Cling to Joy


On Monday morning, Cathy was driving to MD Anderson for her radiation treatment when she was broadsided by an SUV at an intersection. Fortunately, Cathy was not injured, but our car was damaged beyond drivability.

Cathy is certain that her light was green, but the woman who hit her insists that her light had just turned green. This is something that Cathy would not–in fact, could not–lie about; she is the type of person who admits fault when she knows she is wrong and whose conscience prevents her from lying in the first place. Yes, there’s a chance she was mistaken, but the evidence suggests that the other driver is lying (or mistaken). (I would present that evidence here, but my aim is not to prove who was at fault in the accident.)

The accident occurred during rush hour in the medical center (at Main and Dryden), and there were surely plenty of witnesses; but not one person stopped to help or make a statement. This really makes me angry. Since coming to America, Cathy has witnessed two accidents. In the first case she stopped and waited until police arrived to give a statement, and in the other she called the police to report the accident and offer a witness statement. Now, when she needs a witness, no one stops. No one calls. No one cares to tell what they saw. People just drive right on by.

I feel that America has not been good to Cathy. She has been a better member of our society than most of our citizens can claim to be; and yet, when she needed help covering the cost of treatment for her cancer, she was turned away by multiple aid agencies because she wasn’t a citizen and she hadn’t been a permanent resident long enough. Then on Monday morning, she sat in a wrecked car in the middle of a street packed with Pharisees and devoid of any good Samaritan spirit, right here in America the beautiful.

As if we weren’t already buried deeply enough in woe, yet another problem has recently come and settled in among our growing flock of burdens: the threat of eviction. Thanks to your generosity, we have been able to keep paying our rent–this is not a financial issue; but something strange has happened that has made it impossible to know to whom we should make our rent checks payable!

I am about to describe an impressively putrescent miasma of madness, so please brace yourself if you intend to read on.

Just over a week ago, the tenants in our apartment complex all found letters taped to our doors, saying that the property was under new management and giving us a new address to send our rent checks to. The letter was poorly written. There was a photocopy of a notarized deed attached, but one of our neighbors noticed that the address on the deed wasn’t correct, and I noticed that the alleged new owners misspelled the name of their own company. In short, the letter positively reeked of fraud. I could have written a better letter myself and put it up on people’s doors.

I called our landlord and asked whether he had sold the property, and he said he hadn’t. The next day, we found a letter from our landlord’s lawyer stating that the previous letters were fraudulent, and we should continue paying our rent to the original landlord. Case closed, right?

Not in my world.

A couple days later, two guys go door to door in our complex explaining that they’ve bought the property and we need to start paying them rent. They say they understand that we need time to verify everything, and they encourage us to call the county clerk and check whom the deed is registered to and pay rent to that person. Sounds reasonable, right?

One of our neighbors calls the county clerk, and the clerk says that yes, indeed, there is a deed with these new guys’ names on it. Then the clerk adds, “But that doesn’t mean anything. Anyone can file a deed, but that doesn’t mean they actually own the property or have the right to collect rent.”

Another neighbor calls the constable, who says that we should keep paying rent to the original landlord. He adds that if these new guys come back, we can call the cops on them.

My dad consults a lawyer, who sheds further light on the situation, revealing us to be submerged more deeply than we imagined in this dreadful vat of maggots.

Back in July, a former tenant sued our landlord for refusing to return his security deposit. The court ruled that the landlord had to pay the tenant. The landlord ignored the ruling. The court issued a writ of execution, confiscating the landlord’s property (our apartment complex) in order to sell it and pay the unhappy tenant out of the yield. The landlord then had his lawyer file an injunction, which should have prevented the sale. However, after the injunction was filed but before the property could be removed from the market, our new spelling-impaired friends bought it (for a paltry sum of $700, though it’s worth about $800,000). A ruling has not yet been made as to whether the injunction invalidated the sale. Furthermore, it appears that even if the sale turns out to be valid, our original landlord’s wife still owns exactly half a share in the property, while the new-come orthographically challenged fellows own the other half.

To whom, then, do we pay our rent?

