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Archive for the ‘chemotherapy’ Category


Hear His voice, He speaks to you in silence, gently, with such sense of humor sometimes that you find yourself laughing with Him.  The first time I learned that I need to undergo surgery, I asked Him these simple questions:

Lord, would I have to bear another scar? He answered:  Yes, but this time I’ll make sure that it would look better than the first. True enough, though it reached a long 9 inches, the cut was clean, it was a long straight line.

I am afraid Lord, I don’t want to undergo  another surgery. Then He whispered, Don’t you worry, I’ll hold your hands and will carry you when it’s done.

I lost weight when I was  at the hospital, 10 lbs. to be exact and I was worried I’ll lose even more if I have to undergo further treatments and He assured me by saying, Oh come on, you need to lose a little more. By the time you’re done, you’ll be able to wear all those medium size dresses, and those dainty Hang Ten T-shirts that you love. He had me laughing so much  and right there and then, I wanted to hug Him and embrace Him tight.

The nurse at the chemotherapy unit briefed us on what to expect after each session of treatment.  Some chemotherapy drugs have that immediate effect of losing one’s hair and the wise recourse is for you to have it shaved, as in bald head?  Then I heard Him whispering in my ears again: Why, don’t you want to wear those trendy and fashionable  head-gear?  But I assure you, you won’t lose your hair. So I asked my oncologist if I won’t go bald and she told me that medications for colon cancer are quite safe from that.  Then I felt  Him nudging me, I told you  and you won’t believe. Forgive me Lord for doubting you  even for a minute.

At some moments when I feel so down, I remember that  God  chose me to share His suffering and I am privileged that He trusts me enough to bear my cross.  Dear Lord, thank you for making me so special in your eyes.

(P.S. This is a re-blog, a post I made when I was just starting this blog back in June 2009, a month before my scheduled  sigmoid surgery.- arlene)

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I remember my last session of chemotherapy done on a December morning at the UST Hospital Benavidez Cancer Institute.  It was a Tuesday, the  Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  My medical oncologist called it my graduation.  Graduation from six cycles of chemotherapy and oral chemo drugs, graduation from the pain brought by the IV injected every three weeks, graduation from various laboratory tests before each cycle of chemo. But it did not end there. I have to go back to my surgical oncologist for regular check-up until five years ago when I totally lifted everything up to God that I am truly cured  and well.  It was a nice feeling to be able to pick up and do regular routines without  having to worry about one’s health, without having to worry about doctor and hospital visits. I hate hospitals. I can’t stand waiting too long outside a doctor’s office with other patients who have their own stories to tell.   Seeing other patients is depressing enough.

When you are sick, sometimes depression sets in but your belief and faith that you will be cured  of your illness helps to combat those feelings. When you believe that you will get well, you will.  I started this blog sharing a bit of what I went through more than seven years ago. I wonder sometimes about those friends I met here who underwent the same journey as I did. Where are they now? I haven’t heard from them for quite a while.  There was a time when some of my posts would be full of sharing about their plights as cancer patients and survivors or some members of the family sharing about it. I miss those because I would want to know how they are now.

Some people say things happen for a reason. I believe though that God allows us to feel the pain of being sick so we’ll get closer to Him. It’s when you are at your lowest that God lifts you up. I remember those lines from  Footprints in the Sand:

One night I had a dream…

I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord, and Across the sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; One belonged to me, and the other to the Lord. When the last scene of my life flashed before us, I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that many times along the path of my life, There was only one set of footprints.

I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in my life This really bothered me, and I questioned the Lord about it. “Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, You would walk with me all the way; But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, There is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why in times when I needed you the most, you should leave me.

The Lord replied, “My precious, precious child. I love you, and I would never, never leave you during your times of trial and suffering. When you saw only one set of footprints, It was then that I carried you.

These word often  remind me  to be always grateful for even the smallest blessing that happens in my life.

In times of our needs, we must look back and remember,  He was walking along with us, carrying us on His shoulder.  The times we thought we were alone, the times we thought we carried  the burden, the times we thought we were so helpless with things which we can’t avoid, the times of need, I believe those were the times He carried us through.

