portrait of a mother

A few hours into Operation Blessing’s medical-dental mission in Rodriguez (formerly Montalban), Rizal, a woman with two small children in tow caught people’s attention as she arrived and trudged quietly to the end of the registration line. She looked frail, and one could tell it was for a serious reason that she had a scarf over her head. She also wore an expression of calm determination as she tried to keep her place in the line while also keeping her restless youngsters to her side.

As it turned out, Nymfa, a 40 year-old mother of five, has been living with breast cancer since 2006. In March 2013 she underwent a unilateral mastectomy (or surgical removal of one breast), and she is currently undergoing chemotherapy. Government health insurance (Philhealth) benefits along with occasional assistance from working siblings have been helping sustain her through all her medical needs.

Nymfa and her family used to be informal settlers in Quezon City and were relocated by the government to Rodriguez in 2011. Her husband takes on welding jobs and drives a passenger jeep part-time with their second child. Their eldest child is married while the third is in high school, leaving Nymfa at home daily with her two youngest children, both born while she already had cancer.

Nymfa shared that she could only muster strength for a few minutes at a time to tend to the needs of her family. “I feel weak when standing up for a long period,” she related, “like yesterday, when I fainted and fell in the middle of the road on my way home from an errand, it was a good thing that there were bystanders who came to help me.”

Yet here she was, walking several blocks to seek help not even for herself, but for her youngest child, Reyna. With her illness, Nymfa could have chosen to dismiss as a minor nuisance her daughter’s skin ailment—Reyna had wounds on her head—but she could not bear seeing the child’s discomfort. Paying for treatment was out of the question because the family had very meager resources, thus she grabbed this opportunity for Reyna to benefit from the OB activity. “I was told there was a medical mission here, so I came, for her sake,” she explained, pointing affectionately to her daughter.

The sight of her, challenging her own body’s weakness to seek relief for her child’s pain, makes one pause to wonder: How do you measure a mother’s love?

Nymfa, of course, received more than what she sought. Apart from receiving medication for Reyna that her family could not have otherwise afforded, Nymfa was also ministered to by volunteers through counseling, the sharing of God’s Word, and prayer.

It was past noon by the time Nymfa and her children started on their way back home, but she still seemed energized for the walk. It was apparent in her smile and shy “Thank you,” that the trip to the medical mission had been one worth making.

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If you are interested to know more about the work of Operation Blessing, visit the OB Philippines website or call them at 632-4777802 to 04.

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