Life in the Big C : Q&A with AGGIE SARTHOU, Stage 4 Cancer Survivor Part 2 of 2

This is the 2nd of a 2-part interview.  Link to Part 1

BITS:  What were the things that you could not do because of cancer?
ACS: 
Indulge in pork. Meat intake has to be minimal. Meat is acidic. I have to keep my body alkaline.  I cannot not sleep. I have to have good 7-8 hours of sleep.  I cannot be complacent with my exercise because I’m also diabetic.  Cancer feeds on sugar and fat.  Change of lifestyle: more rest, exercise diet.  Spiritually, I really have to not worry.  If things are not well, I ask for wisdom from God then I plan it out. After that I sleep. Rest in God na. “I can only do up to this much, the rest is Yours, God.”  I simplified my life.  Our Uncontrollables are areas for God and others to control.  I really try to keep relationships well because in the end, God puts a premium on relationships. They’re the ones that you will keep for eternity.  You cannot keep the temporal things of this world.

BITS:  Did cancer do any good for you?
ACS: 
Yes, I thank God because cancer gave me the platform to talk about His goodness in my life.  When I talk to a thousand people with CEO’s and industry shapers, they’re quiet because of my cancer story.  When people hear from someone who’s about to die, they listen.   My cancer story is not about me but about God’s goodness.  When I speak, cancer is part of my story, that is God’s story in my life.

BITS: Other than that, did cancer benefit you in any way?
ACS:  Unexplained love came to me… there were thousands of people praying for me—their expression of support. I don’t think I could have urged these people to pray for me.  Somebody said, “Aggie, a million people are praying for you.”  It was Jerry Angping.  I don’t think I would ever experience that kind of love, concern, and gift if I didn’t go through cancer so… all things work together, really, for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  It’s also a great opportunity to be with God.  Those were the best times. I would feel his presence. He would talk to me. We would have long, long talks and walks in my wilderness experience just in my room. I was never lonely. I was alone with Him but not lonely.

BITS:  If someone is struggling with anger or unforgiveness towards someone whom they feel caused their cancer, what would you say to them?
ACS: 
Do your part, stay away from environments that you think will cause cancer.  In eating too, you always have a choice.  The mind is more powerful.   In Philippians 4, whatever is true, noble, excellent, praiseworthy, dwell on these things.  The first poison that will cause cancer is if you’re angry, not joyful.  God created the body so it could somehow renew itself. But if we have bitterness, anger in our hearts and we’re always anxious, fearful, the body is not able to renew itself.  In my situation, it’s probably a miracle.  There’s really no bone cancer reversal.  But my very aggressive cancer 10.5 cm lodged on my 7th and 11th rib. I can’t explain…it just reversed.  Even in the bible, for joy refreshes the bones but an angry spirit crushes.  Dr. Patrick Quillin says helplessness and hopelessness could even be just as lethal as bullets or cigarettes.

bits aggie life to the quilllin

BITS: Do you think it helps to release anger?
ACS:
That’s the first thing we need to do.  Cancer is so much like sin.  Cancer cells are proud, rebellious cells… they don’t care about gobbling up other cells. They pretend to be normal, friendly cells but they are really killer cells. Sin is rebellion against God.  If you refuse to forgive, that’s rebellion because God said, “Forgive as I forgave you.” The blessings don’t come if there is unforgiveness.  That’s why God sent us a Savior because what we need most is forgiveness. If we can’t give the same to other people, how can we say we have God in our lives?

BITS:  Do you know of people who turned to the Lord when they got struck by illness but when they got well, they turned away from God again?
ACS: 
  The Lord is close to the afflicted.   Those who are struck by illness (especially serious or terminal) will typically seek God.  If they truly seek God and find Him (in their sickness), I believe they will not turn away from God again because they have experienced Him in a real way. However, there are some instances when people who already know the Lord but feel “tampo” [letdown and therefore withdraw] when they go through sickness…  I remember one lady (who was on “tampo” mode). She went on depression. Her sense of value and worth were anchored on her ability to serve the family so when she was not recovering fast enough, she developed an angry spirit. When you are angry, or in denial or resisting, your fist is clenched. And God cannot bless  and give us something better with our clenched fists.  When He tries opening our hands, and we are not willing … we miss out on the blessing and we experience unnecessary  pain.

