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Queen of the Family
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|Miracles Do Happen: Cancer Patient Healed by Our Lady of Lipa|
By Denise S. Mañosa
I have always believed in miracles, and after my personal experiences, I truly believe that miracles are there everyday for the asking.
My story begins in 2002. I was diagnosed with uterine cancer stage 1b. On Feb. 12, 2011, I was operated on and had a total hysterectomy. The good news was that there were no cancer cells found outside the uterus so I did not need chemotherapy, but the bad news was that the doctors told me that I needed to have radiation therapy to ensure that no microscopic cancer cells that were not visible to the eye remained. Although I had my doubts on what they would radiate, since my uterus and both ovaries had already been removed, I complied with the advice of my two doctors, who told me that this was the protocol for Stage 1 cancer.
I had 25 daily sessions of low dose radiation therapy in St. Luke’s Hospital in Quezon City, Mondays thru Fridays, between the months of March and April of 2002. I had to leave my residence in Alabang as early as 5:30 a.m. to beat the traffic and go all the way to St. Luke’s hospital in Quezon City every day. At the start I felt no symptoms. It was only towards the end of the 25 sessions that I started to get diarrhea immediately after the sessions.
From May to about end of August, everything seemed okay. Then starting September, I started to feel bloated and knew something was wrong. I started to go for checkups with a gastroenterologist , who kept giving me medicines and telling me to come back week after week. Instead of feeling better, the condition worsened. The doctor then suggested I have a colonoscopy done. This was by late October. It was not successful, because about 8 inches into the colon, there was an obstruction so the colonoscopy could not be completed. Since the doctor reverted back to medications after the failed colonoscopy, I decide to change to another doctor who lived and practiced in the Alabang area.
The new doctor immediately ordered a virtual colonoscopy done on me. The results showed that I had an almost total obstruction in the intestines. He told me that surgery was required to remove the obstruction. So on the 1st week of Dec. 2002, I checked into the Asian Hospital to undergo the operation. However, the surgeon that my doctor called refused to operate on me the night before the scheduled operation. He said the operation was risky and since it was due to the radiation burns that were caused by the radiation therapy, he said that we would have to wait at least one year from the time of the last radiation session before opening me up. I was surprised that my doctor did not insist on the surgery and did not bother to look for another surgeon that would do the operation. So I was again back to trying to cope with my condition with medications.
My condition worsened rapidly. I was in constant pain from spasms and was bloated all the time. I could not eat, as I would end up throwing up whatever I would try to take in. I lost over 10 pounds that Dec.
By early Jan., I felt I was dying. I had no strength, my cheeks had fallen, my face was gaunt, I was stooped, it took so much effort to climb stairs, and my stomach was constantly tied up in knots. I could not retain any food, and I would even throw up the little water I would drink. It was then that I finally agreed for my husband to ask the doctors of Medical City for a 2nd opinion. At that time he was in the process of designing the New Medical City hospital.
On the same day, my husband called Dr. Alfredo Bengzon for advice. Dr. Bengzon asked for all my records and sent them to Dr. Augusto Sarmiento, who immediately ordered that I check into the hospital that same afternoon. It was a Thursday. Before leaving for the hospital, our parish priest, Msgr. Chito Bernardo, came to my house and gave me the Sacrament of the Sick.
In the hospital, several tests had to be done first. That day I wrote my Last Will and Testament. I thought I was really going to die because I was so weak. But what kept my spirits high were the innumerable texts that I was receiving from friends that they were all praying for me. I was so overwhelmed and humbled by the messages of love and concern, that I literally felt embraced by love. At that point, I knew I could die happy with the knowledge that I was loved, and if I was loved so much by family and friends, then how much more was the love that God had for me.
Saturday, the day of the operation, started for me with a general confession with our good friend Fr. Mark Lesage in the room, and I was able to receive communion. I was wheeled into the operating room by 10 a.m. feeling very calm and confident that I was in God’s hands.
The operation took longer than expected. My stomach was full of adhesions. Dr. Sarmiento had to remove about 1 ½ meters of small and part of the large intestines as they had adhered into one large gnarled mass, as large as an American football ball. Then, as they were closing me up, I started to bleed and they could not stop the bleeding. The doctors thought that I would not make it. I remember waking up and looking at the clock that said it was already 5 p.m. In my mind I knew the operation was taking longer than expected. Then I heard Dr. Sarmiento, in a very calm voice, introducing me to Dr. Castillo, a hematologist, whom he said he called in to help stop the bleeding.