 

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I wonder if I ever shared this picture here, I can’t remember. I only did a few write-ups about my chemo days, the early years of blogging have been about getting well, getting on with life and trying to live it the best way a cancer survivor can. Would you believe that I met online friends here who shared and underwent similar journeys with me?

Facebook reminds you of a previous post you did years ago on the same day and month that you posted it and I got this.

I remember this....spending my 53rd birthday at the UST Benavidez Cancer Institute while having my 4th chemotherapy. With one of my oncologists, Doc Julie!

I remember this….spending my 53rd birthday at the UST Benavidez Cancer Institute while having my 4th chemotherapy. With one of my oncologists, Doc Julie!

Really, it made me smile and memories are reborn. A former classmate in high school prepared snacks for the doctors and nurses at the Ambulatory Care Unit of the UST Benavidez  Cancer Institute. She brought a large tray of  Pancit Malabon, drinks and cookies. Despite the two IV drips attached to my arm, I enjoyed those moments I spent with the staff. The first time I saw that Oxaliplatin IV drip wrapped in a black cloth bag, I just can’t help but think….that’s poison but still I have to convince myself that it would make me get well.I asked the oncology nurse why it has to be wrapped in black and she said that it should not be exposed to the light.

It was one of the best birthdays ever, because back then, listening to them singing happy birthday made me think that life even at its worse makes you feel happy too.

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March is rapidly fading into oblivion but I still look forward to tomorrow. Easter brings that lovely feeling of being reborn – a new hope, a new beginning. Easter is one of the most important feasts  in the Catholic calendar.

It’s been a quiet week, highlighted by the celebration of the Last Supper mass and watching Siete Palabras on TV. I’ve cried my eyes out the past week.  Yes, tears are just a blink away but they’re really not tears of sadness because I am lonely, they’re more of that feeling of reaching out, taking a grasp at the beauty of life  and remembering the past and such.  I do appreciate these moments of silence that Holy Week brings but  my mind is still pregnant with thoughts that I somehow wanted to share but cannot translate  into words. I’ve missed our yearly Visita Iglesia, my son has to report to work  the past two days and I don’t know how to drive so I just visited the nearby church, a few minutes away from the house.

Why do I sometimes torture myself reading something that reminds me of those days when I was having treatments – endless hospital visits, blood tests, chemotherapy and doctor visits? It just happened that the book I recently read deals on how to survive and prepare one’s self for the inevitable. There’s no telling  that no matter how careful you are, at one time in your life, a loved one or a family member becomes a victim too.  But then, the glorious moment of knowing that you will get well and having that gargantuan faith in a loving Creator is more than enough to make you feel that you are truly, truly blessed.

I had a long chat with a friend last night  and we touched on so many issues and things dear to the heart. One such subject that we never get tired of sharing is about our respective families. She has an eight-month old baby girl and I have baby Nate to talk about.  I told her that when my two kids were growing up, I didn’t notice much of their everyday development because I was working. It’s quite different though when you’ve got so much time in your hands and appreciate everything you see and even blog about it. Who knows, if blogging was in vogue thirty years ago, I might have filled up all the empty spaces allowed. I still keep their “love letters”, those small notes that I got to receive every day  taped at our bedroom door, I regret though that we were not able to save most of the pictures of their younger years. Our photo albums were destroyed by typhoon Ondoy and even if those shots were painstakingly dried and restored by my son, some pictures were blurred at the edges.

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Happy Easter everyone!

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okra

Some people call it gumbo or lady finger but in our country, it is simply known as okra.

Since I’ve been diagnosed with colon cancer almost four years ago, undergone sigmoid surgery and six sessions chemotherapy, I’ve been so conscious of what I eat so most days, I have vegetables with a bit of meat on the side or skinless chicken breast. Okra is one vegetable that a friend suggested I take at least five times a week. Other than being an anti-oxidant (which I really need), it has lots of fiber that stabilizes blood sugar. Okra is believed to protect some forms of cancer expansion, especially colorectal cancer.

