By HANNA MARIONNE M. CAUNDA
IT all started when Mrs. Pablia Nocellas, 47, felt a lump in her breast while doing her job as a seamstress in March, 2008. She thought the lump was abnormal and it made her nervous. Two days after, Nocellas had it checked at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Hospital.
After a week of waiting for the biopsy’s results, she was diagnosed with a Stage 2-B tumor in her right breast. When she learned about her disease, many things came into her mind. Her children. Her husband. Her relatives. Her friends. She thought of how much time she may have with them. A year? A Month? A few weeks? Nocellas sought a second opinion at the Philippine General Hospital and it was discovered that through a vaginal ultrasound that she had a cyst in her ovary.
“Di gyud masabot imong gibati, isip ikaw inahan nya sa pamilya ikaw ang nanginabuhi,” she says. Since then, Nocellas prayed fervently to God to give her longer life for her two daughters; Mae Anne, 12 and Dibinna, 6. Since it was holy week that she discovered her disease, she fasted and apologized to the people she hurt.
Nocellas didn’t want to undergo operation. Instead, she went through spiritual healing. Spiritual healing, for Nocellas is attending mass twice everyday and praying the rosary with her family. She also went to “albularyo” everyday for a week. Then her husband noticed that her breast had swollen so she decided to go back and have the tumor surgically removed.
Nocellas’ first concern was money. She could not afford the surgery with her income as a seamstress and her husband had no work then. Fortunately, her doctor offered to help her. Eduardo J. Aboitiz Cancer Center (EJACC) shouldered the expenses and the medicine she had to maintain for five years.
The following month, she was scheduled for an emergency operation. The cyst in her ovary had to be removed before her monthly period to prevent the tumor in her right breast from spreading. The risk of the tumor spreading to her left breast is much higher if it would not be removed before her period. And since she didn’t want to undergo chemotherapy and radiation, her doctors to remove her tumor and cyst more.
Nocellas thought all her worries were gone and she would go through the operation safely but another problem came up. The doctors couldn’t perform the surgery because of her high blood pressure. Nocellas prayed and after 15 minutes she felt her body relax. The operation took six hours and it was a success.
A week after she was discharged, Nocellas was already exercising and was slowly going back to her daily routine. She was recovering quickly. Nocellas said she couldn’t question God why, of all people, the disease chose her. She was lucky compared to other cancer patients she saw at the hospital. She was loved by her doctors who always visited to ask how she’s doing and her medicine was always on time.
Nocellas, after almost a year, still can’t believe she went through the ordeal of having cancer. As she described, it was like she only went through a high fever. Nothing more. Nothing less. The experience made her realize many things.
“Cancer shouldn’t be feared. Cancer is just a reminder from God. He reminds us to continue the things we forgot like praying and attending masses. Inspire yourself to call on God,” she said. This is her message to cancer patients who are already losing hope.
She said the greatest lesson she learned from the experience was humility. Pride, she said, should be killed. Pride can bring us nothing but misery. Nocellas added she learned to say sorry to her children, husband, relatives, and friends. She was closer to her family now after cancer.
Looking at Pablia Nocellas now, she’s a very satisfied and contented woman. She did her best to make her family happy.
She can’t help but thank God for her fast recovery and the support he got from her family. One can’t find a single trace that she went through two kinds of cancer in her life.