One Brave Woman
By Ken Lee
Translated by Chung Lin Hsu
Miaw Shang Su and Adrian Lin’s marriage apparently arranged by God much earlier. They didn’t know each other, one was in Taiwan, and the other was in the United States, half way around the globe. But if they had the fate to be together, the distance was not the problem.
In 1966, Su’s family and Lin’s family were building the houses in Taiwan, they happened to hire the same architect/builder. One day the architect found out by accident that Su’s family had a little princess (i.e. thousand pieces of gold) and Lin’s family has a most eligible bachelor but studied abroad. Separated by the Pacific Ocean, they cannot meet each other after the initial introduction. They started exchanging photos and letters, at the time even the airmail took a whole week. At the time 1966, the long distance international phone call was outrageously expensive, especially for the foreign student on scholarship. The elevated longing for each other, the slow airmails and the occasional international phone calls were just not enough.
Even with all the difficult circumstances, the two lovers figured out by imagining they’re together even they’re thousands of miles apart. This quantum way of communication last for two whole years. Finally Adrian had a chance to visit during the summer break. After seeing each other in person, they knew they were meant for each other. The mails they wrote to each other for two years created such a strong bounding. Soon Adrian had to leave to resume his study at North Carolina State. After a long three months wait, Miaw Shang was able to rejoin her new husband in United States.
Miaw Shang’s arrival stirred up quite an excitement in the little college town. Knowing Lin’s wife was beautiful and graceful, just like the most beautiful woman in the history of China, 西施 Shih Tzu or XiShi, which also became the title of this article. Most of the North Carolina State University Taiwanese students/bachelors were curious about her and anxious to meet her. In the 1960s, most of the students studied abroad were boys, they won’t be thinking about marrying until they almost finished their graduate school. Also, America is vast and without the social networks of today, it was hard to link up with that special someone. Adrian took a direct route, and went back to Taiwan to find his match. Jokingly, Miaw Shang said she was just a mail-order bride. But I don’t think so, with two years of the letters back and forth created such a firm pair bonding. However, other graduate students kept coming to see Miaw Shang and asked Adrian for advice. All at the sudden their small place in the married student housing filled with people wishing them well.
Two weeks after her arrival to the United States, she felt something wrong with her body. She got high fever and stomach ache. With her nursing background in Taiwan, she thought it might be all the excitement she encountered in this new environment. When she was not feeling any better, she went to see the doctor. The doctor couldn’t figure out anything wrong with her. They sent her home with three days worth of antibiotics. But the high fever persisted and the stomach ache intensified, they checked her into the hospital. There were no MRI at the time, the doctors just opened her up, and found out the tumor was at the back/rear side. The doctor sewed her front opening up and proceeded to the back side. They did manage to take the tumor out, but in the process the patient lost so much blood. Miaw Shang passed out. With all these happenings, Adrian was not even aware, because he was busy studying and running from one classroom to the next. In the mean time Miaw Shang had to deal with the doctor with her limited English. Anyway back at the hospital, they rushed her to the intensive care unit and she did not come out of ICU until three weeks later. She did come out alive but unfortunately her baby in her didn’t survive the trauma.
This quick trip to the hospital ended up taking her 29 days all together. It was so painful, she felt like being in hell and coming back to her husband. This was no vacation and this was not her first time under the knife. During the third grade when she was only nine years old, she had her appendix removed. And just before coming to America, she had a little tumor removed. The tumor was in her left breast. And the operation was done by her beloved uncle in Tainan, Taiwan. Anyway she didn’t get knocked down by so many unfortunate things but did grow stronger. With her nursing background, she was soon busy working at the delivery room in the nearby hospital.
There’s an old saying: “One who survives a great disaster is destined to good fortune for ever after”. A year later Miaw Shang gave birth to a strong baby boy Dean. Everything went smoothly and she was watching her baby boy growing up nicely. But a couple years later in 1973, she found out that she needed to have her overly active thyroid removed. So she was back on operating table but she survived one more time. And a year later, she gave birth to a baby girl, Sandy. Miraculously Sandy was born on the same day as Dean, except they were four years apart. Other than watching her two babies and busy working at the hospital, her body seemed doing well. Nothing serious had happened to her health for next eleven years. This was rare in her life but also very fortunate. She was still going to the hospital every day, but she was working instead.
In the mean time, the family moved from the sunny North Carolina to the frosty Minnesota.
That’s 1977, when Honeywell needed Adrian’s expertise. Miaw Shang could work at any hospital and she quickly signed up with North Memorial Hospital in Minneapolis. Driving in the winter was difficult in Minnesota, but she always made in time and she never missed a delivery of the new born baby. She was busy but not sick.
Except in 1984, she needed to have her uterus removed. Other than that, the sickness seemed loosening the grip on her. She lived happily for another thirteen years. She thought she would be home free until the old age, but the sickness slowly engulfed her beloved husband Adrian. Mr. Lin had been always healthy and full of energy. Both in North Carolina and in Minnesota, Adrian was the president of the Taiwanese Association. He loved Taiwan and busy worked on rescuing Taiwanese in trouble.
But in the early 1990s, suddenly Adrian’s movements slowed and also showed awkwardness. Slowly he showed the signs of Parkinson’s disease which was a serious illness with no cure. In the mean time he also contracted scurvy, a kind of blood disease when you short of vitamin C.
It forced him to take the early retirement or long term disability. But Adrian loved working, staying home was really tough for him to adjust. This was the first time Miaw Shang felt helpless because all her troubles were curable, but the Parkinson’s disease had no cure even as today. But for the sake of the family, she continued working, and took care of Adrian after work. The stressful life took a toll on her. In 1997, she complained about stomach ache, shoulder pain and even her jawbone was acting up. She consulted with doctor, again like thirty years ago, the doctors sent her home with two week’s worth of antibiotics. They insisted that she must have stomach infection.
