Monday, September 29, 2008

MY CANCER – MY BLESSING by Marissa Nerida

I am certain many people would say I am insane for believing that my cancer is my blessing. As you go along reading my story, given the facts and circumstances, I have no doubt you will realize I am correct and sincere in saying that, indeed, my ailment is a big blessing. First, allow me to introduce your new friend: Loved ones fondly call me Mommy or Tita Marissa. To date, I am 55 years old, married to a great man, Danny Nerida. We are blessed with four beautiful children and five gorgeous grandchildren. A good education, solid family background, fame, success, and fortune are not a pass from getting the so-called Big C. People make mistakes, big or small, intentional or unintentional. I am no different from others. At the height of my business career, making so much money, earning respect from business and social circles, gaining popularity, and becoming quite successful, I made a very big mistake that caused my downfall. Worse, I landed at the Correctional Institution for Women (CIW), serving a sentence of up to 13 years. At that point, I thought that was my end. My mind and heart could not accept…Marissa, a high school scholar in the United States of America, a professional, part of a respectable and well-known family…ending up in jail? I was mad, full of hatred and bitterness. I blamed every Juan de la Cruz I knew, and worst, I blamed God. Accepting my fate was not easy – not easy at all. Tears, anger, bitterness and hatred made the situation even more difficult. One day, I was surprised to be visited by my kumpadre Carlito Villaluz, a co-employee of my husband at Meralco and the godfather of our eldest son. An active member and elder of the Workers of Christ (WOC), a Catholic charismatic community, Carlito and his group would often visit me at CIW. I must admit, WOC exerted so much time and effort in bringing me back to God. They did very well. I started going to the chapel, to pray and even to attend Sunday Masses. I started believing and trusting Him again. Little by little, I learned to accept the realities of my life. True to their words, I was happier and felt good despite my present predicament. I thought my incarceration was the worst trial, but that was not the end of it. I was wrong. In fact, very wrong. On my third year at CIW, I was diagnosed to have ovarian cancer at stage IV by a medical mission team of St. Lukes Medical Center. Learning this while I was all alone, except for my two custodial escorts, brought me down to my knees. I did not have my family with me. I thought I was going to die. The anger and bitterness ate me up again. As soon as I got back to the Institution from the hospital, I went directly to the chapel. I questioned God. Still very clear in my mind, I recall telling God, “You already brought me to jail, and now you are giving me a very dreadful and incurable disease! I thought You are an understanding and forgiving God.” This circumstance made me stop all my religious activities. I was mad at God! It’s a good thing WOC people did not stop visiting me. They brought me Cesar Liza, one of their most respected leaders. He explained many things to me. Understandably, at first, I ignored him. But, as a good Christian, he never gave up on me. A few months later, his effort paid off. I again started to face the realities of life. I learned to accept my fate without anger or bitterness. In short, I totally surrendered to the Will of God. From that day on, I felt lighter, happier, and experienced total peace of mind and heart. One morning, I woke up praying and talking to God. I prayed, “Thank you Lord for giving me time to cleanse myself and more time to prepare and be with my family, before you finally call me into Your kingdom.” What if I did not have cancer and I had an unprepared death? Where would I end up? What if I died a sudden death? Where would my soul be? With my cancer, I was blessed with time. Total surrender to God brought me many other unbelievable blessings. After less than four years of incarceration (I should have been in jail for a minimum of eight years to begin with), I was granted a presidential pardon and was released from CIW on January 15, 2001. After having two cycles of chemotherapy while inside the Institution, I was able to finish my six remaining cycles in the care of my family. Before my chemotherapy even started, my oncologist informed my family and me that I had just a year, or at most, two, to survive. Of course, doctors are not God. To date, I have survived my cancer and that’s a concrete example of a miracle. Early this year, my ovarian cancer had spread to my spinal column and I was diagnosed to have inoperable bone metastasis. Thus, I have been strongly advised to undergo another eight cycles of chemo, not as a cure, but as a procedure to improve the quality of my remaining days. One big blessing God has granted me lately is bringing me to Carewell – the Cancer Resource and Wellness Community. The community makes me so happy. It makes me feel I belong to a big family that offers so much concern, care, attention and love. Funny but absolutely true: being part of Carewell makes me forget I am sick. I am happier, livelier, and more active. With Carewell, there is no room for boredom, for sadness, or even depression. The staff always has a solution to all our problems and needs. Needless to say, Carewell, as a whole, is the exact answer to what a cancer victim/survivor needs to live a little longer, be happier, have peace of mind, and to top it all, to be prepared emotionally and spiritually. Now, I can go anytime. I no longer fear death! Thy will be done! For making the remaining days of my life more meaningful, fruitful, and beautiful, please accept my heartfelt thanks to you: Bobbit, Tita Dely, Ate Billie, Tita Eva, Abelle, Yel, Dra. Cherry, Jane, other staff and volunteers. Many thanks, too, to my gorgeous “classmates:” Marisa, Mae, Raquel, Linda, and Sylvia. I am truly blessed to have ALL of you. God has really been good to me all these years. Thank you Lord and thank you, too, to my beautiful family: Carewell.

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