Teacher Wanderer: 2020

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Thursday, December 17, 2020

My Breast Cancer Journey

“Not every journey is a place. Sometimes, it’s a circumstance.”

(LATEST UPDATE: Day 47 of the unknown)


Invasive malignant neoplasm of left breast, ER/PR/Her2 Positive. I could lay the blame on 2020 but this year had too much weight already on its shoulders and it’s futile to add the burden of my breast cancer.

My decision to write about my diagnosis was inspired by John Donne’s, “No man is an island.” Perhaps by sharing, I wouldn’t need to isolate myself inside the condescending, “Why Me?” question. Or maybe, I wouldn’t end up bottling unwanted emotions inside me. A huge part of myself is hoping that whatever happens during the course of this journey, I would be able to be a source of inspiration to all the people who are going through the same situation.

This journey is in progress. Please bear with me.

Day 0
(Nov. 30, 2020)

"Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you."

I couldn’t help but to think that all the events this year made us a little bit desensitized with other things. That was probably the reason why I failed to notice some changes on my body. As I lay on the bed that night, I felt a sharp pain in the middle part of my left breast and it was completely swollen.

Day 1
(Dec. 1, 2020)

"Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding."

My husband’s persuasive skill convinced the doctor that I was one of those cases they had to see urgently. Covid cases have been surging uncontrollably in our area and getting an appointment was not that easy. Our doctor scheduled a mammogram and ultrasound immediately.

Day 3
(Dec. 3, 2020)

Pain is transitory. The tests and the procedures (biopsy and draining cyst fluid) were extremely painful but nothing beats the feeling of being thrown to the pendulum of uncertainty when they had to take a biopsy. While I was burning with fever the same day, I couldn’t help but to ask, “Could this year be any worse?” 


My day started at 8:00 with mammogram, ultrasound, cyst fluid draining, biopsy, mammogram again, going back to the house after the procedure, suffering with body chills and fever the whole afternoon, being rushed to the ER at 6:00, getting x-ray, Covid test, leaving the hospital at 10:30 p.m., waiting at the pharmacy for medicines, and arriving home almost 11:30. All throughout, my husband made me feel in every way possible that he’s there for me. He was in the parking lot waiting for hours and hours since companion was not allowed in the hospital. Love is the strongest power there is.

And did I say yet I have a wonderful sister-in-law? She was talking to my husband, constantly following up, and even offering to sit at the parking lot and wait for me so my husband could go home and take some rest.

Day 4
(Dec. 4, 2020)

“But here, just at this point: this is limbo.”

It’s the 5th of December in the Philippines and it’s my mother’s birthday. Coincidently, the stomach churning news from the hospital confirmed that this year just really messed us all up in one way or another. The biopsy confirmed that I was positive with cancer.

Day 5
(Dec. 5, 2020)

“Breast cancer has invaded my body, but it need not invade my spirit.”

Once you receive the cancer diagnosis, there’s really nothing much to say. There are many unspoken uncertainties and being supportive by the people you love is what matters the most. That night, Samantha and Alex (David's daughters) brought dinner and we spent the night discussing our options.

Day 7
(Dec. 7, 2020)

“In complete darkness, it is only knowledge and wisdom that separates us.”

Inherited genetic mutations play a major role in about 5 to 10 percent of all cancers. Researchers have associated mutations in specific genes with more than 50 hereditary cancer syndromes. The United States has the technology to do a genetic mutation test which would help in decision making and how aggressive the response should be.

Dr. K spent almost an hour explaining the genetic mutation test. I couldn't be more grateful for having medical experts and a compassionate health team.

Day 8
(Dec. 8, 2020)

"Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it."

The pain of being diagnosed with cancer didn’t really sink in on the day that I got the news. Actually, the thought process took me several days. When it finally hit me, I didn’t want to get up and start my day. I didn’t want to think of anything else but the uncertainties. It was overwhelming and I was so glad my husband continued to send me messages despite being busy at work.

