Issue of August 11, 2019
     
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The art of healing 3

The operation

Our friends, Dr. Sherry Cunanan and the late Dr. Charles Cheng, explained the findings to Ed and me. We were asked to get a second opinion in Manila. Still in a state of shock, we sent the diagnosis to our nephew, Dr. Homer Abiad, in the U.S. He advised us to see Dr. Samuel Ang of the Chinese General Hospital and Medical Center in Manila. Dr. Ang is a top general surgeon and surgical oncologist in the Philippines. Dr. Abiad also sent us clippings and testimonies about him.

Providentially, my sister in the U.S. sent us money. God heard our prayers in this dilemma and we were able to see Dr. Ang at the Chinese General Hospital through Executive Director Dr. Teof Bangayan who happened to be his father-in-law. Dr. Bangayan was a tremendous help to us. The clippings about Dr. Ang were right. He was soft spoken, amiable, and compassionate. Queued up outside his clinic were people from all walks of life. We were all trying to observe each other. A battery of test ensued and finally the results. Dr. Ang huddled my family together and told us he was ready to operate the next day.

Another shock. We were not financially prepared. We went to Manila for a second opinion and now I was going to be operated on. The HMO of my daughter was not enough to cover the whole gamut of expenses which included professional fees, hospital charges, and medicines. It took us sometime to answer the good Dr. Ang and he was getting irritated. It was because we did not recognize the urgency of the operation. “He was saving my life.” We asked for a reprieve of two days until we could look for financial resources.

Post-operation

Still sedated, one of the doctors in the team told me it was a successful operation. Dr. Ang stated that I should be ambulatory within a day if I wanted to get well right away. I was to walk a few steps at a time inside the room and then outside of the room. After 10 days, I was released from the hospital and stayed another week in my son and daughter-in-law’s home before my trip back to Baguio. I was also advised to see Dr. Felina Adefuin, a colleague and oncologist, after three weeks for chemotherapy. “Just in case merong mga nakawala,” Dr. Ang assuringly said.

The chemotherapy

Chemotherapy was a word and treatment unbeknownst to me. I hear it as a form of treatment for cancer, but to be subjected to it myself, was something daunting. I was scared at the thought. I did not know how it was going to be done, when it will start, what to expect, how long it will last, and how much it would cost. Fortunately, my sons enrolled us in another HMO. This was going to be another round of expensive treatment. There was another campaign by family and friends for financial support. Our families and friends are really our angels on earth in disguise.

Dr. Adefuin explained the protocols or treatment plans to us. There were several intravenous or capsules and tablets and the side effects. I had to undergo six cycles of intravenous protocol (two sessions for every cycle lasting four days for each session every two weeks). It was going to last for six months but I ended up with eight months treatment because there were unforeseen illnesses in between. It was difficult and draining. God was my anchor and refuge. My husband, children, cousins, and relatives gave me the much needed moral support. There was even a surprise birthday party in my pajamas.

There were medicines before the session, during the chemo session and anti-allergy treatments, and after session treatments. Dr. Felina said my hair was going to thin out. I was going to experience fatigue, neuropathy (numbness of the feet and hands), constipation, and loss of appetite.

I was lost and afraid before the chemo sessions. I did not know what to expect and how my body was going to react to the medicines. I was having bouts of anxiety and depression. I was sad that I could not eat meat or any four legged source anymore. I had to have a change of diet and lifestyle.

I did not feel the effects of neuropathy for the first two sessions and the fatigue did not set in yet. Since my hair was going to thin out, I cut it short. Being in bed with intravenous contraptions and having to go to the rest room every now and then with the IVs was arduous.

The saving grace in all this was when I met this happy and pretty lady, Lanie Lobien, who was with her husband Alvin and sister Laureen Lerma. Even with her turban (no hair) and nail discoloration, she remained happy and positive. They were the only happy and smiling faces beside the numerous patients waiting for Dr. Adefuin. The look of fear of the unknown and uncertain mortality was written all over their faces. I had to find a chair beside Lanie so I could ask her some questions. She jokingly showed me her nails and the different discolorations, which she said were remembrances from chemo, radiation, and now a repeat chemo. Lanie gave me hope. She gave me positive vibrations and inspiration. Yes, everything was going to be okay. Unfortunately, Lanie succumbed to cancer in 2013. (To be continued)

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