An Update on (or from) the Baby

El Guapo in Carrier

It’s time for an update, I think. Cathy is doing well, and Eliot is now 3 days shy of turning six months old. Below is a letter from the precocious little guy. The original post, as well as all the other missives in the El Guapo series, can be found at my personal blog.

On another note, the Komen Race for the Cure is coming up here in Houston, and I want to exhort everyone to participate. You can register here. Now for the letter from Eliot, a.k.a. “El Guapo”:

Dearest Minions:

Of late, I have been occupying myself with rather frivolous pursuits. Call it a vacation, if you will. In any event, I have been directing my Parental Minions to serve me around the clock with various forms of entertainment. It is exhausting for them, but I know that they feel justly rewarded by the smile on my face, and so I do not feel guilty about placing such onerous demands upon them.

The photograph above is an example of one of our many activities. Note the embarrassingly goofy smile on my Paternal Minion’s face. The image shows us engaged in a hobby that I like to call “Inverted Puppeteering.” Although I am the one hanging like a marionette, it is I who am pulling all of the strings. I have become so skilled that I can now direct my Paternal Minion’s every move effortlessly via subconscious thought.

And just today, I granted my Paternal Minion the privilege of performing drunken acrobatic maneuvers while emitting childish noises. At the end of his shenanigan, I reciprocated by toppling over in a goofy fashion. I normally would not engage in such unbecoming behavior, but every once in a while one has to throw one’s minions a bone. It was worth it; you should have seen how ridiculously cute he was when he laughed! A pity the camera was on me and not him, though that is certainly as it should be. In any case, you can view the video by clicking here.

I wish all of you the best, and I exhort you to remain faithful to our great cause.

In Virtue and Splendor,

El Guapo

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A Baby in the House


Well, after two years, I think it’s time for an update . . . especially since we just had a baby. Eliot 懿辉 Rambow was born on Monday, March 17, 2014, at 8:08 p.m. Both Cathy and the baby are healthy and happy, and we are now home from the hospital after a pretty smooth delivery. (Labor lasted 15 hours; thank God for epidurals.)

Cathy’s parents have come over from China to help us take care of the baby. They are very excited about their first grandchild. For my parents, Eliot is the first grandson and the only grandchild stationed within a 1,000-mile radius of them, so they’re pretty excited, too.

A lot of other things have happened since my last post. Cathy graduated from UT Houston School of Nursing at the end of 2012 and has recently completed her first year as an RN at St. Luke’s Hospital. I finished my MS in applied physics in May of 2013 and am continuing my studies at Rice.

We have a lot to be thankful for, more now than ever.

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I’ve sent in the money. The total is . . .


The official release of the Stand with Cathy book lasted from February 5th to February 22nd. I initially ordered 120 copies, thinking we would be lucky to sell that many. As it turned out, I had to order more, and in the end we sold 240 copies. As promised, the gross revenue, including the printing costs, has been donated to the war against breast cancer. (If you didn’t get a copy, don’t panic. You can still get one here.)

This report is long overdue. Let me offer an explanation. On February 19, I went to California for a conference on the exciting subject of fat-water separation in magnetic resonance imaging. Just before coming back to Houston, I came down with a rather potent cold, which had me pretty much out of commission until about February 28. Then, when I had just overcome the cold, I developed a case of strep throat, for which I’m still taking antibiotics. The serial illness sapped my energy, and I wasn’t able to do a lot of the things that I wanted to do, including sending in the donations and writing this update. Now I’m starting to feel normal again.

Cathy is now on her spring break, though that’s not stopping her from studying. I’m back in class, a little behind where I’d like to be and feeling somewhat cheated out of a real spring break by my illness. Nevertheless, things are going pretty well and we have a lot to be happy about.

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Book Release on Sunday, February 5

The formal release of the Stand with Cathy book will take place this Sunday, February 5, 2012, at West Houston Chinese Church.

Yes, the book is already available online here; but Sunday will be the formal kickoff, where you’ll be able to buy a copy from Cathy and me in person for only $5.00. (Larger donations are, of course, welcome.) For this first batch of books sold at WHCC, the full $5.00 will be donated to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. (If you want to pay by check, this is the organization to which you should make the check payable.)