After hours of emotional meltdown, I finally mustered enough strength to get up. I spent the day cleaning every nook and corner of the house, crazily wiping every surface, organizing documents, and putting every laundry in the washer. At least, I was taking control of the things that I have the power to change.

Day 10
(Dec. 10, 2020)

David was not allowed at the Emergency Room when I was burning with fever and at the Comprehensive Breast Center where I had the biopsy and other tests, I was grateful that he was permitted to be with me when I met with my surgeon.

My surgeon gave the facts straight but with compassion. We discussed my treatment options and before we left her office, we were leaning more on having a mastectomy.

Day 14
(Dec. 14, 2020)

Seeing the reconstructive surgeon today sort of cemented the cold hard fact that I’m really about to lose both my breasts. How do you live with something like that?

Day 15
(Dec. 15, 2020)

"There is no greater fear than the fear of uncertainty because the unknown is something that can't be looked in the face, challenged, overcome."

I chickened out. I couldn't do it. I told my husband that I didn't want to do the mastectomy. The healing process of mastectomy and reconstructive surgery were suddenly so frightening that I told David I didn't want to do it.

As for my husband, he wants to make sure the cancer would be totally removed and it would not plague me for years to come. I understand his persistence to choose the most aggressive treatment possible. I am totally on board but when it's your body, the thought of losing a part of you is disheartening and scary at the same time.

When I got the call that I tested negative with the genetic cancer cell mutation, the more that I thought I should just simply have the lumpectomy.

Day 23
(Dec. 23, 2020)

“Compassion is the basis for humanity.”

Since day one, I’ve been blessed with people who were complete strangers but showed me nothing but compassion. When I had my biopsy and other procedures, one of the nurses was holding my hand the whole time seeing that I was in a lot of pain.

Then they introduced me to the nurse who would be in contact with me regarding the results of my biopsy. They told me, “We want you to meet the person and not just know her name when you talk to her on the phone.”

Weeks after that, She called me so many times reminding me of my different appointments, test results, and other important information regarding my surgery. And she would remind me always, don’t hesitate to call if you need anything or you have any questions.

She was the one who called and informed me that my procedures would be on the 11th of January- NM INJ RA Tracer Sentinel Node, Bilateral Mastectomy, Reconstructive Surgery.

No, I am not scared at all but feeling a little bit down. It’s like being thrown in the pit of blackness.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love."

-Ephesians 3:16-17-

Day 47
Yesterday was horrible and scary. Ten days after my bilateral mastectomy, I had massive bleeding and within two hours, I lost more than 500 ml of blood and continued to lose more in the ambulance and while waiting for my surgery in the hospital. Blood also started gushing out of my stitches connecting my tube for drainage and my chest felt like it was about to explode with so much pressure from the accumulation of blood.

Today however is a different story. I am reminded that gratitude is the language of heart. I’m grateful to White Lake Ambulance Authority EMTs for their compassion and professionalism. Thank you so much to one of the EMTs who held my hand before leaving the hospital and whispered, “You’re going to be fine. Be strong.”

I’m grateful for my surgeon who coincidentally (or blessedly) was in the hospital and just finished another surgery. She and the team of medical staff trained with trauma patients quickly mobilized everything needed to do the emergency surgery. And to the rest of the Mercy Health medical team, thank you for the kindness and care.

I’m grateful for David’s family and my family especially our sisters, and dear friends who poured in messages of love and prayers. To our special friends who are going through the same situation but never failed to check on us, thank you both so much.

I’m grateful for my husband who deserves an award for staying at the parking lot AGAIN during my surgery. You officially won the Guinness Book of World record for waiting the longest in the hospital parking lot. I love you beb. The past two weeks had been so rough but you were with me holding my hand. You’re truly the best husband in the world and there are no words to describe your love for me. To Samantha and Alex, I love you both like my own.

What I had was a ruptured blood vessel. If I didn’t have the drainage that somehow provided the relief, things could’ve gotten worse.

