Cancer Survivors vs. Cancer Beaters

So I’ve been gone for about a month (again), but this time with good reason: I’ve just completed a month-long pre-fellowship (think auditions, or try-outs, but lasting for a month) for the Medical Oncology program at a hospital in Quezon City.

Why Oncology? Because of two cancer patients I met in my youth whose strength and courage were inspirational to me.

The first one was my mom’s dear friend, and my godmother, Ninang Chita. Most of my memory of her from my childhood was getting gifts from her on my birthdays and during Christmas. She was a seasoned classical singer, and as I discovered my own love for music, I played around with the idea that I somehow “inherited” my talent from her (though my dad would protest). I was in my teens when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer, and strangely, I remember seeing more of her when she was sick (either that, or those later encounters just had more of an impact on me). Even in her illness, she never stopped being her sunny, thoughtful, caring self. She tried her best to carry on as she did before the diagnosis–she attended, and even sang at, her high school reunion, most people not aware that a tube was sticking out from her kidneys and into a bag, because the tumor had compressed her ureters so that she couldn’t void the normal way. Even in her final days, when her illness forced her to stay in the hospital, she seemed undaunted at the face of death. This I know because she never stopped loving, never stopped thinking of others. Whenever people would go see her, in her voice weakened by pain, she would ask her visitors to take a seat, and would they want anything to eat or drink?

Only a person who knows where her true home is could be so hospitable at her time of departure.

The second one was Sr. Paulina, whom I have written about before. The assigned nurse at the infirmary, she’s used to taking the sick (usually older) sisters to the hospital for consults and procedures. When one time, my mom came a-visiting at the convent and found her resting, she said jokingly, “What is the nurse doing in bed?!” To which the nun replied very casually with a smile, “Oh, I have cancer.” She then proceeded to proclaim God’s goodness, sharing that the cancer was an answered prayer–this particular malignancy ran strong in her family, and thinking of her brothers and sisters with children, families of their own, she prayed that if anyone should get it in their family, that it be her.

Do you know anyone else who rejoiced upon learning that they had cancer?

As their bodies were failing them, they looked forward to what was eternal with such courage, such hope, such faith. By definition they cannot be called cancer survivors, and yet I feel it right to say that they were the victors, that they beat cancer.

Because it certainly didn’t beat them.

Is this not what evangelization is all about? Sharing Jesus, sharing hope for the Heaven that God desires for all of us. This is what my mission, my service in Church and in community, is all about–making souls eager and ready for Life Eternal.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You trust in God, trust also in Me. In My Father’s house there are many places to live in; otherwise I would have told you. I am going now to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you to Myself, so that you may be with Me where I am. –John 14:1-3

As I start this new chapter in my life and in training, I pray that I’ll be equipped to be the best Oncologist that I can be, that God will allow me to be. To cure sometimes, heal often, comfort always–to be God’s instrument of love and of peace, especially to those whom the Father is calling back Home.