Posts Tagged ‘Family’

Happy Thanksgiving: 2015
November 25, 2015

HHappy Thanksgiving, everybody.  It is an American tradition but giving thanks is universal and is as basic as breathing.  One way or another we give thanks or acknowledge our blessing.

“Salamat sa Diyos” (Thank, God).

There is always something to be thankful for—always. Like:

  • smell of fresh baked cookies filling up the house
  • turkey roasting in the oven for Thanksgiving dinner
  • snore of your wife/husband/love one beside you
  • warm feel of the sun in your face and skin.

Simple. it tells you life goes on because you can feel, taste, and touch. And if you really look hard, you will see how beautiful life is.

Last year, I spent Thanksgiving in the Philippines, on business. It was wonderful because I got to surprise my mother and spent some time with family there. Although, I was far away from my family here in the US, I was happy to see they were together for our traditional Thanksgiving dinner. I am big on tradition. It establishes continuity and it is something you look forward to.

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for many things. Far too long to enumerate here. More importantly, I am still here celebrating it with my family, and with you. I sometimes reflect on the past but I do not dwell on it too long. I sometimes remember the races that I have run or the many place I have visited around the world, but what I reflect most are the memories it gave me. It is all about the feeling and completeness it gave me. It is also about the people I have met and shared the experience with.

I have stopped reflecting on the things I use to be able to do, life running or traveling, instead I just savor the moment on the things I am able to do or experience. Like the sweet taste of chocolate chip cookies in my mouth. Yum.

What I do reflect on are the blessings I have received, and they are many. As you know with certainty the limits of your life, the more blessings you see come pouring through. This Thanksgiving I am overwhelmed. I see it all with clarity and intensity. Perhaps it is because I am in constant pain that I am sensitized to any relief, sweetness, gestures, greetings, attention, or happiness I experience.

For this Thanksgiving make it special. If not a tradition in wherever you are, make your day special anyway.



P.S. 30 days to Christmas.

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Round 14: Advent journey
December 20, 2014

RRound 14 was two weeks ago Wednesday, December 10.  It seems a long time had pass and I have already forgotten it. Besides going to chemo treatments is already normal for me; it is like going out to eat or going to the gym.

However, my last treatment was memorable because it is Christmas time.  The infusion center was fully decorated for Christmas.  It was pretty amazing.  I was told that some nurses and staff came in over the weekend to decorate the waiting room, halls, and infusion rooms.  It changed everything.  I like it.  They did it for us, cancer patients.  I was told also, that a cancer patient, being treated there, would be coming the following week to sing Christmas carols at the waiting room.  She sings professionally and she is bringing friends with her.  I can only imagine the scene: Her voice permeating the rooms inside the infusion center while the hisses and beeps of infusion pumps try to drown the Christmas music.  Bravo, fellow cancer survivor, bravo!  Next time I will bring my minus one CD and sing too.  Ha!

Simbang Gabi: My advent journey.  

I have been on an advent journey that goes back when I was living back home.  Filipinos have this Catholic tradition called “Simbang Gabi”(literally translated as Mass in the Night), wherein early morning masses are held, normally at 4:30 am, for nine consecutive days before Christmas.  The tradition was started by the Spanish priests as way for the farmers to go to church to give thanks before going to work in the rice fields.  Simbang Gabi started December 15.

Back home, I have vivid memories of going to the early morning Simbang Gabi with my cousins and friends.  Waking up so early in morning as a teenager is not exactly easy, and you have to do it for nine consecutive days.  It takes effort beyond benevolent intentions.  I don’t remember ever completing it for the nine-day novena period but I do remember the early morning rise.  I remember it was cold (about 40F) and I would walk the empty streets on the way to my cousins house.  Each year my cousins and I would have a contest among ourselves as to who can complete the nine-day novena mass.  I would go the first few nights and would lose focus, not wake up, and not complete it.  Until now…

December 15 at St. Henry at 7:00 pm – Done.  

December 16 at Immaculate Heart of Mary at 7:00 pm – Done. 

December 17 at St. Matthias at 7:00 pm – Done.

December 18 at St Wenceslaus at 6:30 pm – Done.

December 19 at St. Ita at 7:00 pm – Done.

December 20 at St. Cornelius at 4:30 pm – Done.

We will have to wait and see.  Doing this nine-day mass have given me a new perspective, aside from the spiritual renewal it gives you.  I have never seen so many churches in my life and did not even know they existed here in Chicago.  Each Simbang Gabi is full of Filipino worshipers and of course, where there is a Filipino gathering there is Filipino food after.  I just wish they serve vegetarian dishes but that would be hard for any rice-eating Filipino.  I plan to continue this tradition.  Tomorrow I go to Toronto to visit my sister and guess what: They have Simbang Gabi there also….and of course food.  