Cathy and I will speak briefly at the 11:15 a.m. service, after which we will have a table set up to sell copies of the book.

The church is located at 10638 Hammerly Blvd, Houston, TX 77043. Here’s a map:

Below is the first review to be written about the book. It’s by . . . me. I include some genuine quotes by friends and family members. If you enjoy the book, please log in at and rate it (five stars, please!) and, if you have time, write a short review.

Only with my tongue firmly in my cheek can I write a review of my own book. (I always thought “tongue in cheek” was a strange idiom.) Of course I think it’s great.

What I really hope is that this book will become more than a small, token gesture of support for the war against breast cancer. I hope that readers will be able to relate to this story, will find encouragement and inspiration in it, and will share it with their friends and family. And I hope that as a result, the money raised by the sales of this book will be enough to make a significant impact on the progress of breast cancer research.

Maybe I’m just a dreamer. But those are my hopes.

Having said that, here are some things that people — admittedly all family and friends — have said about the book:

“A beautiful story and well-told.” -a family member

“I finally made time to sit down and read Stand with Cathy. You did such a great job! I can honestly say that it made me both laugh and cry. I’m so glad that you guys are out of the storm, and I pray that you never have to endure such fear, pain, frustration, and stress again. Life is indeed a team sport.” -a family member

“Received and read your book through in one sitting. I really enjoyed it. I had forgotten how much I miss your way of saying things. Thank you for sharing your story with the world.” -a colleague

“Thanks for the book Stand with Cathy. I finished reading it. It’s very touching and at the same time inspiring.” -a professor

“I just finished reading your book! Excellent job!” -a professor

“You misquoted me! I told [Marcus] that he should take a writing class, not a running class. Now everyone that reads your book will think Craig isn’t funny at all.” –’Craig’ (one of the people in the book — you’ll have to buy it and read it to understand!)

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The book is now available!

The Stand with Cathy book is now available! Above is a picture of a printed copy. It weighs in at a healthy 5.5 ounces and has dimensions of 5.5-by-8.5-by-9/32 inches, with a total of 126 or 134 or 138 pages (depending on how you count). I quote these numbers for my own amusement. The most important question, of course, is how you can get a copy — because all proceeds will go toward breast cancer research. There are many ways, including the following:

  • To get a copy from us in person for only $5.00, come to West Houston Chinese Church (10638 Hammerly Blvd, Houston, TX 77043) on Sunday, February 5, for the 11:15 am service.* Cathy and I will speak briefly during the service, and books will be available for sale afterward. You can also come on the following two Sundays (February 12 and 19).
  • To order a paperback copy online for $6.99 (plus shipping), click here.
  • To download the Ebook version for Adobe Digital Editions for $5.99, click here. (You can get Adobe Digital Editions for free here.)
  • To get the iBook version from iTunes (for the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch) for $5.99, click here.
  • To get the Nook version for $5.99, click here, or search for “Stand with Cathy” on your Nook.
  • For a tiny sample of the book, click here.

In case you’re not familiar with our story, this book is an account (from my point of view) of my wife Cathy’s battle with cancer. It’s about how our community came together to sustain us by raising over $65,000 to help pay for Cathy’s treatment and by providing a place for us to stay when we were effectively evicted from our apartment. It is a testimony about the power of love and grace in the midst of hardship.

*All of the author’s profit from the sales of this book will be donated to the “Susan G. Komen for the Cure” foundation for breast cancer research. For each book purchased at West Houston Chinese Church, however, the full price of the book ($5.00) will be donated. (Of course, you are welcome to give more than $5.00.) Remarkably, the church has refused to accept any portion of the proceeds; everything goes to the Komen Foundation. Please note that the official name of the Komen Foundation is “Susan G. Komen for the Cure,” so if you write a check, please make it payable to “Susan G. Komen for the Cure.”

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Blessed Relief

Happy holidays!

The most important news first: Cathy had her semiannual checkup on November 21st, and all of the news was good. She had a scare with some swelling on her neck, but that appears not to have been anything serious.

