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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Day I was Diagnosed with Cancer

Tears welled up my eyes as my gaze turned numbly to the image of Jesus Christ in the white sterile room. Even His loving stare did not quiet the turmoil going on inside me as I face life’s uncertainties

February 2007 when I felt that something was terribly wrong with my health. I was in Baguio for a national competition together with my three pupils when I experienced severe chest and stomach ache.

It was a blinding pain and the throbbing continued the whole time we were there. I shrugged it off as weather associated and the pain was covered with the triumphs we brought home (or so I thought).

What happened next occurred in a blur. We were given motorcade for our feat, I was awarded by the school for my accomplishments as school paper adviser during graduation day, and end of school year paper works piled up that I totally neglected that gnawing feeling inside my body. Nights were different though, I would sleep praying so hard to ease the pain when reliever did not take effect anymore

I’ve finally consulted physicians and the results of the tests they requested were normal so they couldn’t tell what was exactly wrong with me. But my hemoglobin was dropping and I was losing weight alarmingly.

Since it was almost end of the school year, I thought stress has finally taken its toll.

Two months after that, my mother had a stroke so I decided to have a vacation in the town where she lives. My sister who just arrived also from Ireland upon seeing me after two years exclaimed, "Looks like you’re dying!" She then encouraged me to have a check up because I looked so pale. I did not heed her advice thinking that I just needed rest.

A week after arriving in Batangas, I woke up bathed with blood. I was so dizzy that I could hardly stand.

The first ultra sound showed bilateral ovarian tumor. The doctor advised us that it would be better if we will wait for two months before the surgery since my body was in terrible shape.

We decided to ask for another opinion and for the second time, bilateral ovarian tumor appeared in my ultra sound. Worst of all, the battery of painful tests I went through including C 125 and whole abdomen citi-scan led to dumbfounding prognosis- cancer.

The day it was confirmed I have the Big C, it was as if my whole world crumbled. I wanted to shout on top of a mountain and tell God how unfair life is. What about my unfulfilled dreams? Is it just as simple as that to abandon your plans and aspirations? I was in a state of shock and with that the feeling of bitterness consumed me. The citi-scan showed that it has not metastasis yet so immediate surgery was scheduled.

My family was warned of the possible complications because I was severe anemic and malnourished. I needed to have blood transfusion. But, just like in every story, I was given David to fight my Goliath. My family strengthened me with their unwavering support morally and spiritually. With my friends and co workers, they rallied God with prayers.

On the day of my operation, countless masses were offered for me. I constantly assured my family and friends I was fine, that my faith was strong. But deep within me, the surgery has not yet started but I was already dying.

The devotion with God I strengthened for so many years was slowly collapsing. I remembered with tears how I tried to live a life of faith.

That illness made me feel resentful and I even tried to numb myself with emotion. God must have felt I wasn’t ready yet on the scheduled day for surgery because for some reasons, it was postponed. My bleeding continued and my color turned to yellowish.

In my desperate attempt to find solace and comfort, I seek enlightenment to my prayer book. I cried my heart’s anguished when I read this prayer...

Have no fear for what tomorrow may bring.
The same loving God who cares for you today
will take care of you tomorrow and everyday.
God will either shield you from suffering
or give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace, then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.

I felt like a cold wind whipped my whole being. Calmness engulfed me and I could sense that I’ve finally yielded to His will. I posted the prayer to the railing of my hospital bed and whenever I needed to go through another painful injection, I would read it and assured myself everything would be fine.

That prayer was my only companion as I was brought into the operating room attached with oxygen and four IV’s and with swollen hands because of countless needle pricks. But, doubts did not cloud anymore my mind. Before I lost consciousness, I uttered a silent prayer of surrender.

Waking up after having been heavily sedated during the operation was like finally ending an appalling nightmare. The night after the surgery, my sister repeatedly told me it wasn’t a cancer but everything around me was whirling so I couldn’t comprehend what she was saying.

It was the words of Fr. Jerry Orbos in the TV while he was celebrating mass the following day which finally woke me up, “You are blessed. Marami ka pang gagawin (You will still do many things.)"

Suddenly, my notion of a miracle was completely changed. The real miracle is actually not waking up free of cancer but being surrounded by people who love me unconditionally and flooded me with comfort when I needed it the most. They cried with me and felt my pain. I was given the gift of being taken cared of the compassionate doctors who repeatedly told me, “Have faith…”

As I trek life’s crossroads, God, in His own loving way showed me at the end of each bumpy path there is light...just keep your fingers crossed and have FAITH.

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