Hello, again.

Hmm. This “post” began on 7/11. Here we are 20 days later and I am still not done. 

There were a couple days here and there where I started to write a line… but there were just as many times when I decided I should wait to give any sort of update. 

073117 Bunny.jpg

First I want to say: I am loving life. Taking it in bursts and moments rather than trying to plan it all out has been liberating. 

Plus, SnapChat turning me into a bunny with a heart nose is always fun. 💯😋🐰🦄

IN THIS POST…

  • Quick recap

  • Seeing the good in the bad

  • AmA

  • Time for the fun stuff!!!

  • Happy birthday boo ❤️

QUICK RECAP.

Well, here’s what has happened since my last post: 

  1. -Extreme cleaning of our upper deck + house
  2. -Warriors win second title in three years :D
  3. -Fun Father’s Day celebration
  4. -More blood tests + worry
  5. -OUR WEDDING AT THE FERRY BUILDING!
  6. -Minimoon in Vancouver + Tofino (best-kept-not-so-secret vacay in Canada)
  7. -More blood tests + worry
  8. -Post-treatment PET/CT scan
  9. -My beloved grandmother in Taipei passes away
  10. -More blood tests + some hope

POST-TREATMENT RESULTS: Not clean, but not worse. That’s okay news. As long as my scan doesn’t get worse in six months, my doctor’s not too concerned. This disease sometimes presents this way. 

BLOOD TESTS: This has actually been worrying me more. My counts continued to be very low, especially between last treatment and the wedding.  I was neutropenic and my doctor mentioned that it shouldn’t have lasted this long. This Wednesday will be very telling. If my level are normal-ish, I will be ecstatic. 

To be honest, the low white blood cell counts have stressed me out. I never thought I’d have to face the prospect of another bone marrow biopsy. But (as Tim points out often) the likelihood of the cancer having spread to my bone marrow is very unlikely per Dr. Ai. 

“Very unlikely” doesn’t sound as reassuring post-diagnosis. 

But I’m also learning to trust the process. To help with that, I’m going to take “mindfulness” classes and I’m very excited about that!

I’ve got other plans in the near future that take me to such lovely places. I am so, so grateful. 2017 (2nd half) is going to be amazing.

SEEING THE GOOD IN THE BAD. 

There’s been a lot to unpack during just a couple of months. A lot of ups amidst some downs, but even in those sad moments, I’m learning to appreciate the positive perspective. The major events I’m referring to include the post-treatment scan, my blood tests, and my grandma (“Ama” in Taiwanese) passing away.

Back a few weeks ago, before she passed and while I waited for my scan results, I wrote down my feelings.

Thoughts. Introspection. Contemplation. Pain. Aching. Stillness. Anxiety. Numbness. Hot flashes. Tears.
Looking at a grey-blue haze where the Bay waters are painted with a couple of ships. 
Noticing, for the first time in the one-and-a-half years since I’ve had this view, the cars and trucks moving along the freeway in the distance. I am sitting here wondering how I could've missed seeing that traffic before…?
I feel like a cliche. Writing down everything that crosses my head. I swear I'm not trying to sound poetic. But it’s strange the way the traffic keeps moving. It’s constantly moving… even though I’m in pain because my dear, biggest-hearted grandma in Taiwan is not doing well. Even though I can’t move, paralyzed with fear every minute that my doctor doesn’t call me to tell me the results of yesterday morning’s post-treatment scan. 
I can’t help but let my mind wander. Does this mean I am not in the clear? I thought I had already convinced myself not tolive in this kind of fear. I already accepted the fact that I would be undergoing scans for years and that each time, I’d probably feel the same nerves. 
"It is what it is,” I keep telling myself. Worrying about things won’t change anything, so why worry, right? 
Except I don’t have control over these thoughts as much as I’d like. I keep succumbing to the anxiety. I try to convince myself that my doctor is busy. She’s overwhelmed. Someone suggested that the test results must not be bad or my doctor would have called me. But weeks ago, I had scheduled an in-person appointment that’s set for tomorrow. What if she’s just waiting to deliver the bad news in person? 
I hesitate to post this. I think perhaps I’ll keep it to myself. But there has always been something liberating, since December, about not keeping it to myself. 

Interesting to read those words now.

ama.

I refrained from talking too much about Ama because it was too painful to think about. She was such a strong, beautiful, fiery, big-hearted woman. The main reason my sister and I would return to Taiwan. I knew she was aging but because she was such a fireball, I just didn't think it was "time" yet. It happened so quickly. Here's part of the tribute I wrote on Facebook:

This picture is the last one I took with her (I had to sneak it because she didn’t like being photographed haha). This was in October 2014 during a trip to visit my Agong at his memorial site.

There she is sitting on her bed, as she always was, in her bedroom in the Taipei home where they had lived for decades. The place where I spent a good chunk of my childhood. There are so many bring-me-to-smile memories in every room there.

