Dr. Pham’s Cancer Journey

“Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” – Albert Camus

Krystal Pham and her husband

My dear friends and family…I invite you to walk with me, side by side, entering into this journey of somewhat unfamiliar territory.  It may be a surprise to some that I will be the first amongst many generations in my family to have come to face this diagnosis. 

I have seen it, helped diagnosed it and at times followed along with patients with it but I have never been this close to IT.  I will try my best to capture the ‘moments’ so that you may be able to walk beside me, and understand the process to some extent.

Although my mind may be fogged by all that is to come, my heart is strong.  It beats to the rhythm of the love that you have shared with us. Knowing that you are right there next to me, in prayer, in silent cheer, or just looking on, I will surely be able to put one foot in front of the other. My heart is so full. I see clearly God’s love and grace in each and every one of you. My hope is that I will be able to instill some hope and comfort to those that may need it, by persevering, fighting and never giving up on the power of love and prayer. 

“Thousands of candles can be lighted by a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” – Buddha

 

hope breast cancer

Here we go!

Our guardian angel and greatest blessing that brought light to this journey: Dr. Mary Yamashita

If you ever need someone to read your breast imaging, she will be your golden key to precise, accurate answers. You will just need to trust me on this one. My story is too long to write here.

Once my diagnosis was confirmed, the planning began. Informing family, friends and patients were all in this initial stage of planning. And yes, I was afraid. The unknown is very scary to me. I have read all about the chemo meds and understand their side effects but how does that apply to me? Will I tolerate this? Can I still be active and “functional”? Can I get up to make my boys’ lunches and do normal things mommies do and is it okay to do so? Can I still go in to do deliveries and see patients?  Will overdoing affect my treatment results? All these questions were fired at our doctors in the days to come. 

As my diagnosis became known to family and friends, an army appeared. I will let the pictures below explain itself.  To all our Prayer Warriors:  YOU are my rock, my fort, my reason why I will win this battle.  You will not see my footprints in the sand, for during these times of trial I have been lifted and carried.  God is truly good.

Chemo Day 1

Oct 23, 2020:

We all gathered for the morning mass at Sts Simon and Jude Catholic Church.  Here a special blessing and anointing of the sick was given by Father Mike Rizzo to kickstart my treatment.

As family and friends gathered, Fr Mike gave a powerful homily reminding those present to not only be supportive on Day 1 of this journey but Day 30, Day 180, etc. My tears were definitely welling up at this point. Not because I was afraid to be alone but because I knew of the large army sitting right behind me ready to take on this battle  to the ‘nth day with me where we can proclaim cancer-free. My anxiety though, was starting to build…

Chemo infusion ddAC 1 of 4 (1 of 8 total):

Dr. Pham chemo day 1

I overall tolerated both chemo drugs very well.  However, I did experience an adverse reaction to one of the chemo pre-med Emend (horrible heartburn and flushing), but once it was stopped and the IV rate was slowed at restart, all was good to go!

Chemo Day 2:

A day of trial. I woke up to unusual epigastric and right upper quadrant pain…waited around but the pain didn’t go away and the nausea started to kick in very abruptly.  It was like it was angry at me for some reason.  I decided to take a dose of zofran and within half an hour, the pain miraculously subsided and my exhaustion and sleep took over again.

Morning came and overall I felt renewed although just slightly weak.  Feeling the extra energy I went around the house, did dishes, and some laundry. By 10 am I started to feel the quizziness again.  Since this was unchartered territory I decided to trial Zyprexa which was supposed to be one of the chemo pre-med and post-med for nausea.  Needless to say I am quite sensitive to almost any meds. The Zyprexa gave me an out of body experience with slurred speech and knocked me right into a deep sleep, where I could not keep my eyes open for longer than a minute.  Even though my sisters and best friend were all at my house, I was able to peek open my eyes for just a few seconds and fell right back to oblivion…this was definitely a first for me!

Chemo Day 5: 

Pushing the limit!

I woke up to NO nausea or headaches so…I decided to go into the office to see a patient. Lo and behold, we had to send this patient into the hospital for the delivery because the patient was in labor but was supposed to have a repeat c-section! I was still feeling quite well, so went on later that day to perform her repeat c-section and met beautiful baby Olivia for the first time in person. This absolutely made my day! More importantly, I made it home in time to say grace and have dinner with my kiddos:-).  Family has and will always be my top priority but at times it is very challenging.  As in the last sentence of our Hippocratic Oath “…may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help” – this my friend is pure joy.  My heart is happy.  No “C” can ever take this from me. 

Dr. Pham and baby Olivia
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