How God Saved Me PDF Print E-mail

“Turn your worries into worship, and watch God turn your battles into blessings.”

By Cecille Canoso Peralta

I have always believed that when God is all you have, you have everything you need. Kakapit ka talaga sa Kanya, dahil alam mong wala ka nang ibang pwedeng panghawakan at pwedeng magawa kundi mag-surrender sa Kanya. (You will cling to Him because you know there is no one to hold on to and it is best to just surrender to Him.)

I heard about Our Lady, the Mediatrix of All Grace, in 1995. The family of my friend from Bacolod was very close to the Carmelite nuns and to the Lipa visionary, Sr. Teresing Castillo. My friend regaled me with stories about prayer requests she and her family made, and were eventually granted through the intercession of our Mama Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace. She urged me to read the book Lipa by June Keithley.

At that point, I got interested in the miracles of Our Lady. I’ve always believed about her intercessions, historically, because I read about her apparitions in Fatima, Lourdes, Guadalupe, etc. Together with my friend, I went to Lipa for the first time on July 16, 1995. I asked the Blessed Mother for her intercession for my son, whom I wanted to enter the religious vocation someday, my husband being an ex-seminarian himself. Our son John Christian was born exactly 9 months later on April 12, 1996. He is now 19 years old.

I bought a small image of Our Lady and got the vines given to me by my friend and brought them all home. All those years, the vine thrived, rain or shine, without much care, while other plants at the back of our house withered. I used to pick up pieces of the vine whenever my kids were sick with fever, cough or flu, and in due time, I noticed that they got well. To this day, the image of Our Lady is in our altar as we pray the Rosary in the evening.

Diagnosed with cancer

On Friday, February 6 of last year (2015), I was diagnosed with parotid carcinoma or cancer of the parotid gland. “You have cancer of the parotid gland,” the doctor glumly told me. The tumor was found to be malignant after a series of medical exams (biopsy, CT scans, tests, etc. from three different hospitals requested by three different surgeons). I couldn’t do anything but accept the hard truth.

The doctor also told me about possibility of suffering from facial paralysis after the operation because removal of the tumor would affect my facial nerves. “Babagsak ang mukha mo… (You will suffer from loss of facial expressions) … depending on the nerves we need to cut and depending on how far the cancer cells have invaded. Some facial nerves need to be cut so the cancerous cells won’t spread to the brain, which is close to the tumor. This operation would require minimum of eight hours.”

This was the surgeon talking, which I consulted for third opinion. I froze with fear when he discussed the findings of the latest biopsy taken by the doctor hours earlier at the University of the Philippines-run Philippine General Hospital (PGH). With my husband beside me, the surgeon talked about the eight-hour surgical procedure I would have to undergo.

In my mind was, “Oh Lord, the trials are getting more and more difficult, parang (like) DOTA computer games, nagle-level up. Imagine, may cancer ka na nga, magkakaganun pa ang mukha mo (You already have cancer and your face will still be impaired), how I can I go back to work? My husband recorded what the doctor said that day because he knew I wouldn’t be able to absorb what the doctor would say well enough.

I was scheduled for immediate surgery within ten days, on February 16, Monday, for which I was not physically, emotionally and psychologically prepared. My mind was battling between reality and nightmare. I had secretly hoped that everything was just a bad dream, and I would soon wake up and find that the cancer tissues did not exist at all.

But all three surgeons we consulted suggested an early removal of the tumor. I kept asking if this could really be true? After the first surgeon I consulted, I got really scared and I went to another one. I was hoping against hope to get a different diagnosis. But I got the same opinion. I tried another doctor only to hear the same findings. My world was starting to crumble.

Church servers

My husband and I are both servers at St. Peter’s Parish Church along Commonwealth Ave., in Quezon City. He is a Lay Minister while I serve as a Lector/Commentator for the past 12 years. Earlier that week, our common friend, Peter Galace, another lay minister, invited his Bible Study group/fellow lay ministers for a pilgrimage to Lipa, at the Carmel Church, site of the apparition of Our Lady, Mediatrix of All Grace on Sunday February 15. Before February 6, I told my husband I would like to join the visit. But after I learned about my condition on February 6, and I was scheduled to have the 8-hour surgery the following Monday, February 16, my chance to join the visit became unclear. But I wanted to go and ask the Blessed Mother to restore me to good health.

A few days passed and my surgeon asked me to wait for the result of the CT scan from the Makati Medical Center. But there was a delay in the release so my surgery was moved to February 23. Because of this, I would be able to join the visit to Lipa.

