Story of Hope

(A True to Life Story)

My name is Carlos Sievert Callejo, 63 years old, and I have been diagnosed to have liver cancer last January 1999. After one year of depression, pain, hardship, and newfound faith in GOD, I have survived the death sentence predicted by my doctors. I am happy to be alive and tell you my experience for other cancer patients and dreadful diseases patients not to lose hope as no one can predict death, except GOD.

During my younger days I was very athletic and energetic person. I was the captain ball of Don Bosco basketball and football teams, excelled in most sports and extra curricular activities.

It all started middle of 1998 when my wife felt and noticed that something was wrong with me. She could feel that I was not the same person she knew as I was losing weight, weak and irritable at times. Through my wife’s persistence I acceded to have a thorough examination January of 1999.

First of all for your information last 1986 while in the US attending my sons High School graduation, I found out I was a diabetic, inherited from my mother. During the first two years I underwent acupuncture sessions and drunk 1 cup of bitter melon (ampalaya) juice a day to control my blood sugar. After five (5) years of taking natural medicines I went to see an endocrinologist who started prescribing me other drugs for diabetes like diamicron, glucophage, equal sweeteners, etc. This went on for another five years. My glucose was averaging around 200 mg. I decided to consult another endocrinologist who studied my case and recommended insulin injection (Humulin N) since I was not scared of needles and told me I would be having less side effects and less complications.

In 1996, after several examinations and an ultrasound, it was established I had gall bladder stones. In March 1997 my endocrinologist recommended removal of my stone before my diabetes deteriorated further. However, my nausea, dizziness and stomach discomfort still persisted after my laparoscopy, my doctor blamed my weight loss to diabetes and my not having my gall bladder to help my digestion, for all this problem. Last quarter of 1998 I still continued losing weight from 190 lbs to 170 lbs in approximately 6 months. I went down to 150 lbs my lowest weight from a high of 210 lbs. I called the attention of my doctor who told me it was good because I would be needing less medication. But my wife disagreed with this theory and insisted on my seeing a gastro-enterologist for further examinations and second opinion. I continuously did not mind her since I had confidence in my doctor, who told me I was healthy and only wasting my money in all this examinations. However my wife was very persistent and we even went to the extent of having heated arguments, until I finally acceded to her request.

Finally on January of 1999, I went to see a gastro-enterologist whom my neurologist referred me. He recommended first that I have a gastroscopy, but nothing was found wrong and my wife still persisted for the doctor to continue checking me. He performed barium enema and again found nothing. My wife could not believe that nothing was wrong and since she was so persistent, the doctor acceded to have a CT Scan of my upper abdomen performed. There it showed I had an enhancing tumor mass lesions measuring 4 cm by 3.1 cm in the interior superior subsequent of the right lobe segment eight of my liver. Further blood chemistry was requested which showed my Alpha Feto Protein (marker for liver cancer) was five times above normal. Malignancy was confirmed and immediately I was referred to an oncologist who requested for an upper abdomen CT Scan to determine if the cancer has spread to my lungs and other vital organs. If positive, he advised me to just enjoy my life and he would help me the best he could. But after several tests to confirm metastasis they found out that my cancer was still confined in my liver and had not yet spread to other vital organs. I was then referred to a cancer surgeon for possible resection. The doctors asked me if I was a heavy drinker, heavy smoker, it I contacted malaria, hepatitis or had a history of cancer in my family. They were trying to find out the cause of my cancer. Drinking and smoking I use to do it socially. Hepatitis and malaria, negative. History of cancer negative. Up to this date I am not sure what caused my cancer. I can only assume the food that we eat.

After several tests and consultations with all my doctors in Makati Medical Center, they advised me to undergo an operation to remove the malignant tumor. The surgeon explained to me that process of my operation, 4 to 6 hours in the operating room and 3 to 5 days at the ICU. I entered the hospital on February 4 and was scheduled for surgery February 5, 1999. Since I had a damaged liver, my blood was not coagulating as desired. The surgeon did not want to take the risk in my condition and decided to bring my blood coagulation to at least 70 to 80% before cutting me up, as he did not want me to bleed to death. Finally after 4 days of medication blood plasma, Vitamin K injection, etc. to improve coagulation, my operation was performed on February 8, 7am.

