Archive for the ‘colon cancer’ Category

“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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It’s one of those mornings that I am particularly excited and at the same time I feel that sort of apprehension, hoping that the day would be favorable for me.  We left the house early to get the results of my ultrasound, laboratory tests and CEA marker testing  and to keep another appointment with my surgical oncologist, Dr. Samuel Ang. It’s almost four months since my last check-up last November 2010.  I asked hubby to get the results for me while I waited in the car for a  few minutes,  silently praying  that everything would be normal but at the same time telling myself  that  whatever it is, I will humbly accept it without complaint.

You are strong Arlene and believe that you are healed“, that’s a silent chanting  playing in my head. “Lord,” I said, You have journeyed with me the past two years that I’ve struggled to get well, I know everything would be okay.” Tears were silently falling when hubby handed me the thick envelope from the Diagnostic Center.  The results were not just okay, they  were excellent and they moved me to tears. My CEA marker is 1.2  (normal level is between 0 to 5) so I am  in the normal range. All my lab tests are normal too. CEA  or Carcinoembryonic antigen is a tumor marker, a protein found in many types of cells but associated  with tumors and developing fetus. It is useful in monitoring the treatment of CEA-rich tumors. It was almost a year ago that I’ve undergone CEA testing, right after I’ve finished my last chemotherapy  and a year is long enough to live a normal life without worrying about another test.

God really works wonders in our lives,  although at times it takes a major setback for us to fully realize it. God’s love is truly immeasurable.  Being healthy is a gift from God. I sometimes look back at the days and months that I was in pain physically and emotionally and I marvel how God made me feel secure in His love, knowing that those days were just His ways of telling me to always trust and never lose faith.  And I remember this message from Footprints in the Sand.

“My son, my precious child,
I love you and I would never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering,
when you see only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you.”

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The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning…
Lamentations 3:22-23

Hubby and I planned of going to an internist at Medical City yesterday but it was already late when I called up to ask for an appointment so this morning we went there early. We didn’t have to wait long because the doctor was already there when we arrived.  I later learned that Dr. Tolentino is also an alumna of UST and what a wonderful thing to know that aside from being an internist, she is also an oncologist.  We had a short chat and she told me that my medical oncologist in UST, Dr. Priscilla Caguioa was her mentor in UST and she also personally knows my surgical oncologist, Dr. Samuel Ang. “What a small world”, I said.

I am looking for a good urologist/gastroenterologist because I need to have colonoscopy again not later than March this year.  Package for the procedure has really gone up since I had it two years ago.  Dr. Tolentino immediately called up a friend and asked him to accommodate me when I decide to have it in the next coming days. She even suggested that it is cheaper at Cardinal Santos Hospital than Medical City.  That gesture of kindness touched my heart. There is a big difference when a doctor is genuinely concerned with a patient’s problem than merely mouthing words of advice.  I am indeed lucky to meet all these wonderful doctors since the beginning of my journey as a cancer patient. I am doing okay now, with God’s grace and I am just so grateful for everything.  God always points the way.

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It’s another special day today.  We are celebrating the  Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Hubby and I attended the 6am mass at Our Lady of Light Parish.  A year ago today, I had my last session of chemotherapy at the Benavidez Cancer Institute at  UST Hospital.  My doctor called it my “graduation”.  Graduation from the hurdles of six grueling sessions of chemo, graduation from too much anxiety of thinking ,” no more injections please, no more hospital stay”, graduation from another phase in my life that taught me and my family how to hold on together, pray together for my health and healing.  All in all, it’s been a year of bountiful blessings.  When I look back, I just sometime smile at the thought of being so brave to face it all.  I finally learned that having the big C as some people call it is not the be all and end all of everything.  I finally learned that being brave is not just showing a big smile on your face but having the will to go on, despite the odds, that being brave is having enough faith in God that you will get well and being brave means thanking God that He has enough faith in you to carry on.

Some friends and relatives who have seen me for the first time after my surgery and chemo are one in saying, “you are looking good, parang hindi ka nagkasakit”. As I have mentioned in my previous blogs, you don’t need to show that you are weak in front of other people, you don’t need to look pathetic and hurting.  It’s a journey long enough to say, God has always been and always will be at my side.  It’s a long journey of discoveries – a long journey of faith, a long journey of sharing.  A friend once told me that she admired  the way I am so open about my illness, what I’ve been through and I always say, if someone could be inspired and touched by what I am sharing, then I am fulfilled.

