My Worst Encounter in Life – Stephen Cabanlet

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Good day.  My wife and I have very simple want in our lives, which is to give our children a simple yet happy and fulfilled childhood. We try to do our duty for others the best way we can, she being a doctor specializing in psychiatry working in a government hospital and me as military officer. We had our plans of moving back to our own hometown come June of this year, everything is set and ready even the kids are all excited knowing they will be reunited with their cousins.

In the middle of all these plans and excitement we did not expect that dark clouds are about to cover our lives. My wife, the mother of my three young children, Ella was diagnosed to have Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML). It was as unexpected as a typhoon in summer as she never had any signs that she was harboring these killer cells while doing service around the mountains of cordillera with the mental health team from the hospital. It was a shock as she was very athletic, easy going and has a very positive outlook in life.

It was September 19, 2009 when the verdict was given. As clueless as I am, I can see the pain in Ella’s eyes when she and her fellow doctor converse in words only they can understand. Since then Ella had been through a lot! The first pain was her first cycle chemotherapy done in October 2009. The “iron lady”, that was what most of those who knew her personally would brand her, but in those days I witness all her strength zapped away by the drugs that was supposed to kill the cancer cells. She succumbed to sepsis and bleeding, I was told that 80% who had this ends in death. In God’s grace and mercy she came out of it after ten days of being in and out of her wits. She came through, as each day she had improved driven by the fact that her children need her. So many times during her “sepsis” days that I would hear her call to God bargaining that she still yet to enjoy the gifts that He had given to her, which is our children. Finally when she was reunited with our children (she could not take visitors while in the hospital) I can see the joy in their eyes but I could help noticing that at the back of Ella’s mind she was very saddened that she really does not know until when she could hold on. Bald and fragile she tried to make everything as normal as possible when our kids are around. These scenes break my heart. It removes the courage in me that I learned to master through the years in the military. I would rather go to war in Mindanao or anywhere else or better yet go back to my plebe year in the academy than see my wife and children in the situation. I just feel so helpless and invalid!

The torment did not end in that 42 days of hospitalization as she only stayed home for 5 days and was admitted again for the second cycle of chemotherapy this time it was done at National Kidney Transplant Institute in Quezon City. She was admitted last week of November 2009. This time she has her determination back, I know the effect of chemo drugs was still physically painful but she never showed it. She again succumbed to infection but this time it never went to the point of sepsis. She spent Christmas with us as she was “allowed” to be out for three precious days. Our three boys could not part from her; they had so many stories to tell. At one point, perhaps she was off guard, she asked, is this going to be my last Christmas? I just prayed as I do not know how to answer her.

She was re admitted two days prior to New Year Day. Our children spent the New Year ’s Eve “parentless” as I could not bear leaving her alone even as she ask me to. She told me that the kids should have at least one of us on the occasion. She was having her third cycle chemotherapy on New Year’s Day while everyone was out celebrating. It was such an “abnormal” year for my family!   The therapy went really smooth this time, as she did not even have fever. She only had six units of platelets transfused to her. She only stayed one week at the hospital post chemotherapy.

At present she is being worked up and readied for Bone Marrow Transplant. A procedure she says she did not know as it was “not yet” during her junior and senior internship in med school. She would relate to me during her low moments that back then they would just wait for their patients with AML to die as chemotherapy does not ensure complete treatment or any treatment at all. With her renewed and closer relationship to our Maker and this Bone Marrow Transplant she became more determined to fight back. I now hear her talk about the future again and happy that she is being her old self most of the time again.

I do not want her to worry as I know she had enough already, that is why I did not want her to know that 4.2 million worth of procedure is way too much for me. I simply tell her that God will touch people’s hearts and everything will be provided at the time appointed. I am a believer of a God who works mightily on everyone. I believe that He would not give me something that I could not handle. I believe that the people He leads me to, are the very people that would help me keep the light and soul of my family alive for several years more. Just like the promise I made to the people I tried to protect when I was in Mindanao, I promised my children that I am going to bring their mom back home with her all grown and beautiful again just like before. I could not do it though without help.



by: Stephen Cabanlet

January 30, 2010 at 9:05 AM

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