A month went by, she was not feeling any better and she decided to check into the hospital. But even the resident cardiologist also insisted that she must’ve had the stomach problems, maybe acid reflux. In the process of trying to convince the doctor her problem wasn’t her stomach, there’s an onset of her chest pain. As a nurse herself, she felt that might be the heart attack coming. She insisted to have her heart blood vessels checked. Soon from the image, they found that her blood vessels leading to the heart were 90% blocked. Worrying about the heart attack (total blockage), the doctors quickly put in the stent to prop up her heart vessels (coronary artery). After this near death encounter, she always said ‘God let her stay on earth longer so she can enjoy the time with the family and take the time travel around the world. At the end, she lived another twenty five full years on the same stent.
In the mean time, Miaw Shang was working at the hospital and took care of Adrian at home. She could not be in two places at once, which forced her into early retirement and took care of Adrian full time.
2002 was the most memorable year of her life but almost like a roller coaster ride. The year Sandy got married to Michael Hsu. Adrian was able to give away his daughter. It’s Adrian’s dream even he was on wheelchair (pushed by son Dean Lin) but still giving away Sandy in the wedding ceremony. As an avid dancer in his earlier years, Adrian‘s ‘Father Dancing With The Bride’ was a huge success with everyone cheering and of course with Sandy’s help keeping Adrian upright and graceful. With his biggest dream fulfilled, Adrian died shortly after. Which left Miaw Shang alone to fight the sickness herself, but she also got to enjoy the six grandchildren she had.
The above story was published on the Pacific Times about six months ago. Many people expressed their concern and respect. Many people shared their experiences and suggested possible treatments. One person in particular was Bei-Ho Wu（吳百合）, nursing school’s classmate, and her husband YouSan Chen (陳友三）came all the way from Taiwan. They even spent three days in Laguna Woods, because there were so many things to talk about. Gee Hsieh (謝已）and Hsiao Fung Hwang (黃小芳）called the Pacific Times from Pennsylvania. They wanted to know if Miaw Shang is Miaw Shang Su who went to high school together about fifty years ago. When they finally connected on the phone, they were screaming almost nonstop. Eventually, Mr. and Mrs. Hsieh promise to come to California to visit, ASAP, maybe in August. Many friends from Minnesota (Miaw Shang’s adapted home town, she was there for almost thirty years and she was in Taiwan for 28 years) came to visit. Some of them even stayed for several weeks to care for her. All in all, these really showed the treasures of friendship and the warmth of human beings. Again, all these caring to Miaw Shang must be the result of Miaw Shang’s caring for everyone around her over the last sixty years. In the mean time, even as sick as she was, people around her were moved by her happy, upbeat and courageous spirit.
Last September, Miaw Shang experienced coughing with blood. The doctor found out cancer in one of her lungs. They removed 2 CM where the cancer was. They were so sure all the cancer was removed to prevent future spreading. But two months later, in the follow up examination, they found out that the cancer spread in her lung and also in her brain. Quickly the doctors ordered a series of chemotherapy. Miaw Shang still upbeat and took everything in stride. Luckily, Miaw Shang was able to keep her hair with new kind of chemotherapy. Even with the treatment, Miaw Shang still maintains her Qi Gong (氣功) exercise in the morning. Miaw Shang wanted to have enough strength to fight the cancer. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, she had one hour of Qi Gong to keep her body strong. And on Wednesday after Qi Gong, she would go to classroom (常青教室）to keep her mind sharp. Each week the class had different subject to keep everyone interested. You learned some things new every week. And one evening of the week she would attend the bible study at one of the club houses, which gave her mental strength to fight the cancer. During the day she kept herself occupied and not thinking about her sickness in the mean time. She would attend choir practice, line dance, and 9 holes golf. And of course she won’t miss any party. Getting together with friends, she always had so much fun and laughter too. When she was up to it, she would join the Saturday morning hiking in the nearby park. The weekly hiking activity was organized by the Laguna Woods Taiwanese Hiking Club. Occasionally there would be day trip organized by the church (爾灣長老教會), you would see Miaw Shang was the first one on the bus. No matter where she was going, she always met with the warmest welcome. They were so happy to see her but also surprised she showed up. Most people in her condition would stay home and worried about what the sickness would take them, but not Miaw Shang. Live a normal life still the best way to face the sickness. This was what in Miaw Shang’s mind.
On one particular seaside gathering, she willingly joined the after dinner line dance. With sun slowly setting over the Pacific Ocean, everyone was dancing and watching the sunset at the same time. In particular, Miaw Shang acted like an innocent young schoolgirl, happy and even screaming: “Really Wonderful and Fabulous”. After the dance, she held me in the hand and said:” Wow, it is really wonderful to be with so many good friends.” The sea breezes were cool, but her hands were warm and her cheeks were red. I bet her heart was warm too. This was really an unforgettable evening for her.
When Miaw Shang was about to start her third season of chemotherapy, the doctor found out her white blood cell count was too low. The doctors needed find certain way to bring her white blood cells up. After missing a few weeks, she resumed the chemotherapy. But the situation was getting worse. Each course of the chemotherapy was like going through a big battle. She was tired and felt weak. About a month ago, she started having stiff neck and experiencing coarse voice. She’s also experiencing heartburn and heartache at the same time. She’s worried her cancer had been spreading to her neck and her chest. But the examination proved otherwise. In the same time, even the doctors were confused. The uncertainty was really bothering her. In the very beginning the discomfort happened once or twice a week, and every time only lasted five or six minutes. But more recently the discomfort came on three or four times a day, and worse yet, each time last even longer. Now it’s ten minutes or more. Also this piercing pain on her chest became unbearable. Sometimes she would be on her knees and pray to God to take her “Home” early. So she will be pain free forever. A few days earlier, she told Sandy “I am not afraid of dying, and I really hope I can go early, so I will not suffer anymore. At this point, my pain is beyond anyone can imagine. I know that the family and friends all wish me well. I can’t just go, especially all the grandkids will not let me go. This really breaks my heart. I certainly don’t want to make them sad. But every person has to die sooner or later. If it’s my time, just let me go peacefully and with dignity.” Mother and daughter embraced each other and in tears.
