Update: 29 August, 2017

Having received only ¾ dose of the Chemo regimen two weeks ago lessened the unwanted side effects to practically zero.  Only notable issue was extreme narcolepsy for most of days 3 and 4 with some general fatigue throughout the two weeks.  I had no mouth sores, no nausea nor vomiting, no muscle aches, and no intolerance to touching cold objects or eating ice cream.  Taste of food continues to be somewhat off, flavoring being slightly odd, akin to having to hear someone constantly singing ‘off-key’, i.e. never quite accurate, but forced to bear with it.

Only out of line result today was that the CA 19-9 Marker increased slightly from two weeks ago of 33.0 to 46.6 today.  I suspect this is insignificant and possibly within the margin of laboratory error.   I proceeded to receive ¾ doseage again today.  We’ll recheck in two weeks.

An epic event took place during the past two-week interim, the eclipse of the sun across USA on Monday 21 August.  Marco and family planned their summer vacation to be here most of August and Marco rented a 5-br Air B&B in Salem, OR, directly in line of the Eclipse Route of Totality.  Linnea and I were able to join them along with one of their old friend from Bainbridge High School.  It was an impressive sight of a lifetime.  The sky being mostly light even with a mere sliver of visible sun, then as totality approaches, everything turned dark.  The sun was black with a perfect white corolla.  Stars became visible in the adjacent sky.  Ambient temperature dropped appreciably.  This phenomenon persisted for two whole minutes!  The Drive home was gruesome, Salem to Bainbridge, 10 hours.  I was merely a passenger and did not drive.  My ‘seat’ was slightly sore from just sitting, but the experience was well worth the long trip.

I’ll report again in two weeks after the next appointment, barring no untoward surprised development in the interim.  Greatly Appreciate all your Persistent Prayers and Best Wishes.  Thanks to All Readers.

Chinese-Cooked Rice

I have heard that during the time my Dad, at age 25, was courting my 17-year old Mom, he tried to impress her by acting as if he could do everything and anything in caring for her and their future family. Truth be told, he could barely boil water!  Shortly after their marriage, he once cooked a pot of rice over a camp fire.  It was three layers: bottom burnt, middle raw, top soupy.

Years ago Bethany Lutheran Church had a tradition of providing a Mother/Daughter dinner celebration.  One year the planning committee approached me and asked if I could cook rice for 100 people.  Proud as my Dad, I responded “Of course, I am a native Chinese, no problem.”  It was settled; I accepted the responsibility of providing rice for the Spring banquet.

On the appointed day, I rushed home on the 5:30 ferry from my Seattle office, quickly washed 25 cups of rice in a canning kettle, filled it with the appropriate amount of water and placed it on the stove to cook at maximum heat.  I then spent time washing up and getting dressed for the banquet.  Out of the blue and unexpectedly, I smelled something burning.  I ran to the kitchen and discovered the bottom of the canning kettle itself was red hot, the adjacent layer of rice inside was burnt and brown/black, the overlying layer of rice was hardly hot and scarcely cooked.  The Spring Banquet was to start is 30 minutes!

I tried savaging some rice from the kettle but it was futile.  Washing and rinsing all the remaining rice I had in the house (which was hardly enough) I started three pots going.  I arrived with a poorly cooked supply of rice 40 minutes late.  Most people had finished eating.  Needless to say, my reputation as a Chinese cook was in shatters.  One best way of ruining any reputation is to bomb the given opportunity royally and in totality.

In reality, I am quite a capable cook of Chinese/Fusion cuisine.  Subsequently, during recent years, I believe I have redeemed myself, having hosted numerous dinners at my home.

Debra Winger

I got a surprise call from Paramount Pictures one Saturday morning at the North Kitsap Medical Center.  They asked if I knew where the Kitsap High School football field was and how soon could they pick me up there with a helicopter?  I asked what was the matter?  They just answered that they had a VIP with an eye problem for me to examine.  I answered that all my equipments were at the clinic and that treating patients via a simple ‘black bag’ of yesteryears was over.  If they needed a proper evaluation, they’d need to come to the clinic.

