It was early 2005, at the tail end of our 2 month vacation in the Philippines, when my Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. A few days after returning to the US, I found myself on a plane heading back to Manila for my Mom’s surgery. The successful operation was followed with alternative and homeopathic therapies instead of chemotherapy or radiation. Her decision against chemo & radiation was brought about by her heart condition, as she was recovering from a stroke in 2001, and a history of hypertension.
My parents finally migrated to the US on December 1, 2006. My Mom had lost a considerable amount of weight from the last time I saw her. She would occasionally complain of difficulty breathing and of getting tired easily. There were days when she'll get over it and other days, we'd provide her with respiratory treatments. My dad said that in the past 3-4 mos, she’s been on pain medication for soreness or pain in her back.
In spite of her condition, I witnessed how my Mom managed to ignore any pain and put on her best smile and laughter as she spent those December days with my 2 daughters. She enjoyed her days just being around them, playing “teacher” to them, reading to them, singing with them and watching them perform songs, pretend plays and ballet dances for her. This was all she ever wished for- to enjoy the company of her “apos” (grandchildren).
On New Year's Eve, we brought Mommy to the UC Davis emergency room due to difficulty breathing where she was immediately put into a ventilator. Several chest x-rays and a cat-scan revealed fluid and suspicious and abnormal cells on her chest and lungs. She was kept in the ICU as doctors drained the fluid and treated her for possible infection and pneumonia. On January 2, they tested if they could extubate her but her lungs failed the test so they waited another day. On that same day, we were apprised of her condition while we initiated an emergency visa request for my brother in the Philippines. My Mom’s doctors said that she neither had infection nor pneumonia but that the cancer has metastasized from her breast to her lungs and even to her bones. She had Stage 4 cancer that was very aggressive. Despite this, she passed the second breathing test and the doctor was to extubate her. Before doing so, the doctors explained to her that her lungs may not function satisfactorily and that there is a possibility of putting her in the ventilator again. She said that she did not want the tube back.
A few minutes after the tube was removed, it was apparent that my Mom could not breathe on her own and was gasping for breath. It was so painful for me to see her that way and so I asked her again if she wanted the tube back but she said no, mumbling “walang silbi” (there's no use). I begged to her telling her that without the tube, she would not be able to breathe, and she answered, “mamatay nalang” (I'll just go/die). Mommy’s decision was very difficult for me to hear and accept. Yet, I had to respect it.
Through faith and love for Mommy, we submitted her to God's care --- she was given comfort care (oxygen, morphine, and sedatives) from around 1230 pm. She stayed a little longer to listen to our messages, to which she shed tears especially when she heard Bea's "mahal na mahal kita Lola Mommy” (I love you very very very much) and my brother's voice (saying I love you) on the phone. She passed on peacefully at 9 am in the morning of January 4th (California time).
We are accepting God's will now and my Mom's requests throughout her fight against the disease. We know that the 30 days she spent with her granddaughters certainly meant a thousand days to her. Together with my dad and my brother who was able to come to the US to be with us, we will lay Mommy’s body to rest knowing that her spirit is now in God's bosom and that all her wishes have been granted.