*Transcript of my testimony given last April 1, 2016 during EPCALM’s (http://www.epcalm.org/) “The Hope Fund” kick off held at Todd English, SM Aura.*
Good evening! I would like to thank EPCALM and Dra. Demerre for giving me this opportunity to share my story.
My name is Sarah. I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in June 2011, few months after coming back from my fellowship training in Nagoya, Japan. I was 32 then, my prime years supposedly, the time when I was just starting my private practice as a sleep doctor/surgeon. I was devastated, crushed and it felt like I hit rock bottom. After 8-9 months of chemotherapy, I survived it but he ride was not easy. All the extreme complications of chemo –seizures, in a comatose state for 5 days, bone pains, collapsed lung, and a lot more, I’ve experienced them all. When I got well I told myself “Hindi ko na kaya ‘to ulitin lahat.” I’ve witnessed stories of relapse or the disease coming back so that thought was always at the back of my head. But again I was determined that if ever it’s going to happen to me, ayoko na. No more treatments. I’ve been through hell and back during chemo and I could not go through it again. I could not also bear to see my parents suffering silently as they watch over me.
Fast forward to January 2014, leukemia came back. Sabi ko “Naku naman, Lord God, ngayon talaga? Kung kailan naman nagka love life ako at in a real relationship after many years of waiting. and praying , ngayon talaga bumalik yung leukemia.” My husband and I were long time friends since we were batchmates during residency training. It was more of a love-hate relationship then because residency training will bring out the best and the beast in you. After 8 years of friendship, we became officially a couple in December 12, 2013, one month before I knew about the relapse. Remember what I told myself in 2011? “Hindi ko na kaya ulitin ang chemo. I just couldn’t and wouldn’t want do it anymore.” January 12, 2014 – during our first monthsary, one week after I relapsed, Rodney proposed marriage. How can I give up the fight when God has blessed me with someone who is taking a leap of faith and willing to be by my side as I battle for the second time.
So I underwent chemotherapy again followed by haploidentical stem cell transplant in May 3, 2014 with my eldest brother as my donor. There were minor setbacks but compared to what I’ve experienced in 2011, my second bout was relatively smooth sailing and uneventful. In-love nga kasi. The recovery too seems to be very fast because I was enjoying the wedding preparations and it was sort of therapeutic for me. We got married on May 12, 2015, one year after my transplant.
Everything in my new life as a wife was doing well and I felt that I was at my healthiest and strongest since I was diagnosed, until September 2015. I became sickly, I started to develop fever, test results showed that my platelets were low and I was dengue positive. The next thing I knew, leukemia was back again.
I won’t be ashamed to admit, I was so angry with God. No, furious is a more appropriate term. “Talaga, eto na naman ba tayo Lord? For the third time? After all my daily prayers, novenas, and lifestyle changes, You let this happen again?!” I stopped praying and ended up questioning Him, turning my back on Him. That went on for almost a week. Then I felt so empty and so miserable. There was like a big hole in my heart that cannot be filled. That was when I started to tell my closest friends to pray for me as I wrestle with my faith in God. Slowly I just found myself praying again, reading His words, realizing that I am nothing without Jesus in my life. One day, I said an unedited prayer, non-structured, no highfalutin words. It was just like I was talking to a good friend, telling Him how mad I am, how sorry I am, and how I sincerely want to make amends. That day na nag-usap kami at nakipag bati ako sa Kanya, that day I felt so at peace and so whole again. I felt that I was not alone. He has gone before me and He will never leave me. Instantly I was ready to battle and be victorious again for the third, and I KNOW, I BELIEVE, I CLAIM, and I DECLARE IN JESUS’ NAME, is the last time that I’m getting sick.
Dra. Demerre send me this bible passage one day from Hebrews 11:1 “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen, it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”
Like the woman in the bible who was bleeding for many years, she, without any hint of doubt, believed that if she could just touch even the fringe of Jesus’ robe, she will be healed. She did not say “I might” or “maybe I’ll be healed.” She said “I will be healed.” Indeed, Jesus heals in response to faith.
I have to admit, I still wrestle with God, especially when I am in pain or experiencing difficulties. Let me share to you a very recent experience: A week before Holy Week I was in so much pain, I had issues with my digestive system for unknown reason but might be an indirect side effects of chemo. I was admitted in the hospital, got discharged after 6 days, the pain was still there but lesser in intensity but it was still bothersome that I couldn’t sleep even after taking sleeping pills, so I get so frustrated I would always cry at night. So ayan na naman, faith wavers, I became spiritually dry again. Every year I used to attend this Lenten recollection organized by The Feast – it’s a Catholic worship community founded by Brother Bo Sanchez. There was one scheduled on Maundy Thursday and I really wanted to attend but I was in pain and I couldn’t sleep the night before. So I prayed. I told God, “Lord I am spiritually dry again. My spiritual tank is almost empty at alam ko Ikaw lang makakapuno nito. Please give me a restful sleep tonight para I have enough energy tomorrow for the recollection.” Nakatulog ako. With sleeping pills pa din but at least in spite of the pain, nakatulog ako. I felt refreshed when I woke up. I still feel the pain but it was tolerable enough for me to go out and attend the recollection.
You know the three core messages of the recollection? 1. Surrender everything to Him; 2. “Even if it hurts like hell, I will praise You.” 3. I’m healed, redeemed and forgiven. Sabi ko “Wow Lord, thank You! Parang in-organize yung recollection para sa akin. Swak na swak. Bullseye.” Nung isinabuhay ko yung core messages, I still feel some abdominal discomfort but to my surprise, I wasn’t bothered by it anymore. And I could sleep well at night without any sleeping pills ever since Maundy Thursday! The Lord is amazing, right?!
I may not understand the reason why bad and painful things happen but I know that truly, His grace is all I need. His grace is sufficient. For God’s power is greatest when I am weak.
Pasensya na po if medyo napahaba itong testimony ko. It just goes to show na ang byahe po ng isang tao who was diagnosed with leukemia is very long. It does not end after finishing chemo or after the transplant. It’s a marathon.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank EPCALM, especially Dra. Demerre and Mitch Duran for filling my spiritual tank with their daily devotions.
The journey is also emotionally and financially draining. That is why we are having this fund raising dinner. In behalf of EPCALM, I am humbly asking for your generosity so that the foundation could help more patients in need.
Let me end by sharing with you a passage from the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians 9:7-11 “Don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives cheerfully. And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the scripture say: They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever. In the same way, He will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous.”
Thank you and enjoy the dinner. ☺️🙏🏻