My #OneBigFight with cancer | Health And Family, Lifestyle Features,

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MANILA, Philippines – With a strong family history of cancer, I very much feared the disease that I endure tedious medical exams annually. Unfortunately, I skipped doing my round of consultations in 2015 because of heavy workload and numerous personal responsibilities.  A year after my missed annual medical exams, my #OneBigFight with cancer began.

On May 29, 2016, I felt severe abdominal pain out of nowhere. I initially dismissed it as my usual stomach acidity probably on hyper mode again. However, despite taking a couple of antacids, the pain persisted and I became feverish.  I eventually relented to being brought to the hospital when I reached our household-thermometer-reading-threshold (it’s off to the emergency room for us when we breach 39 degrees Celsius).

After the initial tests, I was quickly transferred to the acute care section of the ER and got hooked to monitors, oxygen, and dextrose. I was told I needed blood transfusion! Blood transfusion for a stomach ache?! Apparently, my red blood cell count was critically low that time.

Several doctors saw me and ruled out this and that. I ultimately ended up as a gynecological case, reuniting me with my ob-gyne who helped deliver my daughter seven years ago. Ultrasound and scans suggested presence of abscess that needed to be removed as my antibiotics were no longer enough in addressing the “infection” that was causing my fever.  More tests were done and on my fourth day in the hospital, I was wheeled into the operating room. 

What was supposedly a two-hour laparoscopic procedure became a five-hour ordeal.  I was later told that they needed to convert to open surgery because they discovered that my left ovary turned out to be a big tumor already.  An OB oncologist was ushered in; the said ovary was removed; my lymph nodes were tested; the tumor was sent to frozen section and biopsied.

I woke up to ovarian cancer.

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It took a couple more days to determine the stage and verify the type of cancer cells.  My oncologist said that staging is vital to map out medical treatment henceforth. I was “stage 1A, grade 2,” but with the aggressive kind of cancer cells. 

Reading now the incredible stories of cancer survivors makes me envious of their character and courage.

Me, back then? I was a mess!

My body was exhausted from all the medical stuff I went through. I was scared. I was mad. I was depressed. I was all these at the same time, or experiencing these in this sequence and on loop!

I had a lot on my plate prior to the hospitalization. Suddenly, on top of my responsibilities, I needed to seriously consider my cancer battle plan. I was so overwhelmed that I could not even make myself dive into research about what I had and what my next course(s) of action would be.

Then came the deluge of information, suggested anti-cancer products and alternative treatments, doctor referrals, etc. from relatives, friends, and acquaintances. I know everyone meant well, but I got more and more confused and frustrated with what I had to deal with.

In the end, my husband and I placed our trust in my oncologist and proceeded with six cycles of chemotherapy from July to October of 2016. Another setback though, despite the special anti-allergy chemo “cocktail,” I still reacted at the onset of each IV infusion.  And so, what commonly takes four hours per cycle for most cancer patients, took eight for me because of the slower infusion rate of very diluted chemo meds.

In addition, I was told I would start losing my hair on the second or third cycle. Unfortunately for me again, my hair fell off in depressing clumps after my first cycle! I eventually had the remaining pathetic-looking clumps shaved off. I was told that hair is overrated, but the few minutes on that salon chair were truly horrible for me.

Through it all, my daughter kept me going. I want to live longer for her and I need to keep it together to attend to her needs (she just started first grade then, transitioning leaps and bounds from pre-school). In turn, the more time I spent with her, the happier I’ve become. Her pure love and my remaining beautiful in her eyes despite being bald gave me the confidence to be comfortable with myself again.

I am not a very religious person, but I believe it was through God’s divine providence that I got the right people at the right time as well. I met my oncologist while I was asleep in the OR, but she’s been very thorough in taking care of me then and until now. Family, relatives, and friends rallied when funds were low. The cancer patients and nurses in the chemotherapy room of NKTI — all strangers to me — were encouraging through every painful episode. I had multiple relatives and friends who volunteered to accompany me during chemo sessions. The Family Council in my daughter’s school spearheaded activities, which paved the way for more and deeper prayer time. I met a group of yogis in our village that helped me exercise away the puffiness of steroids. And whenever I was feeling low the past year, friends reached out personally, by courier, and through social media.

I also learned to appreciate that, yes, I had cancer, but at least it was caught in its early stage, with just a simple fever and tummy ache as symptoms. That with the medical and technological advancements now, treatment is within reach. That I went bald, but at least I no longer clog the bathroom drain with clumps of falling hair whenever I took a bath! That I was immuno-compromised, somewhat slower to concentrate physically and mentally, and weak with the post-chemo injections (ang sakit ay sagad hindi lang hanggang buto, kundi hanggang cells!), but my office was understanding of my absences and significantly lower output.

I’ve been through something very terrible, but because of these blessings, I realized there is really no reason to feel terrible.

After undergoing chemotherapy, my PET/CT scan shows “no evidence of hypermetabolic residual and metastatic disease.” In layman’s term — no spread of cancer!

To further ensure that the right ovary will not be a haven for possible cancer cells in the future and to address my excessive menstrual bleeding, I underwent total hysterectomy in February this year.

The last blood test I did a month ago shows low percentage of tumor markers.

By God’s grace and the powerful love of my family, relatives, and friends, I can now claim victory in my battle with cancer!



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