Negative For Malignancy

I’ve had a pretty busy month, half from school and half from my two-week break from school. I will post an update soon.

More importantly, I wanted to update on my last post and report that my mom’s thyroid biopsy results were negative for malignancy! Yay! She has to take thyroid medication (hormone replacement) for the rest of her life, but she was already doing that anyway.

Thanks to everyone who sent positive thoughts/vibes and well wishes! I don’t personally believe in prayer, but I certainly appreciate any positive sentiment.


When The Inevitable Happens

My mom is in her late sixties now. A few months ago, she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and was put on a thyroid medication (a replacement hormone or something). A couple weeks ago, she told me that her doctor thought she might have a couple nodules on her thyroid, so she needed to get an ultrasound.

My mom got her ultrasound a few days ago, and the results showed that she indeed has a couple nodules, about 2cm wide (I’m guessing that’s each). She’s now waiting for a referral to get a biopsy done to see whether the nodules are cancerous or not.

This is the first time either of my parents has had any sort of potential cancer scare. It’s still too early to tell, so I’m not really sure what to think. I certainly hope it’s nothing, but I’m a bit worried. My brother (the new doctor) said that thyroid cancer is very treatable in that even if my mom has to have her whole thyroid removed, she just has to take a pill every day. Still, that scenario doesn’t sound too pleasant.

My parents are getting older, of course, and they won’t be around forever, but I still can’t imagine what it would be like without them. My maternal grandfather is 91 and still kicking (although his pacemaker is apparently doing 95% of the work for his heart), so I guess I was hoping to be my mom’s age and still have my parents around. My parents were older when they had me, though, so it’s probably more difficult for that to happen.

During my lifetime, I’ve lost a few aunts and my paternal grandparents, but I wasn’t particularly close to any of them. I didn’t mourn for them in the same way I would expect I will for someone in my immediate family (or even my closer relatives).

My mind is definitely jumping to conclusions, but it’s hard not to think about these things when cancer is even mentioned. It’s probably difficult for anyone to face their parents’ mortality (or their own). I can’t imagine anyone is ever really ready for the day when the inevitable happens.

Dr. Brother

My brother graduated from medical school last weekend! He’s a doctor now! I took a redeye flight Friday night to arrive early Saturday morning so I could spend the weekend with him and attend his graduation ceremony. The only other time I had been there was when I helped my brother move in for medical school four years ago!

My parents and sister also flew in to see my brother graduate. The last time we were all together was nearly a year ago, when we went to Disneyland for Father’s Day. It’s also been many years since my whole family has taken a vacation together; it’s usually a big ordeal even just to get all five of us together for one day at home.

My parents and sister were staying in town longer than I was (because my schedule is less flexible than theirs), so my brother tried to cram in as much sight-seeing and landmark hopping as possible. I didn’t sleep much on the plane, so the nonstop walking and adventuring left me exhausted the whole weekend. I had a great time though; I took a lot of great pictures.

The graduation ceremony was wonderful. I’m so proud and happy that my brother is an MD! He doubted himself so many times over the years, often regretting his decision (that he made seven years ago!) to leave his stable but unfulfilling job for the far more difficult road of medicine. He gave up his job and moved far away from his family and friends to pursue his dream (that none of us knew he had). He wanted to drop out of medical school so many times, always thinking he couldn’t cut it (no pun intended).

But now he’s a doctor! Not only that, but he matched with his top choice for residency! Even with all his doubts, he made it! Yay!

Cancelled Christmas

My brother is in his fourth and final year of medical school. He only has six months left before he’s officially a doctor! As part of his last year, he is flying to different hospitals all over the country for residency interviews. He was back home late last week for less than three days. He flew back to school early Sunday morning. He has a big exam a few days after Christmas, so he decided not to spend Christmas at home.