Eating the delicious home-cooked meals in the kitchen while smelling incense.
Watching TV with my Agong (grandpa) in his room.
And my fave: bugging my Ama on her bed while she either knit a sweater or a doll with Japanese programming always on her television.

Now I feel so empty. I don’t want to go back to Taipei anymore. Yes, I want to see my aunts, uncles, and all my cousins, but I am afraid of how I’ll break down being there without her presence. Without her spunk.

This is something all who knew her well can attest to: Ama was full of that spunk. I think that’s what is making it so hard for me to accept her passing. Yes, I know she was old and her health was in decline. I knew that. But how can someone who was larger than life… lose her life? I just always thought there’d be more time.

You always think there is more time.

After what I’ve experienced this last year, I am seriously not taking anything nor anyone for granted. I am also going to strive to remember my ama by living her best qualities, including her selflessness.

She continued to be selfless through the end. My mom usually visited Taipei to be with her aging mom every quarter. Because of my cancer, my mom stayed to take care of me and did not go back for half a year. I am so glad she was able to go in between my last treatment and the wedding. It was during that last trip when Ama made sure to tell her that if something were to happen to her before my wedding, my mom was strictly forbidden from returning to Taipei and she must experience this “life moment” with me, Tim, etc.

This was a tall order. My mom’s so close to her mom. Taipei has remained her #1 home, despite living in the Bay Area for 30+ years. Ama knew that she had to make this very clear so my mom wouldn’t “miss out” on what she considered to be such a momentous occasion. What genuine selflessness. When Tim and I found out that Ama was in bad condition and had to go to the ER ICU just a couple days before our wedding, I broke down. I urged my mom to go to Taipei. That was when my mom told me why she wasn’t going till after the wedding. It was so tough for her to stay away, but she wanted to respect my ama’s wishes.

One thing that makes me feel better is what Christine told me. She said the universe has a way of balancing things out. Perhaps my mom lost her best friend in her own mom, but there were truly deep bonds that grew in the last year among me, my parents, sister, and Tim. My mom’s definition of where home is... is shifting.

Ama, you will live on in our memories and in our many thoughts of you. It hurts that Tim never got to meet you. That was why we chose to take our honeymoon in Taiwan/Japan later this year, when I am healthy enough to travel long distance. We will still go to visit you and Agong at your memorial. Don’t worry, he has already gotten an earful about who you were and knows the stories are far from over 😉. I love you so much.

TIME FOR THE FUN STUFF!!!

I was lucky enough to get married - again! This time with our closest friends and families around us. It went by just as quickly as everyone said it would. Reliving it through pictures and videos has been the best. 

Below's mix of pictures starts with a cake that my bridesmaids got for me for our "bachelorette party." Since I couldn't make it to Austin as originally planned and my blood cell counts were too low to go out or be around too many people, they threw me a hotpot party and surprised me.

We had our rehearsal dinner at The Slanted Door where my girls surprise-performed their own version of Jagged Edge's "Let's Get Married" and threw out dozens of pictures of me from childhood and beyond lol! Good thing we were in the private room haha ;p.

The Ferry Building was an amazing venue. It means so much to us as we spent so much time there and along the Embarcadero since we were friends. He proposed to me just outside the FB when there was the Burning Man/Flaming Lotus Girls sculpture. Seeing the place come alive with such beauty and personal touches (a Burning Man mini-installation for example) was amazing. Heart-filling. Special thanks to our beautiful and talented planner Kaella  for putting it together!

There were multiple "favorite" parts of the wedding, including my surprise slideshow (first time editing on iMovie for me - thank goodness it's pretty easy!).

There was also our surprise father+daughter v. mother+son dances... capped off with our Chen Family v. Chuang Family battle LOL. So glad that our families are goofy enough that everyone was ALL IN on performing at the wedding! It was so much fun :).

Check out Papa Chuang's dance moves! (We only practiced two times - prettyyyyyy good haha)

 

 

And here's some of the Battle Chen v. Chuang. Also pretty spontaneous lol! Chens repped Bay Area with e40's "Tell Me When to Go" and Chuangs repped ATL with Silento's "Watch Me" (Whip/Nae Nae) ;). 

 

 

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BOO ❤️.

Tim's birthday passed but a nurse just told me that after 30, you get a birth MONTH. So... you have a couple weeks to wish him a happy birthday 😜. 

Part of my "gift" to him this year was to surprise him at work again with a song... but not from a singing Cheeseburger like I hired last year. This was an upgrade: a chicken with a delivery of KFC! 

😂

For those who don't know him well (Tim, not the chicken), know this: He cares so much about people and wants the best for everyone. Truly. I am in awe of how big-hearted he is and feel like the luckiest woman in the world (because I am the luckiest woman in the world). I've hit the jackpot early in life with the parents, sister, husband, and best friends I have. Cancer just deepened the bonds AND the appreciation. 

Ok, that's it for now. Feeling super blessed with the best people around me. Really appreciate all the love 💕. 

Big hugs,
Steph
#spicystrong

Stephanie ChuangComment