Archive for the ‘Dr.Priscilla Caguioa’ Category

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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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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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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I promised myself I would have a little grotto built at our corner garden in honor of Mama Mary once I finished my chemotherapy. It’s my own tribute to a loving mother who has been an inspiration to me throughout the years and more particularly in the last five months while I was having my treatments.

Today is the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception. My doctor allowed me to choose the date and I thought it would be a great way to remember something significant in my life by choosing an important feast day in the Catholic calendar and it also coincided with the 21 days interval from my 5th chemo to the final one.  And I quote,

“The doctrine of the immaculate conception holds that Mary is the one fully human being preserved from original sin because she is the Mother of God. Grace intervened at the very instant in which her life began, preventing sin from touching her in any way, and so making her holy and immaculate from the moment of her conception. This made her worthy, and suggests that she was divinely chosen, to be the Mother of God. Christ preserved Mary from sin because she was his Mother; as Ambrose taught, ‘Christ chose this vessel into which He was about to descend, not of earth, but of heaven; and he consecrated it a temple of purity.”- Jane Shaw

I had my last chemotherapy session today, my “graduation” ,  as my medical oncologist terms it.  She was giving me the thumbs up sign this morning so I jokingly asked, “where’s my diploma Doc”, then she said, “join us, we’ll be having a party this afternoon”.  I will still have my follow-up checkup two weeks from now,once I am done with my chemo tablets. At least Christmas day would be spent without worrying about it. I am praying and hoping that my SGPT would go back to its normal level soon, it’s what I am worried about but I am happy to share that my CEA (cancer marker test) is normal.  It has even gone down to the comfortable level of .5ng/ml and considering that the normal level is in the range of 0-5ng/ml, the result is really something to be thankful for. I feel I am truly blessed, God gave me a second chance at life.

Another journey is about to begin, and wherever life takes me, I would be there and will wholeheartedly accept what God has in store.

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September 09, 2009 BCI – UST Hospital

I was mentally drafting what to write about while we were traversing Ortigas Avenue. As usual, the approach to Greenhills was a gridlock.  Hubby was so sure it was because of Noynoy’s press conference at Club Filipino.  I told him the place is not directly along Ortigas Avenue.  It’s a perennial problem, the only time that you could pass through without a hitch is when there are no classes at La Salle.

We were at BCI early despite the traffic and the heavy rains in some areas.  Whereas before, I was groping my way like some nursery kids in a new school, this time I was confident enough to see my way  through, unaided by the hubby. Brave New World, to borrow Aldous Huxley’s famous book title.  Unknown territory! Untrodden path! But you are willing to embrace it because you want to get well.  I’m halfway through with the book on alternative way to battle the big C.  If truth be known,  I have this quiet reservation whether to continue my chemotherapy or to try the natural way of healing.  Much like having an experienced medical oncologist, you also need a good doctor to guide  you if you choose the other non-traditional path to wellness.  Sr. Thea, FMM, a close friend suggested that I try this free acupuncture service at Biosafe Center tomorrow but it is quite impossible for me to go there right after my chemo.  Chances of getting infection are quite high when you are still under the effect of the chemo drug.  Technically though, I will still have two weeks of treatment starting tomorrow, with my Xeloda tablets.

Just to give you an idea of how BCI looks like, chemo treatments are confined at the third level. The adult suite has eight hospital beds and two lazy boy chairs.  I chose bed one (they are numbered, by the way) because it’s very near the ladies’ room, easier to navigate with two IVs in tow.  The walls are painted in a soft touch of ecru, the curtains are of caramel and the sheets are in egg yellow.  I’ve always loved the sunny effect of yellow colors.  I’ve read that “color has been used as healer since time immemorial and simply surrounding yourself with life-affirming color changes your way of thinking”. Yellow is a color of cheer, warmth and light.  Days and months from now, I’ll probably always associate this shade at this phase in my life – my chemotherapy.

I had some sort of nightmare during my first chemo.  A few minutes after they removed the IV, I was vomiting like crazy and the doctors were alarmed.  Four hours of the procedure became six because they have to attach another IV so I won’t get dehydrated.  They even suggested that I be confined overnight.  I chose to go home of course and I was the last to leave BCI among the patients who checked in early.

