On the 15th


You know that brief yet intense feeling that hits you unexpectedly on mundane times? Instead of trying to find distractions to avoid a feeling, you identify and bask in it because, whether it’s good or bad, it is fleeting. And a feeling surfaces for a reason.

I was scrolling through my News Feed when I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude, as my father remembered how he underwent a Miles operation at this time 15 years ago. (I was on a year-end evaluation in Bukidnon when his phone call woke me up at 7 a.m. I thought there was an emergency. He asked for a grammar check in posting this status update on Facebook.)

My father was diagnosed with colon cancer. He is surviving.

When asked of his first thoughts after the diagnosis, he said he remembered his 2- and 5-year-old children and the possibility of missing our milestones in life. My mother recalls how my father accompanied me to kindergarten graduation practices, and how he cried at the back — because he may never see me graduate again. She remembers my father saying how much of a burden he was, as taking care of a patient with cancer entails time, effort, money, and patience.

Years after the treatment, together with fellow doctors, he took up nursing subjects so he would have broader opportunities in working abroad. Like many Filipinos, it was a viable option in increasing the family’s resources. When asked why that plan didn’t push through, he said he chooses to spend his “remaining time” with us. Funny, isn’t it? How a person becomes more indispensable when you realize he could be gone for good any time.

Because I just graduated from kindergarten during the treatment, I was oblivious to this test of resiliency, roller coaster ride of emotions, and immense amount of stress. I simply anticipated my parents’ arrival from Cebu — which, I learned later, was but another arrival in a series of trips for the chemotherapy — because it meant receiving gifts like colored gel pens and a scooter to be shared with my brother. My memories consist of staying with my maternal grandparents and aunt.

I can’t imagine how my mother handled heaps of important and urgent demands in 2001: was responsible of inarticulate yet adorable children, took care of a husband fighting against colon cancer, and worked full-time as a doctor. Knowing she coped with such trying times and is still able to keep up with an array of responsibilities, I try to avoid whining at little things like having an infinite to-do list. It’s okay to be tired and acknowledge this feeling. The important part is spending energy on creating something and accomplishing a task instead of complaining.

My father could be a primary reason I try to watch my diet and to exercise regularly; especially during his college years, he didn’t only consume alcohol and maintain a low-fiber and high-fat diet but also lacked physical exercise. Other than being a reminder to take care of health, my father is living proof that a family is a priority and that a person can be better if he chooses to.

I’m thrilled of the future’s brimming possibilities yet a part of me is afraid of uncertainties. My father was already 39 years old when he received such shocking, life-changing diagnosis. We never know what tomorrow can bring. I don’t mean to develop a paranoid version of myself to the point of dying with a bunch of what ifs, wasting chances, and living constantly in fear, some of which could be irrational.

I have to trust myself I can handle whatever tomorrow brings. Because I’ve seen that it is possible.


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