All in the Mind-A A +A
Monday, September 23, 2013
TWO months ago a friend in New Zealand emailed me, asking for advice. Michelle's father-in-law in Manila had apparently been diagnosed with cancer and was scheduled to undergo chemotherapy. Knowing that I jousted with the Big C myself, she wanted to know how I was able to hurdle chemotherapy so well.
When the doctors told me I had a malignancy in the lymphatic system four years ago, I was strongly against chemotherapy and did not follow their advice to submit to that treatment immediately. Instead, I went to a physician who advocated alternative medicine. Dr. Regio Sales prescribed a program meant to beef up my immune system, on the principle that if I was healthy and strong, my body would be better able to face up to the cancer.
Fast-forward three and a half years later; cancerous lumps had by this time grown along my groin and around my face, scalp and neck. They became so pronounced (one particular lump was already threatening to close my windpipe) that Dr. Sales finally recommended me to an oncologist in Manila. Her diagnosis confirmed earlier findings that I was suffering from aggressive non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and she recommended immediate chemotherapy.
I went back to Bacolod, sought out Dr. Andrew Mallen, an oncologist. A few weeks later I submitted myself to the first of eight chemotherapy sessions which ran from September 2012 to April of this year. The result for me was nothing short of dramatic. Not only did the lumps shrink to almost nothing, I suffered none of the negative consequences of chemotherapy.
I did not experience nausea, had none of the headaches and vomiting that most chemo patients I knew had to endure, and I never felt weak. Although I shed quite a bit of hair, I still had enough to comb at the end of eight sessions. And wonder of wonders, my taste buds continued to work! Instead of losing weight I actually gained more pounds during my treatment, eating too much and too often, thinking I was going to lose my sense of taste anytime. I never did.
Looking back, I can only say that my surprisingly smooth transition from a Stage 4 cancer patient to my normal active lifestyle (I was even a candidate for city councilor during the elections last May) was due to several factors: the vitamin supplements that Dr. Sales gave me which boosted my immune system to a level probably never before achieved, and the correct chemotherapy program that Dr. Mallen had me undergo.
But more than these two I credit the lesson gifted us by our late mother, Mrs. Estrella Hagad who, throughout her 6-month bout with lung cancer remained absolutely positive, never losing her zest for life, insisting that she live normally, and leaving her ailment to the able hands of her doctor and her God.
When Blandy and I saw Michelle in New Zealand last June, she and husband Jeff were pleasantly surprised to see me looking so robust and so healthy (they saw me in all my lumpy, cancerous glory the year before), and she said so. That explained her seeking my advice out when Jeff’s father was similarly diagnosed last July. With all the blessings that were extended me throughout my own experience with Mr. Big C, I was only too happy to offer this reassuring advice: cancer is only as big or as small as we paint it to be.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on September 23, 2013.