Pre-op Completed

March 29th, 2016

I met with Dr. Helton, my surgeon, and completed all pre-op requirements.  He declared me ‘Fit to Go!’  We are to arrive early Friday, surgery commences at 0820.  It may take up to 10 hours.  I am duly cross matched for possible blood transfusion.  Updates for folks waiting will be issued periodically.

Tomorrow, Wednesday 3/30, I am playing golf at Meadowmeer with 5 regular partners.  Best round ever for All!  This will be my last round for a while.

Sincere THANK YOU, to everyone.  Your prayers, kind thoughts and genuine concern are deeply felt and appreciated.  We’ll continue our conversation post-op.

Samba

The folks at the church were very kind and accepting of us.  We were grateful for everything people did to help us become Americans.  Apparently they also liked and valued the work Dad was doing among them.  By Thanksgiving, 1955, the Church Council voted to change Daniel’s status from interim minister to permanent, full-time called Pastor of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church.  This was a first at the time, a Chinese serving as the sole pastor of a predominantly Anglican congregation in America.  Instead of missionaries going overseas to serve the Chinese, Dad considered himself a ‘missionary in reverse,’ a person from China serving Christians in America.

For pastimes, Canasta was a favored card game in those days.  Some parishioners taught it to Mom and Dad, and in turn, they taught the game to us.

After Thanksgiving, Dad and Mom with Danny and Betty took a trip to New York City to visit Mom’s oldest sister whom they had not seen for about ten years.  Dr. Shu Yang Liu was practicing Ob-Gyn in New York’s Chinatown.  She was trained in medicine in China and came to America in 1946 to continue her studies.  She completed the specialty training in Ob-Gyn as the first woman ever to achieve this honor from Penn Med, the medical school of the University of Pennsylvania.  Mom and Dad planned to be gone one week, leaving after Sunday service and returning Saturday afternoon.  William and I stayed home to attend school and to work our paper routes.  Home alone at 12 years old!  We were to take care of breakfast ourselves and to eat lunch at school.  Arrangements were made for various church members to come by the house and take us to dinner.

I remember one couple taking us to a diner like Big Boy.  I saw on the menu ‘hamburger’ and that was my order.  The host suggested adding a ‘milk shake’ so I consented.  My expectation was that the ‘hamburger’ would be made of ‘ham’ and the ‘milk shake’ would be aerated or fizzy with flavored milk.  I was surprised, but I did enjoy the newly discovered food combination.

At home, after delivery of the papers and doing our home work, William and I played cards.  (TV was becoming more available, but we did not have one.)  At first we played Canasta as we were taught.  Soon, it became too simple and boring to us.  So William and I decided in addition to just pairs and triplets, we’d add runs, starting with at least three and add on as we could.  Then, two decks of cards became insufficient so we played with three decks.  When Mom and Dad returned we taught them our modified game.  They related our game to their playing partners.  Not much later, we learned that a new modification to Canasta was becoming as popular as Canasta, called Samba.  William and I believed that we had invented ‘Samba’ because we were bored.  The new national game called Samba surely bore a strong resemblance to the game we invented!

March 24, 2016

We received a message yesterday that my surgery is scheduled for Friday April 1.  I have a pre-op appointment next Tuesday.  The Whipple procedure may take up to 10 hours to complete.  Dr. Scott Helton with assistance of UW Medical School surgical resident house staff will be performing the operation.

Thank You All for your care and support.  I am truly appreciative and overwhelmed by your constant vigilance and consideration.  Keep the love and prayers coming.  I’ll try to do updates as I can post-operatively.

Happy Easter Everyone.

Good Busy Monday 3/21/2016

We boarded the 8:45 am ferry, and checked in at Virginia Mason at 9:35.  The Short Stay nurse accessed my port and drew blood for the lab tests.  At my insistence, Dr. Picozzi, my Oncologist, reconsidered and ordered a repeat CT of my abdomen to be done in conjunction with my chest CT ordered by Dr. Gerbino, my Pulmonologist.  The tests were done at 10:15.

