My Name is Cielo—I Am a Leiomyosarcoma Survivor
Hello, world! I am glad to share my story as a Leiomyosarcoma survivor. If you see me as a strong woman today, I was the opposite three years ago and even more years before I was diagnosed with cancer.
I used to be a timid girl, and I grew up with low self-esteem and developed into a more anxious person. But today, I love being the strong me that I am today. I can hold my head up high and confidently say that I am proud of how far I’ve come.
Here is another fact that is not a secret to many of us: Most people see what’s on the outside. Some of them are amazed at how resilient I am (even I am amazed at the things I’ve done). But there are still some days when I don’t feel great, even after cancer.
It was February 2, 2016, when I underwent cancer surgery. I was 29 years old, and in a month, I was turning 30. Before I could celebrate my birthday, my doctor in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, declared my final biopsy was a Leiomysarcoma, Grade 2. The tumor size was 2.607 cm, and I needed to have immediate radiation therapy to complete my treatment.
I was in total shock and speechless when the doctor delivered the bad news to me. My doctor continued to explain that my cancer is a rare disease that no one knows much about. I’d never heard the word sarcoma in my entire life. I was all alone when I visited my doctor and left his clinic sobbing quietly.
Due to too many expenses I spent during my surgery, I decided to go back home to the Philippines. But before I was able to get my treatment, I went to Hong Kong for two weeks. My doctor was anxious because I was supposed to prioritize my treatment over traveling. I am lucky that my doctor allowed me to while reminding me not to delay my radiation therapy. He was kind enough to remind me even when I was in Hong Kong, trying to find my peace of mind in another foreign country.
In Hong Kong, I lived my days as if I’d never had cancer. It was great! It was the first official execution of living life to the fullest and in the present moment.
I’ve been in remission for three years and four months. My radiation therapy ended in June 2016. I was so happy when I finally finished my treatment. I was ready to continue my life, and to be alive and healthy again.
But what happened after my treatment was the opposite. My sudden excitement and normal enthusiasm died down. I went back to Ho Chi Minh empty and clueless. I stayed away from the friends I used to chat and hang out with. I never told anyone that I was back home. I was treating my wound, which was the result of too much radiation, which burned my skin after my cancer treatment.
I was anxious and started to feel depressed; I didn’t know that I was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I passed through this stage of feeling I was in a dark, isolated world for five months. I cried uncontrollably and felt misunderstood by a few people as to why I was being so emotional without any reason at all.
In fact, I didn’t understand myself, either. It just made me feel so guilty after some people tried to pull away from me or cut me out of their lives.
And then I thought, I have been battling with myself. I need to win against my dark thoughts and conflicting emotions.
Meditation helped me to relax my anxious mind and get through. It took time for me to be able to meditate effectively. With patience, consistency, and persistence, I was able to make meditation a habit that gradually took me out from a dark and isolated space. Until today, meditation has contributed to my daily hustle. Although people may see me strong and full of energy, I am not that way all the time.
Being strong isn’t always that easy or fun—but a great reward is waiting in the long run…with a glass of red wine! Cheers!Previously published here.