Cancer in the time of pandemic

By: Mary Grace H. Aruta - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | September 07,2022 - 08:00 AM

How many times have you had life-altering news delivered to you? Mine was when my dad died in 2018 and when I knew I had cancer.

My first OB-GYN visit in 2015 revealed I had PCOS, and my OB medicated me with hormone-correcting pills. The next came in 2020. My doctor detected abnormal growth of mass in my endometrium, suspected to be malignant. Looking back, my nonchalance toward my condition at the onset probably exacerbated my illness.

The final straw came middle of June after all the necessary tests and biopsies were done.

“It’s cancer and I’m afraid we have to remove your reproductive function,” my OB-oncologist said.

No amount of covering could hide her sorrow as she had to hand a life-shattering medical opinion to someone at the cusp of adulthood. This is not the kind of news you would want to hear. Not when you are 27. Not when you are supposed to be in the pink of health. Not in the middle of a crisis. I just sat there in front of my doctor—lacking breath, almost to a point of fainting.

My world was brought to a screeching halt. I had to take leave from work and hold off plans in pursuing my graduate studies. I shifted my energy toward researching my illness. I binge-watched all the videos from YouTube including procedures that may have to be performed sooner or later. I scoured the internet for stories of the survival of young cancer patients like myself in the hopes I could pick up tips or two.

During nights in the hospital post-operation, I laid awake on my hospital bed and reflected long and hard about my future. Will I even have a future? The timetable I knew of the future was measured in years—in five years, I should have accomplished this and that; by 2030, I must have ticked off some on my bucket list and gone to places I wish to visit. When my illness came, I learned to abandon this long-held thought. I was just grateful to have survived another day feeling little to no discomfort. Dealing with cancer shrinks your timeline to days and hours, to the minutest of moments.

For the first few weeks of my recovery at home, I became dependent on my mother and my cousin. Even the most basic of tasks, such as bending over to pick up a fork or walking to the bathroom has become a chore and required much of their assistance. At my age, I should be the one taking care of myself and later on, my mother. As I struggle to accept my condition, I harbored feelings of guilt. But they assisted me in my baths, walked me to the bathroom, and picked up those forks on the floor patiently and lovingly.

Every day was a test of faith and courage. Even the slightest hint of pain sets off a new round of catastrophic thinking. But each day was also an opportunity to hope and believe. If my illness were not discovered now and revealed later in my life, more therapy and medical interventions would be required and who knows of my chances of surviving? After confirmatory tests and fervent prayers, I won’t anymore have to undergo adjuvant therapy (radiation and chemo). Indeed, a miracle and complete turnaround to what was expected initially.

My strength comes from Him—the Master Planner of Life. I am also sustained by my family, relatives, colleagues, and friends who stood beside me throughout this journey. I could not thank them enough for all the moral and financial help, support, and most importantly for their prayers—either spoken or said in silence.

Because of what happened, I can say with utmost confidence that no one can ever be sure of anything, and that waking up each morning is so much of a blessing. Life is indeed short and it has to be lived well, always greeted with a profound sense of gratitude for every passing moment. We wake up every day hoping for miracles when in fact, the moment we open our eyes and live for another day is in itself a miracle.

I am slowly coming to terms with the facts of life that come with this experience. It took from me probably one of life’s greatest gifts but I have gained more in faith than what I have lost in the process. I may not be totally there on physical and emotional healing, and acceptance yet. But with His unfailing love and grace, please know I am on my way.

Mary Grace H. Aruta, 27, is a member of the faculty at the Eastern Visayas State University, Tacloban City.

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TAGS: cancer, Cebu Daily News, cebu news, chemo, facts of life, future, OB-Gyne, OB-Oncologist, pandemic, PCOS, prayers, radiation, test of faith

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