The early response to our online fundraiser has made that possible.
This is way out of my comfort zone but seems to be happening so fast I’m hardly aware I have a comfort zone!
I’ll been flying to the Guangzhou airport, south of Beijing, then on to Fuda hospital. I’m going to Fuda to assist a woman from Canada I’ve never met except through internet conversations. Her name is Fe and she’s a brave one indeed. Actually it was Fe’s sister in law who introduced us. Fe had had a reoccurrence of her breast cancer. The initial treatments of lumpectomy and chemo had been so hard on her she was unwilling to try it again. During a late night search her husband had found a hospital in China that took a different approach, freezing the tumor. It’s called cryoablation or cryosurgery. Was this a good idea?? Does anyone in the west know about it?? That’s when Fe’s sister in law did her own internet searches. That’s when she found our site,theyremineandimkeepingthe.com, named after our book, “They’re Mine and I’m Keeping Them”. I’ve maintained this site for over seven years, although it’s currently getting a much needed upgrade.
Fe’s sister in law, Collyne, wanted to know, what did I know about cryoablation? Well actually I know quite a bit. It was almost 10 years ago that my husband’s excellent internet and phone skills helped me connect with one of cryoablation’s early pioneers, Dr. Peter Littrup of the Karmanos cancer center in Detroit. Dr. Littrup and I probably made a good pair, I wanted to save my breast just as much as he wanted to try his freezing expertise out on breast cancer. He took me on as his first breast cancer patient. Years later I met someone in San Francisco who happened to know the woman who talked her doctor into doing the first lumpectomy. Her logic was the same as mine; if it didn’t work, traditional mastectomy could always be a fallback procedure. But it worked beautifully!! AND I may even have benefitted from a wonderful side effect. Many cryo patients get an” immune effect”, basically an immunity to their own cancer. As I’m finding out now, the Chinese have added additional protocols to specifically stimulate this very important effect.
But back to Fe. After a phone call from her sister in law, where I made the comment that I would love to go to Fuda to check it out, I got an email from Fe herself, inviting me along. Fe knew I wanted to check out Fuda for myself and she was willing to offer her experience as the catalyst, so her story could be shared. What a brave woman!! That request went straight to my heart like an arrow. It resinated deeply. Why?? Because 18 months earlier the cryoablation program at Karmanos had been shut down. I wasn’t sure why. For at least five years women had been finding their way to our website. I had spent countless hours on the phone telling them exactly what my experience was like. My husband Alex, who is so much better with actual facts and figures than I am, often also spent endless hours helping these women with difficult decisions, weighing circumstances, offering advice. Many, I didn’t keep track, followed my footsteps and also became patients of Dr. Littrup, saving their breasts from mastectomy and beating their cancer. Happily two were from my home state of Oregon, Heather and Mary. I got to meet them both in person and they have been very generous, allowing me to forward their contacts, to also share their experience with women trying to decide what they should do.
But now,” what to do” was proving most difficult. Our web site, even at its primitive, basic, early stage, must have been convincing. The women now writing me were convinced they wanted to have it done. But where?? For six months I’d been working with Jackie. Jackie wanted to be “the first black Laura”, explaining to me that african-american women would need a black face on a cryoablated breast cancer survivor before they’d buy into the procedure. It was Jackie who found out achieving that goal really wasn’t going to be possible in Detroit. The program there was not going to continue. I was faced with both the heartache of finding out Dr. Littup’s program no longer existed and having no good options for Jackie, who I was becoming very fond and attached to with each long phone call. Finally Jackie called me from the east coast. She had found another doctor who ran a clinic offering several alternative treatments. Cryo was one of them. She had talked this doctor into tying it on her. We celebrated by finally meeting in person for lunch when she got back to Portland. But when Jackie’s three month MRI happened, both our hearts broke…..where she’d been frozen she was fine, but outside of those boundaries..a reoccurrence. Perhaps this doctor was not as skilled or experienced as Dr. Littrup….but now what??
The inquiries keep coming….a woman from Cape Cod, northern California, LA, South Carolina, Australia, now Canada. I had read about Fuda. I knew the UN had sent Dr. Littrup to China in the mid nineties to teach them his techniques. I knew this was the reason the Chinese led the world in lung cancer cures as they began to use cryoablation as a very effective treatment. They had a post up on their website of an 85 year old woman’s before and after picture of her cancer erupting from her breast, becoming gangrenous, then being frozen. The after treatment photo showed it looking very normal. Wow!! But China……
Now here was a woman who was actually going. All the women I’d mentioned it to couldn’t get beyond the distance, the cultural and language barriers, let alone the potential costs. Would the treatment they got there be worth it? After Jackie’s experience, I’d already made a decision I couldn’t really recommend anything I hadn’t checked out for myself. Now I was being given an offer to do that.
But thinking and doing are different. There is a moment when thinking must turn into doing……
That moment came for me during my favorite morning yoga class. My teacher, Todd, always leads us through a guided meditation. During that meditation, just a few weeks ago, right after Fe’s offer to join her, the switch to “doing” commenced….”I should go” became…….. “I’m going”.
Right after class I I called one of my two film maker sons….Louie. Would he consider going with me…..if we could raise the money…..to help get Fe’s story in a form it could be shared? (He’s a wiz at u-tube and all stories visual). Why yes!! He’d love to!!
It’s been a short distance from that moment to getting a video ask ready. My ever supportive husband Alex has again used he’s internet skills to find the best vehicle for asking and getting the video Louie and I made posted….in only 24 hours our supportive friends have donated enough to be able to call the travel agent in the morning….now Fe’s friends are kicking in with notes such as….”you’ve restored our faith in the kindness of strangers”………I seem to be close to tears often…….this is WAY out of my normal comfort zone….but it appears, in about a week, I’m going half way around the world to help feed and bath a woman I’ve only corresponded with on the internet, at a hospital who seems to be doing amazing things. No, I’ve never met her, but I KNOW her. I know her because I’ve been in a similar place, when I only had my hopes and dreams of beating cancer in a way I wanted to work, even if it hadn’t been done before. It DID work. And now I want that SO badly for Fe…. and for Lori….. and Claudia and Karmelle and Karen and Jackie and for ALL the women who’ve contacted me in these last few months, making a heart connection as I try to help them figure out their best options. Maybe our finding out about what goes on THERE will eventually lead to it becoming readily available HERE.
Isn’t this what women are good at? Networking? Sharing our stories? Fe wants to share her story. I want to help her do that……
It’s Christmastime. Isn’t that the time for wonderful things to happen??