The familiar look of Carmel Church reminded me of my visit there 20 years ago. As I entered the church, and saw the altar, I knew that finally I could tell Mama Mary my big problem. At that time, no one knew my medical condition, except my husband and my two kids. I begged and prayed to our Mother to pray for me to the Lord our God, for I know He can’t refuse her. There at Carmel I saw a prayer board which I read four times. The Healing Prayer stood beside the Blessed Mother’s image near the church and another one at the veranda where we could view the apparition site. It was a prayer to our Lady to remove the unhealthy cells in the body and renew one’s strength and restore one’s health to its normal state so one can go back to work again. That prayer was really intended for me, Blessed Mother! Thank you for that prayer!

After the mass, I looked for a cloistered nun to beg for prayers. I believe Our Lady guided me to Sr. Yoly, a cloistered nun from Carmel in Infanta, Quezon. I had earlier hoped to talk to one of the cloistered nuns inside the Carmelite Monastery but realized that there was a long queue. Disappointed, I bumped into another nun in brown habits along the hallway near the greenest plants I have ever seen. I asked if I could speak with her, and she readily agreed. She came to Lipa that weekend for a visit and gave me her time and listened to my problem and prayed with me; for me, and my family. She promised she would include me in their masses at Carmel Infanta, Quezon and she and her fellow sister would pray for a very successful operation. Afterwards, we kept in touch thru text prior to my operation.

While waiting for our pilgrimage companions, I went to the bookstore and felt the urge to buy this novena to Padre Pio. I heard about Padre Pio on the stigmata but never really knew him. With a prayer book I bought, I learned about him and his love for the Blessed Mother, and prayed to him for the cure of my disease, and even asked him the same prayer to Mama Mary, to remove the cancer and reverse all medical results. I said the Lady is teaching me where to go and find people and an earthly saint to help me here on Earth and calm my restless heart. How would I have met Sr. Yoly and how would I have known Padre Pio if I did not go to Lipa that day? All along the blessed Mother knew what I was thinking, and knew I will be unable to go to Lipa as often as I pleased due to my condition. Instead, I went to the Padre Pio Shrine in Libis, Eastwood and heard Masses and prayed at a little corner there where I found a small garden dedicated to Mary Mediatrix. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that garden. This became my little Lipa in the heart of Manila!

Jesus would heal me

We had a sit-down session with the group of Marian devotees in the afternoon. From the testimonials, I heard amazing miracles and was inspired and moved to tears after hearing how Mama Mary helped each one with his or her problems, big and small. Once again, I was affirmed on how the Blessed Mother hears those who call to her and her Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. If Jesus did those miracles for them, I am certain He would help me too.

As we headed back home that day, I felt peaceful. It seemed that now, I knew I didn’t have to fight this battle alone, and that whatever God would bring me, I was ready to accept. At the same time, deep in my heart, I knew that our Lady and her servant Padre Pio were watching over me in the next few days before my surgery, praying to God for me. I prayed fervently the rosary with my family nightly.

February 20, Friday, the result of the CT Scan was finally released. We rushed to my surgeon in the same hospital and we showed him the findings. He was alarmed as he surgeon discovered another problem. The scan revealed an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), which was an abnormal tangle of blood vessels in the brain. This had to be fixed before my actual surgery, otherwise, I would suffer from internal hemorrhage. This procedure had to be done 24-48 hours before the actual removal of my tumor.

“What a shock…may tumor ka na, may AV malformation ka pa, iba ka talaga! (What a shock…you already have tumor, you also have AV malformation…you’re different!) Very rare ang ganyang case, and I anticipate that this is going to be very complicated procedure na mangyayari sa operating table,” I heard my doctor say. (Yours is a very rare case...it will be a very complicated procedure in the operating table.)

On February 26, I was brought by an ambulance to the Cath Lab section of the Asian Hospital for the pre-operation procedure. Thank God, the neurosurgeon was able to plug my arteries and got my veins ready for the operation the next day. It was a success at the Asian Hospital and I was brought back to the MMC by Lifeline Rescue ambulance.

The following morning, after a good confession and after having received the Last Sacrament, I was brought to the operating room of the Makati Medical Center. I was trembling while they wheeled me in. Before my husband and kids left me, my whole body was shaking. My husband whispered to me, “Cecille picture this so you won’t be scared. Jesus and Mama Mary is at your footside, where you can see them watching over you during the surgery, and Padre Pio on your bedside, looking at you. God is the greatest healer, and He will be the one performing the surgery, on your surgeon’s behalf. Now be calm. Just believe.”

“Ma’am, I will give you something ha, pampa-kalma lang po (to keep you calm)…” the OR staff said. And shortly after, at 12 noon, I drifted off to slumberland.

