Thursday, October 29, 2009

Visiting a Fellow Redemptorist with Cancer

I am here in Cebu visiting Fr. Abdon who has been diagnosed with stage 4 "undifferentiated" cancer of the lungs. I arrived yesterday and brought him an mp3 player with some meditative music and guided meditation which he can listen to. I also brought him a book by Dr. Bernie Siegel entitled "Love, Medicine and Miracles."
Fr. Abdon is a professor of moral theology in our theologate in Davao. We belong to the same Redemptorist community. Over two months ago, he complained of difficulty in breathing and he went to Cebu for a check-up. He wasn't able to return to Davao anymore since he was confined in the Perpetual Succour Hospital after the doctors discovered the lung cancer. He has been undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy. He desperately wants to live but it seems that the cancer has spread rapidly. The chance of surviving is minimal if not nil. Of course, this has been a very devastating experience for him. At first, he could not accept that he has this sickness. He has not been able to sleep well. He became temperamental, often cursing the doctors and nurses especially when he is in pain.
This morning at 10 am, I celebrated mass with him in his hospital room. After the mass, I spent an hour conversing with him, listening to him share his feelings and thoughts. He was in tears most of the time. I told him that he was facing two real possibilities: a) he could get well and live another 10 years or more, or b) he could die soon. I asked him how he felt about the possibility of death. He told me that he is ready to die and face God. He has finally felt at peace within and no longer afraid of dying. Later, the nursing attendant told me that last night Fr. Abdon did not curse anymore but was feeling at peace and calling God's name even if he was in great pain.
The standard approach to cancer treatment is inadequate. It is still based on dichotomy of body and mind, matter and spirit. Doctors focus on the body, using chemicals and modern technology. The regard it as a war against the cancerous cells, using chemical warfare. They neglect the psycho-spiritual dimension of healing. Death is regarded as defeat. No wonder, this approach is ineffective and costly. Cancer is not purely and biological/medical problem. It is also a psycho-somatic phenomenon.

What is needed is a holistic approach - not just the medical, but also the psycho-spiritual. Inner healing is important. It is not a war against the cancer cells but achieving peace and harmony within oneself. This could lead to the reactivation of the body's immune system (if it is not too late). Even if the patient dies, he goes in peace, ready to meet the God.

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