A year ago, upon the invites of some close friends and relatives, I opened an account at Facebook.  I was quite apprehensive because of the privacy issues  that’s why until now, I only have  so few family pictures uploaded at the site although I share a lot of my  macro shots,  and shots I took  of some of the places we’ve been to.   I tend to compare it with the very private setting at my Multiply account.   But it’s through Facebook that I encountered the group called AFCC (Apostles Filipino Catholic Community).  Thanks to Fr. Louie Coronel, OP for the invite.  It was at first an ordinary friendship page but was later converted into a group.   Some occasional comments, more occasional visits until there  came a time that not a day passes without visiting the site.  I was hooked and I was telling Fr. Louie  a few days ago, it has become some sort of “tambayan” page at Facebook.  It has changed my idea that Facebook is not just accepting friends’  invites, uploading gargantuan pictures and what have you’s, and it is not just filling up your wall with nonsense and raising hogs and  growing your own vegetables  at Farmville. I’ve been repeatedly telling my friends that I don’t play games online, it’s a waste of time for me, time I’d rather spend blogging or catching up on my growing list of  to-be-read-books.

Last September 3, Fr. Louie sent me a short note asking if  I am willing to be an admin for at  least a week.  That one week trial became a month and  a month became a permanent admin appointment.  Around that time, we just had about 1, 300+ membership so just like what Fr. Louie did, I invited more than half of my friends to join the site.  Look at what we have now, we are definitely growing .  I am glad, so glad of this outcome.   Well, if at first I was so shy like most of the members to share  what I thought, that has definitely changed too.  I gained friends and gained much through the experience.  But most of all, I am spiritually growing too and learning a lot.  Being called an “ate” to most, big sister to Fe and Joan (hi there, you two) , and just Ma’am Arlene to a few.  It’s another journey that is so fulfilling, another journey of sharing and laughter, another journey of gaining new friends, what more can I ask for?

Reaching out, touching lives, that’s what AFCC is all about!

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I was supposed to have my check-up late last month but I was a little busy at home so I postponed it till today.  It’s kind of weird sometime to feel afraid to see the results of the laboratory tests. I guess, it is really something inevitable and no matter what the outcome, you have to accept it.  We passed by New World Diagnostic Center to get the lab results then proceeded to the Chinese General Hospital for an appointment with my surgical oncologist, Dr. Samuel Ang. He was a little late arriving at the clinic and the secretary explained that he had to handle an emergency surgery.

Dr. Samuel Ang is a very caring and  wonderful doctor.  I finally brought a camera and told him I am still doing some blogs about him.  He just smiled and told me to give him the link to my blog.  He shared that some of his patients were able to find him through the internet.  I just said, it is my small way of saying  “thank you” for taking care of me.

Dr. Samuel Ang and me!

I am scheduled for another check-up come January 2011 – colonoscopy, CEA marker testing, liver ultrasound and the usual lab tests that I need to undergo every three months.   My SGPT/SGOT results were still a bit high but compared to my last laboratory tests, they have gone down significantly and Dr. Ang explained that sometimes,  these are still the effects of chemotherapy.  It’s  almost a year now since my last chemo and I am really glad that finally, I am getting every bit stronger day by day, being able to do the things I used to do.

Chinese General Hospital and Medical Center

I have this interesting conversation with some of the patients waiting at Dr. Ang’s clinic.  They were asking if he has been my doctor for long and I told them he operated on me July of last year.  It was followed by six cycles of chemotherapy at the Benavidez Cancer Institute in UST. One of them said, “you are looking good, parang hindi ka nagkasakit.” I’ve often asked myself, “how should you look when you’ve been diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer and underwent rigorous chemotherapy sessions?” Everytime I meet people who didn’t know what I have gone through, they are simply amazed that I look okay.  I thank God most of all for letting me go on with life, still enjoying it with my family until now.

Dr. Ang said, ” Congratulations Arlene” with that big smile on his face and that matters a lot because I know that I will get through  this, that I would be hundred percent fit again!   I’d like to bear this in mind,  “he who has health has hope and he who has hope has everything”.

God is so good, all the time!

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July 14, 2010

Thanks be to God!

Thank you for the gift of life,

Thank you for the gift of presence,

Thank you for the gift of family,

Thank you for the gift of friendship,

Thank you for the gift of healing,

May I see You in every person that I will meet,

May I see You in every event of my life.

And may I show You Lord to others.


Yesterday, I received this beautiful message and prayer from  Lovell, a close friend, who has been and is continuously  egging me on to appreciate life no matter how difficult it is sometimes,   and I was teary-eyed reading it.  It summarizes all the pains and the joys of  my journey, a year of  blessings and challenges!  Yes,  it is my first anniversary – at this same time last year, I was at the lowest ebb of my life, undergoing  a surgical resection of my colon because of a malignant cyst which turned out to be a Stage 3 colon cancer.   I was in denial for a while  but finally accepted that God must have a greater purpose in my life to give me such a heavy burden.  Imagine distancing yourself from a situation that you can’t control, and when you are caught with your defenses down, you look back and think of those times when life is simple and happiness means being healthy, having lots of loving friends at your side and a loving family to turn to and take care of you.

