Highs and LowsMarch 04, 2023
There were many highs and lows in the past year that I think the best way to share them is to write chronologically. Grin.
In November 2021, I was finally able to go back to Cagayan de Oro. It had been 28 months since I was brought to Metro Manila via air ambulance, so I was honestly anxious about flying again. My father picked us up, and I could not help but get a little emotional. I had not seen him since the pandemic began in 2020. At long last, I was home.
In December, we travelled to Koronadal to spend the holidays with family. I was a little nervous about travelling long, but the 15-hour road trip through Davao, which included a 4-hour rest in General Santos, was worth seeing my 90-year-old grandmother.
As 2022 unfolded, I held on to a new word for the year: stewardship. I hoped to steward the time, talent, treasure, and truth that God has entrusted in me—He extended my time on earth, allowed me to return to graduate school, placed wonderful people in my life, and strengthened my relationship with Jesus.
In the first half of the year, I was occupied with my thesis paper, and working on it was not easy. I had to continue undergoing medical tests and virtual consultations with the oncologist monthly, fly back to Metro Manila for a whole-body scan, and deal with long-term side effects of treatment.
In January, I was able to successfully wean off prednisone. But in February, I choked on omeprazole. Worried of esophageal webs, which were seen last September 2021, I saw a local gastroenterologist and went through another gastroscopy. Thankfully, nothing alarming was seen. However, I became increasingly anxious.
In March, we flew back to Metro Manila. I first had an echocardiography to check my heart. Gratefully, the result was normal. I then had a venous duplex scan of the upper extremity to check the existing chronic deep vein thrombosis. The result was positive for a thrombus (blood clot) in the right axillary vein. I was worried because it was previously the subclavian vein. Is it a new clot? To my relief, the cardiologist said that it is probably the same thrombus and that I have to repeat the tests in a year, instead of in 6 months.
In April, I had a PET/CT scan. Praise Jesus! I was still in remission.
Before flying back home, I began experiencing abdominal pain and headache. Lo and behold, I had my menstrual period after 2 years! I was surprised because my reproductive hormones were at post-menopausal levels in 2020. When we arrived in Cagayan de Oro and after consulting a gynecologist, I had an ultrasound, where the findings were unremarkable. But my period did not return again for eight months, and I have not had my period since December. Although it is not a personal priority, I believe that fertility is really one of the issues in cancer treatment that needs to be amplified.
In May, we travelled again to Koronadal to celebrate my grandmother’s birthday. I was very happy to see my cousins. But several days after we got back home, I was unexpectedly hospitalized—my second admission after the transplant. I almost passed out due to severe abdominal pain and diarrhea. Fortunately, I spent only a night in the hospital.
In June, I had my final thesis defense. After the defense and within a very short period, I had to make some revisions in my paper and submit the graduation requirements. It was the first time in a long while that I was busy and had to stay up late, so it was not a surprise that I became sick days later. With rest and paracetamol, I recovered.
In July, I graduated with a master’s degree. Praise Jesus! After I took a leave from school in 2018, I never thought that I would be able to return. School Year ‘21-‘22 was technically my last chance to finish the program, or else I have to retake the courses I took. Truly, it was only possible through the grace of God.
In August, I stopped taking the remaining post-transplant medications and was only taking the cardiovascular ones—an anticoagulant and an anti-angina. But in September, my SGPT, a liver enzyme, rose to 99.6 (normal is 10-35). It was probably graft-versus-host disease in the liver, so I was put back on prednisone. I was also put back on magnesium and potassium supplements. Although I did not like prednisone, I continued to be grateful for still being here, more so for turning 29.
In October, we flew back to Metro Manila for a PET/CT scan. The result was not good—an increase in metabolic activity in the mediastinum. The oncologist gave me 3 options: undergo a biopsy, observe and repeat the scan in 3 months, or start targeted therapy right away. The oncologist was leaning toward a biopsy, but I told him that I need to discuss this first with my family. The situation felt surreal. I wanted to cry but did not.
Few hours later, I sent the oncologist a message, asking how soon I should get the biopsy done. Before I could get a reply, I called my father. Right after the call, I received a message from the oncologist, saying to hold the biopsy and to observe and repeat the scan in 3 months. An interventional radiologist reviewed the images of the scan and said that the mass looks smaller than in April. This time, I cried and immediately called my father again. Praise Jesus!
I was supposed to return to Metro Manila in January for the PET/CT scan. Instead, we flew back in December, a few days before Christmas. By God’s grace and mercy, the result was favorable—a decrease in size and metabolic activity of the mediastinal mass. Alleluia!
Whew! There were many highs and lows in the past year indeed. And through it all, God was with me. In triumph, God held me. In weariness, God carried me. And in moments when I thought fear was winning, faith broke through—faith not in my own ability, but in a faithful God. Thank You, Jesus.