School has been difficult for both of us. We feel SO relieved to have made it through the fall semester. It was Cathy’s first semester in nursing school and my first semester as a physics graduate student.

Things started out well back in August and September. We were following strict studying schedules and getting our work done early. But then the really tough assignments began raining down on us, and our plans went down the toilet. Each of us flirted with nervous breakdowns now and then, and there were times when we really didn’t know whether we were going to make it. But Cathy got her final grades last week, and I just received mine today–and we passed.

Now we can enjoy some much-needed relaxation over the holidays, though we still have some studying to do in preparation for next semester. Cathy wants to get a head start on her spring classes so that next semester won’t be quite as rough as the last; and I need to start learning about MRI, which is the field of research that I’ve chosen.

Before I get back to work, however, I am determined to finish the project that I mentioned in a post back in August: to write and publish my account of our battle with cancer and all of the other crazy things that happened to us in 2010. I’m pleased to report that I’ve just finished the final draft, and I have a team of highly skilled copy editors–my mom and dad–reviewing the manuscript.

The picture at the top of this post is probably what the front cover of the book will look like. You might recognize it as part of the poster for the Stand with Cathy concert. I can’t stop using it because it’s my favorite picture of Cathy. Here’s what we’ve got on the back of the book so far:

The open spot in the bottom right corner is for a bar code. Feel free to send me suggestions for improving the design. I wanted Cathy’s picture to be on the front, but I couldn’t get a good layout with her face and the title together.

Copies of the book should be available within about a month. I will donate all proceeds to a cancer-related benefit–probably the Komen Foundation.

Please drop us a line to let us know how you’re doing. We wish you a peaceful and joyful Christmas.

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My Song: No Height, No Depth

As promised in my last post, here’s the song I wrote:

No Height, No Depth (YouTube)

I made the recording just by playing on my electric keyboard and singing into my laptop microphone. I freely admit that I am NOT a vocalist, and this recording would be greatly improved with the help of Auto-Tune. Better yet, I would love to hear a true professional, such as Matt Brouwer, sing it.

I wrote the first verse and chorus back in 2008 while in China. I wanted to try my hand at writing a song, but I couldn’t think of any lyrics, so I just used some of my favorite bible verses: Psalm 139 and Romans 8. The result is a bridge between the ideas that you can’t escape God’s judgment and that nothing can separate you from God’s love.

This past August, I wrote verses 2 and 3 in an attempt to make the meaning of the song more explicit and tie it to the gospel. These lyrics are more original, though they’re still sprinkled with bible verse fragments and praise cliches. The full lyrics are at the end of this post.

The accompanying photograph is a picture I took at an old military bunker at the top of a hill at one end of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I’ll leave it up to you to interpret its relevance to the song.

On a side note, I’ve started a new blog (or rather, resurrected an old one). I want to continue blogging, but about things that are not related to the Stand with Cathy campaign. Please check it out:

Here are the lyrics:

No Height, No Depth

Verse 1:
You have searched me and you know me—when I sit and when I rise.
You discern my coming and going; you are familiar with my ways.
You perceive my thoughts from afar.
You alone truly know my heart.
Where can I go from your spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
Wherever I am, Lord, you are there.

No height, no depth, can separate me from your love, O Lord;
And neither life nor death can overcome the work of Christ in me.

Verse 2:
Righteous king of all creation—God of glory, Lord on high,
You are blameless, pure, and holy; saints before you prostrate lie.
Who can enter into your presence?
With you, Lord, no wicked man can dwell.
I stand before your throne of judgment,
Deserving your wrath and condemnation.
I’m desperate for hope. Lord, make a way!

Verse 3:
Now comes Christ, my intercessor. He has heard my anguished cry.
With full grace, he takes up my burdens, and with the Father’s will complies.
See him bear his cross up to Calvary.
See him beaten, stabbed, and crucified.
Into a tomb they sealed his body.
But on the third day, he rose in glory.
He conquered the grave and set me free.

No height, no depth, can separate me from your love, O Lord;
Neither life nor death can overcome the work of Christ in me.

