I got the results of the biopsy. Medullary carcinoma, it said. I muttered cancer. There was no doctor around so I searched the web, cancer indeed. It was a bit more frightening when you get hold of the results first hand in the absence of the soothing assurance of a doctor who could comfort you. In my case, I had to confront my mom and tell her with a brave face that I had cancer.
I saw fear and pain in her eyes almost instantly. I knew that I got to be tough for her.
I had my radical mastectomy. I was not scared at all to lose one breast. They were far from the above average size to begin with. But seriously, it’s the least of my concern. Though I never expected cancer to be this real, I personally was just so looking forward to get well and go back to where I was – which would be totally impossible when I die.
Lying down in the recovery room, just after my operation, I had asthma attacks. The interview I had with the anesthesiologist should have prevented this, but it happened. My subconscious heard loud voices all in panic. My doctor had just left the hospital, and I was aware of all the effort of trying to get him go back.
What was clearly present was the sound of suppressed hysteria spreading quickly through the medical team. Then came a hint that I was about to go into cardiac arrest.
If I were standing up I would say I was pretty composed. I was calm. I was praying, while grasping for breath. I knew that if I would stop trying, I would die. Then I thought of my mom. Her image, waiting outside the operating room, came to me. I imagined her wailing after a medical staff informing her that I had not made it. I could not let that happen. A couple of voices interrupted the movie in my mind. They were whispering some encouraging words which strengthened my will to overcome this whole ordeal.
I continued to struggle for breath. I again said my prayer. I then picked up the life line going flat. Mustering all the strength I had for one last grasp of air, I pulled myself up and tried my hardest to breathe in some air. While I appear to be completely sedated and unconscious, I knew right then that I was given a brand new life.
Waking up in the ICU with an endotracheal tube, a mechanical ventilator, an oxygen saturation machine, a JP drain, and an IV drip, is way better than not waking up at all. I did not mind the blood extraction every half an hour. I was just glad to be alive – alive with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Stage III.
And just when I was starting to feel considerably well, I had to start a series of chemotherapy cycles. I shaved off of what’s left of my hair. I strived to lead a normal life. I continued to give talks in between my confinement and just got more active with my organization.
The year 2010 for me meant two surgeries and six cycles of chemo. It also meant getting constant calls and visits from people I have not seen in a long time. I am blessed and grateful that a lot of friends and relatives offered financial assistance, hugs and laughter. If not for the physical pain and the no-hair days, I would have completely forgotten that I was in poor health.
I took a year off from work after my last chemo cycle. I cherished the luxury of time in my hand. Things took off afterwards. And now is the time that I am letting my hair down because I finally can.
Written by: Geng Camo
Hair and Makeup by: Myra Ibanez Bendana