Cancer Amid Covid

By ZEBEDEA ‘BEA’ REFIL

IN 2016, I felt a little lump in my right breast. I didn’t mind the lump— until one day, liquid came out of my nipple. Then, the lump grew bigger— the size of two marbles. And in 2019, the lump just suddenly burst and oozed with yellowish liquid.

My husband Nelson promptly took me to a government hospital. We were not prepared for this emergency, so we didn’t have money for treatment in a private hospital.

At the Emergency Room of the hospital, I underwent first aid procedures. Then the attending physician recommended that I transfer to the hospital’s Breast Cancer Center.

There, I was told I’d have to undergo a series of tests. So, I started going through the tests. But it took a while to get the results. So, if I had extra money,

I went to a private hospital for some of the other tests.

Yes, I had limited budget for this ailment.  I am a stay-home wife in this, our quite big family, from left: hubby Nelson; Vheanel Kate, in  Grade 2; Jeremiah, Grade 11; Asha Lee, Grade 5; Tricia Mae, Grade 9; and me.

Nelson works as a security guard in a mall, and his salary is not enough for us to make both ends meet.

From Burden to Blessing

This ailment has turned my life upside down, but it has also become a blessing for me.

It happened that one of my neighbors, Susan Cruz (right) is a volunteer coordinator at the Jesus Christ Cares for Cancer Foundation (JCCFC).

She kindly helped me to apply  for assistance from the Foundation.

At JCCFC, I met angels God sent to help me, above, from left:  Bro. Angelo Gelano, JCCFC chairman, and Sis. Maritess Cordero (plain green dress), JCCFC board secretary, here with Sis. Susan when they visited me at my home to interview me– as part of the procedure to know more about patients applying for financial assistance. That’s son Jeremiah happy with us.

By God’s grace, I passed the interview and soon, on September18, 2019,to be exact, JCCFC began to give me monthly cash assistance for my treatments.

I am beyond grateful to God that there are generous persons like Sis. Susan, Bro. Alo, Sis. Maritess, and donors who help cancer patients like me.

COVID Challenges

I continue to need JCCFC’s help especially as I struggle through the challenges of the COVID Pandemic.

First, following the lockdowns, the mall where my husband work had to downsize, and had to let go of some employees — my husband included.

Second, also the hospital where I was having my treatments would no longer accommodate me. Like most hospitals, it was overflowing with COVID patients, and I was told I might be infected by the disease.

Third, since I could not get proper, consistent treatments, I suffered complications of my cancer— my tongue and nails turning blue, hard of hearing, blurred sight, and worse, bleeding of my nipples. I suffered low blood count, so low that there were times I just collapsed.

One time, during my routine checkup, my doctor noted I had very low hemoglobin count. So, finally, he ordered that I be admitted and confined in the hospital. I thought it was already the end of my life.

But by God’s Mercy, I’ve been blessed with deep faith and hope to survive this disease.

Spiritual Nourishment

Aside from helping with my treatments, JCCFC, as part of its Mercy ministry, has also helped me with spiritual nourishment, especially at The Feast—where eventually I was blessed to serve, together with Sis. Maritess, in the First-Timers Ministry, welcoming newcomers.

So, during my darkest moments, I surrendered to God, and prayed fervently for relief from my dire situation, and for provision for our family.

And praise be to God, He answered my prayers.

First, my husband found a new job in a factory producing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for front liners attending to COVID patients. Would you believe, in a sense, this horrible disease with so many negative consequences somehow turned out to be positive, helpful for us.

Second, on March 5 this year, I underwent chemotherapy to remove the cancerous cells in my body. Going through the chemo was difficult to say the least. But after a while, I felt much better.

Third, family and friends have kindly supported me with financial assistance, prayers, inspiring, encouraging messages.

Fourth, although I still need to continue with my treatments, yes, I see this cancer as definitely a blessing. Because JCCFC has continued to support me— with financial assistance and with spiritual nourishment. Inspiring me to be a Jesus follower, from top: Sis. Susan Cruz (striped top) with friends at The Feast; co-servants in the First Timers Ministry, warmly welcoming newcomers; the chapel of a parish church where Sis. Susan also serves.

Yes, JCCFC has well affirmed to me that God is alive, He has always been present, always with me through this my ordeal, making me feel so loved through the love of my JCCFC brothers and sisters.

I am grateful to the Foundation and to my Catholic friends especially Sis. Susan who cares for me and other beneficiaries—even as we belong to different religious groups.

Yes, I live with this cancer unafraid.

Because I know Jesus Christ Cares for Cancer.

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