Appointment with Dr. Germino at 11:40 was very satisfying.  He checked my pulmonary functions, listened to my lungs and studied the CT scan.  He then declared me ready for surgery!  Although there were no significant signs of real improvement on the latest CT, I am not any worse.  Clinically, he felt I’ve improved and on course to be able to tolerate the anticipated major surgical procedure.  I am to continue tapering my prednisone dosage down to a maintenance level of 5 mg/day through surgery.

We met with Dr. Picozzi at 1:40 pm.  He said that even though I’ve been ‘untreated’ for 6 weeks, the tumor seemed not to have changed based on today’s repeat CT.  This was great news and conveyed immense relief to us.  Furthermore, my tumor marker actually went down!  The remainder of the blood work, CBC and blood chemistry, were all trending back to pre-chemo levels.  As to our next step, he referred me back to Dr. Helton, the Surgeon.  However, Dr. Picozzi still believes that I have 4 more sessions of Chemo to complete after the surgery.  I asked if there was any chance I did not need surgery, he nixed that notion without any hesitation.

Tomorrow they meet as the Tumor Board to discuss my case.  I should have a surgical date soon.  Knowing that the tumor appears stable, I am not as apprehensive to wait a short while.

Thanks Everybody for all your continual love, good wishes and prayers.

Becoming Americans

Knowing full well that Dad’s interim pastoral position at St Luke’s Lutheran was just that, interim and temporary, we were all prepared to face new challenges and openings.  We were all full of thankfulness to be in America and to be given the chance to become citizens of USA, no longer labeled as refugees.  Uncertain about what we may eventually be doing, we will not waste this God given opportunity.  Of course, the first step to become truly American is learning the English language.  Dad made a rule that even at home we must try to communicate in English at all times.  Since each of us experienced our days differently, each was also to teach the others at least one new word or phrase learned that day so we can acquire the language faster.  In fact, to immerse totally into our new life, William and I each applied for and was assigned a paper route.  The previous ‘paperboys’ mentored us for a few days.  Even though we had arrived in Springfield on August 28th, the routes were all ours the Sunday before Labor Day.

I remembered the boy teaching me my route constantly yelling “toss the paper onto the porch!”  I had no idea what “toss” meant.  Out of frustration he finally showed me.  I then said something to myself like “if you meant ‘throw,’ why keep saying ‘toss’!”  More difficult was to go about and collect the money each Friday.  All we could muster were “Collect please,” and “Thank you.”  We pooled all our weekly earnings together, saving every penny.  William and I decided early on that we would continue to do this until we started college, at which time we would divide our assets into four portions.  Even though Daniel, Jr. and Elizabeth were yet unable to contribute, nonetheless, they will get an equal share.  Danny would be expected to do the same; he would just start a little later.

Although we had already finished 6th grade in Malaya, because we had barely mastered the English alphabet, it was decided that William and I would be placed in Mrs. Lauver’s 5th grade class.  This teacher was most considerate and patient with us.  She assigned a fellow student in the class as our special ‘tutor’; mine was Modena Keeling and William’s was Rebecca Wagner.  (Recently I was able to reconnect with both these two angels who uncomplainingly got us through the first semester of 5th grade.)  After the first semester we were advanced to Mrs. Sprangler’s 6th grade to finish the year.  Since, in general, we had similar subject matters in Malaya taught in Chinese, I mostly needed to concentrate on learning the language.  I’d have the dictionary alongside the text book looking up every word.  After a while, I challenged myself not to have to look up the same words again.  Fortunately, I have a pretty good memory.  After the first year, all of us were able to communicate fairly well in English.  We may have had funny accents, but we got along all right at school, with our paper route customers, at church and with all our friends.

Settling @ 700 Grant Street

The people at St. Luke’s Lutheran were most generous and welcoming of us.  After dinner we were taken to the 4 bedroom parsonage at 700 Grant Street.  They had supplied the house with furnishings and bedding for our family: a crib for baby Elizabeth, a double bed for Mom and Dad, stacked twin bed for us twins and a single bed for Danny.  There was a couch in the living room, a large table in the dining room with six chairs and a small wooden drop leaf table in the kitchen.  (This I have refinished and it still serves as my study table.)

