We are continuing our reflections on hope and cancer with a personal account from Fr. Jerry Orbos, SVD, missionary, author of Moments, newspaper columnist, radio-TV personality, preacher, composer-singer too.
My cancer journey
I have always believed that everything happens for a reason, and there is a mission. So when I was diagnosed with stage 2 lung cancer in 2018, I did not linger on the question “why?” but went on to ask “Where to Lord?”
The other belief I have in my life is to focus on the Lord, not on the “load.” From the very start of my cancer journey, I surrendered everything to the Lord. Yes, bigger than the “Big C,” or cancer, is the Bigger C, Christ. “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46, 10) I held on to this biblical verse and I faced everything with the joy of the Lord. My battle cry was: Focus on the humor, not on the tumor! The journey was difficult, but it was light and meaningful.
Cancer cleansed me not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. When one comes close to the door steps of eternity, one realizes the utter uselessness of excess worldly luggage and concerns.
Before cancer (BC) I was engrossed in the works of my hands. After cancer (AC) I became more focused on the love in my heart. It’s ok to have empty pockets and empty hands, as long as we have hearts that are full.
I thank God for the three F’s in my life—Faith, Family, and Friends. These helped me in my journey with cancer, in my journey to God’s heart.
When God leads us “away from the crowd,” He is leading us closer to Himself. I became more prayerful. I experienced the healing presence of the Lord and His unconditional love. On “the road less traveled,” moments of healing for the body and soul happen. In the thick of the grindsparks and the flashbulbs, I found candleglow moments.
“But I will restore you to health, and heal your wounds,” says the Lord (Jer. 30, 17), I praised God, the Greatest Healer, The Greatest Restorer, who purified and cleansed me, and made me a better person.
Thanks to the doctors and the medical staff-angels on white robes, I am cancer-free for three years now. I am also baggage free. I have no more agenda except to live the rest of my life, the best of my life. Payback time, especially to tell people who are sick to trust in the Lord and to hold on to the Blessed Mother, to be God’s messenger of hope and joy, and just to inspire before I expire.
In conclusion, I would like to share this line I heard somewhere: “Let us thank God for protecting us from what we thought, we wanted, and blessing us with what we did not know we needed.” I did not ask for cancer, but it turned out to be a blessing to me. Yes, sometimes the Lord dims the light to make us see more clearly our true blessings in our journey.
Wishing us all the three H: Be Healthy, Be Happy, Be Holy! And for those who have been healed, and given chance to live some more years, don’t waste the grace period that has been given to us.
One with you!
P.S. One of the fruits of my journey with cancer is that of encountering St. Ezekiel Moreno, OAR, patron of the cancer patient, who helped make a miracle for me. This Spanish missionary was in the Philippines for 15 years and worked especially with poor and the sick in Mindoro, Palawan, Batangas, and Las Piñas. He himself had cancer of the palate. His statue in our SVD Mission Home continued to shed perspiration and tears all throughout my four months of chemotherapy, assuring me of his presence and powerful intercession. He was my true companion and friend on my journey with cancer. St Ezekiel Moreno, pray for us, your Canzmates!
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On a very personal note, let’s hear it from our bunso, Maria Paz Munson-Weigand.
“I am a teacher and taught at the Paco Catholic School until I retired. I was widowed at age 44. Louie, the love of my love, passed away from his first fatal heart attack. It shattered our four kids—Lorrie, 18, Ludwig, 16, Trish, 13, and Starr, 5. It shattered me, but our lives had to go on, with the help of my Ate Deedee and Kuya Sonny Siyrangco.
Lorrie got a full scholarship at Makati Med’s Nursing School, Ludwig finished his Aeronatical Engineering course, Trish was sent to Miriam College for her BS – Environmental Science, and Starr finished law school at Ateneo de Manila, my niece Kris Munson’s help, with a silver medal.
God is good. He has allowed me to still be around for all these, despite my two bouts with cancer, breast and ovarian in 1993 and 1986, and my leg amputation due to a vehicular accident in 2003. It was only two years after Louie passed away that Dr. Genara Limson made a radical hysterectomy and I underwent six chemo sessions. The period of recovery and the chemo sessions were nightmarish. I began to lose my hair, as expected. But I prayed to Mary to help me keep my hair and, yes, it did thin out but it stopped falling off!
Again, with constant and sincere appeals to Jesus and Mary, with my nieces and friends and students’ selfless help, I survived. But after three years, lightning struck me again. I had to have my right breast removed and I had to have another round of eight chemo sessions.
All these, I offered to Mama Mary! She did not disappoint me.
Now, after 26 years, with my prosthetic leg, I am cancer-free, with my complete trust and faith in the Lord intact. Danke, Gesu. So for those who have cancer, take heart, pray, and offer your life and your cancer to Jeus and Mary.”