It was a perfect life for Ricky Montecillo and his wife Christina “Tina” Montecillo.
Despite the fact that Ricky never finished school, they had a comfortable life. They had a home, and three grown children, all of whom were already working. But more than anything, they had each other, and they were going to grow old together.
Everything was perfect.
Or so they thought. Their wonderful life would soon be shattered by the terrifying realization that nothing in the world is ever perfect, and that life is fleeting.
He shares their story in this post and reminds us all of the value of our time with the people we love.
In June 2015, Tina complained of pain in her upper back. Having just come from an office outing in Batangas, Ricky brushed off his wife’s pain as exhaustion.
But as weeks passed, the pain did not go away.
Tina and Ricky went from one doctor to the next, and complied with test after test, but the cause of the pain could not be traced. Even physical therapy did nothing to improve Tina’s condition.
Instead, the pain worsened with each passing day.
On June 12, while vacationing in Bali, Indonesia with their daughter Samantha, Tina’s condition worsened. She experienced numbness in her buttocks, legs, and feet, making it difficult to walk.
Click next to find out what the doctors told Ricky and Tina when they got home
Ricky and Tina’s perfect world crumbles
Upon their return to Manila, Ricky and Tina consulted Dr. Armado San Luis, a veteran neurologist in UERM Memorial hospital.
Dr. San Luis recommended an MRI of Tina’s upper back, the result of which was released the following day.
Tina had a tumor inside her spine, which appeared to be malignant.
“Our ‘perfect world’ had crumbled. It was the saddest day of my life,” Ricky recalled in a blog he wrote on July 1, 2016.
“The prospect of losing the love of my life, my perfect partner, stared me in the face. My Tina, my beautiful and wonderful wife of 30 years, was going to die,” Ricky also said.
Ricky was devastated. Having lost two brothers to cancer, he knew what it was like to lose a loved one to cancer.
“..when we found out that Tina, my Tina, was faced with the dreaded disease, my entire being was shattered,” Ricky recounted.
Questioning the why
“My poor Tina. She was always fit and healthy. Always exercising and watching her diet. How on earth did she get a tumor?” Ricky asked himself.
That afternoon, after Dr. San Luis had explained to them the MRI result, Tina and Ricky went home. They lay in bed and cried.
And while they lay there facing the uncertainty of the future, they were certain of one thing–God was not to blame.
“…I remember as we lay in bed that afternoon, we agreed not to question God…for some reason, we knew it was wrong to question God,” Ricky also said.
Click next to find out how their children reacted to the bad news
Telling the kids
Samantha came home later that day, and upon hearing the bad news, “embraced her mother tightly and cried like a child”.
“That sad scene will forever be etched in my mind,” Ricky said.
Ricky and Tina also had to inform their two older sons, Paolo and Carlo. Paolo, who never was one to cry in public, took the news better than expected. His older brother, Carlo, who was based in the U.S, however, was distraught.
“Our family essentially revolves around Tina, being the mother of our children and it was so depressing,” Ricky said.
Through recommendations from friends and a chance encounter with a team of neurosurgeons specializing in the spine, Ricky and Tina found Dr. Eduardo Mercado, a top neurosurgeon at the Cardinal Santos Hospital.
Dr. Mercado explained to them that the tumor was located between the C7 and T1, or the last cervical spine and first thoracio spine. It was, in layman’s terms, in the upper portion of the spine.
He also told them that, if left alone, the tumor could grow and impede normal body functions, including brain activities.
The tumor, therefore, would have to be removed through surgery.
Dr. Mercado also told them what to expect during and after the surgery.
The surgery, he said, would typically take between 5-6 hours, and Tina would be hospitalized for 7-10 days. Physical therapy after surgery should also be done. Tina would need a private nurse, and recovery would take a month.
A biopsy of the mass would also have to done to determine whether the tumor was benign or malignant.
Click next to find out what happened after the surgery
Tina checked into the hospital on June 6, 2015 for her surgery the next day.
“The day of the surgery was the longest day of my life. It was nerve wracking and distressful,” Ricky said.
About 7 hours after Tina was wheeled into the operating room, Dr. Mercado emerged and informed the family that initial tests of the tumor showed that it was benign.
“The Bigwigs in heaven answered all our prayers. That was a year ago and while Tina has to live with some discomforts in her back and some numbness in her legs because of nerve damage, she is now healthy and happily alive,” Ricky wrote on his blog to remember the anniversary of Tina’s ordeal.
“This experience has brought our family closer and our love for one another, stronger. It has also strengthened our faith in the good Lord,” he said.
“I learned through this ordeal that no life is perfect no matter how comfortable and lucky one may think. Grateful as I was in feeling that I had everything, God reminded me that there can never be a perfect life without Him at the center,” he also said.
Read: Brave young dad’s 3-year battle with rare cancer is still a race against time
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