I am enjoying this advent journey.  It has given me time to reflect where I have been and hopefully God has heard my prayer of healing.  I am even going to different churches to make sure my prayers are heard, and even as far as Canada…eh?

Today is special also.  It is my birthday.  I celebrated it with my family and even my youngest brother arrived today from the Philippines for a visit.  Life is good.  Join me in my journey of renewal and thanksgiving.


56th birthday

56th birthday with Irish 

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Round 12: Surprises and blessings

November 26, 2014
Manila, PH
 This week is Thanksgiving week in the US.  It is one tradition that my adopted country has taught me to appreciate; that and Black Friday shopping (joke).  But seriously, Thanksgiving is one day that is specially dedicated for giving thanks and being surrounded by family.  Christmas evoke the same feeling in me, especially if celebrated in the Philippines.  
This Thanksgiving I am blessed to celebrate it here in the Philippines, where I am on business.  Although I will be celebrating it away from my wife, kids, and Ethan (my grandson), I could not pass up the opportunity to see my mom, brothers, and their families here.  It is my time to say thanks to them for their prayers and support.  It is about being with them sharing stories rather than a formal sit-down-turkey-eating-football-watching day.  Also, I wanted to see the look in my mom’s face when I surprise her by being here.
She did not disappoint me.  Picture this: Sunday, Nov. 23, I arrive early morning.  My youngest brother, Raul, picked her up and along my other brother, Rene, who suddenly arrived from southern Philippines a day earlier.  Rene gave the lame excuse he had to take care of some banking matters in Manila.  (My mom was already wondering why go to Manila when there are major banks also where he lives…hmmm).  Mom was unware of my arrival, so all three went to my hotel Sunday morning on some flimsy excuse.  Mom stayed in the car with Rene, while Raul got me.  My mom always has this infectious habit of praying the rosary to while passing time and she was deep in prayers as I saw her walking up to the car.  I walked to her side and knocked on the door and opened it saying.
Merry Christmas!
Light.  Camera.  Action.  To say that she was crying, shouting, flailing, in total disbelief, shocked, crying again and shouting (you get the picture) is an understatement.  It was a if I appeared in god-like manner as she was praying.  When she finally settled down and managed to speak she just hugged me, and I lost it.  I felt her warm love wash away the pain of cancer.  It was like being born again as a baby.  A mother’s embrace is so nuturing and enduring that it can give you back your life and fill up any emptiness.
My mom has already given me so much that I wanted to give back too by being here with her.  In that moment, my Thanksgiving was complete and was thankful.  Fate has somehow conspired and aligned everything just for me to be here with her: the unexpected business trip to Manila, the timeliness of being off chemo treatment during the week, the clearance from my doctors to travel, the stable scan results, the circuitous route I took due to flight delays and miss connections (Chicago/Tokyo/Guam/Manila), and the support of my family back in the US.  For all that and more I am very  thankful.
Unfortunately, there is no video of the Thanksgiving surprise to share, but you get the picture.  The moment is etched in my memory along the strong feelings that goes with Thanksgiving 2014.  It will become part of my cancer journey of Thanksgiving.  I read back on what I wrote last year and the message was still the same for me; be thankful for all all your blessings.  Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.
Rene, Raul, me, and mom at Marriott Hotel lobby

Rene, Raul, me, and mom at Marriott Hotel lobby

With mom in car after she recovered from shock.

With mom in car after she recovered from shock.



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Just get me there.
March 1, 2014

LLife and death decisions are easy.  They are binary.  So when the doctor’s tell me I have to do chemo, I reluctantly do it or I die.  That’s the way I see things.  Of course, others may choose to let go because they do not have something or someone to live for.

There are decisions that are hard because they are personal.  Sending my mother home back to the Philippines is one of those hard decisions.  She left two weeks ago and the house is not the same: It is quiet.  I sent her home because, if anything happens to me, I don’t want her to see the end.  I know about mother’s instinct and all that, but I will be helpless to protect her.  It is much easier to carry on not worrying about her when the day comes.

I only want good memories for her to remember me.  I have plenty to keep me going, more than enough to get me to the next stage: The clinical trials (non-FDA approved drugs or experimental).