  1. Okra helps lubricate the large intestines due to its bulk laxative qualities. The okra fiber absorbs water and ensures bulk in stools. This helps prevent and improve constipation. Unlike harsh wheat bran, which can irritate or injure the intestinal tract, okra’s mucilage soothes, and okra facilitates elimination more comfortably by its slippery characteristic. Okra binds excess cholesterol and
  2. Okra’s mucilage binds cholesterol and bile acid carrying toxins dumped into it by the filtering liver.
  3. toxins (in bile acids). These, if not evacuated, will cause many health problems. Okra also assures easy passage out of waste from the body. Okra is completely non-toxic, non-habit forming, has no adverse side effects, is full of nutrients, and is economically within reach of most individuals unlike over-the-counter drugs.
  4. Okra fiber is excellent for feeding the good bacteria (probiotics). This contributes to the health of the intestinal tract. (source: pyroenergen.com)

For these alone, I would eat okra everyday. It’s healthy, it’s cheap and you can buy it in any wet market or supermarket. You can plant it too in your own garden. It does not take much space since it grows even in pots.

 

 

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Friendship needs no words – it is solitude delivered from the anguish of loneliness. –  Dag Hammarskjöld

I love this shot. It is one of several photos that I took  in Tanay during my first road trip two weeks after my final chemotherapy session almost three years ago. Time flies – but it holds a promise  that no matter how painful it is – life goes on!

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Gosh, just looking at the book cover makes me drool! Just looking at the title reminds me of those early mornings when my mind is pregnant with words, words that sometimes play in my head but when I have the chance to jot them down, they always vanish like thin air. It’s the latest book of Mary Oliver and it’s not yet out in the market. Mary Oliver is a favorite author, a favorite poet. So I am borrowing the book title for my blog today and wish that there would be  a thousand mornings more to enjoy life and to share the joys to others.

A Thousand Mornings And More

Living life one day at a time and enjoying every precious moment. You might think, that’s hard to do but when you’re living on borrowed time, everything  is deeply felt and the heart gets appreciative of all the love and concern thrown your way. When you are given a second lease at life, every dream you hold is precious too.

Yes, I’m grateful for old friends  who after all these years are still here. I  see them now once in a while but the love and camaraderie are still there after all these years.  I am grateful too of new-found friends who are so supportive of what I do, loving friends whom you could bare your soul without being judgmental.

Waking up to a lovely sunrise. Sunrise and sunsets, they never fail to make me smile. Seeing the dawn breaks and watching dusk fall. How lovely! And how mysterious the clouds could be sometime. Next to flowers, they are actually my favorite subjects when it comes to tinkering with my camera.

Taking a few shots of my garden blooms.Ah, what could be more beautiful than seeing  and smelling the sweet scent of a flower in one’s garden?

Growing old…. gracefully. I’ll be celebrating my birthday in three weeks  and it makes me a little excited. And I remember  a text sent by a close friend before my birthday four years ago.

In a dream I saw myself walking on a beach with the Lord, carrying someone in
           His arms.

           It was you. Nainggit ako…
           Jesus felt my envious tone when I asked:
           “Lord, why siya karga Mo, di ako?”

With a gentle voice
            He said:
            “Don’t be jealous my child, sya may RAYUMA, ikaw wala pa”.

That pretty sums up what one actually begins to feel when one is adding years to her life.  And it’s not only the “rayuma” thing but you  feel that some parts of your body are out of  joints probably  needing a bit more stretching on the side and a few meters run in the oval behind the house.  Things are different now though, I have to take things easy, be more mindful of being stressed. I do get easily tired nowadays. I wonder if that is still the effect  of chemotherapy drugs, I hope not.

I’ve never been obsessed with counting the passing years. As they say, age is just a number. Twenty or fifty, it really does not make that much difference. What is important is how you look at life and how you deal with it. There is always that subconscious effort to do your best be it a simple thing like prepping yourself  to look good in the eyes of others or facing a gargantuan task and responsibility of raising a family. But then, you still manage amazingly well.

Whoa! The past days have been good, thanks to a loving God Who is always there silently egging me on, reminding me to keep grounded, making me feel loved and cherished. A loving God Who never turns His back on me just because at times, I forget that He is there. A big thank you for a loving family, two wonderful kids who are my fulfillment of a dream. Thank you for the loyal friends who have always been there through thick and thin, and new ones  who accept me unconditionally and treat me like a long-lost  friend.