The last year has been an eye-opener for me.  I discovered that I am strong despite everything, I discovered that the presence of family and loving friends help a lot in one’s healing.  And putting your complete trust and faith in a loving God is the greatest thing you can do to help yourself get well.  Chemotherapy is no joke, it saps your body of strength  and the costly procedures add to your financial worries.  I know, I know, they would always say, concentrate on getting well,  sometimes though you can’t help but think, you are luckier than most people afflicted of the same illness because  at least you have an option to see a specialist and  do what is necessary for your healing.

Thank you! Thank God for giving me the strength to carry on, to endure the pain  and  not to whine, to count the blessings  of having my family around, thank  God for   friends who never fail to give encouragement,  thank you  for the people whom I’ve touched in one way or another by sharing my plight with them.

Thank you! Thank  God for my doctors, Dr. Samuel Ang, my surgical oncologist, the best doctor I’ve met, Dr. Priscilla Caguioa, my medical oncologist for being there during my chemotherapy sessions, Dr. Alvin dela Cruz, my cardiologist,  a very supportive and caring doctor,  Dr. Ditas Decena, my OB gynecologist who is also a friend, Dr. Jeff Jubilado, my urologist for being so encouraging, the nurses at Benavidez Cancer Institute- UST.

Thank you! Thank God for the gift of family – for having a loving and understanding hubby, for having  thoughtful kids and brothers.  I salute you all!

And for all those people who left some comments in my blogs, that they somehow found strength and inspiration by reading my journey towards healing, thank you.

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Just spent the past three days  going to the diagnostic center, undergoing a series of laboratory tests, KUB (Kidney Urinary Bladder ultrasound),  CEA (cancer marker testing) and visiting my two doctors, Dr. Samuel Ang, my surgical oncologist  at the Chinese General Hospital and Dr. Jeff  Peter Jubilado, my new  urologist at Mission Hospital.  Every three months, I have to report back to either one of my medical oncologist, Dr. Priscilla Caguioa at the UST Hospital or to Dr. Ang for consultation.

Of all the laboratory tests that I’ve been through, there are really one or two things I hate most – that of having a KUB and undergoing colonoscopy.  It’s almost a year now since I had major surgery at the Chinese General Hospital and it’s almost a year too since my life has turned upside down, not knowing what the future holds.  Being diagnosed with colon cancer or any cancer for that matter is really a nightmare.  A month ago, I was again hospitalized for a kidney bypass, they inserted a DJ stent  which will  stay inside  for three months, hence this KUB ultrasound which I really abhor.  Imagine yourself almost bursting at the seams,  but you are not allowed to use the ladies’ room because you have to be on a full bladder before they would start on the ultrasound.  It is so inconvenient, but again necessary for your well-being.   I am not against colonoscopy per se but what I hate is the preparation prior to the procedure.  I have resigned myself that this would be a yearly ritual from now on.

When you are sick, you always look at life with renewed faith, trusting  and leaving everything in God’s hands.  It  is quite scary though to anticipate the results of the laboratory tests.  And you can only utter, ‘thank God, thank you Lord” once you see that your CEA marker is still within the normal limits.  Yes, Lord, thank you!  My  cancer marker test was at 1.8 from the normal limit of  0 to 5.0, something I am grateful and thankful for.  My SGPT and SGOT results were so high.  My liver is probably tired of all those medications that I take everyday or  maybe, the high  values  are still the effect of my six cycles of chemotherapy.

I brought along my Thai Cuisine cookbook for something to read while waiting for Dr. Ang.  Some patients of his were discussing about their ailments and I was unashamedly eavesdropping,  hiding behind a face mask.  I still wear one for hospital visits, being afraid to go out in crowded places  until now.  One patient who has a  big lump in her breast said,  “I will never undergo chemotherapy, if this turn out to be malignant, mamatay na kung mamatay”. I was amused at the look on her face.  Then she said, “I don’t have that much money to spend on chemo anyway”. Then she turned to me, our eyes met and she asked, “Bakit po kayo naka face mask?”. They were in rapt attention when I told them what I went through. And their never-ending questions saved  an otherwise boring wait.  It is always easy to say that you don’t want to undergo such drastic measures like chemo or surgery but when you are in that crossroad, the choice is always hard to do.

And do you know  what happiness meant for me  now?  It’s being told by my doctor that I don’t have to undergo colonoscopy  at this time.  He said, “Enjoy the rest of the year Arlene, we will schedule it by January next year“.  Wow, those words were music to my ears.   And he kept saying “Very good, very good,  you are okay”. I told him about my new urologist and when he heard that it was Dr. Jubilado, he told me to stick to the latter because he is a very good doctor.  It turned out that Dr. Samuel Ang was Dr. Jubilado’s mentor.  What a small world!

“The time to be happy is now.

And the place to be happy is here.

And the way to be happy is to make others happy

and we’ll have a little Heaven right here.”- anonymous

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