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’.
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  1. You shared a part of your life to us and I need to say thank you. Heal fast and I am sending a prayer for you. <3

  2. Thank you for sharing the story of your life. Sending all love and prayers for you and wish you fast recovery.

  3. Thank you for sharing something so personal and painful with us. I am sending prayers of love and hope your way as you travel through this journey and make some tough decisions!

  4. Your journey is so inspirational. I appreciate you being so willing to share such a personal experience with others. I am wishing you the best in the future and sending you positivity and love!

  5. Oh my gosh - I so feel you. I truly hope that writing about your sickness relieved you at least a little bit. I wish you all the best, poisitive thinking and quick healing - physically as well as mentally. Lots of strength and love!

  6. that is so scary. cancer is on top of my fears (it's number two right under having my husband diagnosed with it). I am virtually hugging you. I hope you will become fine normal again very soon

  7. wow, thank you for sharing your story with us, you are such a superhuman, wishing you best of luck on this journey

  8. I'm so short of words right now, but I'll just say that I salute your bravery and I wish you all the very best, now and for the future.

  9. Thank you for sharing your cancer journey with us. I know people who also have cancer and your story helped me understand of the pain, fears and uncertainties one go through. Praying for your health and comfort through this journey.

  10. Thank you so much for your vulnerability and willingness to put yourself out there and share your story. Cancer is no joke and certainly no one's friend. I wish you and your family all the best as you go through this painful journey.


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