A test of patience: A day in the life of a cancer patient in the Philippines | Inquirer Opinion

A test of patience: A day in the life of a cancer patient in the Philippines

/ 04:05 AM August 10, 2022

A year after I was diagnosed with cancer, my family moved out of our rented condo on Ortigas Center and into a two-story apartment in a quiet village along Ortigas Extension east of Pasig. Besides having a bigger space indoors and fresh air outdoors, the house was next door to that of my daughter Erica and her family, so there were more people looking after me. My sisters-in-law live 10 minutes away. Two big malls and a medical center are nearby.

The only “disadvantage” is the distance we have to travel to the Philippine General Hospital along Taft Ave. in Manila where I have my chemotherapy. I remember we had to get up at 4 a.m. and out of the house at 5 to beat the traffic and the hospital crowd.


I grimaced in pain every time our Grab car hit humps on the road. As we neared our destination, Philippine Air Force planes roared overhead, practicing for an Independence Day show. The sounds continued as we entered the hospital lobby filled with seniors in wheelchairs, women and their children, other patients with caregivers or companions.

When my name was called and I showed up at the doctor’s clinic, she returned my smile with a confused look: “I’m sorry, but I arranged your appointment for tomorrow, not today,” she said. My face fell and I felt my blood pressure shoot up, but I reminded myself to be patient.


Taking responsibility for the mix-up, the doctor assured me that if a patient didn’t show up before 10, I’d be “accommodated.” We decided to stay and wait two more hours rather than return the next day. Back in the waiting area, I acknowledged my own lapse, having failed to double-check my schedule, and asked God to forgive me for being irresponsible.

Suddenly, my name was called again and the doctor, smiling this time, said I could take the slot of the patient who didn’t show up. Still, I worried that since we were not scheduled for the day, I would be attended to last.

As my grown-up children attended to the paperwork and did some work online, I remembered this was where my children’s late Lola Maring, a nurse, worked. With the midday sun bearing down on us, I felt restless and started my search for an air-conditioned room. Then, my name was called—my turn had finally come after nine hours! My treatment started but there would still be some wait for the chemo medicine, the nurse said, mentioning an emergency meeting at the pharmacy. Oh well, at least it was cooler inside the hall, so I managed to doze off.

Waking up, I heard the woman beside me talking to a young patient about her struggle and ways of coping. I joined the discussion, encouraging them to exercise, meditate, and eat healthily. I found out that the woman, Emma, was a sheriff who goes to work every day; the lad works from home designing labels.

After my monthly chemotherapy session was over, my wife, son, and I had dinner in a restaurant before embarking on the two-hour trip back home. We had been out all of 11 hours. We could hardly believe how we got through—with the long ride, the deafening roar of jets overhead, the heat that our portable mini-fan failed to overcome, and the confusion over my appointment schedule.

The daylong ordeal left me humbled, but I believe I passed the test of patience. God gives grace to those who humble themselves.

Ricardo Javier Cortez, former marketing executive

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TAGS: Cancer, Philippine General Hospital
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