by Mommy Daff Cordero
Let me start with a question. When you think your life is well-thought-out from the time you have been given the liberty to discern your own decree, but there comes an unforeseen circumstance that would change everything in your planner. How would you go about it?
June 13, 2011 marks a meaningful occurrence in my calendar of life yet full of negation, denial and ambiguity. This was when I got a weighty letter in an envelope. Yes, that letter was the result of my excision biopsy done a week before. Hands shaking and heart pounding, I opened the letter and a life-changing long report of medical terms gave me a shock. I was diagnosed with cancer of the left breast. Initially given a stage 3, but after several tests and opinions, I was confirmed with the diagnosis of Stage 2a Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. This transformative moment of my life came after the celebration of my son’s 1st and husband’s 31st birthdays and just in time when I got promoted to head our department at work. Not a perfect timing, right? This was at the peak of my career as a College Professor, just graduated from my Master’s Degree, and excitedly building my own family with beautiful and colourful plans ahead of us.
I remember the moment that upon seeing my diagnosis in which I still didn’t have any idea of what it is in layman’s term, I searched for it and found out that it was indeed breast cancer. I felt that there was a whole bucket filled with ice that was poured over me. We thought that we just need to hear the confirmation from my surgeon so that we can move forward. So we heard what we need to hear. My doctor said that I will have to undergo sessions of chemotherapy and the drastic effect would be hair loss. I was brave during that time but I wasn’t ready with the thought of losing my crowning glory. And so I cried but I snickered a bit too when my husband, JP, said that when the time would come that I would lose my hair, he’ll have his head shaved as well.
Acceptance wasn’t easy. But I thought during that time, was the key to the door of moving on. I went through 4 cycles of chemotherapy and 28 days straight of radiation therapy and several unexpected hospitalizations in between due to allergic reactions to my chemo drug and anti-allergy medicines. Yes, I was even allergic to my anti-allergy drugs. After my partial mastectomy, there was one confinement after my first chemo session that was so memorable and truly my favourite story to share. Doctors advised of checking and monitoring my kidney, heart, liver and other vital organs. I was in deep woe thinking that my life would end like this. While I was alone in the room, I sincerely talked to God and challenged Him. “Lord, parang alam ko na po kung paano matatapos ang buhay ko. Ayoko ng ganito. Lord, ang iniiyak ko lang naman ay yung buhok kong mawawala. Lord, Syo na po. Syo na po lahat ng buhok ko, basta maging maayos lang lahat ng result ko. Gusto ko na po umuwi sa mga pamilya ko.” And right after my prayer, the nurse went in the room carrying my results and said that all results are normal and I can go home the next day. Wasn’t that amazing how fast God can turn gloom into bliss? I was discharged the next day taking home the hope of my healing. And guess what, God didn’t stop surprising me. When I woke up from the first overnight at home after days of hospitalization, I got up from bed seeing strands of hair in my pillowcase. Tears flow freely from my eyes but these were tears of victory as I uttered “Thank You, Lord. Alam kong tutupad ka sa usapan.” I asked my mama to look for a haircutter who would shave my head at home and my papa was patiently removing falling strands from my head so it wouldn’t be messy. I know that it was difficult seeing their only child experiencing this trying time. Unfortunately, no hairdressers would like to do home service. It was already becoming uncomfortable losing my hair and seeing every strand fall off. After several days, after work, my husband, called to tell me to get ready as he has “Kuya Felix”, the community barber, with him to shave my head. I got up and I excitedly readied myself for my most-awaited hairstyle (or head style). I heard my husband arrived and knocked at my room; I opened the door and to my surprise, I saw him neatly shaved. My heart was full and I burst into tears seeing him with me in this ordeal. I am grateful for him always at my side. I was staying alone in our room as I needed to be isolated due to very weak immune system. There were times that I was okay but more of moments that I long for my family. I missed hugging and kissing my 2-year old daughter, Marika and my one-year old son, Keon. Certain that my daughter missed me too, she even went on her own at the side of our bedroom to see how I was doing inside the room. As she peeked through the window, I felt so helpless. I am so deserted. Crying was the only outlet I have and praying was my sword to fight downhearted moments like this. I am truly blessed to have my family with me.
From 2012, I am in close health monitoring. It wasn’t stress-free, because every time I would have the lab tests that include ultrasound, mammogram, bone scan, and many others for monitoring of ortho and ob-gyne related illnesses, it seems like everything is coming back to me. Yes, even until now. I just rely on God’s promise and I know, someday, this pain will be useful.
Each day I wake up is truly God’s gift. Indeed, a bonus. This life-altering experience for me and my family is truly challenging and everyday was like being in a battlefield. But know that I never treated it as misfortune, but rather a boon, contributing to my complete happiness, well-being, and existence. Every single day makes me humble and this experience made me realize that when you think that everything seems like falling apart, that is the time when God is putting things together like how He wants it to be. With all that I have experienced in this longest 6 months of my life as I “graduated” from my radiotherapy in November of the same year, I appreciated the concept of filling your mind with positive thoughts because you have the power to say: This is not how my story is going to end. It’s just a chapter of my life, not my whole story. I am glad that I didn’t allow cancer to eat me alive, but instead I fed it with good vibes. I won in that matter. I want to say that in life, there is no room for giving up, just starting over again. Don’t just live by breathing but live your life with purpose by inspiring.
To date, I may not be complete physically but truly I am an accomplished human being because cancer messed up with the wrong girl. Like what I always say during my ordeal, I will always smile even behind my mask, I will keep on fighting with my bald head as a sign of courage and I will never have a bad hair day again as I experienced having no hair at all. Coincidentally, Daffodils, as a flower represent hope for cancer patients, hence, where flowers bloom so does hope. I believe God made everything crystal-clear to me, living with my pink mission. With my name, Daffodil, I see that where life challenges thrive, so does strength is beautifully built in this lifetime.
Let me end with my favourite bible verse that assisted me in this leap of faith from Matthew 9:22 “Take heart, daughter. Your faith has healed you.” Indeed, because God is bigger than cancer.