The ABC Cancer Diaries

A young, American-Born-Chinese woman living with metastatic breast cancer

Songs for Wynne – Meeting the family April 30, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — stevenwaseda @ 4:57 pm

Meeting my family was, for Wynne, a bit of an overwhelming experience.  An extended clan of Jews expert in the practice of H.I.C.O. (high intensity cooperative overlap, i.e., arguing and interrupting), it was hard to keep track of who was who and how everyone was connected.

I played her this Alan Sherman song, which she greatly appreciated, in preparation for our trip to Detroit for a wedding shower with my dad’s side of the family.  (Note the Brooklyn reference as well.):

  • Shake Hands With Your Uncle Max by Alan Sherman

Update:  Was having problems with the file.  This should work now.


Gradual mourning

Filed under: Uncategorized — stevenwaseda @ 1:57 pm

I realize that Wynne’s death was a surprise and a shock for many who knew her.  And even for those who knew her and knew what was going on, the timing of it still caught many by surprise.

I’ve realized, however, that for Wynne and me it has been a process of gradual mourning.

I think the hardest part was in March 2006 when she was first diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.  I was terrified and was essentially out of commission for about two to three weeks.  “Strong” is not a word I would use to describe myself at that time.  Wynne was also hit hard.  But she had been it before and knew the drill, knew what was coming next, knew where to go, what resources were available, and was relatively matter of fact about it.

I had no idea how you cope with living in the shadow of death for an unknown but very limited period of time.  But I was told and soon learned that we would get used to a “new normal.”  And we did.  It made us realize that whether you have one year or 50 years, you’re still going to die so you may as well treat the two situations the same and do everything you want to do and appreciate every moment.

In terms of shock and drama and depression, that beginning time was far worse than what I’m experiencing now.  Additionally, every time Wynne realized a treatment was no longer working, every time we started a new chemo, every time she touched the lump on her neck at night and asked me if I thought it was bigger, anxiety would race through my body.  After each of those times, however, we would eventually get started on the next treatment which, for a while anyway, would work.  And then we would resume our lives with adjustments for side effects and the new treatment/doctor appointment schedule.

Each time, however, we also knew that we were one step closer to the end.  And I think without always realizing it, we were both mourning the loss of another piece of her life and of our life together.

By January of this year we realized that things were getting worse.  And there were ups along with the downs, we gradually developed a sense that these bumps in the road would continue to appear with more frequency.  And they did, and they began to snowball.  Each day in the hospital and then at home she seemed to lose another little piece of something.  The inability to talk as much, to accept hugs and kisses, to tolerate people in the room, to listen to well wishes I would read to her, to use the bathroom on her own, to feed herself, to stay awake.

I think recognizing all of that and being aware of it along the way has been helpful in coping with Wynne’s death.

That said, while a number of people have told me I’m strong, I wonder if “strength” is just a front for a self-preserving disconnection that will manifest itself in the coming weeks and months as I feel her absence in so many ways and continue to mourn her loss.


Wynne the Wu

Filed under: Uncategorized — stevenwaseda @ 3:24 am

Here’s a video clip from our wedding of my relatives singing a song about Wynne titled “Wynne the Wu”:

Explanation: My family has a tradition of writing songs to familiar tunes for family events such as wedding and telling the story of the couple in song/sketch form.  This is just one of the songs from our wedding, but perhaps the most memorable.


Donation: The Wynne Wu Fund April 29, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — stevenwaseda @ 4:22 pm

Many people have asked about donations.  Below is information for one fund that has been set up in Wynne’s honor to which donations may be made.  There are other appropriate places to make donations as well, including the Third Street Music School and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.  More details here.

In honor of Wynne’s contribution to Bard High School Early College (BHSEC) the Wu Fund has been established to assist students who study in China or take intensive Chinese classes. To contribute, please send a check payable to BHSEC PTA with ‘Wu Fund’ in the memo to:

Bard High School Early College
525 East Houston Street
New York, NY 10002
Attn: David Clark/Wu Fund


Wynne in Yu Gardens, Shanghai - December 2008

The Wu Fund supports cross cultural exchange and intensive language study by BHSEC students through its awards for the following purposes:

(i) Providing an additional stipend to recipients of the Wu Travel Scholarship to enable them to take full advantage of the China Exchange opportunities either during the recipient’s time in China or to assist in hosting his/her exchange partner;

(ii) Providing additional scholarships for the China Exchange program as funds allow;

(iii) Providing support for BHSEC students to participate in a Chinese language program during the summer.

Decisions on the amount, use and recipients of the Wu Award will be made by the Chinese language faculty in consultation with (1) their colleagues on the Foreign Language faculty and (2) the Office of Student Affairs which administers the Wu Travel Scholarship. Wu Fund awards will be based on merit and need, using the same procedures and criteria as are used to determine the Wu Travel Scholarship.

Monies in the Wu Fund will be held by  BHSEC in a separate account and administered at the direction of the Wu Fund Administrator, a Foreign Language faculty member, selected by his/her foreign language colleagues.

Spirit of The Wynne Wu Fund

Wynne’s intent is to make opportunities more accessible, particularly to students who might not otherwise have the resources to partake in certain programs and activities.  Through her own life, Wynne was the beneficiary of various merit-based scholarships and grants and other funds that enabled her to pursue music and learning that she would not otherwise have had the resources to pursue.  She wanted to help ensure that other similarly situated students do not miss out on those opportunities.


More Brazilian music for Wynne

Filed under: Uncategorized — stevenwaseda @ 3:48 pm

Just a few nice random Brazilian music selections that Wynne and I enjoyed listening to together:

  • Sem Resposta by Celso Fonseca (we had the privilege of seeing Celso Fonseca live together at the Blue Note on Bleecker St.  Sat right in the front in a cozy room.)

  • Baby (1971) by Os Mutantes (another one from the mix CD Wynne gave me at the beginning of our relationship)


More signs from Wynne

Filed under: Uncategorized — stevenwaseda @ 1:54 pm

My friend Scott advised me that if I’m open to signs then I’ll see them.

This morning I went for a jog in Fort Greene Park and along the way saw a woman walking with what looked like, and was, an Oberlin sweatshirt.  I chatted briefly and learned that her son is a freshman there.  The woman’s accent, interestingly, seemed to be a New Zealand.  (Or maybe Australian, but I’ll go with New Zealand.)  Perhaps Wynne’s favorite trip she ever took was her trip to New Zealand, before she met me and after she was done with her cancer treatment the first time around.

On my way back on Dekalb Avenue, a man stopped me and asked if I went to Bard High School since I was wearing the sweatshirt I bought a few years ago when Wynne took me to the BHSEC Talent Show.  It turns out his daughter is about to start at BHSEC in the fall and is excited about it.  I told him a little bit about Wynne and about what a wonderful school BHSEC is and we had a nice chat.

Thanks Sweetheart.  Keep’em coming.


“Waking up is hard to do”

Filed under: Uncategorized — stevenwaseda @ 11:36 am

I’ve noticed that frequently when I’ve woken up in the morning or from a nap, there’s a brief anxious moment where I’m not quite awake when I “remember” that I need to get into the living room and check on Wynne.  Then I wake up more fully a second later and realize that there is nothing for me to do.  It’s a feeling of both relief and emptiness.

I think I’ve forgotten or blocked out much of the intense experience of being in the hospital and then being home.  I think this must is typical of any intense and difficult experience and I accept it as part of adjusting to life without Wynne.