This morning, I would have laughed out loud if not for the serious mien of the nurse trying to locate a good vein to inject the needle and start the drip. “Close, open, close open“.  I opened and closed my fingers ten times I guess, much like a child trying to learn his first set of finger exercise.  I spent the next four hours staring at the ceiling, with lots of thoughts playing in my head – having a cup of sinful chocolate or vanilla ice cream, eating one or two slices of pizza with lots of veggies and cheesy melts, haha! No meat please, just a simple Hawaiian flavor will do (just dreaming) I know it is “bawal”. I didn’t eat lunch until we reached home at around 3:30 pm.  I took a half  glass of Gogi herbs and a packet of wheat grass juice. They are both food supplement to help the immune system.

Upbeat? Yes, because I feel so much better today than the first time I had my chemotherapy.  There is just that feeling of discomfort, you want to rest but you can’t sleep.  My right arm felt like it has gone to sleep.  Have you experienced that kind of electric shock when you dip your fingers in ice cold water?  My veins from the wrist up are sensitive to the touch.

Another day of miracle! Answered prayers!  Thank you Mama Mary.  God is ever so good.

I’ve survived kindergarten and I am now accelerated to grade two, isn’t that wonderful?

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UST Hospital, Medical Arts Bldg.

We’ve been here in UST since 9am, stayed at the hospital chapel for a while before going to the clinic of my medical oncologist, Dr. Priscilla Caguioa. The hard part of course is always the long wait.  But I am not complaining and I have no right to complain since I know she is with some patients having their chemotherapy at the Benavidez Cancer Institute (BCI) here in UST. Pretty soon, I’ll also be there just like them. Time and again, I said that I am not always persevering when it comes to spending time doing nothing but wait for the doctor to arrive, might as well spend the time updating my journal.

There is always something fulfilling in sharing one’s travails in life.  There is always a lesson learned.  I know I am not alone in this predicament.  There are so many people out there who are suffering the same illness as I am.  And I know we are in the same pursuit of getting well and desiring to live life as normal as possible again. Earlier we dropped by the Diagnostic Center to get the results of my laboratory tests.  Except for a higher than normal value of my SGPT/SGOT, everything is okay.  I am hoping that it would normalize soon.  It’s always quite scary to know that too much medication is not good for one’s liver. It’s liable to get destroyed.  A friend who has just undergone chemotherapy for breast cancer told me that there is really a need for cleansing after the treatment. Based on the suggested chemotherapy treatment that I have to undergo, it would take me at least six months or about half a year to finish it.  Was I glad that my CEA (colon cancer marker) has significantly gone down? The normal value is in the range of 0.00 – 5.00ng/ml.  before my surgery it reached as high as 12.5 but now my CEA has gone down to a significant 1.6 which is within the normal range.  Thank God, this is a miracle for me. I am so thankful to the Lord almighty I could cry. My medical oncologist told me later that everything is okay, I need the chemo for preventive measures.  She even said that Dr. Samuel Ang, my surgical oncologist did a very, very good job. If only he was around, I would have hugged him tight in gratitude.

Earlier on, I’ve been observing some patients and their companions waiting for each of their doctors to call their names.  Funny how, you can share your plight with complete strangers without any hesitation. One thing I know is that, most of them have the willing ears to listen and to understand without being too judgmental.  And it’s true, sometimes it’s hard to share your pain with your family,relatives and close friends because you don’t want them to worry about you, you don’t want them to be so much affected by what is happening around you, but they are the same people who are always there to cheer you up, care for you, pray for you, say kind words and comfort you at the lowest ebb of your life.

As I have always said, I get a big lump in my throat every time I hear from friends and relatives.  I feel the tears flowing through not because of the pain of my ailment but because of their generosity in sharing their precious time to comfort me. Oh, to feel the joy of knowing that so many care about me, God is truly wonderful.

I was finally scheduled to have my 1st chemotherapy on Tuesday, August 18, 2009. Wish me luck and please say a little prayer for me too. Thank you!

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