On July 10th at my mother-in-law’s memorial, I was elaborating about her wonderful ninety-two years’ achievements and experience. Suddenly I found Miaw Shang was in the audience listening to me attentively. After the farewell ceremony, I located her and asked her “Why are you coming even with so much discomfort in you?” You could not believe her answer: “I am coming to hear what you might say at my memorial ceremony.” I scolded her and asked her not to talk about dying when she is still alive. Again she said: “I am not afraid of dying. It doesn’t mean I will never die, I am just anticipating and planning ahead.” And “today’s speech was so moving, many people in the ceremony were in tears. I would be really happy if you can give the same moving speech at my farewell ceremony. Everyone here today also admired your months long caring of your mother in law. With the stroke ridden and permanently in bed, everyone knew how difficult it was, but you treated your in-law like your own mother.” Then I replied “don’t give me so much credit, I just did what I had to do. But you, you better take care of yourself first.”
There’s rumor about Miaw Shang floating around in our small community. In order to find out the truth once and for all, finally I called her yesterday. The rumor says “Miaw Shang only have six months to live”. With a very calm voice, she says: “Is there such a thing? My doctor didn’t even tell me that. How can I go out and tell the whole world about this? The rumor is really strange. But even if it does come true, I am still not afraid. Think about Helen Keller, who was deaf and mute. Helen‘s last wish before she died: ” three more days to see”. Not only I have 180 days, but also I can see, hear and speak. Considering all these, I am very fortunate. I feel so lucky. I really have no regrets in life. I do not want to waste god’s effort to bring me to this world. I should spend my limited and precious time to do the things I truly enjoy.” After hearing all of these, I really wish her a “Coming of Dragon”.
There’s time a person would fall weak and even depressed under the weight of the insurmountable challenges. At this moment, ‘the faith in God’ will support you and help you overcome the hurdles. And Miaw Shang is truly believed in God.
Bravo! Bravo! Miaw Shang! Miaw Shang! ( 加油，加油 ）
P.S. In Addition:
On the fifth of August, there’s a big celebration for Dianne Chen’s mother’s birthday. She turned 96 but still very alert and happy of course. Whole bunch of us include Miaw Shang, Ching-Kuei Lin, Carol Lin, my wife and I. We all had a good time. For three long hours, even she didn’t eat much, but still in good spirits.
On the eleventh of August, church organized a day trip to Channel Islands in Ventura County, just north of Los Angles. It was an all day trip, starting at six o’clock in the morning and finishing late in the evening. Just the bus ride each way took more than two hours. And the boat ride each way took almost an hour. Once you landed on the island, immediately you started walking, because you wanted to see all the animals. It would be very tiring even for any able body. I was worried about Miaw Shang and asked her: “How are you doing?” Surprisingly, she answered: “Wonderful, out and about with so many close friends sure beat sitting at home and feeling sorry for myself.” And she added: “I want to live with happiness not die with bitterness. And for sure I don’t want to be a bother to people around me.”
Now Miaw Shang’s voice is low and weak and her movements also slow down quite a bit. But she always kept her words, not any doubt. She did live her life fully. She did feel sorry for herself. Afterwards she did pull up her shoulders and moved on with life. What a courageous woman.
For a person not afraid of dying, I was just speechless. I admired her dearly.
When you’re looking at this article named Number 3, you might think the worst had happened: “Oh no, she might be gone.” Since last article mentioned that she might have only six months to live. Now a year has passed. According to the schedule, Miaw Shang Lin would be summoned by God in and around September 2010. Leaving her tormented life on earth, she would be happier in Haven and warmly surrounded by the hands of God.
Now it’s already April 2011, a full year later, the readers must be wondering:
“How is she doing?”
“Is she still alive?”
“How is her condition if she still alive?”
Here, I can tell everyone:
“She is not only alive but also kicking.”
She is stronger and more upbeat than a year ago. Can you believe it? Miracle does happen!!!
Some of you may not have read my first two articles. Let me quickly elaborate her tormented life. Even before 1990, Miaw Shang experienced some discomfort and endured many operations and some of them were difficult: appendicitis in high school, breast tumor in college, stomach diaphragm tumor removal, overactive thyroid removal, uterus removal, gallbladder removal and cataract removal. If these were not enough, more trouble came in her life. In 1990, her husband Adrian got diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The two young children, Dean and Sandy, were still in the high school. Not only she had to take care of herself and her husband, but also she was working full time to support the family. The difficult situation wasn’t any normal person can endure; let alone a little woman from far away as Taiwan. Especially she herself was not in very good health.
Let me jump ahead a little bit. In 2008, Miaw Shang moved from Minnesota to California to be with her daughter Sandy. She was there for one year to help her daughter and the new born Haley. To be by herself, Miaw Shang settled nicely in the retirement community called “Laguna Woods”, also called by our Taiwanese friends “Haven on Earth” because so many Taiwanese families settled there. It’s a retired golf community. Not all of them play golf, but the people from Taiwan like to be together and reconnect. Before retirement, Taiwanese people were working all across United States. This heavenly way of life lasted for her only a very short period of time. She enjoyed golfing, lawn bowling, Qi Gong, swimming, dancing and gardening. But you know for her, the sickness was never far away.
Shortly after, she found numbness in her hands. The doctor discovered she had a tumor in her brain. Again she was back on the operating table. And a year later, doctors found colorectal polyps in her colon, which was too big for micro surgery. But all in all, her illness involved tumor. The tumor was removed and she would be fine. But still, seems like almost every organ in her body has been operated on. Finally the cancer stroke, when she started coughing up blood.
Lung cancer is a horrifying disease. Each year, according to the statistics, the number of people died from lung cancer is higher than any other kind of cancer, for example, the breast cancer. According to the statistics again, the five year survival rate for lung cancer is only at 16%. Every other cancer has higher survival rate, with colon cancer 65%, breast cancer 89% and prostate cancer 99%, almost all survived. Immediately she wanted her cancer cells all removed. In September 2009, backed on the operating table, the doctor promised her that all cancerous cells had been removed. Living on half of the lung, she started doing daily breathing exercises to strengthen her lung. But in January 2010, during the post surgery follow up, the doctor found her cancer spreads to her remaining lung. And the doctor even found some cancer in her brain. In February 2010, the doctor started her with chemotherapy. Luckily no radiation treatment was ordered. The radiation will kill the healthy cells along with the cancer cells. After a few months the doctor found out that chemotherapy did very little. With every known treatment failed, the doctor decided to try some experimental treatment. On October 28, 2010, the doctor started her on Tarceva at 150mg. It’s still called chemotherapy but it is administered orally. Because it’s experimental, the insurance won’t pay for it. And the drug is very expensive. After only four days on the new medication, she started having allergic reaction.
