Masae Yumiba's Fight Against Cancer

The following is the full story about my mom, Masae Yumiba, who passed away from aggressive cancer today, Thursday, October 19 at 5:30AM PST.

Today is the hardest day for me, as reality sets in that I will never be able to hug or kiss my mom again. I will miss your smile and your positive, warm hearted character so much, but I know you will be watching out for all of us from above. 

We are currently raising money to fund her funeral services. Her wish is to be cremated and for her ashes to be dispersed into the ocean. We will be working with a charter company that will be leaving from Redondo Beach in front of her apartment. Her ashes will be placed in a basket along with a lei of flowers, which will slowly drift into the ocean as the boat circles around it.

If you are not financially stable to donate, please simply take a moment to send gratitude and love to the ones that you care about the most. We are all faced with tough challenges in life and if my mom taught me one thing, it was to appreciate all that you have and give all that you can offer. I knew you were strong, but it was unbelievable how you put up an amazing fight until the very end. It will make me a stronger person everyday and make me appreciate even the small things in life. 

RIP and I love you so much <3

November 2nd, 1963 - October 19th, 2017

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My mom's first symptoms began in late January when she took me out to lunch for my birthday. While eating her salad, I remember her briefly mentioning that she has been drinking more water than usual when consuming meals. At the time, the issue was so minor that she didn't think much of it and thought it was a symptom due to age. In April, my mom set up a doctor's appointment since she felt that something was really wrong. Even though she couldn't eat solids by the time Mother's Day came around, Katelyn and I took her to the Porsche Experience racetrack restaurant so it was an ambiance she could enjoy. A few days later, she was scheduled for an emergency endoscopy and was diagnosed with Stage IV esophageal cancer. This is a rare type of cancer and unfortunately, there are no real symptoms until it becomes difficult to swallow, so it is common for people to find out at a late stage. 



This didn't even seem real to me since my mom has lived such a healthy life. Never in a million years would I have thought that it was even possible for her to get cancer. She was an active personal trainer that worked 7 days a week and had a mainly organic, high quality raw food diet. What made it even more difficult was that her mom was diagnosed with liver cancer in January. It was so surreal that either of them had a terminal illness because they lived such similar lifestyles. It wasn't until that time that I learned that all 4 of my grandmother's siblings had passed from cancer.

 Being such a healthy individual, my mom was planning on treating her cancer with holistic and natural treatments. She was even considering flying to another country in order to get the medical care that she wanted. However, according to her oncologist, time was very limited and was given a maximum of 6 months to live if she did not start chemotherapy and radiation immediately. Although my mom was refusing at first, she eventually agreed since there was an option to surgically remove her tumors if she went through with the treatments. My mom was then scheduled for 5 weeks of radiation everyday and chemotherapy once a week. Her instant reaction to the first chemotherapy was horrible. She began vomiting from the nausea and the pain to her chest seemed unbearable. Although each day of treatment made it harder and harder than she ever imagined, she somehow continued to fight and find the strength to go to work everyday. She didn't let any of her clients know because she wanted the time she spent with them in the gym to be positive and motivational. I respect how she viewed her situation as a positive life experience gift for not only for her, but the ones that surrounded her. 


After a couple of weeks of agonizing treatments, she eventually needed to stop since she knew her body would give out if she continued even one more time. Although the oncologist still pushed her, she took 2 weeks off and was on a high dose Vitamin C IV therapy. She was able to go back to work and felt as though she could treat her cancer if she continued a natural approach. However, when she went back to her next appointment, the oncologist told her she could not receive surgery if she did not complete the full course of radiation and chemotherapy. My mom was admitted to the hospital after being back on her first treatment of radiation. She was on so many different medications and nothing seemed to work. Katelyn and I visited everyday, but she had constant pain and nausea which she described as a level 10. Even though she was miserable, she remained to be positive and looked forward to her surgery and being back at the gym with her clients. The hardest part was that we could not find her much relief, but after talking to the doctors we received some good news. The tumor in her esophagus had shrank and surgery was possible without any further treatments. Although she was still miserable, she was stable enough for the hospital to discharge her after 3 weeks. 



My mom was so excited for her surgery. Every day was a new struggle, but she remained to fight because she believed things would get better. The surgery was to remove her whole esophagus and to stretch her stomach in order to replace it. Although it is a risky surgery and would be another battle to recover and adapt, everyone was excited for hope. My mom went into surgery and we prayed for the best. The hardest call I ever received was on that day, when the surgeon notified me that the cancer has already drastically spread to the stomach and liver. The procedure was canceled since the surgery was now considered impossible. I didn't really understand how it could happen, but they said that the additional cancer did not show up on the scans. I was so scared to tell her when she woke up, but she accepted the outcome well and was optimistic to move on.  