Our original landlord, who is in Florida and hardly ever sets foot in Houston, tells us to wait until it’s all settled. “Don’t pay me or the other guys for now,” he says. The new guys, who are here in Houston and have already started making changes to the property–changing locks, landscaping–are threatening to evict every tenant who doesn’t start paying them immediately.

As I said, it’s a real vat of maggots. (Note: We are following the advice of a good lawyer, and at the moment we are expecting everything to work out.)

Cancer. Bills. Car wrecks. Legal battles. Cold, heartless business. These incessant assaults upon our spirits have caused me to hate the world we live in.

There is balance, though. In the midst of every ill, there has emerged something good. While pulling out our hair trying to figure out how to deal with the threat of eviction, we have made friends with our neighbors. And above all, in the hour of our greatest need, you, our friends and family, have rescued us time and again with your gifts and love. Because of this, we cling to joy.

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Radiation and Parents

Yesterday (Tuesday, Nov 9), we went in to get everything set up for Cathy’s radiation treatment. She had some blood work done and had a physical therapy session. After that, she went to the radiation department, where they made a mold for her to lie in so that she’ll be in the same position for each radiation dose. Then they spent some time simulating the process; she has to breathe just right while they train the radiation beam on her in order to make sure the right spot is getting zapped. She’s scheduled for 32 treatments, which will be nearly every week day from November 15 to December 30.

We’re also getting ready for her parents to come visit us. This will be their first time in America, and they’ll be staying with us from November 21 to January 4. We don’t have a bed for them yet, so if you or someone you know has an unwanted queen-sized or double bed (that has no possibility of bed bugs or other parasites!), please let us know.

Meanwhile, Cathy is continuing to take classes in preparation for either pharmacy or nursing school. She has been amazingly strong throughout this 8-month ordeal, as she has been attending classes, studying hard, and taking tests even during the hardest stretches of chemotherapy and right before and after her surgery. She astounds me.

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Home from Surgery

Cathy was released from the hospital on Saturday afternoon (Oct 9). The surgeon said that the operation went well. He removed the primary tumor and the lymph nodes from her left side. She now has a drainage tube coming out of her side that will require some care during the next couple of weeks; hopefully that can be removed soon. Cathy was feeling well enough that we were able to go out with my parents this afternoon (Sunday, Oct 10) and enjoy the wonderful weather. Thank you all for your continued support and prayers.

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Surgery Scheduled for Friday (October 8th)

Cathy’s surgery has been scheduled for this Friday, October 8th. Last week, she went in for a consultation with the surgeon, and she also had another ultrasound to re-evaluate the status of the tumor. The ultrasound showed that the tumor had shrunk significantly, to the extent that the technician had trouble finding it. Later, we found out that they found a new suspicious mass in the ultrasound. A biopsy was performed on Friday to determine the nature of the mass, and we are awaiting the results. Since she is about to have surgery anyway, if the mass turns out to be malignant, they will simply remove it during the operation.

Aside from visits to MD Anderson last week, we also had to deal with a severely sick dog. Peewee, our Pekingese mix we brought back with us from Beijing, fell ill on Wednesday. He normally makes it through the night without having to go to the bathroom, but he woke us up several times in the middle of the night asking to go out. The next day, the situation was worse, and he wasn’t able to hold it in long enough to wait to be let out. Then, just after we had cleaned up his extensive mess, he started vomiting blood. We took him to a vet and found out that he had pancreatitis. He was given multiple antibiotics and an injection of water into his back (rather than an IV) to replace lost fluids, which left him looking like a little camel. He seems to have recovered now, and I’m glad that Cathy won’t be worrying about him when she goes in for surgery.

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Concert Video Available (partial)

I have finally begun to upload video from the concert onto YouTube. Right now, the following performances can be viewed: (Click the links to view.)

          Come Just as You Are                         I-Ming Huang and Tomo Tsai
          Fairest Lord Jesus                               Sarah Giron, I-Ming Huang, and Tomo Tsai

          Un Sospiro (Liszt)                                Jonathan Tao, piano

          Fantasie-Impromptu (Chopin)          Olen Rambow, piano

          Moonlight Sonata (Beethoven)          Olen Rambow, piano
               First Movement
               Second Movement
               Third Movement

I’m hoping to make more available soon.

