Friday, April 26, 2013

A Kanser Waryor's Battle With Dusk

I was a young boy when we visited who I was told was my great-grandmother, my maternal grandfather's mother. She was lying on a hospital bed with all these tubes going in and out of her, one ran through a gaping hole on her throat. That was how she breathed air, I was told. My mother sat beside her and I couldn't make out what she was saying to the old lady - almost everyone else seemed to be whispering. The sun had just set but it wasn't quite dark yet, and I was scared but all the grown-ups were busy whispering to each other so I just kept to myself looking out the window watching the surrounding trees outside become silhouettes. Up to now I get this deep feeling of being alone at dusk.

She was most probably in her 70's when we lost her to cancer. Of the lungs, I learned later. She was a heavy smoker just like my grandfather was, who succumbed to emphysema whose last words to me were "quit smoking," just like mother is and I am now.

A couple of years ago I along with my wife and some friends noticed an unusual lump on one side of my neck. A friend couldn't say it nicer - have it checked, kuya, he said. Another friend of his had the same strange lump, had it checked by a doctor, and she was gone in a matter of weeks due to cancer. Damn, it was dusk again.

I tried to remain calm about it, promised to have it checked by a doctor the following day, but that night was one of the longest nights of my life. What if it was, indeed, cancer? Circumstances seem to point in that direction - a great-grandmother whose life cancer claimed, a grandfather who passed away due to a smoking-related illness too, and I smoked heavily. If it was indeed cancer, how long did I have? How does one live the rest of his life if the end's in sight?

We have a friend we met recently during one of our performances. She came with one that show's guest performer from Manila. They have been going out a few months. She was soft spoken, almost always whispering, and had a permanent pretty smile on her face so bright she could light up a room with it.

She defeated cancer not so long ago, I learned. She was diagnosed with Nasopharyngeal Cancer in 2009. After a surgery and a series of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, a CT scan showed no signs of the tumor anymore in 2011 and was declared cancer-free. She was even given the go signal to resume work. She's an engineer, by the way.

Then a recent CT scan revealed that the tumor has recurred, and this time it can't be surgically removed. The doctor recommended more advanced chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She's due to start with that this week.

The lump on my neck, after surgery, turned out to be benign. I am among the luckiest people in the world, I'm alive, and the end's not in sight anymore. Ignorance is bliss.

We wish we can do much more than dedicate an evening of music for her and her cause, but I also know that more than whatever little money we can raise for her the greatest gift we can give is for her to know that she's not alone in this arduous journey. April 30, 2013 at Kikan, Baden Powell Inn, Gov. Pack Road, Baguio City, will be Cai's night. We will be singing songs for her, pray for her, for her healing will be our healing too.

Join us.

And in this temporary moment of darkness, Cai's happiness, her inner joy, her smile can light her way out of it and towards the next day's sunrise. She calls herself a "Kanser Waryor," and we're here to see her win this battle with dusk.

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