Her face, lips, tongue, and the bottom of her feet are all swollen. Looking at her painful condition, the doctor called time out on the new medication and told her just go home and enjoy her family. This was not a good news, she sensed something terrible wrong with her. It seemed like she was running out of options. In the last ditch effort, her family decided she may need a major breakthrough. In the middle of January 2011, looking for the second opinion, she went to see Doctor Napale. Dr. Napale is a lung cancer specialist at Cedar Sinai Hospital in Beverly Hill. After the initial examination of blood samples and CT scan of her lung, doctor found her cancer in the lung was much smaller, which proved the effectiveness of the experimental treatment Tarceva. Dr. Napale put her back on Tarceva at a reduced dosage. Dr. Napole also enrolled her on a medical study so the expensive drug suddenly became free. The only condition is that she has to endure the CT scan once a month to keep track of the progress.
So once a month, just like the movie star, she would say: “I am going to Hollywood “. But the trip would take an hour without the traffic. She depended on Linda Hsieh giving her ride month after month. Miaw Shang genuinely appreciated Linda’s efforts. After more than a month at the reduced dosage, she showed no signs of allergic reaction. With her energy back, she resumed her daily activities of Qi Gong and chorus practice. Also once a week, she would not miss the Wednesday seminar. Plus on Sunday, she happily went worshiping God and having the group luncheon. Every Saturday there’s no shortage of party she could go to. On March 5, 2011, the CT scan showed her cancer almost disappeared.
“Hallelujah!” She was in tears. And she really wanted everyone in the whole wide world knows about her good news.
Following this fantastic news, she decided to spend an entire month with her son and family on the east coast of the States. She said this probably was the happiest time in her life. First, her cancer cells disappeared. Second, her son Dean Lin took a job as CEO and president at the Ocean Medical Center in New Jersey. Before getting on board, Dean has a week of time available. He took “Ma Ma Mia” to the Caribbean to enjoy the sunshine and the grandkids. Third, Dean’s church in Pennsylvania had been praying for Miaw Shang’s speedy recovery since day one. Now they found out she’s visiting, they put together a big Welcome and Cerebration party for her. Fourth, Dean’s new job provided him a brand new Audi SUV. Instead of selling his old car, Dean gave Mom his beloved BMW sports sedan. Not wanting to ship the car, she wanted to drive to California. Three thousands long miles would be difficult, lucky she got an escort. Also she could visit North Carolina where her husband Adrian went to graduate school forty years ago. Some of his school mates did not leave North Carolina because of the moderate climate and the good jobs. Plus, on the way she could visit Smoky Mountain National Park. Also she was a big fan of Elvis. In Memphis she saw all the gold records and Elvis Presley’s guitars and costumes. I wished her a safe and fun trip. I would arrange a big Victory Parade for her. I also suggested that she should hang a “Just Recovered” banner behind her fancy BMW. Similar to the newlyweds, they would hang the “Just Married” behind their car.
Before leaving for Caribbean, she called and said “I like to share with everyone about my battle with cancer.” They’re as follows:
- You Must Believe in God and Never Stop Praying: Usually people felt like getting a death sentence once they were told that they had cancer. They are frightened, nervous and mindless. They don’t know how to react. At this time, it’s very important to calm yourself down first. Amazingly the simple act of praying does the trick. In her own experience, praying gave her confidence, energy, and courage to face the death. Also praying brings her miracles. For example, just before the first session of the chemotherapy, a miracle does happen. It’s about who was going to take her to the clinic and staying with her for three or four hours during the chemotherapy. Of course her daughter can help, but Miaw Shang is worried that Sandy would miss too much work. Some close friends can help too, but none of these are the long term solution. She kept on praying for her angels. One day her wish came true. This long awaited angel happened to be at Diane Chen’s house. She is Linda Hsieh, retired and just moved to Laguna Woods from New York. Linda had been working at the cancer treatment center in the Colombia Presbyterian Hospital in uptown Manhattan. After retirement she liked to continue doing what she was doing for her whole carrier, but of course all volunteer work. Linda Hsieh is a longtime faithful Christian herself. As a white dress angel (白衣天使), a nurse, Linda always cared and treated her patients with love and respect. And again as a nurse caring for cancer patients, Linda understood their concern and worries. Miaw Shang and Linda became good friends after they first met at Diane Chen’s house. Soon Linda and Miaw Shang were seen together all the time. Linda, the angel sent by God, took really good care of Miaw Shang. Is this a miracle? You bet it’s a miracle, which also happens to be Miaw（妙）original meaning in Taiwanese.
- Keep Your Emotions in Check, Relaxed, Happy, and Easy Going: Try to avoid denial, self pity, isolation and desperation. The denial would like adding salt on your wounds, just make the situation worse. Miaw Shang kept contact with family and friends. People’s caring and praying really kept her going. Always carry a lovely smile at any time and everywhere, Miaw Shang’s fighting spirit was admired by everyone around her. With such an unbelievable optimism, she kept the demons at bay.
- Keep Your Food Intake Healthy and at the Moderate Amount: Doctors always said you can eat everything but not too much of one thing. Occasionally she would have dinner at the restaurant, which gave her more chance to link up with friends. But in general she would avoid anything too salty, too greasy or too sweet. Vegetable and fruit kept her body more alkaline, which helped fighting the cancer in a natural way. But once in a while, she would treat herself with something sweet. This seems to give her an extra boost in the long battle with cancer. Otherwise, the dull life won’t be worth living.
- Keep Active with Moderate Exercises: Don’t be overly cautious about the outside natural environment. Locked yourself at home will do more harm than good. Which forces you to think of your cancer and you end up feeling depressed. Go outside, sunshine and fresh air would be good for your mind and body. Every day she has Qi Gong, Seminars, singing and bible study, she really kept herself busy. For people who don’t know about her cancer, they would think that Miaw Shang is just another normal healthy person. If you fight a little bit, you can live a bit longer.