Half hour later they called back and asked if I’d clear the office of patients and they’d come.  I responded that I couldn’t comply, but if they came at 12:30pm, I’d be finished with the appointments and could attend to this VIP.  They consented.

I told the staff about this arrangement and asked them to treat these people the same as any other patient, namely make them give proper information and fill out all the usual paper work.

At 12:25, a group of about 8 people arrived.  There was definitely a ‘handler’ in charge.  While the staff was gathering pertinent data from this leader, I noticed a young woman with purple tennis shoes sitting quietly with her hand over her left eye and with discomfort.  I walked over and asked if she was the patient and took her back to the exam room.

First I inquired her for a name.  She replied, ‘Debra Winger, just call me Debra.’  Then I asked ‘what do you do that you are a VIP?’  She responded that she was a ‘dramatic artist;’ she did movies.  I then questioned ‘what movies have you done?’  She rattled off a list:  Slumber Party, Thank God It’s Friday, French Postcards, Warriors and most recently Urban Cowboy opposite John Travolta and Cannery Row opposite Nick Nolta.  I inquired, ‘what are you shooting now?’  She replied ‘It’s titled An Officer and a Gentleman, opposite Richard Gere, a love story.’

I responded apologetically, ‘Well, Debra, if you depended on me to make a living, you may be starving for I don’t go to movies often and I have not seen any of your films!’  Debra wittedly retorted, ‘Dr. Chu, if you depended on me for a living, you will for sure starve because until now, I’ve never seen any eye doctors!’

Then I declared, ‘Debra would you do me a favor?  When you go up stage to accept the Academy Award, after thanking God and Country, would you mention that you also wanted to thank Dr. Franklin Chu of Poulsbo, WA.’  She countered, ‘Don’t hold your breath; it’s not that good a film.  But if I have that chance, I’ll send you two tickets so you can sit in the audience and hear me say that.’

I examined her.  She had an infected gland along her L lid, forming an abscess and causing the swelling and pain.  Treatment was to open the lesion and drain the contents.  Debra informed me that the ‘handler’ must make the ultimate decision.  Debra knew that she was merely deemed a profitable object, an asset to Paramount.  We brought the ‘handler’ in for the discussion.

I explained the situation and stated that in order to alleviate her pain minor surgery was necessary.  I could inject the local anesthetic under the skin beneath her lid, but no promise that I might not hit a vessel which will cause her face to be black and blue.  The ‘handler’ reacted “don’t do that!!!  Don’t do that!!!”

I then proposed that I could pull the lid outward and inject on the underside of the lid.  The handler shouted, “Then do that!!! Then do that!!!”  After that I stated that if I happened to hit a vessel there, it would be a good chance that the white of the eye could appear bloody.  The ‘handler demanded “don’t do that!!!  Don’t do that!!!”  She had to check with her superiors.  There was a wall phone in the hallway and I told her she could use it.

“Why don’t you talk it over and let me know your desire when a decision is ready.”  I retreated to my office across the exam room.  With the door opened, I overheard her talking, “Yea, he seemed legit.  Got a diploma from Johns Hopkins and his Ophthalmology Board Certification on the wall.”

Finally realizing doing nothing was not an option, she asked me to do my best and told me that by Monday they hoped to complete the final shooting of the scene on the WA ferry.

The surgical incision and drainage was performed uneventfully.  I advised Debra to use hot compresses as often as tolerable over the weekend and that there was a slim possibility they could complete the shooting of the film on Monday.

I charged them $158.  The handler asked an assistant who swiftly pulled out a stack of $100 bills from his vest pocket and gave the receptionist 2 of them and said to keep the change.

The following week I was frequently interrupted by Paramount Pictures and their insurance company with calls.  I discovered that Paramount was requesting two days of delay at $1 million dollars for each day!

p.s. Debra Winger was nominated for best actress for this movie in 1982 but was certain she would not win that even she did not attend the Academy Awards event.  Needless to say, she also did not send me any tickets.

Market Place

At the edge of Poulsbo, there was a grocery named Market Place, part of a local family owned group of grocery stores.  The manager at the time was Mr. Larry Nakata, who has the same built, same body size and similar handsome facial features as I.

