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Cancer sucks, we all  know that.

Today February 4, we celebrate World Cancer Day as a means of raising awareness of the millions of people worldwide. Some of you may probably ask  why we celebrate  such an unfortunate event in one’s life. There are so many people who remain untreated worldwide maybe some for financial reasons and some because they are not aware of it.

This will be the first time in a number of years that I’ll be blogging about my bouts with colon cancer. almost nine years ago, I underwent sigmoid surgery followed by six cycles of chemotherapy. Back then I was so apprehensive if chemo would help me since I knew from some research that  it is a drastic measure to kill cancer cells. I was in a quandary whether to go with it or not. My doctor, Dr. Samuel Ang (they say he is the best surgical oncologist in the country) explained how it would be done and what to expect about the treatment. With closed eyes and with lots of prayers, my family and I nodded our YES. The Lord is a forgiving and merciful God, I knew He would be there by my side. I’ve undergone six cycles of chemotherapy along with oral chemo tablets which I had to take very two weeks before the next chemo. It was not a walk in the park.  For every cycle of chemo, my body was so weak that I could not even lift my arms most of the time. But God is good.

Some of my religious friends who underwent the same thing told me that we are closer to Him when we are in suffering. He let us experience pain to let us know that there will always be the possibility of getting well and lead a normal life again. Trust in God will always be  a constant  in  one’s life.

One’s immune system suffers from all the treatments  The days of uncertainties, the days of being so careful about one’s health.

I met so many people here, patients  who were under the same predicament and relatives who were concerned about them. It is precisely why this blog exists.

Please say a little prayer for us, patients and survivors alike.  THANKS!

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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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I must really be getting old. No, let me amend that, I am definitely growing older. And I always think that growing older is always getting wiser with age. Got this throbbing headache  that won’t go away or maybe it is just a sign of normal wear and tear. I was exchanging texts with a friend  yesterday  (we are both cancer survivors) and I told her, I easily get tired nowadays  and I need to catch up on my siesta every day. Make that an hour or more instead of the usual thirty minutes shuteye that I used to have. She told me she underwent Zometa infusion just last week.   Her doctor advised her to have it when she had a recent bone scan. And I thought, I am not going back to the hospital just to learn that you need more series of tests despite the fact that you are now living a normal life being a survivor. The last time I found out that everything was back to normal, including my CEA marker, I left everything to God. He will take care of me because He gave me a second chance. Living in faith and believing in God’s will.

I spent  part of the morning reading articles by Barbara Gonzales. For the past years, I’ve followed her writings under her byline called Second  Wind every Sunday. I like how she touches on her hobbies, writing and how she get on with life despite living alone. She said that one of her favorite books is Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy written by Sarah Ban Breathnach.  I can’t help but smile at the thought that it is one of my favorite books too. When I am feeling so low, this book always gives me a lift. She always put her contact number at the end of her posts so I tried getting in touch and wrote:

Read your article with interest Ms. Barbara. Re: Simple Abundance. I have that book  too for several years now. It’s like a daily bible  for women like us. I even blog about it from time to time. I am a cancer survivor. It’s the reason why I keep a blog because I have this dream of inspiring people through my journey, that life is even more meaningful when God gives you a second chance. Thank you for your nice articles, I am a fan.

She texted back and said thank you. One other writer that I admire is Lucy  Torres. I don’t care much about her political career but I love how she shares her thoughts and family life  in Love Lucy at Philippine Star. Somehow, every time I read her posts, I always get the feeling that she is a close friend, the way she talks about anything under the sun.  Reading her posts also makes me feel that she is writing about my own experiences in life, they’re closer to home, so to speak.

Having no internet connection for the past several days gave me the chance to watch a little TV and catch up on my reading. I watched Maid in Manhattan a few days ago  (for the nth time). I am in the middle of reading Exile by Richard North Patterson, a thick book on Israel’s history as background.  Now I understand why the Jews and Palestinians don’t see eye to eye.