Later, I woke to see an OR staff who told me, “Ma’am, nasa recovery room na po kayo. (Ma’am, you are already in the Recovery Room.) I looked at the clock and realized it was already 4:00 p.m. I thought I was supposed to be finished at 8 p.m.; what happened, why only four hours?

Immediately, I was transferred back to my regular room at the 8th floor. I whispered some prayers. “Thank you Mama Mary.” I touched my face, but I was too weak to move and find a mirror. My face felt normal but I couldn’t really see it because it was bandaged all over.

My surgeon came the following morning to check my progress. He asked me if I can taste, speak, wink, frown, smile move my lips, etc. He asked if I could speak. My voice was okay. The doctor then related the events of the previous day to my husband.

Very difficult operation

“The operation of your wife is not for the faint-hearted,” he said. “There were three of us who were at the OR. My colleague, a top surgeon, and a resident surgeon.” He showed my husband pictures of the procedure on his iPad, which to me looked like a pepperoni pizza seen from afar. He explained that to his amazement, when he opened my face, there was no tumor found, but found another growth instead. They sent a sample tissue to Histopathology for further study. We waited for the result, but it took the hospital two full weeks to release it.

My husband got the result alone as I would probably faint to know the final verdict. Results say it was Oncocytoma, which, when googled meant a benign tumor! We rejoiced at the finding! I have no cancer! Praise God! The following day, we headed back to MMC to see my surgeon and to tell him about the great news. He read the finding and told me, “You know what, every time you come here, you surprise me? Your case is now being followed by many doctors here at MMC due to its complexity right from the start.”

I was so happy but my surgeon remained skeptical of the finding that the tumor was benign. “I knew you wanted it to be benign, but I need to be sure. Let’s repeat the reading,” he said.

He gave order to the Histopath Department to release us three more slide specimens for us to bring it to John Hopkin’s-trained pathologists at the UP PGH. These are the doctors who were trained to read cancerous findings. He says that whatever result we will get from the UP PGH will be final and that we won’t need a third opinion.

At that point, I became aware that the Hand of God was working, seeing me through every step of the way. Before, I would be so afraid when tests are repeated, or whenever the doctor would ask me to undergo a certain test. But now, my outlook had changed. God can reverse all medical findings! If God can part the Red Sea, why wouldn’t He be able to remove the cancerous cells in my body?

So there was another week of waiting and hoping. I was thinking, pagaling ng pagaling ang doctor na magbabasa ng result… minsan naisip ko, baka sa sobrang galing may makita pa. Benign na nga baka maging cancerous ulit… (The doctors looking at my test results are the best in the field. I was thinking, because they’re the best, they might discover other things…It’s already benign, it might turn cancerous again.) The waiting time became a test of faith in God.

Incidentally, the doctor who took the cancerous specimen tissues from me on February 6 thru a biopsy, and who found the tissue malignant is the same doctor from UP PGH who had been consulted by the Department chair for the specimen that was taken later for re-evaluation. Along with the co-chair of Pathology Dept., they later declared the tumor to be benign.

As my husband got the result, he called to say, “Praise God for His mighty Hand, it is benign!”

No cancer

We went back to MMC and as my surgeon read the finding over and over he said…Surprise! Surprise! He said that in his long history of operations, there was only one case of Oncocytoma, and I was the second. It was benign, and there is no cancer. There will be no more radiation for a month for me, as originally conceived by the doctors. I was free from that painful chemotherapy I have long dreaded. I would never have to see an Oncologist again! Thank you Blessed Mother!

Before I left, I told him, “Doc, you know, I asked everyone to pray for you, before the surgery.”

He responded: “I prayed hard for you, too. Yours is a very rare and complicated case. I needed other doctors to help me.” Then he added, “In the very near future, MMC will ask for your permission to study your case and to help other doctors learn more in their field.” I said, “Yes Doc, go ahead, no problem.”

As we left MMC, my husband and I felt so blessed and mesmerized by the power of God.

I am now cancer free. Praise God, and thank you Mama Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace. Thank you for giving me a second chance to life. I learned to appreciate the little things, and realized how short life could be. Indeed, He is the potter, and we are the clay. Everything is possible if we believe, for nothing is impossible with God!

“In my trouble I called to the Lord, I called to my God for help. In His temple He heard my voice; He listened to my cry for help.” -- Ps. 18:6

P.S. After her operation, Cecille had to undergo a rehab at the MMC. After three sets of 12 rehab sessions lasting about five months, her facial expressions and speech returned to normal. The miracle continued. She is now back as Lector/Commentator at St. Peter church. Cecille works at the Asian Development Bank in Mandaluyong City. This article was read by Cecille during the Mary Mediatrix Congress at San Jose Seminary, Guadalupe, Makati, on May 1, 2015, two months after her operation.