Fa’afetai for the power of prayers

By Manamea Apelu-Schwalger ,

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Manamea Apelu-Schwalger

Manamea Apelu-Schwalger

I am on a euphoric high, simply because I am alive. 

My bleeding nose and nausea from chemotherapy cannot dampen my spirits today. Even the dreaded cold of the Auckland winter is welcomed, to cool my bald head and bent body from the constant heat flushes. 

At forty one, chemo has fried my ovaries and I am officially menopausal. Even then, I remain in a state of euphoria as I give praise and offer my utmost gratitude to God for the gift of life. 

If there is anything to be taken from my cancer journey, I urge you, always look to the bright side if you can, and keep the faith. But I am getting ahead of myself and this bout of my battle with cancer requires a swift look back.

Five months ago, my breast cancer came back aggressively and went into full gear, put its boxing gloves on and knocked me flat. I had to be wheeled out of Moto’otua hospital and eventually onto Air New Zealand bound for Auckland in search of medical help unavailable at home. 

Cancer had spread and wreaked havoc on my lungs thus making breathing a difficult task. It went on to make itself comfortable in my spine and remaining lymph nodes under my arms. If I attempted to sit up straight, my weakened body collapsed.

When my mother and I sat in front of the oncologist I saw my fate in the doctor’s glance immediately though she put on her professional, game face, I knew. My days to walk this earth had shortened, drastically. Without treatment, she gave me three months and at the state I was in I was a borderline candidate for any further chemotherapy. 

She was quick to point out that I had a small chance of prolonging my life, at least to a year, and even then it would be at a high cost. As a non-resident of this country, she was talking beyond the hundred thousand mark, New Zealand dollars I did not have. 

My heart sank that morning, and for the first time since my battle with cancer started almost three years ago, I was ready to throw the towel in. It was time to let my adversary win this fight once and for all. The warm sands of my motherland were beckoning me home, to live out my last days surrounded by my loved ones.

My ever-loving and courageous mother refused my request to forgo treatment, as any mother would, she took charge and stepped into the ring. We now have five weeks left to go of the 18 weeks of chemo required.

My loved ones pulled together whatever resources they could and gave it whole heartedly. I took to social media and with the help of my close friends, we made a plea for assistance so I could afford this round of treatment. 

An aunt of mine distanced herself, claiming such an act was disgraceful and not Samoan. In all honesty, this caused me much pain. I felt helpless, ashamed, withdrawn and burdened, to be a burden.

However, family, friends and strangers alike responded in overwhelming support and within my first weeks of treatment, we received close to NZD30,000.00. More importantly, messages of love and encouragement poured in to ease my pains. 

EVERY DAY IS A GIFT: Manamea Schwalger Apelu is recovering
EVERY DAY IS A GIFT: Manamea Schwalger Apelu is recovering

My name to this very day is raised in prayer around the world, in temples, churches, work places, schools and homes. My family and I will never have enough words to express our gratitude for the love shown by so many in our time of need.

This afternoon we sat again in front of the cancer specialist, her game face was smiling. My recent C.T. scan reflected a clear set of lungs and the cancer that was under my arms have disappeared. 

Evidence of healing is seen on my spine and my life span as far as statistics go is now stretching another five years. My response to treatment is nothing short of a miracle. As you can imagine, the afternoon had been spent crying. Oh, such miracles in modern medicine, oh the power of prayer.

In the warmth of our Manurewa house, the radio is always blasting tunes and news from home as it is permanently fixed on the Samoan channel.

My mum and I have become fixtures in the kitchen each morning, debating with my 63 year old Mama Fia on the latest controversy from Apia. 

The recent move by government to start sending patients to India for treatment has caused much buzz in our early morning discussions.

In my humble opinion as a recipient of the government medical scheme, I fully understand the struggle by government to extend a limited fund to accommodate the needs of our people with terminal illnesses like mine. 

I pray one day, some of Samoa’s sons and daughters will return as oncologists and specialists to our shores and our hospital to be equipped with the latest technologies of modern medicine. If that journey begins with an influx of Indian doctors at our doorstep, then I for one will be grateful. In cancer, beggars cannot be choosers.

In the meantime, the power of prayer and faith is as powerful an armament as any against a raging disease like cancer. We return home in six weeks to give my body a break from treatment. For the rest of my short young life, this battle will continue.

In a way, cancer has been my gift. Despite its obvious challenges, I have been absolutely blessed to see the hand of God in all of this. To see humanity at its best and to be enveloped with an outpouring of extreme love. I am in a euphoric high, simply because I am alive.

Ua mutia le ala, ua papa ai le fali. 

Faafetai le agalelei. Faafetai faafetai faafetai tele lava

God grant you a blessed Sunday Samoa!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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