“How do you live your life to the fullest?” A profound question was thrown to me by my childhood friend and “adopted sister”, elementary and high school classmate, Grail mate, and confidante.
Joy was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017 and underwent chemotherapy. She got well and continued with her work as the Secretary to the Principal, as well as the Coordinator/In-charge of Community Extension Service, and In-charge of the Alumni of St. Mary’s Academy, our high school alma mater, in Dipolog City, Philippines. That was also the time that she changed her diet to include more fruits and vegetables and started to avoid sugar.
In the early part of 2018, she decided to take an early retirement from her job. It was actually a good decision that enabled her to spend more time with her family and our high school classmates for mini-reunions in different places in the Philippines.
All seemed well until the devastating news recently. In May 2019 after her latest check up, Joy learned that her breast cancer has metastasized to the bones. Then she started asking me this question. My instinctive reply was, “Joy, you are already living your life to the fullest. You have been meeting our classmates in Dumaguete, Cebu, and Davao. You will be going with your family and Chi-chi’s family (our other classmate who also opted to retire early) to Taiwan.” I thought at first that this is how we “live our lives to the fullest”, i.e., travel, see places, have fun with friends and family, etc.
But after I thought about it for a while, I realized that perhaps to live one’s life fully is to live a meaningful life—a life in the service for others. Joy, an only child, went home to Dipolog after working in Manila, the capital city of the Philippines and took care of her aging parents until they passed on. Being based in Dipolog, she was also her classmates’ go-to person if we need help with our family members who are in trouble. She worked as volunteer for the Grail, Philippines to serve the poor and the underprivileged. And when Joy shares her struggles with cancer and reminds us about eating our fruits and vegetables and to be happy all the time, she might be able to save a life. So I think, she is indeed living a meaningful life and is therefore, living her life to the fullest.
To alleviate the pain, Joy has been asked to take painkillers. She, however, wants to refrain from taking them. To somehow take her mind off the pain, I suggested that she might want to write down her thoughts. To encourage her, I said I will publish her articles on my website to help remind everyone about the importance of eating healthy food, thinking positive thoughts, having many friends, and exercising regularly.
Joy is a positive person, a fighter, and has only kind thoughts and words for everyone. And her family, relatives, and friends are supporting her in ‘Fighting the big C with Joy!’ (this is the FB group name that our batch mate, Aimee, coined for–SMA Batch ‘81 and other common friends–fundraising for Joy).
The article below is the first of the series that will be published on this website and I would like to thank Joy for her generosity in letting me share it with you, dear readers.
Love vs. Cancer
By Mary Rita Joy P. Rubillos
Today I feel so grateful for all the blessings I have received; and that feeling keeps me going. I may not live so long yet I still feel fulfilled and loved.
First, I had a beautiful childhood and loving parents, Lola, and two auntie madre who gave me unconditional love. Because of them, life was and is not so difficult. Still blessings are overflowing.
My relatives, uncles and aunties consider me also as their own daughter, and my cousins consider me as one of their siblings. They have showered me with gifts, support, and love,
The Grail, SMA, and SMA Batch ’81, whom I consider my family. gave me the opportunity to grow and serve/work with the grassroots and my alma mater. And, help me deepen my spirituality. With them, I have unforgettable memories in the work place and other places. We had many opportunities for bonding while visiting places. Meeting new people is the best. Friends are growing in numbers in different age groups, social status and culture. Even internationally. Support and love are felt as friendship and comradery deepens. I always feel “I belong”.
Then, I have my loving family, husband Johnson and daughter Hellen Marie Joy. The loves of my life, who no matter what, are ever with me.
Then, the greatest blessing of all, I have God who loves me.
The LOVE that I got is enormous; it gives me bliss and courage to still go on with life.
Post script: In Australia and in the US, the stage of cancer where Joy is in is no longer treated. Being Asians, it is not in our culture to let someone who is sick be left untreated so Joy has decided to undergo treatment. Her family and friends are still hopeful that Joy will fully recover soon. Being devout Catholics, we put her fate in God’s hands.
Today, we celebrate The World Day of Social Communications. We are fortunate that the latest technology has enabled us to communicate with one another through the social media in an affordable way. We can make our life more meaningful by writing and sharing only matters that will help other people make their lives better, more productive, and peaceful . . . a life lived in service for others.
Messages (in any language including Visayan and Tagalog) of support for Joy are welcome on this article below. Thank you.