This is the first Christmas for which my brother will be away from home. Since my brother’s birthday is around this time as well, my family has always celebrated both Christmas and my brother’s birthday together. Knowing my brother will be away, my mom has been feeling less inclined to host a big Christmas party for my extended family (she gets tired just thinking about it), so she decided to cancel the party (I like to say she cancelled Christmas). Only my sister and my brother-in-law (still sounds weird to say a year after the wedding) will be coming over for a much simpler gathering for immediate family.

I don’t really mind not having a big party (less presents to buy), but not having my brother home will be a strange feeling. It’s a feeling I might have to get used to, though; I don’t think my brother coming home for Christmas will get any easier once he’s a full fledged doctor.

Landlord Proxy

My university is about an hour (by car) away from the city (let’s call it The City) where my brother owns a condo. Since my brother is so busy with medical school, my dad generally handles most of the landlord responsibilities. He flew up this last weekend to show the condo to some potential tenants, so I met up with him in The City.

Aside: Whenever I type “The City”, I keep thinking about The Emerald City in Wicked / The Wizard of Oz. I’m seriously addicted to that musical!

I don’t have a car, so I had to use public transportation to get from my apartment at the university to the condo in The City. For some strange reason, the campus shuttles don’t run on weekends, so I had to walk about half a mile to the nearest public bus stop. I took a short bus ride to the train station, where I then took a 40 minute train ride to the nearest subway station (it’s not exactly a subway, but close enough). The subway took about 35 minutes to get to the station closest to my brother’s condo. Door to door, the whole journey took nearly three hours.

Out of four potential tenants, three of them flaked on their appointments. The one who didn’t flake didn’t seem very enthusiastic about the condo. She spent only about five minutes looking around before saying that she liked it but was still looking at a few other places too. Not a good sign.

My dad and I almost started thinking that the weekend trip was wasted until someone called my dad asking to see the condo a little later in the day. The guy who called turned out to be a potential tenant who had originally flaked but actually just wanted to reschedule. About an hour later, the guy showed up at the condo.

He was really cute/hot. He brought his girlfriend along, but we don’t care about her. He was really cute/hot. He had a great personality, an amazing smile, and he spoke fluent French! Be still, my heart. I know, I’m terrible. I would be the worst landlord.

My dad wasn’t selling the condo very well, so I became more proactive in showcasing the highlights. I certainly learned a lot in my brief stint as a salesman! I actually love my brother’s condo, and it’s easy to sell a product you actually believe in. The potential tenant and his girlfriend stayed for nearly an hour.

Long story short, the cute/hot potential tenant was very interested, and it looks like he’s definitely going to be the new tenant! Out of everyone in my family, I live the closest to the condo, so I will be acting as a mini-landlord (or, more accurately, a landlord proxy). I have my own set of keys to the condo, as well as the two sets we’ll be giving to the tenants. I will probably have to make another trip to The City next weekend so that the tenants can sign the lease. It’s a long trip, but at least I’ll get to see the cute/hot tenant again!

Frosted Cupcakes And New Clothes

This week’s theme is self image.

While my grandfather stayed with my family for the last month (he went back to my uncle’s place last weekend), I ate more health consciously than usual. I also walked with my mom and him every day, so I got the semblance of exercise. Over the month, I lost about five pounds. Even though five pounds may not be very much (it might not be statistically significant), I felt good when I stepped on the scale.

I spent last weekend in Irvine with my sister. On Saturday morning, I went with my sister to her boogie boxing class. Boogie boxing seems like a variation of cardio kickboxing. I haven’t done a rigorous workout like that in a long time, so the class was very intense. How exhausted and sweaty I was afterwards was a strong reminder of how out of shape I am.

That afternoon, my sister and I went to the Orange County (OC) Fair. Fairs are possibly the worst place to go if you’re trying to stay away from large portions and/or fried food. My sister and I split a mountain of chili cheese fries for dinner and funnel cake with soft serve ice cream on top for dessert. I was so disgusted by our meal that I fortunately declined eating chocolate covered bacon, deep fried Twinkies, deep fried Snickers, and deep fried butter.