BITS:  How would you encourage someone afflicted with cancer who might be having a hard time, who might be asking, “What now?”
ACS: 

Cancer is seemingly a death sentence but it could be the beginning of a wonderful relationship, a time of commitment, a time of reassessment, a time of …joy…

I would say “joy” because my stormiest days were the best times with God,  “Joy” because He gave me unexplainable peace and joy.  We can choose joy.  When they see me, it brings a lot of hope to the cancer patient.  I would encourage them to trust that God is at work in their lives for good.  But that’s God part.  Your part?  It will require life changes.  I ask them what kind of a lifestyle they have that will help. Aside from the medical interventions, you have to get rid of things such as worry.  No matter what medicines you have, if you worry, it won’t help.  The mind is so powerful, it could heal but it could also kill. Surrender your life to God. He’s the only one who can extend your life.

“Cancer will not  shorten or lengthen your life. I [God] decide that from eternity past.”  -ACS

In Him we were also chosen having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.” Ephesians 1:11   “Lord, my life is in Your hands, do with it as You please.”  Surrender, Trust in God.  Your part is obedience.

It takes a higher level of maturity for someone to say, “I don’t have to be healed to praise God.”  It’s hard for a lot of cancer patients to say, “Lord, You can take me.”  But I think it was my liberation day when I told God, “Lord, have your way with me.. You do as You please. Just be glorified with my cancer. Help me in my response. I want to please you in every way.” I guess there are still some things for me to do because I’m still alive.

One of my loving and well-meaning D-group [discipleship group] members refused to accept cancer in my life. She said: “Aggie, you can’t have cancer! You teach bible studies, you don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t do drugs. Why will God give you cancer!”  My initial thoughts were: “Get thee behind me, Satan.”   I do not want to interfere with God’s plans.  I do not wish cancer in my life, but  I did not want to have an “entitlement” mentality. Just because I do work for the Lord does not mean that I have physical immunity  from sickness and pain.  God is still sovereign… As He gives, He can take away.

Our natural tendency is to pray for healing or escape from sickness and pain. This is a legitimate request. But the Lord desires us to fully surrender to His Will.   I have changed my prayer to: Lord, make me seek what you want. Help me to pursue only what you desire for my life.  I desire to please you in every way.

BITS:  If you met someone today who has cancer, what would you say?
ACS
:  I will not say anything. It will depend on what they will ask.  If we had a conversation, a standard could be, “How may I pray for you?”  I’d really like to share with them God’s goodness in my life to encourage them that….

there is hope in the Big C, because the Big C is not cancer but Christ, our hope of glory!   – ACS

BITS:  What is the best way to pray for a cancer patient?
ACS:  
To bring them first to the truth that our lives are really in God’s hands and His plan for us is to prosper us and give us hope, in all things He works for good.  Those are key points. What happens to us is not an accident.  God wants us to draw closer to Him.  His purpose for our lives is for our holiness and gratitude. You either become a complainer or be a grateful person, whatever that span that is given to you.

BITS:  Can you please say a prayer for someone who is afflicted with cancer?

BITS:  For someone who wants to to show care, can you suggest what to say and not say, do or not do to a cancer patient in order to be helpful?
ACS:
Most of the time, I’d rather not say something [to the patient] unless they ask.  I just let them talk.   When they do ask, one of the first things I say is, “God loves you and you just have to trust that God is doing work in your life.”  What the family members would like to know is how they can be a support to their ill family member. We tell them not to over-baby the patient. Give them space. Be there for support.  Read to them verses.  For a non-believing patient, they also get to know the truth, the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

BITS:  How would you encourage discouraged family members struggling to accept their loved ones’  cancer?
ACS:  I must admit that it is sometimes even harder for a family member to accept the sickness of a loved one. Many times, family members are gripped with fear and anxiety … These emotions are legitimate fears and so I don’t say much… I  just let the family members know that I am  there for them. These family members need to know that you understand their struggles, not to trivialize their fears and anxieties… I don’t contradict how they feel (like anger, hopelessness, etc.). I allow them to vent and cry. Then I ask: “Would you like us to pray for your concerns?”