- Keep Open Minded: Always look for “Second Opinion”, never give up. The solution might be just around the corner, just like when Miaw Shang consulted Dr. Napale. Only by cutting the dosage to half, the drug was still effective and without any side effects. When she found her a right doctor, the solution became obvious. Of course she has done her homework in order to make the right decisions.
By all means, Miaw Shang doesn’t claim she is an expert in treating lung cancer. She was speaking from her own experience of fighting lung cancer and the emotions and feelings when she encountered the difficult situations. Miaw Shang also opened herself up for discussion. You can call her at 949-855-1368. Hopefully she can give you some guidance. At least, she would try her best to relieve your anxiety and fears. So far she already helped so many people, including one of my relatives. Also at the church in Pennsylvania where Dean lived, she met someone who had just been diagnosed with lymphoma. The new cancer patient felt like “the end of the world” was upon her, but Miaw Shang made her feel so much at ease. Miaw Shang shared the journey of her cancer, which relieved the new patient’s fears and unknown. They embrace each other afterwards. This showed “pain is positive”.
In fact, many cancer survivors have more positive outlook in life. They shared their experience and helped the less fortunate people.
Many people wondered what made Miaw Shang so happy and confident. She said: “Believe in God and keep on praying”. And she always does what she preaches.
At this very moment, Miaw Shang may be in New York, or New Jersey, or Pennsylvania, or Caribbean. But one thing for sure, she would be surrounded by her son’s family, especially the two grandchildren Marcella and Maxwell. What a beautiful picture, Miaw Shang has suffered enough. Now it’s her time to enjoy life fully.
March 2010: the doctor found her lung cancer spread to the brain. The doctor worried she might only have six months to live. After a few months of chemotherapy, her condition worsened. Almost giving up, but at least the last minute she runs in her savor Dr. Natalie. After the new treatment program, she came back to life.
March 2011: CT scan showed her cancer shrink almost to nothing. Dr. Natalie suggested that she take some time off to enjoy herself, especially the things she always wanted to do.
April 2011: her son Dean got the job as CEO of Ocean Medical Center in New Jersey. As the perk of the new job, Dean would get a company car. Dean decided to give his beloved BMW sports sedan to his mother. Instead of shipping the car to California, Miaw Shang wanted to drive the car across United States. Again out of ordinary, Miaw Shang did the unthinkable for a lung cancer survivor. First Miaw Shang and her son’s family spent a week together in Caribbean. Afterwards, Miaw Shang started her long journey across the continent. Three thousand miles is such a long distance, especially Miaw Shang is still in remission. But she said: “My friend (it’s me the writer) and his wife already crossed the continent four times, but for me not even once. If I don’t do it now there will be no next time. Don’t worry. I will have an escort for this long journey.”
Just like that, Miaw Shang was on her way to California in the beginning of May 2011. Before heading west, Miaw Shang headed straight south. At the end of first day driving, she arrived at Raleigh, North Carolina. Raleigh was the first place when Miaw Shang arrived in the United States some forty years ago. Her husband Adrian went to graduate school there. Changing major from English literature to the electrical engineering, Adrian struggled with the engineering courses, but later turned out to be a right decision. They spent seven years in Raleigh, where the two children were born. Also they made so many good friends and some of them still live in Raleigh after so many years. Arranged by Kuo Shien Hsieh (謝國賢), a reunion luncheon was set. Ten people showed up, which included Chung Jing Lee (李宗敬), Fong Mao Lin (林芳茂), Wen Hsin Lee (李文星) and their wives plus Ling Di Wang (王玲代）by herself, her husband Kuo Yen Huang (黃國彥) passed away a few years ago. There were ten of them, so many things to talk about the good old days. They wondered when they would meet again. Afterwards, Miaw Shang went to her old house and took some pictures. Her children wanted to know where they were born. Looking at the old house, Miaw Shang had so many memorable things and wondered how the forty years passed without a trace. Many years ago Raleigh was just a small town. Now Raleigh is the second largest city in North Carolina. And the small research center “Research Triangle Park” became the world renowned research facilities. You can’t predict what’s going to happen tomorrow.
Saying good-by to Raleigh, Miaw Shang arrived at the Smoky Mountains National park, which is famous for the fall color. Miaw Shang remembered traveling with Ching Kuei Lin’s family. Nine of them in a station wagon, it’s tight but all the kids had fun together. At the time, I don’t think the seat belts were required. You can imagine that all five kids were in the back of the station wagon. At this present moment, people scattered all over the United States. Luckily Ching Kuei and Carol moved to California after retirement, they are only ten miles away from where Miaw Shang lives.
Continue west, Miaw Shang arrived at Memphis, where Elvis Presley was born. She was still in the middle school in Taiwan, Miaw Shang was a big fan of Elvis. The blue eyed Elvis was so handsome and when he sang he also moved his hips. As a teenager at the time, Miaw Shang just couldn’t hold back. Now Elvis is gone, but his voice is still among us. In Graceland, Elvis’s songs, his golden records, and all his costumes are just amazing. You can only imagine Elvis in one of those costumes, holding the guitar and singing away.
Continue west, Miaw Shang passed the Bill Clinton’s Library, but Miaw Shang decided not to stop. Miaw Shang don’t like what happened to his presidency. Still, Miaw Shang has her own principle. It took at least three whole days to drive through the middle plane.
At the fourth day, Miaw Shang reached the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. Wood became rock after a million years, but rock is still holding the wood character, the whole tree trunk and each wood grain. She encouraged everyone to visit this park, otherwise most people would just visit Grand Canyon. In this park you would drive the canyon instead of viewing the canyon from the top.