How was your day?

 

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One gets bored sometime with all the negative news all around. So now you know, the two teenagers  I blogged about yesterday are both brain-dead. What a senseless way to bring two lives at an end just because of jealousy or would you call that temporary insanity?

It’s part of life to undergo mood swings, ups and downs brought about by sadness and sometimes when it becomes a little uncontrollable, we call it depression. Struggles, disappointments and setbacks are part of the daily grind of living. When we allow ourselves to believe that  we are living in a black hole, and we feel that we are alone in this world, that’s where depression sets in and when you are weak, it would eat you alive.

I remember  a few readings I made when I was undergoing chemotherapy treatment two years ago. The study said that the number one cause of cancer is low immune system, added to that is stress.  When you have a low immune system, you are prone to illness and when you are ill, you easily get depressed too. Being stressed in any kind of work also helps in contributing to those unwanted cancer cells attacking the body. And my doctor says that it usually takes ten years before you can feel the malignant cells slowly prevailing over  the good ones.  You feel the symptoms when those cancel cells are deeply ingrained in your system.  Even if you are so careful with your health and cautious with the food you eat, you can never tell when the time will come that it would be you undergoing the knife and being put to the test and drastic measures of  chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  You could only hope for the best and pray that you’ll be given a second chance at life.

A while ago, a close friend posted this message on his wall at Facebook:  Stupid cancer….Some of us want a new house….A new car….A new mobile phone….To lose weight….But someone battling cancer wants just one thing, to win the battle. Please repost this in honor of someone who lost their battle, or for someone fighting it now. This matters so much to me, I am not just posting it as a status, it’s from the heart.

And here’s my reply to his post: Thanks for this post Paul. I am touched. I always pray for good health for everyone who has in one way or another, experienced battling with it. GO, FIGHT, WIN.

Latest news says that the 13-year old is now dead. His parents decided to have his respirator removed but they will be donating his kidneys and eyes to the Organ Bank.

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“Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.” – Henry Van Dyke

It’s  so flattering and touching when some of our group members send private messages and share their thoughts and problems. The level  of sharing has evolved into something that I didn’t really expect. They are so open about their  concerns especially in matters of the heart.  Everyone calls me “Mommy” and I have adopted them as my kids.  It’s nice to be needed, it’s nice to feel that you touch people in your own little way.

Somehow, we tend to take things for granted.  We measure success by the number of friends we have, by the amount of money saved in the bank, by the size of our house and the number of cars in our garage. We measure time by the passing of days and months, the things we have accomplished in life. But do we even stop to think that every minute that passes should be treasured? And when you have a healthy life, you are ten times successful. Time does not stand still, no matter what we do, no matter where we are. Most people regard time as their enemy because they are hindered by  it. We keep running out of time and sometimes, twenty-four hours would not be enough for a day.

When you have experienced something as life-changing as cancer, all those precious minutes really count. You think of the days as too long for you to get well. You think of the minutes as too unnerving while your body is attached to those tubes that shout, chemotherapy.  It’s when you realize that life is precious and could be taken anytime from you that you would learn to value everything that comes into it.  Being a cancer survivor taught me so many, many things. Valuing one’s health is one, treasuring each moment that passes is another.  And I feel so blessed that God gave  me a second chance at life to appreciate everything now. Oh yes, there are moments when I get too emotional crying over a good book, a lovely song or even a simple greeting from a friend. I get too emotional reading some comments in my blogs.  A friend once asked me why I am so open about my illness. I have another friend who kept on denying when she was stricken with cancer and it was a long and lonely road for her without someone to talk to except her family and a handful  of friends.  Why would you deny something that would allow other people to  learn from you? Why would you keep something to yourself when you can share your journey with fellow travelers on the same road like you?

Until now, although  I haven’t attempted joining any support group for colon cancer,  I am blessed with a supportive family and caring friends who are always there when I need them.  And my illness lead me closer to Him, giving me a chance to do an online apostolate to help other people.