Every so often I would wake up and could hear the conversation in the OR. I heard Dr. Sarmiento asking why the blood transfusion was taking so long, and I heard the answer that they had run out of blood and were still waiting for the blood to be processed. What entered my mind then was that I felt sorry for my family as I knew they would be frantically looking for blood. Then I would hear my blood pressure called out, and I knew it was dangerously low. But all throughout, although I was aware there was a crisis, I never felt nervous nor fearful. I felt safe and at peace knowing that I was being cradled in the palm of the Lord.
It was around 11 p.m. when I woke up in the recovery room fully conscious. Since I had an epidural as anesthesia I felt no pain, just heaviness in my back. That was when I was informed by Dr. Sarmiento and my family that I almost did not make it. I was alert and wanted to just talk and talk. There was no vacancy in the ICU, and since the next day was Sunday, Dr. Sarmiento decided to just move me to my room and just monitor me from there.
The next day found me hooked up to so many monitors, and I was still having blood transfusions. I was told that I ended up using 19 units of blood (type AB+) during the operation, and another 3 or 4 units even after the operation. Dr. Castillo told me that not a drop of my blood was mine any longer, but not to worry, as after 3 months, all the blood transfused in me would become my own. In spite of everything, I recovered well. I stood up after two days and on the 7th day I was able to go home.
I went home on a Friday afternoon and was supposed to see Dr. Sarmiento on Monday to change the dressing. However, the next afternoon the wound started to suppurate. So I went back to the hospital, where Dr. Sarmiento removed most of the sutures to clean the wound and put new dressings. I could not even look at my stomach. That was the only time that fear entered my mind.
From then on, I had to go to Medical City in Mandaluyong every single afternoon, Sundays and holidays included, to get the wound cleaned and dressed. This daily visit continued for 7 months, from January to August. My wound was not healing well. They suspected I had diabetes, but tests showed I did not. However, for more than a month I had to inject myself three times a day with some serum that would supposedly assist the healing. That did not work. By May, my hair was falling out in clumps and I was getting bald as if I were undergoing chemo. I continued to l feel weak and look skeletal. I had no life as my whole day was centered on my daily visit to Medical City, which at that time took at least 1 ½ - 2 hours of travel one way. I would leave my house in Alabang at 1:30 p.m. to be there by 3 – 3:30 p.m. and back again by 6 p.m.
The wound was healing so slowly. There was a sinus (a hole) that wouldn’t close. Because the doctor had to open the sutures, the wound looked like an open wound, except that skin covered it. But Dr. Sarmiento warned me to be very careful not to get anything that could hit my stomach as the skin that covered the wound was thin and could easily be punctured. That was my condition as of end of July.
THE FIRST MIRACLE
That First Saturday of August 2003, my sister-in-law, Milagros Mañosa Zialcita, asked me if I wanted to join them to go to Lipa to hear the First Saturday mass at 9 a.m. I agreed as we were to be back by 1 p.m., so I could still go to the doctor in the afternoon.
As an aside, my sister-in-law, Milagros, was married to Lorenzo Zialcita, whose eldest sister was the Mother Superior of the Carmelite order in Lipa when Our Lady of the Mediatrix appeared to Teresing Castillo in 1948 onwards. Her family believed that she also saw Our Lady, but in obedience to the archbishop at that time that forbade her from ever speaking about it, this Mother Superior refused to talk about the apparition even to her own family, until death.
We arrived on time for the 9 a.m. mass. After the mass, those that remained went up and formed a semi circle around the communion rail, to be blessed by the priest who they said was a healing priest. (I forgot his name). As I went to the communion rail near the sacristy, I smelled very strong scent of roses. It was so strong that I was going to each of my sisters–in-laws and nieces to find out who was wearing that perfume. None of them were. But the scent was undeniably that of roses.
After being blessed, we then proceeded to visit a niece of theirs that was a Carmelite in Lipa. As we were waiting in the room for her to open the window to talk to us, again I smelled the roses. I kept commenting about it to my sisters-in-law. When the Carmelite nun was told about my smelling the roses, she immediately told me that I was blessed and favored by Our Lady, as she made her presence known to me through the scent of roses. I was so happy and overwhelmed to hear that and asked that she pray that my wound finally heal.
I did not mention to my doctor my experience in Lipa. But that same week, he mentioned that the sinus in the wound seemed to be closing faster so that I could just go three times a week instead of daily. By the second week, the sinus was completely closed and I was declared healed. That made me so happy, as I could finally get on with my life. That October, I was able to join a pilgrimage to Europe and attend the beatification of Mother Teresa in Rome.
