday. How they eagerly wanted to have beautiful new year's eve in New York. But instead, they both caught bad flu that made them stay in bed most of the days. We shared stories of our weddings and honeymoons, families, etc. She told me she found a job in this 'woman plus-size' boutique. I asked if she drives now. She still is having problem coping with bad traffic, bad drivers, and the past car crash she involved in few years ago. She's lucky to have Sef who is happy to drive her around. What a cute couple! Thanks for those donuts!