After visiting the National Park, Miaw Shang started going toward Los Angles where the home is. But wait, Miaw Shang said: “I still have one more person to visit in Las Vegas.” Miaw Shang has to see and comfort Sylvia Lin, whose husband Wen Chien Lin (林文騫) just passed away two weeks ago. The two Lin’s families were good friends and neighbors in Minnesota for over thirty years. Around 17 days ago, Wen called Miaw Shang in Pennsylvania, telling her that he had not too many days left. Miaw Shang told him: ‘“Don’t leave yet, wait for me, I will be in Vegas in about two weeks.” Unfortunately, Wen died three days later. When Miaw Shang finally arrived in Vegas, there’s no more Wen Chien Lin. But Miaw Shang spent a couple days to be with Sylvia, Wen’s wife. Luckily their daughter came back from New York to be with mom for a while. And their son moved back home also. Miaw Shang and Lin’s family spend some time at the Casino to relax a little. Miaw Shang loved the Casino, but she always limited herself to $50, no more no less. Wen used to work for Delta Air Line, he could travel for free. Wen’s health was no better than Miaw Shang’s, but he decided to see the world when he still can. On standby status when he flew, he always traveled light. You always see him with a little backpack at different airports. Miaw Shang wished she can be like Wen, traveling around globe worry free. Two months before he died, Wen was able to give his daughter away at the wedding ceremony.
On the sixth night, Miaw Shang finally arrived home in Laguna Woods. Friends came over to celebrate her arrival after the three thousand miles journey. People really moved by her determination, no matter how difficult once she decided to start and for sure she is going to finish it. Miaw Shang is also very proud of herself in front of all the well wishers.
About a year ago, Mrs. Wang (王幸男夫人陳美霞) came to visit, followed by Susan Liu (陳秀芳). They decided to meet up at Hawaii the coming winter. They would invite more people to join the Hawaii trip. All in all it’s a celebration for life. Miaw Shang is recovering from her cancer nicely. To keep the promise, Miaw Shang started exercising daily, watching her diet closely, and maintaining a good attitude. For sure on November 29, 2011, ten people met up with her in Hawaii, including Mei Sha Chen ( 王幸男夫人）Ah Jenn (阿貞）from Taiwan, Patrick and Sharon Huang(黃再添，淑卿夫婦) from New York, Susan Liu (陳秀芳), and Ruby Chen (李恵末) from Minnesota, Liyun Tsong (吳麗雲) from Seattle, Miaw Shang’s brother John Su (蘇宗禧) and his wife Mei Hwa (美華) together with Miaw Shang from California. All together they saw the beautiful beaches, people surfing, and rain forest. Also they visited the Pearl Harbor to see the sunken ship with all the sailors still in there from World War Two. Of course they went to the native Hawaiian village to enjoy the ground roasted pig and the beautiful Hawaiian dance afterwards. On top of the things, they visit the active volcano on the Big Island. They saw the lava flowing into the ocean, which kicked up so much steam. This especially made Miaw Shang excited and happy. They also visited Obama’s high school. Not too many high schools have the honor of a future president of United States. Occasionally all ten people would hire a limousine and cruise around Honolulu. Many Hawaii local hosts, including Mr. and Mrs. James and Ana Pan (潘榮貴), Mrs. Ze Su Tsai (蔡植樹夫人）and of course Susan’s brother Masa Chen (陳正旺，夏威夷蘭花王). After all the sightseeing, all the guests gathered at Chen’s orchid farm. The farm has a swimming pool, but the unproductive swimming pool got converted into a duck pond. Some of the guests knew how to make duck, they made the ginger roasted duck for everyone to enjoy. And of course Miaw Shang was the first in line to get the tasty duck. They also made 350 bamboo leaves wrapped rice dumplings, Zongzi ( 粽子) for the locals to share. Making Zongzi and eating ducks, everyone was talking and having fun. One day at the dinner hosted by the Hawaii locals, someone found out that Miaw Shang was the main character in a story he read from the paper, the Pacific Times. People showed great respect for Miaw Shang, and Miaw Shang also very proud of herself. Over so many years of suffering without collapsing was a very difficult task. But on this trip to Hawaii and among friends and family, Miaw Shang really enjoyed herself and did the things she always wanted to do. She enjoyed good friendship and fellowship. It’s was a memorable experience for life.
Remember since January 2011, Miaw Shang has to go back to the hospital to have the follow up examination. It’s Dr. Natale’s cancer research study protocol, which checks the patients’ progress in response to the particular cancer treatment. After coming back from Hawaii, Miaw Shang experienced coughing and bloody nose and she was worried something may be wrong with her. On December 20, the follow up examination showed no evidence of cancer. Dr. Natale announced: “Miaw Shang, you won another battle against the lung cancer.” Miaw Shang was so happy, and she realized that the Hawaii trip was better than staying at home.
I told Miaw Shang that I have a couple stories I want to share:
- There was a lung cancer patient in Taiwan, only just forty some years old. Again like Miaw Shang, the cancer cells were spread to the brain and was announced that he had only six months to live. The patient was scared but started the chemotherapy anyway. After two months of treatment, he was weak and didn’t even feel like living any more. In the mean time, he has to take care of his two boys. One of the boys, 18 years old with a rare disease, stopped growing since the age of nine. He really didn’t know what to do. Feeling depressed and helpless, he even thought of killing himself. But his big brother Rong Der Hong (洪榮德) saved him just in time. Big brother encouraged him to go out. With the help of his brother, Rong Chung Hong (洪榮聰) formed a band and practiced at least two hours a day. Not thinking about his cancer, he practiced with his band member everyday and of course they would go out and perform together. Five long years passed, he is cancer free and leading a normal life. You can always see Mr. Hong with his guitar playing and his low voice singing healed so many lost souls.
- Recently in Taiwan, 13 cancer patients formed a group called “Cancer warriors, Love Lives”. Together they went on an 1100km, ten days bike ride around the island. They included people with different cancer. Which included colorectal cancer (The organizer Hsin Chun Wu, 吳興傳), thyroid neoplasm, testicular cancer, colon cancer, tongue cancer, oral cancer, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, follicular thyroid carcinoma and breast cancer. One of them fought the cancer for as long as 21 years. And everyone went through pain, sadness, fears, helplessness and even despair, the long journey of fighting with cancer. They pulled up their shoulders and moved on. It proved optimism and facing the challenges straight ahead are the best way to defeat the cancer. They wished whatever they were doing encouraged other cancer patients to get out and connect with the cancer survivors. Defeating the tough opponents and embracing life would bring you the optimal joys.
