A Surprise from International Lung Cancer Survivorship Conference

I attended LUNGevity’s International Lung Cancer Survivorship Conference(ILCSC) in Washington DC from April 25-28, 2019. It was the first time I attended a conference specifically for lung cancer patients and caregivers. It was such a surprising conference from many perspectives — conference content, social arrangement, and especially the conference atmosphere. https://lungcancer.net/living/international-survivorship-conference/

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My friend HaoPei (斐皓) is a Stage 4 lung cancer patient, 37 years old. This picture was taken by him when he traveled in rural China after his diagnosis.

To Donate or Not To Donate: American vs. Chinese Views

It’s quite a routine for North Americans to donate to charities, but not for Chinese. According to “30 Years of Giving in Canada” published in 2018, levels giving to charities as a percentage to GDP are: US (1.44%) ranked 1st, Canada (0.77%) ranked 3rd, and China (0.03%) ranked 23rd out of 24 countries.1 Living in China and later in Canada for my entire life and contributing to raising funds for US ROS1+ Lung Cancer research, I noticed that Chinese and North Americans have totally different viewpoints on donation…. https://lungcancer.net/living/to-donate-or-not/

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My friend HaoPei (斐皓) is a Stage 4 lung cancer patient, 37 years old. This picture was taken by him when he traveled in rural China after his diagnosis.

Don’t Give Up!

It was unimaginable to travel with my situation, a stage IV lung cancer metastasis to the brain. Nowadays, it’s not a big deal. Last September, I attended the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer Conference (IASLC/WCLC2018) in Toronto, Canada. It was a 2.5 hours flight from Winnipeg, Canada. This March, I went to Las Vegas (a 3 hour flight), and in April, I will go to the Hope Conference in Washington D.C. For me, still being able to travel means a lot. It means I still can handle normal life. On the way to Las Vegas, I could not help to recall my 15 day stay in the hospital when I was first diagnosed. See from https://lungcancer.net/living/dont-give-up/

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My friend HaoPei (斐皓) is a Stage 4 lung cancer patient, 37 years old. This picture was taken by him when he traveled in rural China after his diagnosis.

A New Way to Look at Fundraising

I raised over $17,000(USD) for lung cancer research with the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation in November 2018, during Lung Cancer Awareness Month. It was an unexpected experience for several reasons. One is that people were ready to open their wallets to donate. However, there were two common concerns prevented them to donate: 1) “How much of my donation would go to the cancer research?” 2) “How did we monitor the outcome of the research?” ….see from https://lungcancer.net/living/fundraising/

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My friend HaoPei (斐皓) is a Stage 4 lung cancer patient, 37 years old. This picture was taken by him when he traveled in rural China after his diagnosis.

Gay, opera and…

A Canada Opera company in Toronto staged an opera “Hadrian” in November, 2018. It was a forbidden story of betrayal and sex. It had all the ingredients of opera, except the relationship were between 2 men, Roman Empire Hadrian and a Greek man, who was empire’s true love. The composer of Hadrian (Mr. Rufus Wainwright) is a gay man. The gay men are interested in opera for hundred years on the stage, but there is no big character about guy man on the stage. The almost nude body on the stage and the sex between the 2 men relationship may run away traditional audience but may bring in new audience according to CBC.

I watched CBC National about the above news. It made me think about my interactions with gay men and lesbians during my life.

I was born in China, and until I left China in 23, I had never heard anything about gays or lesbians. When I was a graduate student in Canada, I heard some of my girl friends talking about gays, and they showed some kind of scariness or at least nervousness. But I never had met a gay man.

After I have received my Ph.D., I was hired by the same university. I had quite a lot of collaborations with one of the colleagues from another faculty. Actually when I was doing my Ph.D., I was using her equipment and lab for research. So I knew her quite well. After almost 10 years, somebody told me that she is a lesbian. I remember I paused a little. This was the first time I was directly interacting with a lesbian. For some reasons, I was not surprised or nervous. Later thinking about it, I was surprised that I was not surprise or nervous. I had a very good working relationship with her. I respected her a lot. Several times she talked about unfairness and politics in the department. I was very impressed by her principle and straightforwardness. Keeping in mind that there were no women in Engineering. It was nice to have some people to talk to though she is from another faculty. Knowing her as a lesbian, I serous thought about it, it did not change at all my relationship with her. Several years later, she introduced me to her partner and 2 children. We became friends. The special thing for me is that we never mentioned the sex orientation of each other, everything was normal.

