From patient to doctor: A cancer survivor’s journey to becoming a physician

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 16 2019 05:10 PM

Cancer survivor Albien Emmanuel Gacias became a newly licensed doctor after passing the physician licensure examinations last March 14, 2019. Photos courtesy of Albien Emmanuel Gacias

MANILA - In 2008, Albien Emmanuel Gacias was only fighting to save his own life. Little did he know, he would soon be saving the life of others.

Gacias said his dream to be a doctor started when his mother succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 2006, only to find out later that he would also battle a different form of the disease.

“Ever since my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I wanted to become a doctor but due to financial constraints, parang hindi ko na siya naisip (I did not think about it anymore),” he told ABS-CBN News in an online interview Saturday.

A nursing student at the time, Gacias was only 20 years old when he was diagnosed with lung cancer.

“Ang naisip ko lang po that time ay mag-stop ng studies ko and yung mga brothers ko kasi I’m the eldest in the family,” he said.

(The only thing that was on my mind at the time was that I had to stop studying and my brothers because I’m the eldest in the family.)

Gacias stopped studying for 2 years and underwent lobectomy—a surgery to remove part of his lungs—chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. He said he lost all of his hair while getting treated.

After undergoing treatment, Gacias immediately went back to school even while he was still recovering.

“Yung hair ko tumutubo na ulit siya (My hair was growing back again). I tried to be healthy by playing lawn tennis,” he said.

He, however, still had regular appointments with the doctor to monitor if there will be a recurrence of cancer.

 “At first po sobrang mahirap, pero at the end of the day mas lalo akong sinipag mag-aral kasi mas lalo kong na-value ang life,” he said.

(It was difficult at first but at the end of the day, I was more motivated to study hard because I learned how to value life more.)

Whenever he feels like giving up on his dreams, Gacias said he thinks of the nurses that took care of him while he was sick.

“Naisip ko na kapag naging nurse ako like ng mga nurses na nag-alaga sa akin sa ospital, in my own little way, makakatulong din ako sa mga taong may sakit, lalo na sa mga cancer patients,” he said.

(To my mind, I thought that if I become a nurse like the nurses who took care of me while I was in the hospital, I would be able to help those who are sick in my own little way, especially those with cancer.)

With the help of his uncles and aunts, Gacias was able to study medicine in 2013 at the University of Perpetual Help System in Las Pinas.

“Sa totoo lang, nakakapagod talaga mag-med[icine]. Pero kung iisipin natin, wala naming nagtatagumpay na hindi muna dumaan sa hirap,” he said.

(To be honest, studying medicine is hard. But if you think about it, no one succeeds without overcoming challenges.)

Last March 14, Gacias proved that his faith and determination are bigger than life’s challenges as he was among the 1,209 new doctors in the country.

The newly licensed doctor took to social media to share his inspiring story which has since gone viral with over 30,000 reactions and 10,000 shares as of posting time.

“Ten years ago, ang pinagdadasal ko lang naman po ay ang gumaling, wala akong idea na gagawin mo pala akong instrumento para ako naman ang makapagpagaling ng iba,” he said in a Facebook post.

(Ten years ago, I was just praying to get well. I didn’t have any idea that you will use me to be an instrument to heal other people.)

“Sobrang amazing mo Lord! Thank you! I am now licensed to heal,” he added.

And for those struggling to reach their dreams, Gacias has this message:

“If you think you will fail in life, there’s always a second chance para ituwid lahat (to make things right).”

“Basta ang importante wag kang susuko dahil at the end of the day mas madami ka din taong maiinspire because of your story.”

(What’s important is not to give up because at the end of the day, you’ll inspire more people with your story.)