The next day, my sister and I were deciding what fun activity to do together. We both have a sweet tooth, so we had the great idea to make cupcakes! We made red velvet and pumpkin spice cupcakes and topped them all with a super sweet cream cheese frosting. So good but so, so bad. Needless to say, I gained back the five pounds I had lost over the last month in just one weekend.

A couple days ago, I went to the mall with my high school friend with whom I recently reconnected (the one who got me addicted to Verbotene Liebe). This was the first time we had met since we graduated high school ten years ago, but it seemed like no time had passed.

I wasn’t planning on buying any clothes, but my friend insisted that I try on some shirts that I don’t normally wear. I’m generally a T-shirt and jeans guy. My T-shirts aren’t form-fitting, possibly from influence from my parents or from an old wardrobe with clothes from when I was heavier, but my friend saw my loose clothing as a sign of low self-esteem.

Possibly stemming from being heavier in the past and/or my lifelong confidence issues, I use clothes as a way to cover my body rather than to accentuate my shape. I’m definitely not fat (I have an average BMI), but I tend to obsess over the fatty areas I do have (especially after the crap I had over the weekend). At least, that’s what my friend thinks, and she’s probably right.

Anyway,  my friend kept stressing that I should think more highly of my looks. I ended up buying a few button down shirts (both short- and long-sleeved varieties) that I can wear with my current T-shirts as a way to add a little style and fit to my wardrobe. Her hope is that I will go to graduate school wearing my new clothes and attract cute preppy college boys. We’ll see.

I’m not entirely convinced that my new clothes are my style, but I do like them. I usually think “that would look good on someone else.” But who knows? Maybe a change in my perspective and they will look good on me too.

My Grandfather

My grandfather has a very “old world” traditional Chinese mindset. He believes that the oldest son is the main heir of the family name (daughters become part of someone else’s family after marriage, evidenced by the last name change), so he usually lives with my uncle (my mom’s brother), even though my mom is my grandfather’s oldest child.

My uncle is constantly busy (he’s a self-employed auto mechanic), so he doesn’t have time (and/or doesn’t take the time) to pay much attention to my grandfather, so my grandfather spends most days reading and rereading every single word in the Chinese newspaper. He used to watch TV, but the TV in his room broke. He won’t go into the living room to watch the main TV because of an argument my uncle and he had many years ago (I don’t know the details, but it’s been at least ten years). He also used to go out walking around his neighborhood by himself, but now that he’s over 90 years old and tripped somewhat recently, he’s afraid to walk by himself (and, for some reason, my aunt, uncle, and my cousins don’t ever think to go with him). He just sits around at home all the time except when my parents take him out for a walk and dinner on most weekends.

Now that my mom is retired, she has a lot more time to stay at home and take care of my grandfather (prepare healthy meals, take him for walks every day, etc.), so she (gently) insisted that he stay with us for a while. My grandfather has been staying with us for about a month.

My grandfather is doing very well considering his age. His mind is very clear. He has never had a heart attack or a stroke (though he did have multiple-bypass surgery about fifteen years ago). He has all of his medication organized and knows when to take which pill and how often. He doesn’t need a cane in the house to walk; he just shuffles around slowly. He also loves sweets, especially milk chocolate. It’s very cute to watch him carefully open a chocolate bar wrapper, break off a square, slowly eat it, and carefully put the rest of the bar back in its wrapper so he can save the rest in a Ziploc bag for the next day.

Since I speak sparse and broken Mandarin and nearly no Taiwanese, I have a difficult time communicating with my grandfather, but I try to be a good grandson as best I can. I say “good morning” (in Mandarin) to him every morning, I hand him objects with both hands (a sign of respect, I’m told), I offer to get him water when his mug is empty, and I drive my mom and him to the mall every day for a walk.

It’s interesting to observe my last living grandparent. Even though his daily activities are the same every day, he still seems to be enjoying life. If I’m lucky enough to live to his age, I hope I can still enjoy life too. What else can one hope for?