The next morning we were awaken by the ringing telephone.  After what seemed like a very long conversation, Dad told us that someone had deposited $20 at the corner grocery store owned by Mr. Charles Murphy and that we could go and pick out everything we needed.  Mr. Murphy would keep a tally and we did not need to pay anything until after Dad got his first pay check at the end of next month.  What trusting and considerate people Americans are!

On our first Sunday at church it was packed.  People brought toys and baby clothes for Elizabeth.  We were astounded at their generosity and overjoyed for Elizabeth.  Later Mom asked us if we were truly happy for our sister.  We three all responded affirmatively.  She then said something we’d never even dreamed of, that some folks were afraid that we’d be jealous!  How could that possibly be?  We were all doing everything we could to best care for our baby sister.  We were thankful that she got new clothes and gifts, far from being jealous.

Experiencing American Food

After arriving in America in mid afternoon, (August 23rd, 1955,) we stayed overnight in San Francisco; the very next day we boarded a transcontinental train towards Springfield, Ohio, our new dream home.  Spring field, the words themselves evoked prominent expectations!

On the train we asked Dad, ‘‘what do Americans eat for breakfast?’’  He took us to the diner car and we were shown the menu.  Of course, we could only see the pictures, and not understand much else.  In my meager English vocabulary, I noticed the words ‘Hot Cakes’ and asked if I could have hot cakes.  Dad said yes to me and we all ended up ordering ‘hot cakes.’  I was imagining to myself, ‘here in America, for breakfast, people eat cakes, and heated, truly heaven on earth!!’

Our piping hot cakes arrived, stacked three high.  Dad taught us to spread butter on them, so I liberally spread butter on each side of all three pieces.  Then Dad said to pour on the syrup, thus again, I eagerly poured on my stack of hot cakes a very generous amount.  Then we stopped to give thanks, each of us spoke from our hearts out loud.  Finally, Dad said that we may eat.  By now, the pancakes were cold and soggy, and the melted butter had recongealed, becoming greasy.  With the first bite the taste was not like anything I had anticipated or expected.  In fact I choked!  (To this day, I avoid pancakes.)

So we asked again at lunch, ‘‘what do Americans eat for lunch?’’  We returned to the diner and Dad said, “Americans eat salad for lunch.”  We ordered 3 salads to be shared.  It came simply as a half a head of lettuce, unadorned, but accompanied with a variety of dressings.  We poured the dressings on as a mixture and again were disappointed because we were not familiar with the sourness of the dressing or the raw taste of uncooked vegetable.  I told my brothers that maybe we had to accept that American food is not for us, but I assured them we will survive.  (I still prefer my vegetables cooked than raw.)

After three days on the cross-country train, we made it to Springfield in late August 1955.  Meeting us at the station were Dr. and Mrs. Flack from the Hamma Divinity School and a few of the members of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church.  They took us for dinner at a cafeteria.  Walking into this place we smelled the sweet aroma of fresh baking.  Standing in line, we noticed that there were at least 50 halves of chicken hung on racks, to be ordered as ½’s or ¼’s.  That was more cooked chicken in one place at one time that I have ever seen!  We all had chicken that night.  And it was very tasty.  We began to feel that perhaps there was some hope for American food after all.

Pi Day, Monday 3.14.2016

I am feeling and doing very well.  Now off Chemo for 5 weeks, I did not realize how much energy the treatment had “sucked” out of me.  Last Wednesday we took a mini break and drove down to Ashland, OR.  We attended 4 plays at the Shakespearean Festival, stopping to visit friends and relatives in Eugene, Portland, and Tacoma.  We returned home on Sunday.  (Power out, no damage.)  I drove over 1000 miles and was not at all tired.  Linnea ‘forces’ me to walk with her at least two miles every day.