We took my mom back home from surgery that Thursday. She was already substantially weak at this point and her nausea continued. It started to make sense to me why she was suffering so much when I found out that the cancer had taken over most of her body already. There was a new pain from her liver area that worsened as the weekend came. On Sunday she could not tolerate it anymore so we tried to figure out a way to get her to the car, but the only option was to call 911. After spending some time in the ER, we were told that the sharp pain was probably due to the tumors pressing against her nerves in her liver. She was admitted to the hospital again and the only hope at this point was to eliminate the symptoms and start experimenting with her medications. We spent about two weeks talking to doctors and the nurses, but still nothing seemed to work. Her condition got worse and worse.

At this point, we were given two options. One was to undergo secondary chemotherapy, which would allow her to apply for a clinical trial treatment. The other option was to not treat the cancer any further and to chose hospice care. The goal would be to make her feel as comfortable as possible for the rest of the time she had left. After discussing the options with my mom, she said she would love to go on hospice care if they could help relieve her nausea. With this option, she would also be able to proceed with a more holistic approach. She was already set on denying further treatments since it did not go well the first time. When we met with the Hospice team, they insured that my mom would be comfortable and that they can give her stronger medications at home. They were confident that they could figure out a good medication routine in order to help alleviate her symptoms. There was so much pressure on us that hospice could actually deliver, since my mom was in so much pain and just looking forward to the day she could go home. She broke down in tears when we had to keep her in the hospital for an extra day for preparation. She was suffering so bad and could barely hold on, that we really needed a miracle to happen. 


I must say that the hospice care program at Torrance Memorial is truly amazing. They increased the dosage on her medications and were able to get her on ones which weren't available at the hospital. After two days, she was amazed to see her nausea come down to a level 2. Until that point, she thought she would pass away suffering. My brother Reo flew in from Costa Rica to visit and my dad brought our family VHS tapes from Florida. We spent the weekend watching them in the bedroom. I was so happy to see her comfortable and look back at the amazing times we have spent together. I know that it's such a common phrase, but it really made me appreciate how short life is and that we need to spend as much quality time with the friends and family we love as much as possible. It was a beautiful moment to be able to enjoy some time with my mom pain free after all she had been through. 

After my brother flew home on Monday, her condition started to rapidly decline. She became extremely weak and the nausea and pain came back. The nurses increased the dose on her medicine, but the cancer seemed to have taken over most of her body. She started to be in a dreamy state, but could hear and slightly respond if we got her to focus. Even though I expected it, I could not believe it when the nurse said she's sorry we have to go through this because my mom will probably only have a few days left. This past week was definitely the hardest in my life. My mom was fighting so hard, she would still try to get up to use the restroom on her own even though she was too frail and would constantly try to reposition herself in order stay alert. I could tell that she was afraid to let herself go and wanted to keep her focus to stay in the reality. The nausea and vomiting continued and she was struggling more than ever. 


It was yesterday when I knew that her time was very close. She could still recollect what we were saying at times, but every time she woke up she would always be gasping for air. She was just getting more and more weaker as the day went by. By 4pm when the nurse was leaving, she all of a sudden got up and was in a panicked state. She was unable to breathe, but was too weak to cry. My dad immediately held onto her and I hugged her, letting her know that everything will work out and that its okay to accept and let go. I knew that she was scared to leave us and that she was not ready to leave us behind, but I told her to relax and that I love her so much. My dad and I honestly thought she was gone at that moment, but she started to barely breathe when I set her down. I immediately called Katelyn and she came from work right away. I feel as if my mom was holding on for her to come so she could see her one last time. A few minutes after Katelyn arrived, she awakened in another terrified state and we all hugged her to calm her down. Somehow she managed to fight and hold on both times. I FaceTimed her sister and mom in Japan. It was a very difficult situation to witness, since they had to cancel their visit beacuse her mom's cancer condition is also worsening and she won't be around for much longer. Although all my mom could do was listen, I am so happy that they both were able to communicate what they wanted to say.

I cant emphasize how proud I am of her for battling one of the most aggressive cancers out there. I knew that if anyone could do it, my mom could, and it really proved to me how much of a fighter she really is. Eventually around 3 am, Katelyn and I fell asleep from being so exhausted and my dad worked in her bedroom until around 4:30. She must have waited for us to all go to sleep, since she had already passed peacefully in her sleep when Katelyn woke up for work around 6.
Thank you dad, for speding so much time looking after her when you have a buisness to run in Florida. Thank you to my girlfriend Katelyn for being there with me and pushing through all of the struggles. Thank you to my brother for making the effort to fly out from Costa Rica in order to spend valuable time with her. And thank you to all of my friends that have been supportive throughout this whole expereince, I love you all!

I cannot express how much gratitude and happiness she has brought into our lives. She is beautiful, fearless, strong and truly inspirational. Although it is hard to say goodbye, we all know that she is in a better place and can continue to strive and be the amazing woman she has always lived up to be. Thank you mom for everything. We will always be here with you and know that you will always be here with us. 

For those of you that read this full story, thank you for your time.
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Organizer

Issey Yumiba 
Organizer
Torrance, CA
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