I am looking forward to my next appointment at University of Chicago Medicine.  The results of my genetic testing from Foundation Medicine are out and it identified one gene called RET that can unlock my cancer mystery.  The report also listed trial drugs that maybe appropriate for me.  All this is foreign to me, but my doctors are excited.  So if they tell me I have to do this and that, that is easy.  Just get me to the starting line and I will figure out how I will finish.

At the finish line, I know who will be there: You, my family and of course, mom.  It will be a sweet moment I look forward to because it is all worth all these years of struggle.


RET Gene


P.S.  My next U of C appointment is on March 12.

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The women in my life.

May 13, 2013

YYesterday was Mother’s Day.  So I started my day with a phone call to my mom.  She is in Manila right now but will be coming to the US for a visit.  I am so lucky that I still have my mom around for she has been a guiding force in my life and while I was growing up.

Being first born I was dotted upon by my mother.  At times, she still does it once in a while like promising to cook my favorite dish when I come for a visit.  Lately, she has this thing about never ending mass offerings for my continued health.  I always make a joke that my name has been called so often during prayer offerings at her church that I deserve to be cannonized or at least a statue.  One time I attended mass at her church and it seems half the church knows my name and my cancer story, and I don’t even know them.

She has tremendous faith and when I took a turn early this year, I could not bear to disappoint her nor tell her.  More so, I carried this guilt that I will not be able to see her and do proper goodbyes, if ever.  I was more worried about her when things are left unfinished.  But now, I am on the road to recovery again and Mother’s Day to me has a different meaning.  

 I often said that each day is a gift and should be appreciated; Mother’s Day or not.  Important relationships should be renewed with righteous meaning.  If you look at it each day is unique and brings unique opportunities.  I am not the same person last Mother’s Day too.  Last year is gone and even yesterday, a memory.  What is important is now, you, me, and this moment.

Aside from my mother, I should pay tribute to another strong woman in my life, my wife.  I am in awe how my wife has managed to keep my family together, balance her nursing career, and satisfy my needy medical needs.  I must admit I am not an easy person to get along with when I have my moments.  Chemo treatments does not make it easy when I am totally stubborn and insensitive.  But she sees beyond this, she would come home from work with vivid stories of patients far more advance with their cancers or patients who have neglected themselves or by others.  Sort of telling me that I am blessed in my current predicament.  I am blessed.  I am surrounded by strong women who looks after me.

 I even have strong women-friends who can beat the sh*t out of me.  Yeah, you know who you are…hehe.  

 On chemo treatments.

So I am back doing chemo treatments again.  I started up again last Tuesday.  Somehow, chemo has become part of my lifestyle along with all its side-effects.  I no longer complaint about it but have come to accept the necessary inconvenience it causes.  Some people hate traffic congestions and other pet peeves; mine is I hate chemo the most.  In the past, I tried to demonize it hoping it will go away but it didn’t.  Now, I just look at it as my new normal or part of my life.  Why make it any bigger than what it is already; just accept it and move on, right?


P.S.  Thanks to my friend MikeE who sent me training materials on Python in DVD.  Have you ever tried studying when your brain is soaked with chemo; not good.

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E’s World: All roads lead to Chicago
February 6, 2013

20130207-202737.jpg“No Mack truck today, Ethan!” My mom called out. Lately, the house has been awfully busy with guests and visitors coming to visit. I thought they were coming for me but instead they came for my Ampa.

First was Lala’s college friends from Connecticut (Auntie Cecile) and Philadelphia (Auntie Tina). How we have become blood related, don’t ask me: It is complicated. Apparently, among Filipinos everybody is an aunt (“Tita” in Filipino) or uncle (“Tito”), you just don’t address them by their first name. No…No.

Then there is the ritual of kissing their hand which my Ampa imposes as a mandatory greeting of elders. Being the smallest you could imagine how many hands I have to “bless”, of course, I could throw a tantrum which always works. Boy, I am good.

There is Uncle PeterP and his family who came to visit, also. They are close family friends and they brought some of Ampa’s favorite food. Food and Filipinos are synonymous; there is always food around. There is so much foot traffic in the house that I am unable to drive my Mack truck.

For the this weekend, I hear more visitors are coming. There’s Auntie Ria and her husband Uncle Rene from Houston, TX. I hear Auntie Ria is Ampa’s college friend back in Manila and had insisted on visiting. Wait there’s more: the following weekend it will be Ampa’s sister and her family from Canada, and his brother coming in from Manila. Full house! I just hope they bring some goodies for me. Yes!

Friends and family are what makes you. They bring you love and strength when you need them. They are always there. I thank God I was born to this family. Moreover, I am glad my Gramps is with me.


PS: Ampa had his stomach drained again and they got two liters. Wow.

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