After telling the two stories in Taiwan, I padded Miaw Shang’s shoulders and said: “I am happy now there are people like you and other brave and optimistic cancer patients like the above stories. Touched by the life witness of survivors, the new cancer patients can bravely accept the challenges. They would go out and live a normal life. The cancer patients are still humans, they have the right to be happy and live a normal life, but they don’t have the obligation to self-destruct or to have low esteem. Now the medical science changes every day. Once people have confidence and endurance, their chance of survival will be greatly improved. Miaw Shang, you are the best example.”
Miaw Shang responded with a smile: “Really, am I that good?”
“Yes”, I said:”Also someone might make the story into a movie, which would touch even more people. You are a good actor and I have the stories. All we need is someone with a camera.” Miaw Shang said with a surprise: “Hey, this isn’t a bad idea, how come I never thought about this.” I said:”you’re busy fighting for your life and no time thinking anything else. Now you have time and leisure to think about the new project.” Miaw Shang fell into a deep thinking. Maybe one day Miaw Shang will announce the grand project.
With son Dean
With Linda Hsieh
05/27/2016，2 o’clock in the afternoon, I got an email from pastor Hien Hsin Chang (張宣信牧師), the email said: “ Su Miaw Shang (蘇妙香) passed away at 9:30 this morning, surrounded by the family members, Su finished her last life journey and peacefully returned to heaven.
Su Miaw Shang, she was the main character in my articles for Pacific Times, such a courageous woman (不怕死的病西施). Just like what I said in the first four articles, her lifelong medical record was really long, her trouble included: appendicitis, peritoneum tumor, uterus, ovarian tumor, cardiovascular obstruction, gallstones removal, cataract surgery, brain tumor, colon polyp tumor, lung cancer…….., and falling so many times plus the ankle injuries. With all the sickness, she endured many operations, chemotherapy, radiation, medication treatment and physical therapy. Not a single place on her body was without a scar. Besides physical pain, she has to endure the psychological torment: frustration, anxiety, sadness, guilt trip, and sorry. One person asked her about her pain, from the scale of 1 to 10, 10 would be most painful, “how do you describe your pain?” Miaw Shang said:”somewhere between 7 and 10.” Now you know how severe her pain was. However she said that she can handle all of physical pain, but if combined with psychological pain, she would not be able to handle herself.
First, in 1968 just two weeks after she arrived in United States, knowing very little English, she experienced severe discomfort in the stomach area. Her husband Adrian sent her to the hospital and went onto the classroom himself. Without her husband Adrian on the side, there’s miscommunication between her and her doctor. The doctor ended up opening the wrong place. By the time they found the tumor, she already lost so much blood and passed out. Staying in the intensive care unit for twenty nine days, when she finally woke up and went home and she already lost her first child. She didn’t know she was pregnant before she went to the hospital. The baby was the crystallization of love between her and her husband Adrian. In the hospital by herself and in a different country, she felt so lonely and scared.
Second, in the middle of 1990, her husband Adrian got diagnosed with Parkinson’s and staying home. Miaw Shang with a weak body, had to take care of Adrian, plus she was still working full time to support the family. She had no complaints and kept on working. But one thing always bothered her that her husband Adrian’s Parkinson’s disease had no cure. Again she fell into despair.
Third, in 2002, two things happened to her family. Her daughter Sandy got married and moved away to California. Without Sandy’s helping hands on the side, Miaw Shang wondered: “can I handle everything by myself?” A month later, her husband Adrian passed away. Two things happened in one month, a wedding followed by a funeral. Her heart was broken. But with God’s mercy and families and friend’s support, the hopelessly optimistic Miaw Shang bounced back from the deepest trouble. Later her daughter Sandy invited her to California and mother and daughter were back together. All in all, in her tormented life, she handled every challenge came upon her. Amazingly, pain to her was positive. She came out of pain even stronger. And she lived a fruitful and lovingly life with God’s blessings.
1/16/2016, I traveled to Taiwan, Singapore and Vietnam for two weeks. Before I left, I called Miaw Shang from the LAX airport. I told her:”please do not leave in these two weeks.” She said with a big smile:” Don’t worry! I can’t just leave when you are away. I need you to speak at my farewell ceremony, which you already promised. Otherwise how could I close my eyes?”
4/29/2016, morning: I called Miaw Shang to wish her well and tell her my Iceland travel schedule. Between June eighth and June nineteenth, the group would visit five countries. At the time, she was already in the home hospice care for almost two months. But from the conversation, I was surprised that she was in very good mode. Maybe she was happy to hear her friends’ grand travel plan. Even as sick as she was, she still think about other people, how unselfish she was. Then, Yudy ( my wife 由吏) and I invited her out to lunch. And of course would include Chung Lin Hsu (許重林). Chung is Miaw Shang’s good friend from Minnesota. Miaw Shang was so happy that she can go out and have fun. She mentioned that she preferred the northern China cuisine, beef noodle soup (牛肉麵), pickled vegetables and fish soup（酸菜魚湯) and soup bun (小籠包). You can see how well her appetite was. She also mentioned that she didn’t have any chemotherapy once she started the home hospice program. And doctor told her that she could eat whatever she wanted as long as she like. And do whatever she liked. At the luncheon, Miaw Shang had a wonderful appetite and even cleared her plate. Good to see Miaw Shang was so happy, which made us happy too.
