Showing posts with label memoirs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label memoirs. Show all posts

Friday, April 3, 2015

Losing Hair To Cancer But Gaining A Different Perspective

I thought I was getting prepared for it.  Oncologist Dr Romeo Diaz had told me in the most certain terms that hair loss will begin after the third chemotherapy session. Other patients who have gone through the ordeal tossed me ideas about shaving to "restore self-confidence" and "preserve self-image."

But when the usually thick lustre of hair started breaking and falling off my head,
I got a little scared.  Here was an actual part of me that was going away.

I force a smile, thinking of how I used to complain over my frequent trips to the salon each month on account of a healthy fast-growing raven mass of hair.  I couldn't have imagined that my visit to the salon early last month was going to be my last ---- until I grow it back after months of treatment.

Now I collect loose strands on the pillow,  the back of the sofa,  the computer table,  and off my neck, shoulders and arms.  I look closely at the thinned-out strands and realised how they had lost all lustre and luminosity.

I comb my fingers gently through my head, and at the end of each stroke, there's quite a handful of the 'crowning glory' strands that easily land on the palm of my hands. I bathe under a slow shower, careful not to wash away the roots. But the bathroom floor drain collects an amount that frightens me.
I can only wish to slow it down.

It's just been a month since I first confirmed about the cancer in my body.
But the various tests,  visits to the doctors, and subsequently the weekly blood tests, and chemo sessions and now, side trips to nurses who administer boosters to elevate my white blood cell count do not seem so recent.

I  try to look past the physicality now.

Before any of these happened, I had been in a race with life to get it all in. To accomplish as much in a shorter span of time. To achieve more than what is expected.

I chose not to slow down; on the contrary, like most of us in modern society,  I pushed myself to run ahead and overtake time. To rephrase Jordan Matter in #DancersAmongUs, what could have been a light jog became a sprint.

And "the faster we run, the less we see."   I've been sprinting big leaps the past three decades, over-achieving and collecting 'big treasures but sacrificing many little gems along the way."

Now I want to seize each moment,  celebrate the everyday miracles, and dance while I can.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Seeking What IT Means

Seeking What It Means To Have Breast Cancer 

With chemotherapy now underway, and surgery forthcoming when the 6cm tumor shrinks,
and while the nagging scientific hows and medical wherefores are momentarily silenced, I turn inward to find answers to why cancer did happen.... To me.

I must have forgotten something.
Perhaps I had been too hooked-up in work, in achieving, in serving others, in beating deadlines to include self-imposed ones. Managing stress had become more of a way of life.
And I had forgotten to learn to have fun, to slow down, to spend more time away from work, to imbue Nature as I once had in my youth. Or to just sit around with loved ones doing nothing.

Friends and family say it's time to slow down.
Surgeon-oncologist Dr. Romeo Diaz says it is a wake-up call. And arrogant me wonders:
a wake-up call to what?

All along, I had thought of myself invincible. The rock my Beloved and the entire family can always depend on; the force behind the corporate leadership; the wings beneath many aspirations. Now, I have to steer for My Own Path, to conquer the disease, and not be engulfed by it.

A  close cousin implies that the meaning of it could be one of karmic effect,
a life lesson by Fate, where I am being taught Humility because I too am suddenly vulnerable when I had thought I was indestructible....

A  twist of fate perhaps, where suffering has to surface to bring out an Inner Strength.

The purpose, the raison d'etat (the reason for being) behind WHY the cancer is there must have a larger usefulness, a higher motivation, a deeper merit.

Perhaps it is a way to Pay Forward. A time to payback and give thanks for the blessings
I have reaped in life, (when I'm not even supposed to be here.)

As I approach the twilight, I had feared getting old, and getting old alone. FOGO.
But being told  "no more than 5 years",  I fear no more...

With very little Time left, my  pursuits for the advocacy film, the illustrated book and Europe have become more serious NOW than at any other moment before. 

Friday, March 13, 2015


Taking Things for Granted

What I thought was a pulled muscle somewhere under the right breast, and took for granted for about 3 months, turned out to be 4 solid lumps that clustered to an aggregate size of 6 cms. It started to feel heavy, even as I sleep on my usual right side.  While bathing, I could get a sense of its hardness. Lately, the right breast has gotten bigger and an oddness over its shape has become apparent. 

My OB-Gyne, who we usually see every April,  but who I summoned on March 3, was alarmed when she examined me.  She suspected the 6 x 6-cm size right away and wrote it in the rush Request Orders for mammogram, sonography and chest X-rays.  

Being a breast cancer survivor herself, she did not mince to emphasise that these tests had to be done that very same day.  

In a couple of hours' time, the UST Hospital Buenavides Cancer Institute released a 2-page report that details the findings for 4 oval dense masses with an aggregate size of 6 cms,  
as my OB-Gyne had earlier suspected. 

The Diagnostic Radiology Unit cited these description:

"Oval isodense masses," meaning solid. 
Fixed non-moving, as my OB-Gyne had earlier suspected.

"Inhomogeneous echopatterns."  To mean not uniform, per Oxford.

"...with irregular margins."  To indicate malignancy, as opposed to when the border linings are smooth characterising benign tumors .

The Report ended with a recommendation for " appropriate action to be taken" and had pushed the alert level by pointing out a 


In pathology medicine, a Grade 1-2 indicates benign. Grade 3 has to be watched. Grade 4 is suspected malignancy. Grade 5  is worst in the scale.

I had long thought of myself as a healthy person. I watch what I eat. I keep meat under 
30% of my food intake. I do Zumba regularly.  I lead a physically active life. I travel. 
I read.  I explore. I work, and never plan to retire.

I have never been hospitalised, never got sick, I don't smoke and I never learned to drink more than a bottle of beer at any given time in my youth, nor in my recent past. 

In my family, even if my Grandmother suffered from leukemia, there appears no genetic connection to my present condition.

Neither of the three doctors could sufficiently explain why a healthy person could develop cancer. No one knows, perhaps only the Mind of God ( as Stephen Hawkings pointed out.)  

If I had not taken it for granted, if I had just gone to the OB-Gyne the soonest I felt that strain of a pulled muscle which I had so quickly dismissed a few months ago, if I hadn't thought I was in perfect health, maybe the extra cells that grew along the walls of the milk ducts did not have to become abnormal to reach cancer stage, nor could they have multiplied too quickly inside those duct walls. Could I have at the outset  been able to detect that "pulled muscle" feeling as cells abnormally growing IF I  had paid real attention to my body?