LIFE is known to throw unexpected hurdles at unexpected times to the most unsuspecting people. Sometimes, such hurdles can be difficult to handle that it ends up spoiling plans we thought we had under control.

The same can be said with Atty. Francis Roel Dulay -- he was a man with a plan. After finishing his undergraduate studies at the Ateneo de Davao University (Addu), he went on to pursue his Juris Doctor degree at the College of Law.

Everything was going smoothly until in July 2018 when he started feeling unusual and severe stomach issues.

“Lain gyod akong paminaw, lain akong tiyan. Sa start abi nako food poisoning lang. Naga-CR ko thrice daily (I was not feeling well and my stomach was aching. I thought it was just food poisoning. I was going to the CR thrice daily), then the next month, five times daily, then nag saka (it became more frequent as it went) up to ten times then 20 times daily,” he said.

Dulay shared how the initial findings of the hospital concluded he had an amoeba infection but after experiencing persistent stomach problems after his first hospital visit, he found out that he had a much more serious condition.

In September 2018, when he was about to embark in his final year of law school at Addu, he was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer.

“Pag basa nako (sa results) cancer, nag text dayon ko sa akong parents. After ato nag baktas ko pauli. Mura kog palaboy sa kalsada na nag sipa-sipa og lata kay wala ko kasabot sa akong gibati (After finding out that it was cancer, I immediately texted my parents. I walked home not knowing what to feel),” he shared with a small laugh.

The cancer forced Dulay to temporarily put his law studies on hold.

Between September 2018 to January 2020, he underwent a series of intravenous chemotherapy and surgery to fight cancer. He had to allow himself ample time for recovery even though he strongly wanted to go back to school.

But the young attorney was not a stranger to having his plans unexpectedly spoiled. He shared how during his fourth year of undergraduate studies he was diagnosed with fatty liver disease.

“Ang belief namo sa akong family, kay gipaabot man ko og fourth year, naa’y plano si Lord. Gipadayaon nako akong eskwela kay wala ko gipa-abot ni Lord og fourth year para fourth year lang ko taman. Didto ko naga-hold on na promise ni Lord na gidala ka ni Lord diraa kay naa siya plano saimo (Since I was able to reach my fourth year, my family believes that the Lord really has a plan for me. I continued to study because He allowed me to reach my senior year and I held on to his promises that he has bigger plans for me),” he said, sharing how his faith in God’s plan for him motivated him through the difficult time in his life.

With his perseverance to fight cancer and gain control of his health, he was able to go back to school and finish his Juris Doctor degree after a delay of more than two years. And things have been looking up -- it’s been more than two years since his last chemotherapy which means he is halfway to being cancer-free.

The two years of hardships were also rewarded with blessings he did not see coming -- a helpful law school classmate turned loving and supporting girlfriend and a life distinction of being an excellent passer of the 2022 Bar Examinations.

Now, Dulay shares how he is taking life slowly and enjoys going with the flow. He is enjoying his new job at a law firm in Manila and lives with his girlfriend who also passed the bar examination at the same time as him.

His advice to aspiring lawyers, be prayerful and keep studying.

“Kabalo ko kita tanan naa gyod ta’y ginadala na difficulties lahi-lahi lang og degree pero wala gyod isa sa ato na wala’y ginadala so kung unsa man atong ginadala, ato nang i-pray kay Lord na iya tang tabangan, i-guide na kung asa gusto ni Lord aha ta mahimutang, didto ta dalaon (We all have our own challenges that we face differently. Let us lift those up to the Lord and ask for his guidance as to where he wants to take us in accordance to his will),” he said.