All Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Venerable Master, all Dharma Masters, and all lay people: Amituofo! Today, Xiaodan is here to tie the dharma affinity with everyone. If there are any mistakes in my speech, please compassionately correct me.
Today, I would like to talk about how sentient beings carry heavy karmic hindrances and boundless karmic forces, while the Buddhadharma is infinitely compassionate and boundless. Thus, I would like to share with you the process of my husband’s journey in recovering from his sickness from 2018 to 2019 and some insights I gained from what I saw and experienced during that time.
Firstly, I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the male and female Dharma Masters and lay people at CTTB. Despite their busy schedules, they took the time to visit and express their care for us in the hospital. They offered us encouragement, recited the Buddha’s name, and dedicated merit to us. They also set up plaques for us, and a lay person connected us with an end-of-life chanting group from Gold Mountain Monastery, which was ready at any time to help us with recitation. We are deeply, deeply grateful from the bottom of our hearts! This gratitude is beyond words.
In 2013, my husband was diagnosed with stage III rectal cancer. After undergoing radiation therapy, the tumor shrank significantly. However, he hesitated to have surgery immediately due to concerns about post-operative complications. In April 2017, the tumor recurred and continued to grow, eventually causing intestinal obstruction and greatly affecting his daily life.
On August 11, 2018, I left CTTB and took my husband to the UCSF Medical Center to see the doctor. After the examination, the attending physician scheduled a colostomy surgery a few days later to address his intestinal obstruction, followed by the tumor removal surgery.
As we were about to leave, the assistant doctor noticed that my husband was very weak and said, “You look so weak. How can you endure a few hours of back and forth travel? You should just stay in the hospital.” We were delighted to hear this and immediately checked into the hospital. The next day, another doctor performed the colostomy surgery, and after a couple of days my husband was sent back to Howard Hospital in Willits for observation and recovery. After a week, we thought we could probably go home.
Unexpectedly, one afternoon, the doctor anxiously told us that during an examination, they found a worrisome situation with the possibility of an infection. At that time, we didn’t fully grasp the seriousness of the matter. He immediately contacted the doctors at UCSF Medical Center and requested the patient to be sent back for surgery right away. So, that evening, they used an ambulance to send my husband back to UCSF. We never thought that we almost would not be able to make it back.
After being sent back to UCSF, due to intestinal infection and some unexpected circumstances,
my husband underwent four consecutive surgeries within a month, each one more critical than the previous. I remember after the last surgery was completed, it was already around 9 o’clock in the evening. I entered the operating room and saw that the doctor was also exhausted. I said, “Doctor, I’m sorry that my husband has caused you so much trouble.” He replied, “I hope this surgery will be successful.”
However, after being sent back to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), my husband’s condition was not stable. He developed multiple complications – both lungs accumulated significant levels of fluid, his kidneys stopped functioning, and his blood pressure continued to drop. Despite the efforts made by the ICU director, none of the measures taken could improve the situation. Finally, he helplessly looked at me and said, “We have tried all possible measures, but we can’t save him now. We are out of options.” I inquired about my husband’s attending physician, and he replied, “The attending physician is currently out of state for a conference, but I can contact him.”
A few hours later, the ICU director informed me that he had reached the attending physician, and their last-ditch effort was to drain the infected fluid from my husband’s abdomen. This procedure was to be carried out by a resident doctor. At UCSF Medical Center, regardless of whether he was in the Acute care unit or the ICU, my husband was always placed in a private room with a small sofa bed inside. I slept every night on the small sofa bed to accompany him. The ICU director then said, “You don’t need to stay in the hospital tonight. I won’t wake him up, and he will remain on the ventilator. You can go home and rest. If there are any changes, I will contact you immediately. Otherwise, you can come back tomorrow morning.”
During the month at the hospital, besides taking care of my husband and handling various matters, I would find time to recite the Earth Store (Ksitigarbha) Sutra. I reminded myself: try to eat well, sleep well, and not dwell on unnecessary worries. Overthinking wouldn’t help anyone–better not to exhaust myself such that I wouldn’t be able to assist others. Whenever I felt troubled, I would recite Earth Store Bodhisattva’s name, hoping to dedicate the merits of my sutra and Bodhisattva recitations to all the suffering beings in the hospital so that they would soon be liberated from their pain and suffering.
It was already past nine in the evening, so I called Michael, who was still studying at Stanford, and asked him to come and pick me up. While waiting for Michael, I recited the Earth Store Sutra in the hospital. On our way to Stanford, the ICU director suddenly called, and I thought something had gone wrong. He said they needed my signature for emergency rescue. I persuaded him to let me come the next day to sign the papers.
When we arrived at Stanford, Michael had a room to himself, so I slept on the bed while Michael slept on the floor. I knew that if I received a call from the doctor that night, it would be for the worst. I kept reciting the Earth Store Bodhisattva’s name in my heart and eventually fell asleep. In the middle of the night, I suddenly heard a voice saying “I’m back” in English. I woke up immediately and wondered who was speaking. I looked at Michael sleeping on the floor and asked him, “Michael, are you talking to me?” Michael replied, “No, I’m not!” I realized that it must have been some kind of sign that my husband would be okay that night.