Today, I had an appointment with my Surgeon, Dr. Scott Helton.  Face to face, he was able to assess that I am physically fit to undergo major surgery.  Together, we evaluated my course of tapering dosage of prednisone and he felt that I am on track for penciling in a date in the next two to three weeks.  My O2 Saturation was 95-6% before and after exercise.  Dr. Helton said that statistics show 30% of pancreatic surgical patients may develop deep vein thrombosis and ordered an ultrasound of my lower extremities.  I had that done this afternoon and the radiologist read the study as ‘Normal.’

With the rest of the week ‘OFF,’ I may play some golf, weather permits!

Next Monday, after a repeat CT of my chest, I meet with Dr. Germino, my Pulmonologist.  Then I see Dr. Picozzi, my Oncologist.  They will confer and relate my situation to Dr. Helton, my Surgeon, who will be presenting my case at the Biliary Tumor Board on Tuesday, 3/22.  We should have a surgery date soon.

Coming to America

After the Chinese laborers helped build and completed the transcontinental railway system, the US government instituted The Chinese Exclusion Act, which specifically prohibited Immigration of Chinese to America.  This ‘discriminatory’ stance softened slightly since US and China were allies through the WWII.  Now since the Communist regime controlled China, there were countless Chinese displaced throughout Eastern Asia; the USA opened the door slightly and established a new immigration program, permitting 2000 Communist Affected Chinese refugees to immigrate to the US each year.

Knowing fully that our chances were slim, nonetheless, we applied to come to USA under this newly instituted Refugee Program.  Dad contacted his professor/mentor at Hamma Divinity School, Wittenberg College; The Rev. Dr. Dean Flack arranged a temporary position for him to serve as an “interim pastor’ at St. Luke Lutheran Church in Springfield, Ohio.  With this employment opportunity secured, apparently we were moved towards the front of the immigration process.  By God’s Grace, miraculously, news arrived for us in the summer of 1955 that our immigration applications were indeed accepted by the  authorities.  We can come to America!!

People in US take this country too much for granted.  During that time, to the rest of  of the world, including us the Chu family, America seemed like a paradise country.  The Chinese words for USA are ‘Mei Kuo,’ literally translates as ‘Beautiful Country.’  Implied in the word “Beautiful” is EVERY thing positive that anyone can imagine and associate with that word…Beauty in all aspects and embodying all its finest qualities.  America was truly deemed “God’s Country.”

Everyone of us was excited.  We could not wait to come!  On August 1st, 1955 we left Malaya behind us and sailed to Hong Kong.  (Elizabeth was barely two months old.)  From HK, we boarded the belly cabins (third class) of the SS President Wilson and headed towards America, docked in San Francisco on August 24th, 1955.  We arrived in America with a total family net worth of $50.00 in Dad’s wallet!!

Winston to William

In the early 1950’s British Malaya and Singapore were in the process of establishing independence to become a sovereign nation named Malaysia.  The state of the country revealed a clear dichotomy.  The major economic wealth of the area was definitely dependent upon the tin mines and the rubber plantations owned mainly by the Chinese elites.  The political power, however, rested chiefly on the 7 Malay Sultan families who governed and ruled all the provinces.  One main objective of the new government was to try to reduce and distribute the economic power more widely.  Among many new rules considered, one method chosen to make it harder for Chinese was as follows.  Life-long Chinese Malays who may have lived there for generations must prove their loyalty by committing not to leave the country, except for excused limited short periods for five years. The government ruled that all Asian non-citizens (in order to continue to remain in Malaya) must apply and renew their Visas every six months.  We, the Chu family, being non-citizens without a country, therefore had to obey and comply.  The ‘white’ missionaries were exempted.  Furthermore, non-citizen Chinese students were only allowed to attend school freely up to sixth grade; after that, intentions to continue must be submitted to the authorities and evaluated on a case by case situation.  Winston and I were already finishing the sixth grade.

Dad felt that the English people must have played a major role in establishing these new rules.  He was so upset and angry that he impetuously changed Winston’s name to William as his protest gesture!  Living in British Malaya, we were eligible to apply to become British subjects, but he had no desire to pursue that option.