One summer day, I had my twin’s two children, Billy and Kim and my own three kids: Jennifer, Catherine and David with me going to the store to pick up a gallon of milk.

As we were walking towards the back of the store, an elderly woman approached me and complained that she had asked her husband to get a lime, and instead he came home with a lemon, could she get an exchange?  I replied, “Just pick up a lemon and explain the situation to the cashier and it should be no problem.”

As we were considering getting chocolate or plain milk, a man said his wife asked him to pick up some cheese for pizza and he asked me what cheese should he get.  I looked up and picked out a package labeled mozzarella cheese for pizza and handed that to him.  He thanked us.

As we were heading towards the cashier, the kids were giggling and asking, Dad/Uncle, these people think you work at this place, why?  I answered maybe they thought I was Mr. Nakata, the real boss.

As we were in line to pay, some woman commented, ‘You have to pay, too!’

Years later, while shopping at Costco, one of the food vendors spoke to me and said, “You shop here?   Does your store know that?”

Drs. With No Money

Along the line of ‘thriftiness’ or ‘being cheap’, I shall now relay another incidence.  We, the county ophthalmologists, held monthly departmental meetings at Harrison Hospital.  Often I met Dr. Thomas Case after my day at Pt. Townsend at our home base, North Kitsap Medical Center, and car-pooled to Harrison together.  Invariably we grabbed some fast food before the meeting, and invariably, I paid for our food because Tom didn’t carry any money.

One particular meeting day, Tom informed me that he was so appreciative of my paying for us all the time that he remembered to get a $20 from his wife that morning and wanted to treat me.  I agreed because I happened to be out of cash.

We stopped at what was the Dairy Queen at the bottom of the hill of Harrison.  I ordered a large hamburger with onion rings and a milk shake, and he had the same.  The total was around $15.  Tom reached in his pocket to pay, and realized he placed the $20 bill in his coat pocket that he was not wearing!  We emptied our pockets and totaled 6 dollars and change.  We modified our order and each had just the hamburger and water.  The cashier asked if we were both doctors at Harrison.  We sheepishly conceded.

As we were eating and musing over the incident, the young waitress approached us with a hand-full of coupon cards and said, why don’t you guys scratch these out and perhaps you can get a drink or fries after all.  We thanked her shamefacedly.  We did get fries and drinks after scratching about 25 cards.

Buying Fireworks

As a borne Chinese pyromaniac, I always enjoyed watching a burning fire and especially fireworks.  Thus during Fourth of July Celebration, I loved the Agate Pass corridor full of Native American vendors with vast varieties of Chinese fireworks for sale.  I stopped at one stand in 1980 and put together a selection of a bag full of high powered collection of items and asked to pay.  The young male cashier eyed the objects and said “that’ll be $120 please.”  I retorted, what?  $120 for just these, that’s outrageous!  Where and how do you come up with these ridiculous prices?  Suddenly the young man was called back by an elderly woman sitting behind a curtain.  They conversed and he returned and said, Grandma asked, would $20 be alright?  I replied, “that’s more like it.” and promptly paid the man.  Then I inquired why did Grandma give me a discount?  The young man said, “Grandma said you are a tribesman like one of us, aren’t you?”  I answered, “Sure, after all, we are all brothers!”

Auto Accident, September 1979

Having embarked full time in private practice, in July of 1979, I was working hard building a new practice, assisting in surgery with Drs. Guiljord and Hansen of Bremerton every Tuesday and Dr. Case every Wednesday AM.  Every Thursday I was in clinic in Pt. Townsend, and I worked out of the Poulsbo office on Mondays, Wednesdays PM, Fridays and Saturdays AM.  This amounted to about 60+ hours per week.

Unfortunately the best laid plans of men and mice…didn’t often work out so well.  On one Thursday evening after returning home for supper from Pt. Townsend, and driving to Harrison Hospital for a departmental meeting, I was struck head on in an auto accident by a drunken driver.  I was driving a small Chevette while he had a big Lincoln.  My car’s front end was smashed and I was trapped with the steering wheel pinned to the front seat and I was turned sideways between the steering column and the front door.  (Fortuitously I did not buckle my seat belt.)  It took the EMT’s two hours to extricate me and ambulance me to the hospital.  I ruptured my spleen, fractured my vertebrae at three sites, fractured my ribs, and twisted both my ankles.  I had an emergency splenectomy, blood transfusions and was hospitalized for one week.  I was very fortunate to have survived, let alone suffered no permanent disabilities.  This was nearly a miracle.