A smile would come a long way, but a simple hello would lighten the day.

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I am so overwhelmed that I could cry.

Celebrating life, another journey of faith and hope, another journey of thanksgiving for all the graces from above. I am celebrating my two years as a cancer survivor today. And I thank everyone who remembered. I thank everyone who prayed with me and offered masses for my health.

Thank you Lord for the gift of family, thank you too for the gift of friends, but most of all thank you for the gift of life. It is another journey I know, a journey I am willing to embrace once more.

Friendship is a lovely thing.

Do you agree?  I met with Fr. Louie today and we had a few hours of catching up with news from Rome and our online apostolate at Facebook. It feels good to be able to unburden one’s heart and hurts a little.  It feels good to have a willing and understanding ear. And I feel blessed for the gift of friendship. We’re planning a get-together for our members at Apostles Filipino Catholic Community (AFCC). I am sure this would be an exciting event for all of us, finally meeting some of them in person. The community has become one big family. The camaraderie is there, the care and concern for each other’s welfare are obviously present and sincere. What more can you ask of online friends? And I would like to tell you  that online friendship is really possible  with  God at the center in our lives.

Lovely gifts, lovely remembrances.

These are those moments when I wish that I could upload  the pictures I took today and the last week or two. I don’t know why, but I am getting frustrated that this laptop won’t even read the contents of my cam. Anyway, I received a lovely book on St. Francis entitled The Journal and the Dream from Fr. Tacky, OFM from Rome, two rosaries from Celina and lovely key chains from Welma. Fr. Louie and I had this standing joke that I visit them one of these days in Rome and they will show me the Vatican. What a nice and lovely dream!   If God wills it, why not? Two  friends offered masses for my healing.  Thanks Joi and Dean. Lovely gifts, lovely surprises.

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is ‘thank you’, it will be enough.”

I love this quote from Meister Eckhart, so I say  “Thank You” from the bottom of my heart.


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Today, two years ago, I embarked on a long journey not knowing where the road will end but hoping just the same that I won’t get lost along the way. I remember it was a Sunday, hubby and I were off to the Chinese General Hospital with three bags of belongings and a big pillow for comfort. I was admitted at around 3pm and scheduled for sigmoid surgery two days after. Knowing fully well that I was sick and being aware that surgery is the only way the doctors would know how far the cancer cells have invaded my body was just a drop in the bucket compared to the agony I had to go through for more than five months after my surgery.

An online friend Mary An together with her family took time to go to the hospital on the day I was admitted to deliver a lovely flower arrangement  prior to the time of our arrival.  It was a typical gesture from Mary An, she knew that I love flowers and love doing macro shots of them. Thea, my nun friend sent me text messages during the night informing me that they formed a prayer brigade in the convent.  Lovell, a seminarian friend whom I consider  a son and his group offered masses for my healing.  “How lovely”, I said to the hubby, “to have lots of friends praying for you.”  They were there not just to show support but to boost my morale. It was  the second major surgery I went through,  unlike the first one, this could  spell a big difference in my life, in our lives as a family.  I prayed for strength and courage to go on but God gave me more, He showed me  that I could bear the pain because He was there.

Last night, I had a long chat with Lovell over the phone and he asked  how I am. I told him I had bouts of urinary tract infection lately. I was struck by what he said that God must love me so much to entrust me with all these  pain and sufferings because He knows I can carry them and I have enough faith to go through life without being bitter about it. My answer was simply this, ” I lift everything to God and I am offering it all to Him.

There are times when tears flow when I think of  the days I went through the past two years. I am lucky and  I am blessed that God gave me a second chance at life.  Everything is grace.

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I feel a little uninspired today so I am utilizing one of the topics posted by WordPress. The question is, “when was the last time you were scared”?