I proclaim your victory.

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Being Students Together

The summer has gone well for us. We attended Cathy’s brother’s wedding in China back in June. Then I made the drive from Houston to New Jersey with my dad and brother to help my brother move to Princeton, where he is attending seminary. Since then, I’ve been studying physics full-time in preparation for grad school, while Cathy has been taking a sociology class–her last requirement before nursing school.

Now we are about to be students together. I will start classes on Monday (August 22nd), and Cathy will begin the following Monday. Cathy’s nursing program should take about a year and a half to complete. I, on the other hand, am likely to remain a grad student for six or seven years. That’s about the average time it takes people to finish a PhD in physics, it seems. When I was an undergraduate, that sounded like an eternity. Now it sounds like a short time.

I’ve taken advantage of the summer to engage in some creative projects as well. I wrote and recorded a song based on Psalm 139 and Romans 8, which I intend to post on YouTube at some point. (I’ll put a link here.) I’m also working on a screenplay with my old buddy Saqib, who is a film school graduate. We’ve been having a lot of fun with it, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out. In addition to that, I wrote a pretty lengthy essay about the status of America’s education system.

My biggest project of all, however, has been to write up a comprehensive account of our experience with cancer, the fundraising concert, the unbelievable real estate fiasco we were embroiled in, and the amazing support that we received from YOU. Right now, it stands at over 100 pages, single-spaced, and I’m working on the third draft. I intend it as an expression of thanks to everyone who helped us out, and as a testimony to the amazing way that we were provided for in the midst of some pretty ridiculous trials. I hope I’ll be able to publish it, in which case I will donate all proceeds to a cancer foundation. My target completion date is December 30th–the anniversary of Cathy’s final radiation treatment.

Cathy’s next checkup is scheduled for November. Please pray that we’ll have good news at all checkups from here on out. And please drop us a line from time to time!

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New Beginnings

A whole semester has passed since my last update, and I have lots of wonderful news to share.

Cathy went in to MD Anderson two weeks ago for her first check-up since she finished her radiation treatment on December 30th. Nothing showed up in the tests, and she has been classified as “potentially cured.” Unfortunately, there’s no way to know for sure that you’re cured until five years pass and you can look back and say, “If I weren’t cured, something would have shown up by now.” However, we are happy and optimistic, and we have a lot to look forward to.

Cathy has been accepted into UT Nursing School, which was her first choice. It’s right here in the medical center, a 20-minute walk from where we live, and it is one of the best nursing schools in the city, so she couldn’t have found a better situation. She is still finishing up her pre-nursing coursework, which includes the obvious necessities of Dance Appreciation, Texas Government, and Philosophy. (You wouldn’t want a nurse giving you an IV if she didn’t have a solid grounding in the ideas of Plato, Martha Graham, and Rick Perry; I mean, good grief, what if she believed that your pain was only a figment of her imagination?)

In January, it was announced that HISD would be laying off a significant number of teachers. I had been thinking about going back to graduate school for some time, and I thought I might as well apply. Initially, I wasn’t even planning on applying until next year–I wasn’t sure I was ready–but one of my professors at Rice persuaded me to go ahead and apply. So I did, and I was accepted. I will start in August as a PhD candidate in the Applied Physics Program at Rice. My one year back at HSPVA was quite good, and I am thankful for the experience, but I am excited about this new path. The graduation ceremony was last night, and I have turned in all my grades and keys, so I am truly free now. It feels good.

We got up at 3:30 this morning and I drove Cathy to the airport. She is going to China for her brother’s wedding. I’m going to join her in a little over a week. She’ll be there for a month, and I’ll just be there for a week. The early-morning trip to the airport was an appropriate book-end to the semester, because on the very first day of school in January, we got up at 3:00 to see Cathy’s parents off as they returned to China. I didn’t go all the way to the airport then, but I didn’t go back to sleep either. I finished up some last-minute preparations, vomited from stress, and went back to school and continued teaching. The winter break was so busy–daily radiation treatments, visiting in-laws, getting evicted from our apartment, etc–that I never really got to rest or prepare for the spring semester. As a result, I felt behind and overwhelmed all spring. Hence the lack of updates.