BITS:  For someone who’s putting their 100% faith in God who is not getting healed, and they’re wondering why God The Healer of the Impossible is not healing them, how would you encourage this person?
ACS:
  One inspiration I have is Jing Egenias.  She’s also Stage 4. She’s in the “Waiting Room”. Anytime she could go home. She’s now in Medical City.

Jing said, “You know Tita Aggie, I don’t have to be healed to praise God or be joyful. I know in the end, my God will heal me eternally and bring me to a place where there’s no more tears, no more sickness, there’s no more pain.  I have a choice. I can stay home and rest.  But for as long as God gives me life and allows me to walk, I choose to serve Him.  I have to praise God because life itself is already a miracle. As long as God breathes life into me, I will be grateful.  I will not try to compare myself with others who are well.  I can be content with what God gives me.”  That’s why she’s in Life to the Max Ministry.  When I think about her testimony, it’s a powerful encouragement. She’s single. Jing is an icon of hope.

BITS: If we pray for healing and it gives hope to the sick person then we find out God has other plans, they might lose faith in God…
ACS:  
This is why we  pray for the sick but end with “Your will, not ours be done”. Our hope should not be based on what we want but what God wants.  God can do anything. He can make even the dead rise. We want God  to be glorified in every situation.   Our focus should  not be on sickness or our circumstance but in pleasing God.  We have no control over sickness so we need to keep our focus off the “uncontrollable”.  When one of the (Cancer-stricken) ladies, Boom, was just about to meet her Lord  she said: When I leave my earthly body  I will  really be completely healed.”  She now has her glorified body!

A surrendered will is what God wants.  He cannot work in our lives if we don’t have a surrendered heart. God wants only the best for us …

God’s will is total healing, not just physical healing but relational and spiritual as well.  And He will accomplish it in accordance to His great grand plan.

BITS:  I once heard that Dr. Cris Enriquez shares the gospel with all his cancer patients for them to have biblical assurance of eternal salvation because “it would be useless to get healed from cancer if the person goes on to hell for eternity”…

…Was there a worship song that ministered to you during your difficult times?
ACS:
I Offer My Life To You.  I think I was singing that before I heard the line, “Have Your way with me”.

God’s plan is more intricate than what we want. His thoughts are so different.  Who would even think I would see my apo (grandchildren), the new CCF building, that we’ll be doing Women to Women (Bible Study at Makati CCF).   “A privilege and joy to just speak of Your love, Lord.”

BITS:  Were there key people who held your hand during your trial?
ACS: 
My husband… the whole time. He would pray for me the whole time. He was my partner, his presence was always there. He prayed for me.  He’s my life partner.  He never left my side.

BITS:  It was like God’s goodness personified?
ACS:
  Yes, God with skin on.

BITS:  How do you thank him?
ACS:  
I thank him everyday.  I thank God every day.  Every so often, I would say, “I thank God for you.  What a privilege and joy for me to be your wife and to serve God with you together in ministry.”

BITS: For those who may not have family support or spiritual family support, how may you encourage them?
ACS:  Having a strong support system (from husband/family members) is important to recovery of a cancer patient, but it is not a guarantee for total and full remission. I have seen many cancer patients who have a great support system but still remained depressed.  Ultimately, real encouragement is not from external sources, but from within: our confidence and dependence on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter  of our faith. (Heb. 12:2  We therefore fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith).

I try to encourage the cancer patient to de-focus on what doesn’t work and instead look to what Jesus offers: Joy, Peace and Spiritual Healing in the midst of cancer. Phil 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.  A great source of motivation  is from God’s Word… His promise of eternal healing from sickness and pain through God’s eternal plan of salvation in Christ Jesus… Paid in full (Tetelestai)  by Jesus’ death on the cross.
In Heb 4:15-16 “Since then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
While it would be great to have a good support system: loving family and friends, our best intercessor is Christ, our Great High Priest. The real big issue is: Do we have a relationship with Jesus, our Great Healer? Because if we do, then we have a Great Intercessor who watches over us and draws us near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy in times of great need.

BITS:  Do you have a life verse?
ACS:
  Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you…

BITS: When people think of Agnes Sarthou,  what would you like them to think of?
ACS:  
I think I would like people to think and believe that we have a God who does the impossible. My being alive for over eleven years is a living testimony that He does the impossible.  I would like people to think that we can experience real joy and hope even with the “Big C” if we have Christ, the hope of glory!

 

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