At sometime in our lives, we are caught unprepared for what life deals us.  No matter how we project strength in the face of adversities, there are times when we are weak and get scared of  things looming in our lives. I can’t remember a vivid incident that got me tongue-tied and speechless except the time when I got the result of my colonoscopy two years ago.  The moment of truth is sometimes hard to handle. I can be strong for my family and my friends but I could be weak when it comes to my personal predicament.  How would you feel if the result of a lab test is glaring at you in bold letters that you need to be operated on because you have stage three colon cancer?  Denial (at least in your mind) is the first thing you’ll feel but you keep a brave face and smile a tremulous smile. Next question would be, will I get well? And the next is, can we afford such an expensive treatment? Lots of thoughts play in your mind foremost of which is a prayer that God will give you enough strength, courage and the will to go on.         

I’ve blogged about my journey as a cancer patient and a survivor  so many times here, sharing how I coped with the treatment and all. In fact, it’s the reason this blog still exist because now and then I receive encouragement and thank you’s from some readers who are undergoing the same journey as I do. We are  traveling the same path of getting well with  a hope to live normal lives again.  Never lose hope amidst struggles and pain because that’s the time that you’ll know yourself as a very strong person, capable of  facing everything. Never lose the faith and think that it is just a chapter in your life. The sun shines still but the clouds obscure it sometimes.  These lines  from Dayspring Devotions gave me so much to smile about today!

ENCOURAGEMENT FOR CANCER BATTLE

You are a fighter, a survivor

A woman of faith and strength

You are a tough opponent for any challenge

Even the big “C” is no match for you

Because you belong to an even Bigger C,

CHRIST!

 

 

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“Life is this simple: we are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and the divine is shining through it all the time. This is not just a nice story or a fable, it is true. “ -Thomas Merton

Every second Sunday of the month I make it a point to watch Fr. Fernando Suarez  on TV, an early morning mass on ABS-CBN.  He is a healing priest and it has become a sort of ritual for me to wait for his healing prayers and be blessed. Back when I was sick and recuperating from an illness, when it was impossible to go out  and mingle with people, hearing mass on TV kept me anchored. I’m well able to attend regular masses  at our village chapel or in our Parish for quite some time now but out of habit, I still look forward to watching  the celebration on TV, be it Fr. Gerry Orbos, Fr. Joey  Faller, I love them all. This morning, I was touched by the stories shared by Fr. Suarez, about little children who were healed and one thing that I remembered him saying was this, “sometimes it is better that you are poor, because the only way that you’ll get cured is your faith and trust in God” . Not exactly his words but what he was driving at was this, if you have the money to consult a doctor, you rely on the doctor’s expertise for you to get well but if the only thing left is your belief that you’ll be cured, you will be.  He emphasized further that every time we attend mass, we are healed. Every mass is a healing mass, and healing comes not just physically but we are healed of our hurts, insecurities  and unbelief.  Listen to God’s words and how He speaks to us  in silence.  And at the most quiet place in our heart, we hear His voice.

What a wonderful feeling to experience God’s miracles.  I’ve blogged about this time and again. Last Friday, I met another wonderful doctor. Dr. Jonard Tan Co, is a gastroenterologist. He specializes in Diagnostic and Interventional Endoscopy and Endoscopic Ultrasound (I hope I got this right). Earlier on, Dr. Samuel Ang, my surgical oncologist asked me if I’m done with my colonoscopy so I  honestly told him that the procedure is so expensive compared to the one I underwent two years ago before my sigmoid surgery. He immediately called up Dr. Co, (they spoke in Chinese) and told me to drop by the latter’s clinic before I go home. More than the joy of meeting  another doctor, I was thrilled when Dr. Co quoted a sum lower than what Dr. Ang  estimated for the procedure. He wrote it at the back of his calling card and told me to show it to him when I am ready to undergo another colonoscopy.  Colonoscopy is an endoscopic examination of the colon. It can detect  polyps as small as one millimeter or less. The wonder of meeting  these people, I do think he is another angel sent by God to watch over me.

I am truly grateful for everything,  God is always  there for me, for us, and for my family.

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