In the morning, when I arrived back at the hospital, I saw my husband still hooked up to the ventilator with a dozen tubes inserted into his abdomen. The doctors and nurses were constantly monitoring his condition. After staying in the ICU for more than two weeks, my husband was transferred to the acute care unit.
The doctors checked my husband daily and administered multiple antibiotics, mobilizing experts from various departments in the hospital. However, they still couldn’t resolve the intestinal infection issue; they only managed to temporarily keep it in check. The doctors mentioned that a severe intestinal infection alone could be life-threatening, let alone the fact that there was a growing tumor in his body, implying that his condition might be incurable.
After two months of treatment in a major hospital, the medical expenses were astronomical. As a result, the medical insurance company called every morning to inquire why the patient was still staying there and couldn’t be transferred to a local hospital.
The doctors were at a loss and had no solution. Finally, they started contacting local hospitals in Ukiah and Willits, but they refused to accept my husband. Even hospitals located dozens of miles away were hesitant to take him in. We waited in the hospital with no other options. During that time, I recited the Earth Store Sutra every morning and evening and dedicated the merit.
Finally, one day a young doctor who had just come to Ukiah Hospital agreed to take my husband’s case. I suspected that he did not fully understand the situation, but in any case, they immediately sent my husband to Ukiah via ambulance. This doctor saw my husband with several tubes attached to his body and various antibiotics in the IV bags. I couldn’t tell if he was overly confident due to his youth or lack of experience, but he promptly decided to remove the main tubes and discontinue all antibiotics.
The outcome was not favorable. The next day, the checkup revealed that my husband’s intestinal infection index had skyrocketed again. The ICU director and doctors at Ukiah were at a loss, wearing troubled expressions. Finally, the ICU director had to tell me, “We’re sorry, but we can only send your husband back to UCSF. We can’t treat him here.” In response, I said, “You don’t need to send him back. I already know how to handle it. We can make small incisions in my husband’s abdomen to drain the infected fluid and continue administering antibiotics. Even if you send him back, that’s all they can do.”
Fortunately, the ICU director accepted my suggestion, and my husband had several tubes inserted in his abdomen again and received intravenous antibiotics at Ukiah hospital. We endured each passing day, and every doctor who saw him would sigh, as there seemed to be no solution but to resign to fate. Gradually, as my husband regained some strength, he started reciting the Earth Store Sutra.
Over a month later, on Thanksgiving Day, a young American doctor on duty approached us and asked, “Would you like to go home?” Of course, we eagerly agreed. My husband had been unable to eat for months, relying solely on intravenous fluids and essential nutrients. I had learned to do many of the things the hospital nurses did, such as giving injections and caring for his wounds. After spending three and a half months in the hospital and enduring a long and arduous treatment process, we could finally return home.
After undergoing five major surgeries, my husband’s body had become extremely weak, and he was all skin and bones. His gastrointestinal system was damaged and unable to function properly, so he relied on intravenous fluids to remain alive. A home care nurse came daily to check on him, but none of the doctors dared to say when the intravenous fluids could be discontinued due to the severity and unpredictability of his condition.
After another month passed, it was early 2019 when Dr. Hengbin Wang discussed with me the grim situation: we could only try anything and everything as a final attempt. We could no longer wait, as the tumor was continuing to grow rapidly. We should discontinue the intravenous fluids to allow your husband to regain the ability to eat on his own. Then, we would begin chemotherapy, as the tumor had grown too large for UCSF to consider performing tumor resection surgery. I agreed without hesitation.
Surprisingly, my husband managed to endure eight rounds of chemotherapy. Throughout the treatments, he continued to recite Earth Store Bodhisattva’s name, and his body gradually showed signs of improvement. In May, he underwent a successful tumor resection surgery at UCSF. Later, the operating surgeon informed us that they hadn’t found any cancer cells during the tumor biopsy, which was truly unbelievable!
Dr. Wang later revealed to us the immense pressure he faced from various departments within the hospital. Other doctors had given up on treating my husband, believing that he would not survive. But Dr. Wang persisted and insisted on continuing the treatments, eventually becoming my husband’s savior twice! In August 2019, my husband underwent a final surgery to reconnect his intestines. Thus, he had gone through a total of seven surgeries within one year.
From this experience, I have come to realize the importance of maintaining faith in Buddhism, regardless of the challenges we face. The teachings of Buddhism help us cultivate a calm and peaceful mind, as getting anxious and angry will only worsen the situation. Even in the face of life and death, we must understand that everything is governed by the law of cause and effect. We can only accord with conditions and have faith in the law of cause and effect.
When confronted with life and death, we come to understand that Buddhism is our ultimate reliance, allowing us to feel serene and at ease. Moreover, we realize that life and death themselves are illusory and not the ultimate reality. As the Venerable Master often said: the most impoverished people in this world are those who haven’t encountered Buddhism.
Today, we have the opportunity to hear and practice the Buddha’s teachings in CTTB established by the Venerable Master. We are encompassed by the Three Jewels, utilizing the external Three Jewels to enrich our blessings and the internal Three Jewels to awaken our inherent wisdom. We are the most fortunate and blessed beings in this world, and we must cherish this precious opportunity and not let it slip away! Amituofo!