I returned to the office after one week of rehabilitation at home because my office expenses were mounting.  Though I was in the office, patients were not “rushing in” for no one believed I was able to be back to work so soon.

Needless to say, the early years of private practice were hard, emotionally, physically and financially.

I am sorry to admit that family life took a back seat to the demands of establishing a viable practice.  I was not home much to support my growing family.  At the time I was doing what I thought was best to provide for my family and their future.

Health update 16 August, 2017

I approached yesterday’s appointment with a slight bit of intrepidation for I have gone 5 weeks since the last Chemo treatment, and that was only half dosage!  I was concerned whether the remaining lesion might have had a field day in the interim.

The anxiety was relieved when the lab test results came back.  CBC were all treading towards normality.  All liver functions are near baseline.  And the cancer marker, CA 19-9 is now in the range of the accepted range!

It was also a go to continue the Chemo course.  After contemplation, I decided to ask if I could have ¾ dose, rationale being that the total dose inevitably knocked down my WBC’s so much that I needed to skip or cut the next dose, and that it also was causing painful mucosal sluffing of my inner cheek linings.  Dr. Picozzi agreed that this may be a practical approach.  We completed the treatment infusion and returned in mid afternoon to Bainbridge.  Marco and family arrived Friday, but Marco is attending a meeting in Denver today and Shaheena is going to NYC, leaving us doing grandparent duties.  So I decided to treat them with a dinner of our prized fresh Pacific Coho salmon with fresh central WA corn.  A good day yesterday.

Thus far, I am not experiencing any adverse side effects.  Report is Mom is steadily improving at home with priceless assistance from Kim, Elizabeth, Dan and Sue.  The Chu’s leave to go back to Ohio today.  Fred Hinz is coming to join Kim next week and they will both return to Littlerock, AR on the 28th.  Life is returning to normal, looking forward to a few lazy, sleepy summer days.

Thanks again for visiting.  Keep good ‘vibes’  coming.  Much appreciated.

Health Update, 8 August, 2017

We returned from attending a very successful and rewarding 55th High School Reunion in Springfield, OH this morning, arriving home @ 4:30 am.  We were able to reacquaint with many dear friends, we toured the Springfield Heritage Museum, the Weaver Chapel with its unique stained glass windows and the original Springfield High School with its Dome totally refurbished and most of the building re-purposed (housed 2700 students when I attended my sophomore year in 1959.)  We culminated the celebration with a dinner combining both North and South High Schools class of 1962.

Before and after this event we were graciously hosted in Columbus by my nephew Danny and his partner Tim.  In Springfield we also got up with Auntie May’s brother/wife, and their daughter Pam and her husband Chris and their daughter, the new graduate Jenna.  On Sunday in Columbus, we were treated by Olivia/Matt and family and Alan with his two daughters who came up from Pittsburgh to see us for Dim Sum.

My medical appointment today was with Dr. Sophie Woolston, my infectious disease consultant as a follow-up of my Cholangitis infection of my obstructed bile duct.  The bile secretion grew normal intestinal bacteria but they went into my blood system, causing me to have a mild case of “sepsis.”  I was treated with IV antibiotics while as an in-patient, but was switched to oral form on discharge.  Dr. Woolston wanted me to finish the 14 day-course and be observed a few days to ensure that my compromised immune system was truly free of systemic infection before continuing on with my Chemo therapy.  Thus treatment will be delayed another week.

The lab results today showed continued march towards normality.  Even the cancer marker, CA 19-9 was down to 48.8 compared to normal of less than 37.0.

Mom continues to have a challenged post-op course though she is improving day by day.  Brother Dan and wife Sue arrive tonight to give a little relief to Kim and Elizabeth.

Thanks again for visiting and for all your love enveloping me.

I’ll update again next week, after initiation of Chemo treatment again.