Rio Diaz-Cojuangco (younger sister of Gloria Diaz, the first Filipino Miss Universe in 1969) died on October 4, 2004 at the Seton Hospital, Daly City, CA at age 45, six years after she was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. Following here was a beautiful testimony of someone who was close to death, but was still inspired with her faith in God:
Six months ago, my family was preparing for my funeral, but I stand here before you today by God's grace because He still has a purpose for my life.
Let me share with you my story.
In April, 1991, I began to host Eat Bulaga!, a noontime show that brought me fame beyond my wildest dreams. I earned good money while I made people laugh. What a blessing!
October of l993, I met Charlie. Single and good-looking, this guy has a terrific sense of humor, a man with a big heart.
At a certain point in our relationship, we both knew God brought us to be together ... for life.
Thirteen years earlier, I was blessed with a son, Ali, from a previous relationship.
May of l998, Charlie became Congressman and I became Vice Mayor of Pontevedra (Negros Occidental). November of the same year, during a routine check-up, they discovered some abnormalities in my stomach area which, the doctors said, could be solved by a minor procedure.
A few days later, my supposedly one-hour surgery turned out to be a six-hour-and- a-half surgery. I was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer.
No one had cancer in the family. My life flashed before me. My world suddenly caved in. The doctors were quite frank. They told us that I had only a couple of months to live. Stage 4 cancer is like a death sentence.
As my doctor was speaking, I didn't understand a word he said because all I could think of was Charlie, my children, my family, my in-laws, would whisper, Lord, help me...help them, Lord!
They're all suffering. I don't know how to comfort them. The day before my first chemotherapy, I said, Lord, just tell me you're in control. Tell me that no one made a mistake and I'll be fine no matter what, Lord. Somebody gave me a devotional book entitled Streams in the Desert which I read at 3 o'clock in the morning. It said, this is my doing.
Your weakness needs my strength and your safety lies in letting me fight for you. You did not come to this place by accident. You are exactly where I meant you to be. You were so busy that I could not get your attention and I wanted to teach you some of my greatest truths. The pain will leave you as soon as you learn to see me; in all things. These words became the pillow on which I rested my weary head.
I surrendered to God all my fears, all my burdens and my family as I began my journey of trials. I focused on His promises as Jesus said, Surely I am with you always.
By God's gracious mercy and beyond all medical explanation, after six months of chemotherapy went on remission. Eight months later, the cancer was back. More surgery, more chemo. And then again, God allowed healing for me. The best lesson I am learning from this is how God allows us to enjoy life with His moment by moment of grace.
My third bout with cancer entailed three different chemotherapies infused at the same time. The Lord allowed me to learn to NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER GIVE UP ... PUT YOUR HOPE IN GOD.
Three times, I was at the threshold of death. Medicines and state-of- the-art treatments were not working anymore. Not all the money in the world nor the best doctors on earth can make us live if God doesn't want us to. During those times, God comforted my heart with these verses: Why are you downcast o my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God for I will yet praise Him my Savior and my Lord.
But let me tell you about my latest brush with death. After spending Christmas with my family here in Manila, I left for San Francisco in January of 2003 for my check-up. I knew there was something terribly wrong with my body. I had sleepless nights; I was steadily losing weight; I couldn't eat anything.
By the time I had completed all my tests, I was only 96 pounds. My doctor said, the cancer has spread. You need to be confined in the hospital. Your food passage is completely blocked by the cancer. I don't know how much time you have. Not much. Maybe a month. But I promise you will not feel the pain. I hugged Dr. Fisher and thanked him. I told him, don't be sad. I know God is in full control of my life.
I went home that night to make some arrangements and my daughter was fast asleep. I knelt down by her bedside and I cried, Mama loves you so much that it hurts. Lord, you know how much I love my Ali, my Claudia and my Jaime. You gave them to Charlie and me and I thank you. I know in my heart that Charlie will love them and watch over them. Lord, take care of my husband because I love him very much. But much more than this, it comforts me to know that I could never love them as much as you love them. I thank you, Father God.
Charlie remained by my bedside day and night, caressing me, talking to me. It pains me to think how much our husbands or wives suffer the fear of losing us. How blessed I am to know how much my family and friends love me.
The Lord allowed me to experience deep, deep, sleep. I have never ever felt that kind of peace, peace that surpasses all understanding. Dr. Fisher explained to Charlie that my nourishment would come from a bag of liquid attached to me, which has to be administered on a daily basis for life. I would never be able to eat or drink again.
Surgery was ruled out, so was radiation. As a last recourse, it was suggested that I do the mildest chemo but if I so much as cough, he would remove it and just keep me comfortable. I was in awe when I was told how many people were praying for me. By God's sovereign mercy, I never coughed. One month later, my cancer level went down by half. I am now only a few points away from being on remission.
And as if this weren't enough, God's incredible bonus is that I am back to my full diet. I can eat and drink anything now! Once again, the doctors were amazed. Yes, isn't our God amazing? God spared my life when Stanford doctors had given up on me.
In my heart, I knew why. God allowed this miracle in my life to show us how gracious He is and what a powerful weapon prayer can be. And that God can perform miracles in our lives, if you let Him. I will never fully understand God's ways but I do know that God has a purpose for each of us. When God calls you to live for Him, He will invite you to be a part of something much bigger than ourself, something that requires the very best of you, something that may outlive you. When God calls us to a powerful vision, it may transcend safety and it may transcend common sense because it is all about Jesus Christ. Without Jesus, we will not make it!
Do we know, do you know, what God wants you to do with your life? If you are uncertain of God's will for your life, surrender all your plans to Jesus because God's plans for us are perfect.
The cancer in my body, I did not choose. But in God's sovereignty, He allowed this affliction in my life. But I ask you, what is the cancer in your life?
Is it the cancer of unforgiveness, jealousy, lust, anger or bitterness that you are holding on to? What are the wrong choices you continue to make because they give you temporary pleasure but can permanently destroy you -your husband or your wife or your children or your circle of influence?
If you are going through a time of terrifying darkness and despair, or are plagued by doubts that are slowly eroding your hope that things can get better, I urge you to surrender it all to God; give Him full control of your life. It is the only way to live.
Lord, forgive me for all my sins. Jesus, come into my heart; be my Lord and my Savior. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.