I remember a few birthdays back, my two kids had this habit of waking me up in the middle of the night, no lights on but a flicker of a candle and their merry voices singing “Happy birthday Mama”. Who would not be touched by that? I’ve always felt emotional when it comes to such things.  Or maybe, birthdays allow you to cry a little ….keeping attuned with yourself that somehow you are really growing old…..gracefully.

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I received this wonderful message from a close friend who is also a cancer survivor like I am. It’s a one-line prayer that says:

Dear God,  I pray for a cure for cancer.  Amen 


Don’t we all wish  and pray that they would finally find a cure for cancer? And yes, I guess it’s a prayer that would change the world
.  If cancer is like your common cough and colds, you wouldn’t  really mind so much  because you are assured that in a few days, a week at most, you would be back to your normal self.  And your family would not be burdened with worry whether you will get well or not and they would not need to scratch their heads every time you are scheduled for that much-needed chemotherapy  because shelling out a hundred thousand pesos for every session of chemo is not a walk in the park.  And your hubby, whom you thought would best understand would not say, “naubos ang ipon natin dahil sa pagpapagamot mo.”  And those words hurt more than having that life-changing disease  because in his eyes the money you’ve saved is more important than you getting well.   And I have always said that you can’t really emphatize with a person all that much unless you have experienced the same thing yourself.  The anguish of knowing that you are not hundred percent fit and you know that you are living on borrowed time,  the feeling is all the more acute because at some point, you would ask,  am I on the complete road to recovery?  Pardon the sentimentality attached to this blog because right this moment, everything is so vivid in my memory – the surgery, the long stay at the hospital, the endless visits to the doctors, the heart palpitations every time you get the lab results, the feeling of being so helpless while  on chemotherapy, the endless prayers and knocks on every friend close to you to include you in their prayers as well, the times that you really tried to show you were brave and strong  in front of your kids, and  the uncertainty of knowing when you’ll get well.

And here’s another picture attached to the message:

All  you are asked to do is keep this circulating,  even if it’s
Only to one more person.  In memory of anyone you know
Who has been  struck down by cancer or is still living with  it.

A Candle Loses Nothing by Lighting  Another Candle..

So instead of forwarding it to my list of contacts, I chose to share this in a blog,there is a wider reach that way. In the past, I often wondered why breast cancer awareness campaigns always use  pink ribbon as a symbol. Why not other colors like yellow or blue or any other color for that matter?

Imagine, it took me three long years to learn this, that the symbol for colon cancer is blue.  If I were to choose, the last ribbon (All Cancers) would be appropriate.

Would it be okay if you say a prayer for us, cancer survivors, cancer patients and those who are presently undergoing treatments right now? Thank you so much.

Dear God,  I pray for a cure for cancer.  Amen 


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You wouldn’t really miss something until it is out of your sight or you need it most. Sometimes, we take things for granted because they have always been there. Have you ever thought of not having that everyday necessity called tsinelas?  Call them flip-flops, thongs or Japanese sandals, those open-toed flat  footwear held by a Y-shaped  strap held between the first big and second toes on either side of your feet.  For the moneyed few, call them Havaianas but for ordinary people like me, just call them tsinelas.

I was watching the news report late this afternoon and one of the big bosses of the ABS CBN network was telling the anchor that there are  several flood victims of Sendong who are badly in need of slippers and blankets.  You may laugh at this, why of all things, tsinelas is one necessity that one really ought to have. Can you imagine yourself walking barefoot all the time without any protective covering on your feet?