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Note from Cathy about last chemo treatment

I finished the last chemo! Hurray!
It’s been such a long time since everything started. But when I look back, it seems pretty short.
The last couple weeks, our church’s topic was about God’s wonderful  and extravagant grace. When the pastor asked, “When was the last you ever received an extravagant gift, or gave one?” I was thinking: “Hey, you know, that’s a very easy question for me.” I’ve been receiving extravagant gifts since I was diagnosed! People’s care, love, greetings, donations. They are all extravagant gifts. And the big concert that was thrown for me. If that’s not extravagant, I don’t know what is. Everyone who has helped has  been giving me extravagant gifts! Thank you!

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Final Chemo Treatment

Cathy will have her final chemotherapy treatment this Friday if everything goes as planned. She’s dreading the effects of the treatment, but she’s glad that it will soon be over.

At M. D. Anderson (at least in the Mays Clinic), they have a bell that everyone gets to ring after they’ve had their last chemo treatment. It might sound like a small thing, but it becomes a very important symbolic act to look forward to after enduring six months of chemo.

Aside from a trip to the emergency room the night before the concert, she’s been doing well. The tumors have shrunk away so that she can’t even tell that they’re there now, and she hasn’t had any serious complications. She’ll still have to have surgery to remove her lymph nodes and then six weeks of radiation. Please pray that she’ll stay hydrated and safe from infection through this last treatment.

In the meantime, Cathy has started taking classes again and is a full-time student at HCC. She drops me off every morning at work before going off to study and attend classes herself.

Posted in Updates on Cathy's Progress | 3 Comments

Upcoming Video and Donation Update

We are planning to put some footage from the concert on Youtube in a week or so, with a link from this blog. If you missed the concert, you’ll be able to see some of the performances. I’m working on tracking down the tape that I’m told was made.

Also, donations have continued to trickle in, and we are now up to $55,652. Thanks again to all of you who gave, not just of your money but your time and talent as well.

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Post-Concert Message from Cathy

It was a MIRACLE! That’s all I can say about the concert on Saturday night.
Thank everybody for helping out to make the concert possible. Volunteers who directed traffic in such hot weather, worked at the booths, ran around inside to help. The beautiful music on piano, saxophone, and flute from Tomo, pastor Huang, Sarah, Jonathan, and Olen; the lovely narration from Jimmy; the beautiful and powerful dance from Ad Deum; the fun skit from the A. D. Players; and the great songs from Matt and his band. All of you are so talented and humble. It was an amazing concert!
When I look in the mirror, I see a girl that couldn’t be more normal. But God’s love and your support have made me feel that I’m special and precious. Thank you for your kindness, generosity, and love. Thank you for standing with me and going through this hard time with me together.
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Total Amount Raised

Here are the final numbers:

Donations received at the concert: $21,556.00
Donations received before/after/online: $27,298.00
Net income from T-shirt sales: $1034.34
Income from other sales (music, CD’s): $214.12


Thanks again to everyone involved. The above amount will go a long way in relieving the financial burden of the cancer treatment.

Several people have asked that we publish the cost of the treatment. It is impossible to know for sure how much everything will cost in the end, but when you register as a patient at the Mays Clinic at M. D. Anderson, they say that the first year of treatment is likely to cost between $114,000 and $264,000. We have already been billed $85,000 for diagnostic work and chemotherapy treatments, and we have yet to go through surgery and radiation, so it looks like we’re going to fall closer to the $264,000 end of the spectrum. (We have been told that radiation will be about $60,000, and we know only that surgery will be expensive.)

It is possible that Cathy’s insurance will cover the surgery, but only if M. D. Anderson will allow the operation to be conducted as an in-patient procedure. We were told that such operations can be conducted as out-patient procedures and that her doctor has no say over whether it will be in-patient or out-patient. Apparently, they frequently discharge patients in the 23rd hour so that the operation can count as out-patient. This practice must be due to pressure from the insurance companies, which have limits on the amount of out-patient procedure expenses that they’ll cover.

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