It’s Back [Year in Taiwan, Final Edition]

The past 72 hours have been a total mess.

Getting ready to take PUYUMAAAA.

Having barely enough energy to muster and feeling progressively worse, I had to cut my weekend Hualien trip short. It was my last trip in Taiwan before my emergency departure, which now had to be changed even earlier given my condition from Monday night to Sunday morning.

With my mom’s help to book the next earliest flight out of Taiwan, Hsuan and I fled Hualien ASAP. With hotel bookings, car rentals, and train tickets partially refunded, we made our way via Puyuma train (dare devils, eh?) back to Taipei.

Within several hours, I was out of Taiwan, face swollen from what I later learned was an even bigger mass that has been blocking my windpipes. Unfortunately, no, it was not bronchitis. My lymphoma has indeed returned.

Throughout the long 20-hour journey, I was scared. Carrying just my backpack and a light duffle bag around absolutely exhausted me. I had to walk at a snail’s pace through airports, while others were sprinting to catch their flights.

As soon as I landed, I called my oncologist fellow, who not only told me to go to the ER immediately, but also that the symptoms likely meant I’ve relapsed.

My sister happened to call after I spoke with the fellow, and as I breathlessly walked through the airport towards the exit, I started crying. Soon I had to take a seat before I could reach the exit to continue talking.

With my parents already outside, however, I cut the conversation short and walked out to see my dad. We walked to the car where my mom was waiting, and I bawled as soon as I saw her. I was speechless and just full of exhausted, hopeless emotion.

Dad’s home cooking 😛

Back home, everything felt more normal. I showered, chatted with Hsuan, and liked the feeling of being back in a familiar, warm environment. My dad cooked a delicious dinner, and I sat at the kitchen chatting with my parents, sharing the Hualien snacks Hsuan had bought for them, and savoring our time before going to the ER later.

Since the fellow advised going to my local hospital instead of Hopkins, where beds would be limited and the oncology urgent care wouldn’t be open until Monday, we made a quick drive to Howard County General Hospital, where the ER is a nightmare and we would never go again. Basically, I spent over six hours just to get lab work and poked with a 20mm needle seven times because five shitty nurses couldn’t draw blood and forgot to give me the IV before sending me to the CT room. I left crying and exhausted and indignant and just overall feeling even crumbier.

I finally got some sleep before 3 a.m., and the next day, my parents took me to Hopkins oncology urgent care, where I received an IV without a hitch, finally got a CT scan, and soon was admitted to start another chemo journey.

My private hospital room.

So this is where we are at now: I just spent the night here and will be getting one final ECHO cardiogram before RICE chemo starts sometime in the afternoon. I should be staying a couple more days. Details are scant, because the team of docs working on me are adjusting as we go, but thanks to some online research of my own and later asking about it, I may be getting a stem cell transplant, as this round of chemo should be more intense, but that also may mean there will be fewer cycles.

As for my mental health, I’m managing. I’ll keep you all updated, as yet another chemo journey begins and hopefully for the final time. I will fight this again, and this time, it will work for good.