To my surprise, I woke up in my room startled and I started asking my wife questions, since it was not the way the doctor explained would happen, before I entered the operating room. She did not answer my question. I suspected she did not have the heart to tell me and told me to wait for the doctor to personally explain it to me. I suspected something was wrong which the surgeon later confirmed when he visited me the next day that it was an open/close case.

The surgeon decided not to touch it anymore and close I back, without resecting any portion of my liver as they found out several other nodules spread all over my liver. The surgeon decided not to resect my tumor in as much that they had to remove almost 80 to 90% of my liver and he did not want me to suffer more for nothing. They got sample of my liver for biopsy and they disclosed hepatocellular carcinoma with post necrotic cirrhosis. The tumor mass lesions measuring approximately 10.5 cm by 4.2 cm in the interior superior sub-segment of the right liver lobe segment 8, which is almost all of my liver was affected by the tumor. It was much bigger than what the CT Scan revealed. I was advised to seek other alternative treatment to reduce my suffering and pain. In fact one of the cancer surgeon I consulted after seeing the medical reports even predicted and confidentially told my wife I had 4 to 6 months of life. Unfortunately, I overheard him and this depressed me further. As suggested by my surgeon, I consulted an oncologist who suggested I immediately undergo chemo-therapy once a week three times a month for six months (or 18 sessions in total) after computing expenses almost 1 million pesos. I asked him my chances of recovery to which he answered between 5 to 20% chance. I did not consider this a chance in any language at all. I told my wife just to keep the money for her and the kids. However my wife pleaded for me to go the chemo-therapy and take the chance no matter how slim it was, she wanted me alive.

My depression and stress lasted almost one month. During this time I did not like to see people and kept myself locked in my room. I turned to GOD, with my prayers and newfound faith in GOD, made me face reality and gave me strength to fight my cancer. During the two weeks I prayed like I never prayed before asking for his intervention and help. I started accepting my condition and learned to offer myself to the Lord. I made the Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Baclaran. I went to Baclaran even with all my pains for nine consecutive Wednesday. I learned to fight and have the will to live. I placed all my trust in the Lord. Novenas for different Saints were given to me by friends and relatives. I choose the Novenas and prayers that touched me most and I have decided to pray this for life.

I was scheduled to undergo chemo-therapy 10 days after my unsuccessful operation as explained earlier, but my wife requested the oncologist to postpone it until March 5 or two weeks after, for me to recuperate from the surgery since she saw me weak and depressed. The doctor warned her not to postpone treatment as my chances were going to become slimmer, practically nil.

While waiting for my recovery from surgery, my wife through her perseverance, dedication and guidance from God, researched in the Internet, familiarize herself with different cancer cures and remedies. We interviewed cancer survivors, got second opinion from other doctors (it was like we were guided by someone) she found out various technologies in interventional medicines for liver cancer. One of them was hepatic Trans-Arterial Chemo Embolization. One of the doctors we saw informed us that there was a doctor at the UST hospital that performs this method. It was 5:30 in the morning when we had an appointment with Dr. Angelito Tingcungco, Chief Radiologist of UST hospital. While waiting in the public reception room, I saw a man dressed in a hospital uniform walked by and I told my wife “this guy I can trust and hope he would be my doctor”. Not more than 10 seconds had past, the same doctor called my name. I was elated to have the same guy I was impressed with, to be my doctor. Now, that I think about it I am more convinced that God’s hand was involved. Dr. Tingcungco started interviewing us and requested for my medical records. He reviewed all the CT Scan plates and surgical records and after a thorough analysis told me he could help me extend my life from 10 to 15 years. This was the happiest news I received in my whole life. He scheduled me to be treated on March 5 for my first chemo-embolization. The process was repeated every two months.