Speaking of our apartment woes of last December, I found out a few weeks ago that the man who evicted us has been convicted of his wife’s murder. She was killed in December of 2008, and he wasn’t indicted until January of 2010. He was out on bail for a year, during which he bought our apartment complex at an auction and evicted half of us after making our lives extremely unpleasant for over a month. I alternated between praying for his redemption and his destruction. It seems that destruction won out, as a result of his own actions. I can’t deny feeling somewhat satisfied after what he put us through.

Anyway, things are going well. Please drop us a line. Now that school is out, I’ll be less likely to leave messages unanswered. Thank you all again for following our story and supporting us.

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Entering 2011

My last update focused on our recent travails–specifically, Cathy’s car accident and our persistent harassment at the hands of a professional intimidator. Since then, our car has been repaired, and it seems to be running almost as well as it did before. Our troubles with the property dispute got worse before seeming to get any better. In fact, it may be some time before we can say for sure that it’s all over. I will say no more on the matter except that our lawyer has told us that we have strong grounds to sue the new “owner” (the court may yet decide that he never had any legitimate claim on the property) after all that he has put us through; and although we don’t want to sue anybody, we’re prepared to do so if he causes us any more trouble. Aside from the seed of potential for further difficulty in this one area, which will hopefully vanish without sprouting, things appear to be looking up for us.

First, the biggest news: Cathy had her last radiation treatment on Thursday, December 30th. After nine months, she has completed the entire course of treatment prescribed at the very beginning by her oncologist. To recapitulate, she went through six months of chemotherapy, then surgery, and just over six weeks of radiation. Throughout it all, she remained enrolled as a full-time student, taking prerequisites for nursing. (There were brief flirtations with pharmacy school and PA school.) Even after her surgery, when she had the fluid drainage tube coming out from under her arm and connected to a bulb that was strapped to her side, she continued attending classes and lab exercises. She studied hard and took her final exams along with everyone else before finally resting for Christmas vacation; but even during the vacation, her rest was interrupted by early-morning trips to MD Anderson for her radiation treatments. Finally, on December 30th, we went with her parents for her last treatment. She got to ring a bell, as she had done at the last chemotherapy treatment, and she got hugs and congratulations from the nurses and other patients. We now pray that her battle with cancer is truly over, and that we can move forward without fear.

In the meantime, Cathy’s parents have been visiting us from China since November 21st. My parents rented a beach house in Galveston over the Thanksgiving break, and the six of us (plus Peewee) spent a relaxing four days there, interrupted only by a trip to Houston for one of Cathy’s radiation treatments. The weather was nice for most of the trip. Our fathers enjoyed talking to each other via electronic translators (which often produced highly amusing mistranslations); our mothers enjoyed cooking together; and we enjoyed reading and watching Peewee run on the beach. (Cathy was still studying most of the time.)

The fall semester at HSPVA wrapped up nicely. My students and the HSPVA community have all been very supportive and sympathetic with us in our struggles.

On December 22nd, we moved. Cathy’s parents helped us pack all our things during the preceding days. We are now almost fully unpacked. It was not something we would have wanted to be doing over the holidays, but things had become so unpleasant at our old apartment complex that when an acquaintance contacted me to offer us a place to live rent-free, we decided that it would be best to accept the offer. That was our biggest Christmas gift, and it has been a miraculous and timely blessing for which we are extremely thankful.

The end of Cathy’s treatment and gift of a place to live have given us a pleasant end to what was otherwise a largely unpleasant year. A friend told me over lunch that his new slogan is, “Life is a team sport.” He doesn’t like the image of the lone cowboy fighting and living on his own. Life without community and fellowship is hollow and less meaningful (if not meaningless). As I consider our experience of the past year, I agree wholeheartedly that without support from our family, friends, and church, our burdens would have been far too much for us to handle, and I cannot even try to imagine what would have become of us. Therefore, I would like to close 2010 by expressing our immense, heartfelt thanks to all of you who have supported and encouraged us in any way at all. Because of you we are able, despite all we have faced, to look into the future and smile.

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