I know my journey to healing has just started. The future is unknown and we keep on getting hit with a setback before we could even move forward. But, God is a merciful God. With faith, there’s strength. With love there’s God. And when there’s God, there’s hope.

To anyone going through the same thing and having the same pain, you’re not alone. Remember, ‘the wound is the place where the light enters you’.
Inspirational Articles/ Daily Blog

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Sunday, April 05, 2020

In Search of Lessons: A Deep Introspection

In my previous article, I explicated how this pandemic would bring out the best and worst of people. Although my point purported to focus on the objectivity of it, I knew that the classification was probably more on the perspective of subjectivity rather than objectivity.

This Sunday, I am gifting myself with deep retrospection in search of lessons amidst chaos, suffering, and desensitized hearts.


ON POLITICS
Politics divide. The very nature is explicitly defined as, “the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.”


One of the most significant time in shaping my political principle started in college when I was chosen as a member of the Debate Team. It was an honor and also a huge responsibility. In hindsight, that was a defining moment learning how to build a strong proposition using substance of truth and evidence as the foundation of argument. The process was very structured and we were taught sensibly on how to use authoritative sources versus general understanding. Then I was elected as President of the Debate Society which further shaped my belief. Writing the Articles of Organization and By Laws often reminded me how we were bound by rules of law or else we would be transported back to the primitive world where the sword decided the law.

What cemented my principles on politics happened during my days as a student of Doctor of Jurisprudence. It could be summed up as upholding what’s true, just and fair based on the fundamentals of the laws of the land.

Politics is not always true, just and fair but its existence is governed by laws, no matter how ill-timed sometimes. Look at the division it caused to friends and families around the world. Social media is toxic because it was not designed for politics but for personal connection. Nobody acts as interlocutor and helps people lay argument which is based on logical consistency and factual accuracy. Everything is an opinion which makes it a perfect breeding ground for expression of ‘general understanding’ based on fake news, propaganda, and malicious intent. The result? Character attack when the other side could not engage in an intellectual discourse.

ON POVERTY
I came from a family with 11 children. When we were all studying, life was hard. My father was clear about it, “I have nothing to leave you as a legacy except education.” The words were deeply embedded that I made sure to toil day and night to finish my studies. My Master’s Degree in Education is not a chip in my shoulder that I carry but an honor that I treasure. It is the fruit of hard work and personal sacrifices of my parents and older siblings.

One of the slums in Metro Manila depicting helplessness amidst poverty. 

In one of the documentaries I watched, poverty is convenient for politics. I am not going to delve on this further (you may watch the videos here), except to say that where I came from, quality education is a privilege not a right. The effect is seen with the abundance of propagation of ignorance and chaos.

ON POWER
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”


Politics gives you power. The sad thing about this, politics is based on a very old system. If you like watching the Game of Thrones, it is a mirror that reflects the true nature of politics and power. Idealists comes in with high hopes and promises only to be corrupted later on. Those who come out with unscathed principles are rare.

ON POSITIVITY
Yesterday, I was attacked personally and cursed for engaging on a post which I thought was a logical discourse. The comment embellished with hatred capitalized on the fact that; I commented in English, and I live in United States. I guess, if you are a Filipino and you speak in English AND you live in United States, you should be ashamed of it? The logic is incomprehensible. I was asked, “Who the ‘f (obscene word) are you?’ and, “You are dumb.” I could have opted to tell him that I have almost 300 awards on my name, educated kids around the world and taught them critical thinking skills and comprehension, and enumerate my educational qualifications. But, I chose not to reply.

My silence is not a sign of lack of knowledge but of wisdom to know when to speak. It was a humble time to remind myself that spreading positivity is a choice. My reply might be full of logical truth and substance of facts but by feeding his hatred, I would be forgetting the most essential thing in life and that is to spread positivity. The world is chaotic enough and the spirit of positivity is the best choice that I could embrace. It is a good thing to remember that, “Silence at the proper season is wisdom, and better than any speech.”


