Reflection written after his surgery last July 17 2018
I am writing this column from the hospital where I’ve been confined since July 16. I underwent a video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) last July 17, spent one night at the ICU, and have been in my regular room since July 19. My 64-year-old body needed rest, repair and restoration. Thank God for the power of prayer, and for the talent and skill of angels with stethoscopes and all involved in the medical profession.
When sickness comes, it’s time to really listen to what our body is saying, but more so, to what God is saying. So many lessons and realizations these past days, and thank God, they are not yet too late for the learning. The very first realization is the reality of death, but more so, the reality of God as we face death. We all will die. Sooner or later, we all will meet our God someday. We believe in a merciful and loving God.
Sickness makes us rest a while, and death makes us rest in peace. Between these two, given the chance, may we still have the opportunity to become better persons, and do whatever mission we still can do.
The usual three- to four-hour operation to remove the upper lobe of my left lung took about eight hours for Dr. Tony Ramos. He and Dr. Nelson Bambalan were very careful and thorough in their mission to search and destroy my cancer cells. Dr. Ramos said he prayed so much to Mama Mary to help him all throughout the procedure. He even promised Mama Mary that he would pray the rosary every day. The procedure “VATS” (video-assisted thoracic surgery) can now be also called “MATS” (Mama Mary-assisted thoracic surgery) for Dr. Ramos.
At the ICU, I was told to press a blue button whenever I felt pain. I pressed it once, but no one came. I must have pressed it four times more, but nothing. Finally when the nurse came, I asked him what took him so long; he said I was connected to a PCA (patient controlled analgesic) machine that released a dose of pain reliever every time I pressed the button. No wonder I was getting groggy. Imagine if, in my impatience and frustration, I pressed it even more!
To be helpless and to be dependent on God is a lesson we learn well and fast. But for some of us, to be helpless and to rely on the help of others is something we don’t quite learn. Sickness makes us realize that we need others, and that we need one another.
There is always a stretch in our journey where no one, not even those who are closest to us, can accompany us, much as they want to. Going through a CT scan machine, or waking up alone in a cold recovery room or lying down in an ICU bed, or looking at the blank walls of a hospital bed, makes us realize that, in those moments, it is only God who stays with us. Yes, He will not leave us alone.
A MOMENT with the LORD:
Lord, help us to learn to slow down, stop and rest a while. Amen.
In today’s Gospel (Mk. 6: 30-34), Jesus invited His disciples to come away by themselves to a deserted place, and rest a while. They were so busy ministering to so many people that they did not even have the time to eat. The body needs rest. So does the soul.
We are often under pressure to do, to act, to perform, to achieve, to function, and to be productive. Many of us live busy lives. Many of us live fast and loud lives. If we do not slow down, quiet down and rest, sooner or later we will break down, burn out and fall sick.