So again, this ties up with my memories of typhoon Ondoy two years ago. Flood waters reached our place while we were about to have lunch and we didn’t really expect that it would rise immediately prompting us to save what we can, important papers, small appliances, books and anything that we could grab. Nobody thought of emptying our cabinets of clean clothes  just so we could save them. All I had saved on Nissa’s big beach bag when I left the house were house keys, two pairs of  change of clothes for each of us, underclothes,  my small transistor radio, cellphones, my chemotherapy drug and my camera.  We decided to leave the house when the flood waters reached my chest and transfer to a friend’s house across the street. The water was up to my neck when my son and I crossed the street and  I didn’t even know I was not wearing any slippers when I left our house. I just realized it when I reached the other side and the small stones lodged at the gutter hurt my feet and I could not go back to grab a pair.  I was cold and wet and felt that my feet were being pricked by a hundred needles. The first thing that I requested from a friend who volunteered to buy us supplies two days after  the flood was a pair of slippers and until now, I haven’t used it yet, kept along with unopened underclothes, extra jackets and our important documents in a sealed plastic box. It’s not easy to cope during a calamity  and we were lucky that my family and I were together when we experienced it. I could imagine the plight of the people in Iligan and Cagayan de Oro. A simple pair of tsinelas would really go a long way.

And prayers, always prayers! They need our moral support too more than ever.

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Not long ago, I received this message from some Facebook friends and it says:

Put a heart (♥) on your wall without comment, only a heart. Then send this message to all your friends – only the women. Next, place a heart on the wall of the person who sent this message to you. And if someone asks you why you have so many hearts on your wall, do not reply. This is only for women to remember that this is the week to remember and care about breast cancer. And that we should always think about it.
To make a heart, type < with no space and then a 3 or just highlight the heart, copy and then paste to your wall post.

I wonder who started this but you know how it is on the net, every message you post seems to spread like wildfire without the senders even thinking if it would be appreciated by the recipient.  It’s their way of  making the guys curious about what the heart represents just like the one I received a year ago to just post any color on your wall when the original message was, what’s the color of the bra you’re wearing or something to that effect. Anyway, it’s good that they even think  of and care about breast cancer but it is quite insensitive when they send  the same message to a cancer patient or a cancer survivor  who had struggled with a different kind of cancer. Why do they have to isolate it to breast cancer alone? Why do they need to put the nail on the head and emphasize that it is only breast cancer that matters? You might think,  am I just so sensitive because I was also a cancer victim? Why can’t they just generalize their message and make it a sort of prayer brigade for all people afflicted with the disease, breast cancer or not? There are as many types of cancer that you could not even count on your fingers and if I may say, every cancer type is lethal when you discover it too late and when it is on its progressive stage.

A few weeks after I’ve finished my chemotherapy  almost two years ago (December 08, 2009 was my last session by the way), I searched the net for foundations which support cancer survivors and all I found were the pink ribbon organizations that again, are concentrated on breast cancer awareness and cure. I felt frustrated that they zeroed in on just one type when there are also millions of people out there suffering from other types of cancer.  I understand that breast cancer is one of the most common type of cancers in women, but when you are afflicted with the disease, breast cancer or not, you suffer the same degree of pain and anguish. You suffer the same insecurities whether you will get well or not. And it is even funny that when you meet people from all walks of life and let them know that you are a survivor, they always assume that it is breast cancer. Nope, I said, I had stage 3 colon cancer  and they usually ask if  the treatment is the same – I dont’ know about the other types but I underwent six cycles of chemotherapy and took oral chemotherapy tablets for more than five months. It’s the effect of the chemo drugs on your body that you have to be aware of because one of my friends who is also a cancer survivor  told me that long after you are done with the drastic treatment, the toxins injected in your body are still there.  Trite as it may sound, it’s not a walk in the park and you need lots of resources to continue with the treatment.

In the long run, if you ask me what I value most in my life now, it’s my health. What they say is true, health is wealth. And yes, prayers, lots and lots of prayers and the will and strength to move on – the will to live a normal life again as much as possible.  And the fervent wish that they will finally find a cure instead of subjecting a patient to slash, poison and burn. A friend whom I met on the net and has written several books on alternative cure  said that Slash means the surgery itself, Poison refers of course to chemotherapy and Burn is his term for Radiation Therapy.  And let me end this blog by quoting some favorite lines from one of my favorite writers of all time, Henri Nouwen, a Dutch-born Catholic priest and writer:

Why is it important that you are with God and God alone on the mountain top? It’s important because it’s the place in which you can listen to the voice of the One who calls you the beloved. To pray is to listen to the One who calls you “my beloved daughter,” “my beloved son,” my beloved child.” To pray is to let that voice speak to the center of your being, to your guts, and let that voice resound in your whole being.

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