Martha Gabriel

“In big a way, this has given me perspective on how fragile life could get, and in so realizing—how important it is that we live it.”

Martha Gabriel
Martha Gabriel

These past few months, I have been battling cancer. It’s been a tumultuous yet fulfilling ride ever since finding out. At 35 weeks pregnant, I was diagnosed with stage 1 papillary thyroid cancer. I was shocked. It was the C word.

…I won’t lie—there were a lot of moments where it would dawn on me that I had cancer, and I just burst into tears…

I was happy to find out, however, that the thyroid hormones that directly affected our baby were all normal. I was able to breathe a little. But since I was pregnant, I had to wait until after I gave birth before undergoing any treatment. My mass was large so the recommendation for me was a total thyroidectomy—the removal of my entire thyroid. Both my endocrinologist and my surgeon suggested doing this a month after I gave birth. We decided with my OB gynecologist that I be induced at exactly 38 weeks so that we could get the ball rolling for my treatment. And indeed, I was induced by then and I gave birth to our dear baby boy mid-March (labor story is another story! Lol).

Over the course of my 3-month maternity leave, I wasn’t just taking care of our newborn, I was also taking care of myself. My recovery from childbirth took longer than expected. In between sleepless nights with our baby and post-natal check-ups, I also needed pre-surgery consultations and tests. The hospital had become what we call in the Philippines, my “pasyalan” or promenade.

Call it what you will—fate, meant to be, lucky, even #blessed – because to me, it’s all of that.

What was it like, you ask? Ever since finding out, my husband and I took things one step at a time. As for what I felt in this whole ordeal—I was generally okay thanks to my husband, our families, and closest friends’ amazing support, plus my bundle of joy kept me preoccupied (oh, the sleepless nights!). But I won’t lie—there were a lot of moments where it would dawn on me that I had cancer, and I just burst into tears. It was pretty overwhelming to take in. Even when some time had passed since finding out, the feeling of disbelief didn’t really go away because there was that nagging thought in my head that my life would never be the same without my thyroid and that cancer may always come back even after being treated. But to comfort myself I shift my thoughts to happier ones like, hey—I’m still here, very much alive! Yes, my life has changed in the sense that I’d have to take maintenance meds every day, do routine checkups and pay frequent visits to the hospital for the rest of my life. But I am I happy to be alive. I get to breathe and experience life. I get to see more of the world. I get to love my husband, my son, my family and my friends. I get to do all of this for longer.

In big a way, this has given me perspective on how fragile life could get, and in so realizing—how important it is that we live it. While we can.

Call it what you will—fate, meant to be, lucky, even #blessed – because to me, it’s all of that. I’m just really happy and grateful to be well and alive.

Martha Gabriel