Around this time at the beginning of 90’s, I happened to see “The Kids in the Hall’, a Canadian sketch comedy consisting of 5 Canadian gay comedians. It was broadcasted by HBO and later by CBC. I was immediately attracted to the show not much the story but the gay men’s characters and manners. It seemed that these characters were only possessed by gay men. I was really impressed by one part of the dancing showing that how depressed and devastated the gay men were by being denied whom they were, and how they survived and thrived from it. One thing interesting is that some gay men express themselves to the extreme. The TV series left a huge impression on me. It really makes me see the gay men with my own eyes.

Recently I saw another show called “Four Gays and One Girl’. The girl asked 4 gay men various questions. I found 4 gay men were extremely relaxed, honest and elegantly funny. This is something extremely pleasant to me, don’t know why.

Five years ago there was a very famous homicide in Canada. A Chinese young gay man came to Montreal as an international student. He was killed by a local gay man and his body part was mailed to different parties. The police finally arrested the killer. I was closely following the news. One thing I noticed is that the police wanted to question the Chinese gay man’s formal lover. A Chinese young man from mainland of China showed up. It came to my mind that there are Chinese gay men in China. This is a progress in China, at least accepting gay populations. The second thing I noticed was that the victim’s parents came to Canada and sat in the court room, and later gave an interview. I was glad to hear the victim’s mom talked about his son fondly. I also noticed that there were some Chinese that were helping the victim’s parents. China has come a long way.

This year, Toronto had 8 gay men missing and the killer was arrested. So gay men are like us, some are really nice and some are evil. I observe them by my own eyes, nobody tells me.

I support the Canadian government’s law to accept gay and lesbian marriage. My thinking is that this is basic human right for a citizen. The government has the obligation to protect every citizen’s basic right not just because they are born differently.

I also asked myself if I was gay, and the answer is no. But why I have so much feeling toward to gay men? I guess when I started to have interaction with gays and lesbians, nobody imposed their views on me. I look at them by my own eyes and with my own judgement. Also it is very important to form these opinions at certain age, so we can make up our very own mind.

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My friend HaoPei (斐皓) is a Stage 4 lung cancer patient, 37 years old. This picture was taken by him when he traveled in rural China after his diagnosis.

Acceptance of Death

This was the 4th time I had my Gamma Knife procedure. We came to the Admissions of the Health Science Center at 5:45am. There were total 10 other patients there plus the caregivers. A young couple came in-the lady was on a wheelchair. The lady was very thin but she was not showing any discomforts or distress. But the young man accompanied her appeared to be quite stressed and nervous.  From his body language, it was not difficult to tell his distress and sadness. The sharp difference of the couple made me look at them twice. My husband also noticed them and was upset for the young couple.

I, on the other hand, felt normal, to certain extent, about this couple. From my experience, we, cancer patients, accept death, ie., we have peace with God. When we are forced to confront death, we have to and we will come up with some kind of peace. But for caregivers, this is harder and takes longer time for them to accept death of their beloved ones. That’s why I feel that the lady was remarkably calm.

“Accepting death” is a critical step for us, the cancer or terminal patients. It changes everything, I mean in a good way. It’s often not understood by healthy people.

I cannot forget when I ended up in the emergency room that I was diagnosed with cancer. I read something that I would never read or think before I was sick. That was about doctor assisted suicide. It happened when I was the Manitoba Chamber Orchestral as a board member. We were organizing a function in early 2010 and a lady named Susan Griffiths was one of the helpers there. She stood out to me, I still don’t know why and how. When I was in the emergency room in 2015, especially at night, I read the internet about the doctors assisted suicide, and I came a cross of her story. I noticed her and she was the first person in Manitoba to go to Switzerland to commit doctor assisted suicide in 2012. Canada passed the law to allow the doctor assisted suicide in 2016. It was illegal in Canada in 2012. She had multiple system atrophy, a rare disease that robbed her ability to perform the basic body function, and there was no cure or hope for remission. She was actively lobbying the government for allowing the doctor assisted suicide, but in vain. I specifically remembered reading and watching videos of her last moment: her daughter and the family were around her outside a hut type of house in Switzerland. They sang ‘Row Row Row Your Boat’. She was smiling and her daughter was also smiling, a real smile as if it was a picnic. There was no tears only peace. At the time, I didn’t know why they were so content, and what they were thinking of. There was a peace at the moment and I noticed it. Now I feel finally I get it; it’s the acceptance to death in a profound peaceful way.

I think being a cancer patient, we desperately want to live and we know how valuable each minute is. That is why we are so involved in fundraising, donating tissue samples for research and participating in clinical trials. But at the same time we all have some ideas of how we are going to die in a near future, and we accept it. This is I called “make peace with God” no matter which God you believe in. Once we have it, life is totally different, at least for me is like that.

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