THE SECOND MIRACLE
All went relatively well in my life until October of 2005. I noticed that there was fresh blood in my stool. It happened three times on different days, so I feared the worse and went to see Dr. Sarmiento. He scheduled me for a colonoscopy, but like the first time in 2002, there was a blockage 8 inches into the colon. So another test was done with contrast and the findings were that I had a tumor in the sigmoid colon that appeared to be the classic apple core tumor that meant that it was malignant 95% of the time. Dr. Sarmiento told me that I needed surgery.
A CT scan was then taken to guide him for the surgery. Not only did the results confirm the findings of the tumor, but it also showed that there were two fuzzy spots in the liver. This worried the doctor because fuzzy spots usually indicate malignancy. And there seemed to be a cyst in the kidney, that one did not know if it was malignant or not. All Dr. Sarmiento told me was that we would not know for sure until biopsies of all these tumors and cysts were taken. The news devastated me. I was facing not only another major operation, but the fact that I would have to undergo chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and all those treatments to try to halt the cancer.
Because it was end of Oct. with the holidays coming up, I asked to schedule the operation for Monday, Nov. 7. The reason I asked for this was that our wedding anniversary was Nov. 5, a first Saturday, and I wanted to go back to Lipa to ask Our Lady a favor one more time.
My family went to the beach that weekend of Oct. 29 to Nov. 2 in order to bond. I was in no humor that weekend. All that gripped me was the prospect of having to fight the cancer after the operation. I could not enjoy the company of my family and found myself writing down my thoughts and praying for a miracle. I really feared that this time I would not be able to recover at all.
On Saturday, Nov. 5, 2005, my husband and three children accompanied me to Lipa. We attended the 9 a.m. first Saturday mass there. After the mass, as I approached the shrine of Our Lady, I distinctly smelled the roses again. I was ecstatic! I just knew that my prayers were answered. I had no cancer. I was just so sure of it. I decide to buy a statue of Our Lady of the Mediatrix for me. All the way home I kept telling my husband and children how happy I was and how good Our Lord was to me. They were happy to see me so happy, but I am sure they had their doubts.
That Sunday evening, as I entered the hospital a day prior to the operation, I told Dr. Sarmiento that I was sure I had no cancer, and that since he was opening me up, to just fix my stomach hernia and the scar of my stomach that had healed badly. Of course the doctor told me that my operation was a major one and he would see if he could still do my request. I brought the statue of the Virgin with me to my hospital room.
The next day I again cheerfully reminded the doctor of my request. That was the last I remember before I succumbed to the anesthesia. Next thing I knew I was in my room and my children were telling me that there was no tumor, there was no cancer; I was all clear.
Dr. Sarmiento then came to visit me and was excitedly telling me that when he opened me, he found no tumor in the sigmoid colon. He was so surprised that he even slit the colon to check with his finger the area where the tests had clearly shown the tumor. Then they biopsied the fuzzy spots in the liver and found they were tubercular cysts and not malignant. The cyst in the kidney was also benign. So he complied with my request and fixed the stomach hernia and redid my scar in the stomach to strengthen it.
That’s when I asked the doctor how could he explain it. Would he say it was a miracle? He told me that “yes, you can say it was a miracle” as he could not explain how the tumor shown in the two diagnostic tests had disappeared. I then told him I was sure it was a miracle from the time I smelled the roses in Lipa the Saturday before.
I recovered fast and left the hospital after only three days.
Aside from the two incidents that I have recounted that are very clear to be miracles – at least to me – there have been innumerable small incidents wherein I believe Our Lord has always granted me miracles thru the intercession of Our Lady.
I have had three other operations and several near calls after that 2005 miracle. Almost every two years I end up in the hospital for an operation or procedure. Every time it happens I entreat Our Lady to intercede for me for a miracle that I believe Our Lord grants me.
In spite of the successful operations I have had, I continue to suffer from chronic diarrhea due to the fact that my intestines had been burned by the radiation therapy that I went thru in 2003 and the tissues of my intestines are necrotic because of it. So for me, just being able to go thru the day without an embarrassing situation is already a miracle. To be able to take short trips and even travel abroad with my condition is a miracle.
But I really am very grateful to God for all the care and love He has shown me. I often ask myself why I have been favored so. I have no answer except that God’s love is truly so infinite that He grants us anything we ask for – if we believe in miracles. And I do believe in miracles, and I believe that the miracle is there for our asking. It may not always come the way we want it to, but miracles do happen every day.