Colonoscopy: My ‘Passover experience’
Two things. My heart’s desire is to honor God as I turn 60 this year, and relate how He transformed my life through my normal colonoscopy findings at the gastrointestinal clinic (GIC) of UP-PGH. And since March is colorectal cancer awareness month, how appropriate indeed.
A family member was recently diagnosed with uterine cancer. At her request, I came over to Toronto, Canada, to assist her for five months, as she had to undergo chemotherapy. It was devastating, seeing the side effects of chemo firsthand. The stress took its toll on me; l began having problems with bowel movement and losing weight. The fear of colorectal cancer (CRC) set in.
Back in Manila, using “The Colorectal Cancer Factbook for Filipino Physicians” (PSG/Pfizer), I reviewed my risk factors for CRC. I had two: age more than 50 years, and family history for CRC (two aunts). My clinical data had two pertinent symptoms: bowel habit change and weight loss. I opened the website of the Philippine Society of Gastroenterology and learned that CRC is the third most common cancer in the Philippines. A colorful video said that “anyone age 50 years old and up should be screened regardless of symptom or family history.”
A slow-growing tumor, CRC is “preventable, treatable and beatable.” Emphatic words from the experts!
How? Colonoscopy is still considered the most effective and preferred screening test for CRC. Both diagnostic and therapeutic, it allows for the examination of the entire colon even up to the terminal ileum, with the capability to remove polyps and do biopsies (American Society of GI Endoscopy, 2006 et al.).
Like anyone, I was scared of the possible outcome. I prayed through the procedure first, delayed it, and then mustered enough guts to have it done. I made a short list of gastroenterologists, asking the Lord to lead me. And He did, all the way to UP-PGH, the premier center for digestive health.
Little did I know that I had walked into the clinic of the section head herself, Dr. Ma. Lourdes O. Daez. She presented the details: outpatient two-hour procedure, possible risk (small), side effects of sedation (negligible), bowel preparation (the inconvenience of cleansing enema is worth it), the cost (PhilHealth handles all except for biopsy). She was cool, smart and unassuming. After medically clearing me, the colonoscopy was scheduled two days later to allow bowel cleansing. Though she was apologetic that the GIC was under renovation and repair, I insisted that it be my choice.
When I finally entered the GIC, it did not matter that it looked old with limited but clean space. GI consultants/fellows/nurses and patients simply fitted in. I noted only two cubicles for procedures, with clinicians focused on the patient’s screen. I am thankful because of the care I received and the special niche reserved for me in one corner. Based on its website, the GIC is multi-awarded (both locally and internationally), and offers unbeatable expertise to thousands of Filipinos with GI problems from all over the country. I was in very good hands.
My anesthesiologist, Dr. Carlo Catabijan, strolled in with his charming smile. Both made small talk to calm me down. Tall order, for I was a mass of nerves, holding on to God’s hand, being led to the colonoscopy table. After IV sedation, I went off like a lark.
Next thing I knew, I was in the recovery area. The colonoscopy took no more than 30 minutes. I was in a daze, even as my endoscopist, Dr. Daez, was telling me, “We went right up to the terminal ileum and did not find anything abnormal. Surveillance colonoscopy will be after 10 years.” Praise the Name of Jesus! I could hardly believe my ears.
Later, I got a glimpse of the video of my procedure, appreciating the normal-looking mucosa, its vascularity, the distensible colonic segments with good peristalsis. What a clean colon! I felt duty-bound to maintain it with a healthy lifestyle, diet and exercise.
The Lord’s healing is perfect and complete, touching even the spirit and soul. For the first time in my 28-year walk as a Bible-believing Christian, I felt the Lord’s love in full. The genetic predisposition for cancer was quite strong, but cancer passed over me.
I call it my “Passover experience” (Exodus 12:23). Spiritually, scales fell off from my eyes and I began to see things of the Spirit, the deep and mysterious ways of God—my “Saul/Paul experience” (Acts 9:17,18). I received revelation regarding the end of this race called life and how to prepare for it (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). I was released from the curse of fear, anger and hatred. I now spend more time listening to “what God wants—to love Him back with all my heart, soul and mind.” What a breakthrough in the Spirit!
In different areas of the hospital, one reads the vision of PGH: “The country’s leader in transforming the lives of people through excellent health care… accessible to all…”, signed by hospital director Dr. Gerardo Legaspi.
My life was transformed, and I am grateful.
When I visited the GIC in January 2019, I was intrigued by the note on the door directing me to the central endoscopy unit on the third floor. What I saw took my breath away. An imposing entrance, spacious endoscopy rooms and cubicles, a glass-enclosed recovery room, nurses station, staff lounge and waiting room, state-of-the-art equipment. A unit that encompasses endoscopy procedures for all specialties, aside from gastroenterology. All sectors of society, whether marginalized or not, will receive optimum GI care. This fulfills the mission of PGH to deliver globally competitive, cost-effective, compassionate and accessible health care to all. Like royalty, with dignity. Fit for the Filipino!
Dr. Ma. Luisa P. Torreda ([email protected]) practices pediatrics in Guadalupe Nuevo, Makati City.
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