In the beginning of May, 2016, me and my wife Yurdy, Hsin Yee Wong (汪幸一), Ying Chuan Chen (陳英純) and his wife, together we planned a trip to Montreal to visit our high school classmate Yong Hsi Lee (李雍熙), whom we have not seen for some fifty years. Lee is about to undergo a major heart surgery. Just before we leave, I decided to call Chung to find out how Miaw Shang is doing. To my surprise, Chung told me that he would be leaving for Minnesota soon, and won’t be back for another month. This puzzled me; Miaw Shang was getting weaker everyday and really needed someone’s care around the clock. Over these years, with the support of the Laguna Woods villagers, Miaw Shang could get over her sickness and afterwards enjoy her peace and happiness. But when Miaw Shang needed around the clock care post surgery, Chung would be here. Plus all the support, caring and accompanying Miaw Shang, Chung was greatly appreciate by her children. And Miaw Shang’s children and grandchildren always called Chung ‘Uncle Hsu’ or ‘Uncle She’. They became really close. But when I asked Chung: “why were you leaving right now?” Chung, a man with very few words, expressed that Miaw Shang needed more time with her children and grandchildren at her final moments. Miaw Shang could enjoy the warm love from her two children and six grandchildren. (Note 2)
5/8/2016, Mother’s Day, Dean, Miaw Shang’s son, flew his whole family from New Jersey to be with their mother/grandmother. They have a very good and warm time with Miaw Shang. Plus the six cousins would go wild together. Miaw Shang felt so happy watching the grandkids play. Now she can only watch, but not long ago, she would be playing with her grandchildren.
And of course, Miaw Shang’s daughter Sandy lived only four miles away and came after work every day. Haley might come along if she did not have a painting class. Haley turned out to be quite an artist and grandma had her painting all over the living room walls. Jacob might come if he did not have ball game or practice. When she was healthy and strong, Miaw Shang never missed a game. Now she was weaker, Michael would record the whole ball game and show grandma the video. Every time Jacob made a three pointer, grandma would clap with joy. And of course Emma would come with mom every time. She was only two years old, so cute and she was grandma’s favorite. Sitting on the grandma’s laps, she had so many things to share with grandma.
6/3/2016, Burial Ceremony: Miaw Shang’s family and close friends gathered at Orange County Memorial Park. The park is only two or three miles from Laguna Woods Village. The ceremony was simple but warm. The spots were picked in 2006 for her husband Adrian, and Miaw Shang saved a spot next to it. Now ten years later, Miaw Shang finally joined her husband with the blessing of so many people. And now the two love birds can be together forever. (Such a nice place, me and my wife and several close friends also bought some plots just a few years ago. The park is close by, convenient, graceful, and managed by the county. The place is really attractive, many of our Taiwanese follow suit. I believed in the future that many people would migrate from Laguna Woods Village to here. Then we can be neighbors again.)
6/4/2016, Funeral: at a gorgeous and solemn church on top of the hill, Miaw Shang’s families and friends gathered. It’s a posthumous honor and joy farewell ceremony. It’s relaxing and refreshing worship, not a dull moment. Miaw Shang lived to 73 years old. Even living one year longer than Confucius, Miaw Shang could not say she lived to the rightful old age in today’s standard. But everyone felt she had suffered enough for the most of her adult life. Even she can accept whatever coming her way, and she would endure the pain with optimism, knowing that it would be over soon. But the pain was always there, you can’t just ignore it. Now Miaw Shang is pain free, we’re all very happy for her. Just like when she was alive, Miaw Shang wanted us to promise her that at her farewell ceremony we would be happy and joyful. Therefore the ceremony followed Miaw Shang’s wish and started with “The Song of a Thousand Wind” (千風之歌). That was the same song we had at my mother in law farewell ceremony six years ago. But when son Dean, daughter Sandy, and brother John gave the farewell, people just couldn’t hold back their tears. Otherwise, most of the proceedings were joyful like what we had promised Miaw Shang. Especially, when all the grandchildren put together a band, singing and celebrating their grandma’s life. This was really lovely and moving. I believed that Miaw Shang would be laughing with joy up in the haven. Now the ceremony moved outside, with twenty some big round tables. Once people getting their food and finding their table, the more casual outdoor ceremony began. With Miaw Shang’s close friends spoke one after another. Of course I have to say something, which was Miaw Shang’s special request when she was still alive. Nothing but the praises, Miaw Shang was such a wonderful, beautiful and courageous woman. Also Carol got to say something. Just back from Taiwan, another funeral, Carol praised Miaw Shang and their life together. Carol and Ching Kuei Lin together with Miaw Shang and Adrian Lin, they were friends for fifty years going way back where they started out in North Carolina. Amazingly, they ended up in California together. So happened Miaw Shang was sick and Carol together with Ching Kuei gave her so much support and encouragement. And of course all the good food they brought in when Miaw Shang was weak and didn’t cook much. Carol mentioned that Miaw Shang was caring, generous and considerate. That’s why they can be friends for such a long time.
Just like today’s sermon by pastor Chao (趙聰仁牧師) “The Winning Life and The Eternal Life “
Full of grace and love, Su Miaw Shang’s most legendary life, now became our “Si” Miaw Shang, Si (思妙香 remembering Miaw Shang). Good Bye Miaw Shang! Until That Day. (Note 3)
Note 1: I am really proud of Miaw Shang’s courageous efforts, one day she decided to take her wheelchair bound husband Adrian to see Europe. This might be the last chance for Adrian to visit Europe. Other people tried to convince Miaw Shang not to do it. But Miaw Shang insisted. With the help of Dean and Sandy, Miaw Shang was able to accomplish this difficult task. They were in Europe for two weeks and every one came home safely.
Note 2: in the last ten twenty years, Chung Lin Hsu (許重林) came in to Miaw Shang’s life, helping Miaw Shang quietly without letting people know. For example, Miaw Shang’s biggest dream ‘ Driving Across the United States ‘ was accomplished with Chung Lin Hsu on her side. People praised him as a safe harbor for Miaw Shang when she was under the weather. He said modestly that he was just giving thanks to Miaw Shang who helped him overcome the difficulties in life. In year 2000, Chung Lin ended his thirty years marriage. Miaw Shang was busy finding him a new companion. And in year 2002, after 911 instances, Chung Lin lost his job after twenty five years service. Again Miaw Shang tried to help him find a job. Actually they knew each other way before that. In 1977, Adrian and Chung Lin started working at Honeywell together, and they became good friends right away. Ten years later, when Adrian couldn’t drive anymore, Chung Lin would drive Adrian to work and back home. This went on for only a short while. Fortunately, Adrian found out a neighbor also worked at the same facility. They would go to work together until Adrian retired. Actually, Adrian took an early retirement because of his condition.
Posted in 02/2021
Source from Ken Y. Lee and Chung Lin Hsu