Politics divide. Power corrupts. Poverty is (usually) convenient for politics. However, it is imperative to remember, there’s power in positivity amidst the poverty of sound spirit and mind. Kindness is free. Compassion is a choice. 



Saturday, March 28, 2020

Five Important Thoughts to Ponder on the Corona Virus Pandemic

“Ad meliora.” Toward better things.

The whole world is a massive Titanic ghastly sinking with the unprecedented spread of the virus infecting thousands of people. Even in the movie where everything is usually ostentatious, most Titanic passengers fend for themselves except for the violinists who continued playing amidst chaos and fight for survival. I am sure, majority of the people are feeling the same thing right now-fighting for survival.

The situation is overwhelming and even the information could be suffocating especially if you are one of those forced to “stay home to stay safe”. Amidst this chaos, it is important to remind ourselves that Coronavirus pandemic will be over. It is not a question of ‘if’, but “when”.

This is indeed a scary time but my faith has not faltered at all. I am staying positive that this unforeseen events that we found ourselves are temporal and soon we would be back to normal (Although we might have a different perspective what’s normal when that time comes).

1. KINDNESS


Pandemic brings out the best and worst of people. The sudden closures of schools left so many families with dilemma how and when to get their next meals. Thankfully, officials jumped in and filled the needs of the community. When everything is falling and failing, kindness matters. Think about the first responders who are putting others before themselves. The world would be so lost without them to save us from this chaos. Then, there's the worst side of humanity- hoarding food, discrimination to people from Asian descent, and of course endless blaming as to whose fault it is. How are we coping up with the best and the worst of humanity? When this is all over, are we going to appreciate more our health providers? Are we going to be kinder on how we deal with workers at the grocery stores? Are we going to be more empathetic to other people from the other side of the world and be concern when things like this happen?

2. PRIORITIES


Happiness is usually equated with money and fame. To be catapulted in a situation where we did not have control was quite scary. Health and family are usually set aside to deal with the usual hustle and bustle of the daily lives- work, bills, travel, gadgets, and more bills. It took a virus to realign everything in our lives. Suddenly, we are thrown into oblivion without the movie theaters, restaurants, sports stadiums, and in some places even playgrounds were closed. We are forced to talk more to our friends, to our families, and to focus our energies on things which used not to matter. When this is all over, would there be a shift with the paradigm of where we focus our priorities?

3. RELATIONSHIP


This morning, David and I went out to get some groceries for a relative whose husband is sick and been dealing with chemo. The hardest thing was dropping off the stuff and not being able to give each other a hug. Without a doubt, this pandemic separated families because of variety of reasons. Some health providers had to stay in a different place to protect their families. Some people had to work more hours to meet the demand of a panicking society. The saddest reality is the loss of thousands of families who would not even have the time to grieve. No man is an island. We need each other to survive. Relationship is a link that connects each of us. When this is all over, are we going to value more each member of our family and take each day as if it were the last?

4. RESPONSIBILITY


Suffrage is a right but it is also a responsibility. When this is all over, we need to discern the important obligation bestowed upon us to choose the leaders of the society. When you are told to stay home, the whole responsibility of your survival is put on their shoulders. It is an important realization that we need leaders who care and leaders who have compassion to ordinary members of the society.

5. POSITIVITY



To feel like you’re suddenly drowning is a normal feeling. Cry if you must but never give up. Human kind has been in existence for millions of years. No virus would defeat us. Remember, when Pandora opened a jar left in her care containing sickness, death and many other unspecified evils which were then released into the world, one thing was left behind- HOPE. Let us use the power of HOPE to look at the future with positivity. When this is all over, let us always remember the power of positivity and how it sees as through.

This, too, shall pass. Ad meliora. Toward better things.

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My Breast Cancer Journey

“Not every journey is a place. Sometimes, it’s a circumstance.” (LATEST UPDATE: Day 47 of the unknown) Invasive malignant neoplasm of left b...

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