GeeO—Mary Geraldine Obra-Paderon BCBP SFLaUnion
Be Not Afraid – Our Love Story with God
Today, February 4, 2011, these are three words I always keep on repeating…with so much trust and confidence that God has always been there, is always here and will always be there.
I always wanted the results of the series of tests the doctors conducted on me to be negative. When I visited my EENT specialist for an initial check-up, he already knew there was really something wrong with the masses he saw in my inner nasal tube and throat. With his wide experience with patients who had what I had, he was straightforward and didn’t mix any words telling us that he suspected that the masses he saw were malignant. He immediately recommended operation for the cervical lymphnode mass and sample tissues be extracted from the nasopharengeal mass. The operations were to be done immediately because the sizes of the masses he saw needed immediate attention.
I felt some chill knowing that my children were very young but I thought of God’s goodness and that He will never abandon us. Looking back, I am grateful to Jesus that I had that peace to face the initial results of my diagnosis. First, because I was still hopeful that the CT Scan results and the biopsy will yield different results.
I had the CT scan before the operation. The CT scan results were made available immediately but results of the biopsy were to be known two days after my surgery.
The CT Scan results confirmed my doctors’ fears. It read, “Nasopharengeal mass, likely malignancy, left side, with invasion of adjacent structures, as described. Ipsilateral metastatic nodal spread (Stage II).”
While waiting for the biopsy results; during the weekend, my family and I made a pilgrimage to St. Pio’s shrine. The Eucharist was celebrated by an Italian visiting priest. And it felt like World Youth Day in 1991 when I represented the Philippines in Chestochowa, Poland. It was a moment of grace because of the many truths revealed. I prayed for complete healing and deliverance from cancerous cells but I also prayed for peace.
I waited in prayer for the biopsy results. Meanwhile, Mike and I were overwhelmed by the show of support and love from our families. I was worried though how my mother would take it. My father just died a month ago. And in prayer, I entrusted everything to God.
Mike came home with the biopsy results on a Wednesday, February 2. He was not so direct with his words but said we needed to go to Baguio for treatment. There was a referral letter for radiation. I asked Mike to show me the biopsy results.
It read, “CONSISTENT WITH UNDIFFRENTIATED CARCINOMA…” All results confirmed that I had Cancer. I asked Mike many questions what the doctors said about those medical terms I didn’t understand on the piece of paper I was holding. He was speechless.
In silence, I sat and prayed. Amazingly, the first words that came out of my mouth were praise and thanks to God. I did not know why I was praising and thanking him. I just knew I will be fine and that God will take care of me and my family. This was nothing compared to the grace of God.
I believe it was God’s providence that I dialed two numbers. One was a very good friend and an EENT Specialist in Laoag – Chester Puno. I read to him most of what was written by my Pathologist. He patiently and lovingly explained to me everything. He was direct. He was concerned. He gave honest recommendations. It was very important for me where to get treatment. Mastering all the courage I had, I asked him why I had frequent headaches. (This was a question I was afraid to ask my attending physicians.) He recommended for an immediate brain scan to rule out that the cancer has metastasized in my brain. But he was also quick to say it may just be simple migraine or stress-related.
The second person I called is a very good sister in the BCBP and a cancer survivor – Joan Siapno. At this time, I was ready to let our friends know what I was going through. I wasn’t certain why I was calling her but definitely I was looking for someone where I could draw inspiration from. Calling her was providential. When she picked up the phone, she was at the foot of a cross touching the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the grotto of her home.
I told her my story. Then she spoke of beautiful words. I was certain she was inspired by the Spirit. She asked me to leave everything in the care of Jesus and surrender my life to Him. She reminded me to embrace my fiat “Let it be done to me according to your will.” She encouraged me to plunged myself into His Divine mercy so I may bravely go through whatever suffering I was given. She asked me to offer my suffering for the intentions of many people and the world.
