Keeping Faith During Hard Times: A Cancer Patient’s Story
My name is Chrisma Aller, 45 years old, single and a graduate of Business Administration from St. Theresa’s College, Cebu.
I am also a cancer patient.
The Journey Home
In 2016, I resigned from Pagcor Manila, my employer of 14 years. I went back to Cebu after my brother was given a job in Manila, leaving behind his wife and children. “Sige lang Kuya, swap ta ikaw napud didto,” I said to him promising to help take care of his kids. During this time, I worked as part of Lander’s Treasury pre-opening teams in 2017. I had to resign after 8 months because my asthma came back. Allergic to most medicines, it was important for me to rest.
In July, 2018. I felt a lump on my right breast but I did not bother to check it. I assumed it was not critical after several benign lumps were removed during my Pagcor years. After resting, it was time for me to get a new job. Unfortunately, nothing positive came from all Cebu job applications. Being civil service eligible, I finally applied for a position that was directly under Malacañang. I was hired and told to report in November. This means, going back to Manila.
Then, I stopped to think …
In my years in Pagcor Manila, I never had any serious illness. Now that I am back in Cebu for over a year, my health became unstable.“I thought mo-uli ka Cebu? Balik na sad diay ka didto sa Manila?”, I asked myself. “Was there a message in all of these? God’s will siguro ni no kay gibalibaran na sad nako.”
The Guiding Hand of God
In March, 2019, I got the sad news that cancer was found. The capsule-like lump I ignored before grew significantly. Doctors told me I needed surgery. But, they have to shrink the lump first with chemotherapy.
Two of my former Pagcor colleagues told me, “Naa kunoy facility sa Mactan unya naa kuno silay cancer testing.” This was after Dr. Alex Alegrado did a talk in Pagcor. “But wala may klaro. Dili nako kinanglan ug test test kay kahibaw naman ko naa koy cancer.”
In the midst of my search for cheaper hormonal medicine here in Cebu, I asked assistance from Pagcor’s company physician in Manila. He advised, “Before you go anywhere, try ARC Hospital since you’re already there in Cebu.”
Given that this was the second time I was informed to go to ARC Hospital, I convinced myself to finally go and find out.
So visited the Hospital and saw Dr. Alegrado (Doc’ Alex).
“First dressing pa lang si Doc Alex dayon, gibutangan gyud dayon nila ug anti-biotic. Mao ni akong gipangita! Ngano wala man ko gibutangan ug tambal sa uban.” With the previous hospitals I went to, “everytime mag-dressing, limpyuhan-tabunan 3x a week. Dili ba kaha ni sya modako? Murag wala man ko mo get better! I did not see myself getting better gyud. Nidako man gali akong feeling!”
All the Oncologists I spoke suggested chemotherapy. “Dili ko ganahan ug chemo. If mag chemo gyud gali,unsay assurance nga dili ko atakihon nga mefenamic ug ibuprofen lang gali, atakihon naman ko sa akong allergy?” They cannot give me any assurance. “Kung mag attack gali ka, naa ra man ko sa clinic, matawgan ra man dayon ko,” they easily assured me. What I wanted from them was to educate me about my cancer — to assure me that if I will have my allergy attacks, “you will have my back in a second.“
Doc Alex introduced me to a different and more rationale approach. We talked about Molecular Profiling. “This is it!”, I exclaimed, “mawagtang na ako fear because of that test! Dili sya mag tag-an tag-an, dili shotgun. Mao ni akong gihuwat na explanation!”
I felt that God has again, intervened. China was going to be my destination before I decided to go to ARC Hospital.
It is essential for us cancer patients, and all patients in general, to be properly educated about our illness. We need Doctors to take time and explain the problem and what are our options. For somebody who is so fearful of chemo, I needed a doctor who can can focus and thoroughly discuss my alternatives.
We had a family conference. This is standard of care in ARC. For me, a very critical step in my journey to find ways to cope with my cancer. My siblings were called to gather. Doc Alex explained fully my situation with them. He also enumerated the steps that we need to do, as a family.
Why did this come at a time when I had no work?, I asked myself. Helplessness overcame me as I waited on what my siblings would say. We do not have our parents anymore. They were my only support system. I was so overwhelmed with joy when all of them agreed to do to Molecular Profiling for me. “Go for it, Chime!”, my siblings shouted.
At that moment, I realized why God wanted me home.
China was Not Meant to Be
I met a friend online who had tests done in China. Oh, was I full of envy! I remember still regretting why I had my chemo done here in the Philippines, despite doing it at ARC. I was so close to going there. One more visit to that clinic and I would have been convinced to fly to China for therapy.
The total cost to have a cancer therapy (not chemo) done in China was just around PHP400,000. “Mao nay nindot!”
My friend’s last message to me was in May, 2019. Apparently, she was not able to go back to China because her expenses reportedly ballooned to a million. Plus, COVID-19 came. During this time, she could not get her prescribed and scheduled therapy.
Last May, she showed me a photo of her breast and asked, “Kumusta naman ka? Ingon ani pud imoha?”
I couldn’t reply. “Nigamay man akoang mass… Nidako ang iyaha…”
She died last June.
Final Sign from Gina Lopez
Gina Lopez was my idol. I like her because she doesn’t believe in chemo. I looked up to her and liked that she preferred the natural method.
It was on August 19, 2020 that I was installed with *portacath. It was also the same day when I saw Gina Lopez on TV succumbed to breast cancer. I was beyond shocked…
“Akong idol wala gyud ni survive. Lord, Lord! Ugma dayon magpa chemo na gyud ko!”
Sometimes, good things fall apart so better things can fall together. In hindsight, I really questioned whether everything happens in life for a reason. In the back of my mind, I heard the voice of God. There had to be a reason for it all. Even when you cannot understand things at that very moment, it will eventually manifest itself. Down the line, something wonderful happens. Then and only then will you appreciate your blessings—- it would never have come to fruition if you did not suffered tragedy in the first place.
What a journey it has been so far.
So this is Chime, 45 years old, single, blessed.
I am now a cancer warrior.
*A Portacath is a small device that is inserted beneath your skin in your upper chest. You will need a small cut in your neck to access a vein. The portacath is attached to a hollow tube (catheter) which connects to the vein placed through the small cut.