To complicate further my worries and depression I had severe stomach pains, after my second chemo. My gastro-enterologist suspected that my cancer had spread to my stomach. I decided to get a second opinion from another gastric doctor who after diagnosis and various examinations concluded I had acute ulcers in my stomach. While still suffering from stomach pains, my cousin Mameng Carag, invited me to go to Tuguegarao to attend the formal inauguration of the Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Piat last June 22, 1999. On this day and the next I felt no pain. I knew from my heart that she interceded for me. I got the opportunity to go and visit other places like the Lady of Manaoag, the crying Lady of Baguio and Zamboanga and I noticed my pain would lessen everytime I stayed in the church to pray. With Gods help, prayers from my family and friends, my tumor became hyperdensed and has reduced by 2.5 cm. I am now in remission and the doctors who predicted doomed say it was a miracle. To date I have undergone 4 sessions of chemo-embolization and the last one was October 1999.

However, after more than two months of treatment for my ulcers, on October 1999 to be precise, and having undergone my 4th chemo-embolization, I still continued having stomach pains. We decided to go to the US for another second opinion. Luckily I had a cousin who’s a doctor at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and after a thorough examination they confirmed I have ulcers and party of my stomach pains was due to side effects of my chemo. It was here, that they told me my cancer was in remission. I was advised to stop chemo-embolization since my cancer was in remission but instead requested me to have my alpha-Feto Protein, CT Scan and other blood chemistry done every 3 months and stretched this intervals after one year and so on if I am still on remission.

The US doctors going over my medical records could not believe I was still alive after 8 months. They told me we have very good doctors in the Philippines and my prayers had helped me and should continue whatever I have been doing. Still they could not give me a definite conclusion, as they wanted their own pathologist to do the biopsy. They requested the sample of the biopsy taken from my liver to which I conformed and mailed it to them. After three weeks they came back to me confirming the findings of our Filipino doctors that it was indeed Hepatocellular Carcinoma.

While in the US I visited several churches and cathedrals. We visited the miraculous stairway of Loretto Chapel, the Sanctuario Chimayu, in Sta. Fe, New Mexico, the grotto of Lourdes in Maryland, the church of Sacred Heart in Washington and many other places asking for God’s help.

I was out of God’s grace for almost 30 years, having been successful in life I became materialistic. My first marriage was a failure where I have 5 kids. My second marriage I have two kids ages 15 and 9. I give credit to my wife who stayed with me through thick and thin and encouraged me to fight and showed me the way back to God. All my children from my first marriage started visiting me and we are not closer. Friends, lost relatives and my community started visiting and encouraging me to go on fighting. All this has made me stronger, and with my newfound faith and trust in God I am now stronger than before I was diagnosed to have cancer. I have just become more sensitive and my tears easily comes whenever I pray to God, thanking Him for giving me a second life.

I went back to the Lady of Piat during the celebration of the Basilica last June 22, 2000 and to Our Lady of Manaoag to thank them and other Saints who helped and interceded for me. Until today, I am continuously praying sincerely from my heart thanking HIM for the graces that He had been extending me.

Giving up hope and depression are your worst enemy. Let the Lord take care of you. He will never let you down if you sincerely ask for HIS help. Remember His words “ASK and you shall receive, SEEK and you shall find, KNOCK and it shall be open unto you.” When the doctors could do nothing as I was told I was dying I had no one to turn but HIM. I prayed for his help saying his own words. “FATHER IF IT IS POSSIBLE, LET THIS CUP PASS ME BY, STILL YOUR WILL BE DONE NOT MINE.” LORD I offer you my suffering and let it be my way of saying “I LOVE YOU.”

Now I am doing my apostolic work by visiting cancer patients in Makati Medical Center and going to cancer patient’s homes. Telling them my experience and comforting them not to give up hope but trust in GOD. As GOD is always there to help us if we ask HIM.

I am writing my experience to tell you to trust GOD completely and pray to HIM because by praying and fully trusting Him with all your heart and mind HE will never let you down. It has happened to me and it will happen to you.

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