Then she spoke about where to get medical help. Having been cured from Cancer, she knew where to get help. She said not to decide for a radiation in Baguio just because it is near La Union but to seek options where I can have the best doctors and facilities. At the back of my mind I knew this will cost Mike and I so much but I was also confident God will provide. Before we parted, she encouraged me to pray to the Holy Radiance of Jesus (being the best available radiation) to heal me and kill all cancer cells in my body.
I called Chester again if it was still necessary to go to Baguio for my immunohistochemistry and he said this was no longer necessary. All other procedures can be done in Manila. He made it clear though that I had to have my brain scan the following day and borrow the tissues of the masses removed so it can be re-examined.
That night, I received overwhelming messages of encouragement and prayers from my immediate family. This is the beautiful side of life. The bad things that happen to us can bring us closer to our loved ones. One message reminded me to make “lambing” to Blessed John Paul II to intercede for me. It said that Vatican awaits miracles to canonize him.
Enveloped by the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, I asked for the intercession of 3 men in my life who I know are in heaven now and 1 man whom I just came to know – my father who just died last month, Blessed Pope John Paul II, St. Arnold Janssen and St. Pio. I made special “lambing” to John Paul II. And that was when those words “Be not Afraid!” resounded so clearly in my ears. I remembered that this is what the late Pope would tell us young people especially during the World Youth Day meetings with him. BE NOT AFRAID.
The brain scan yielded negative results. The cancer cells have not metastasized in my brain. I would like to believe that the negative results are a fruit of the powerful intercessions of the 4 men in my life especially John Paul II. During the scan procedure and while awaiting results, he kept on reminding me not to be afraid.
But last night was the most uncomfortable day of my life since I learned I had Cancer. Before any procedures and when procedures were done; doctors would ask me if I felt any pain. I told them there was no pain at all. And they were amazed. But I felt all this pain last night. I was restless all night but I also felt the Holy Radiance of Jesus. I knew the dark side was trying to discourage me. But I also remember telling Mike that it was like I had a radiation from Jesus.
BE NOT AFRAID. I continue to sing out this chant I learned from Taize many years back, “Be not afraid. Sing out for joy…”
The Lord has done great things for me and keeps on revealing Himself more than I can comprehend! Holy is His Name!
GeeO’s comments a week later in an email to Annie Salvador, BCBP Baguio
it’s amazing how the lord can continue to empower us even in situation like this. last saturday, i met with my oncologist for my 1st cycle of chemo. and in the next days, we met with more doctors. we learned that my cancer is not stage 2 but stage 3. but mike and i are resolved that whatever stage it has developed, this is nothing in compared to the grace of god.
the effects of the 1st session of chemo is difficult but not impossible to bear. i am thankful to god i had only 2 days of nausea. the rest of the days were spend walking in the morning and praying most of the time. god had been speaking so tremendously and psalm 51 taken so much meaning. each day, he reveals himself.
i am very grateful to family and friends. and i am very overwhelmed with mike’s love and support. i have never experience him love me the way he is now. and i have never loved him more the way i am loving him now. i am empowered by the two boys’ (matthew and john) faith. they are so confident when they tell me everything will be fine. marc is not yet aware of it knowing his situation that he lives in laguna. but he will soon be told. (2-17-11. -marc has already been told of my condition and it’s another beautiful story how he accepted the news!)
i pray each day that god gives us the grace to face each day one day, one step at a time. my radio-oncologist said that this is going to be a 5-year battle. i pray each day for miracle. honestly, i pray for speedy healing. but this is god’s way of molding us as the perfect potter he is, let it be done to me according to his will.
thank you so much for all your prayers. they have never been welcomed as intense as now.
you may share “our love story (mike, my family and i) with God.
Oh GeeO, your words make me weep … but not for sadness, though I feel that too. I weep because I am stunned by your strength and your faith. In the face of such grace, tears are the only response. Please know that I am praying for you and your heart’s deepest desires. God is good and dependable, but of course, you know that already.
There are many brothers and sisters all over the bcbp – maybe hurting, or afraid, or discouraged – who will surely be bouyed by the power of your sharing. and it would be good for them to join their prayers with the prayers of everyone else now interceding for you.