I’ve heard about cancer before. It seemed so scary to have such a disease. Just the thought of having the doctor tell me that I have one would be enough to make my skin crawl. That’s why at the school theatre before, we used to be told by our acting workshop facilitator to imagine that we had cancer if he wanted some intense emotion out of us.
Yes, that’s what cancer used to be to me: a motivation to get some emotion; a situation set by some authors of romantic, sentimental novels; an issue in soap operas and movies to generate heart-wrenching scenes. It is something real—painful, a death sentence. But it is one that happens only to other people: not to me, not to any of my family.
Until one day, I heard news about my first cousin having an ovarian cancer. Our Aunt told us the doctor gave her only six months to live. We were shocked! It was so near—cancer was in our own blood! We were so scared, and it hit us: cancer is real—really!
But then, my cousin delivered us all from such “unnecessary” fear. She proved her doctors wrong. She underwent chemotherapy, and the six-month limit became six years, even sixteen, and more. Now, she is in Switzerland—happy and very much alive!
And so we thought, cancer is not that scary, after all. And the incident was forgotten in the most remote recesses of our minds.
And then a little over five years ago, my sister’s five-year-old daughter complained sore in the different parts of her body—her mouth, then, her arms, and then her legs, her head. We thought she was just making ‘lambing’ trying to get her Mommy’s and Daddy’s attention. So her Mommy took her to the hospital. And from there, she called us and told us the news—her little girl had ALL—Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Our world stopped. But after the initial shock, we went on with our lives trying to live the normal life we were used to, although deep inside was the fear of losing a dear angel, and the pain of seeing a little girl hurting. But since we had a cousin who survived the disease, we were hopeful and lived like nothing was wrong. After all, cancer was curable, and she was only 6 years old! Nobody dies at six! But then, our hopes shattered when after six months, we lost our little angel. Her frail body was no match for the persistent crazy cell slowly sapping out her strength. Our worlds fell apart.
Two years later, my cousin, a daughter of my father’s brother, called to tell us that one of my uncles has prostate cancer.
We again felt the pain that had barely healed, and prayed he survive the ordeal.
Barely a month after, we again felt the familiar pang of fear. My mother felt a lump on her left breast. We prayed so hard it wouldn’t be cancer. But a week after, when the results of the biopsy came out, our hopes died down when the doctor confirmed what we had feared: Mama had a breast cancer—stage 2 B.
Memories of our young angel came back rushing. And this time, since we had precedence, our fear doubled. We should be ‘knowledgeable’ already about this disease, but we were again clueless. We didn’t know what would happen next, and it was this uncertainty of the unknown that was terrifying.
Her doctor was so confident and assuring, but knowing that nothing is certain in this world, especially at Mama’s age at 69, we struggled with dread everyday.
She had her mastectomy—successfully so. And it was followed by six sessions of chemotherapy, which she was able to complete on schedule. We were able to breathe more smoothly after that. Her doctor then put her under hormone therapy and gave her tamoxifen. And then we celebrated her 70th birthday with a bang!
Almost two years through tamoxifen, her doctor discovered a lump at the upper part of her operation. The proceeding biopsy reported “suspicious invasive ductile carcinoma.’ The phrase was disturbingly familiar. The doctor once again advised another operation to take the lump out for further biopsy to know for certain what it was. Another operation later, the doctor, for the second time confirmed: the lump was malignant—her cancer had recurred.
We were given options: a more intensive round of chemotherapy; or a stronger hormone therapy. Considering her frail body, and after confiding with her family, Mama opted for the latter.
Now, she is under femara, and is taking some food supplement including transfer factor plus.
We keep praying for her healing. After all, nothing is impossible with God in our midst.