Stricken with Cancer, She Heals Others Battling the Disease with Her Own Faith
December 13, 2016
When Sherol Naguiat, 44, logs onto Facebook, she does not do the typical posting or liking. Instead, her social media presence consists of asking for prayers and bringing hope to ill people, she says.
Anywhere there is a chance to offer a prayer, “There I am, and I will message them,” Naguiat says.
Anyone in the world will typically receive a kind message of hope from Naguiat, who prays for people’s cancer recovery. She never knows beforehand the people she meets on social media, and some of her messages have gone as far as the Bay Area, Chicago and even the Philippines.
In her yearly travels to the Philippines to see her family, she will often meet with the very people she prayed for online. As long as it’s cancer, she says, she can relate.
Naguiat never thought about breast cancer until the moment she felt a lump on her breast.
“I was shocked,” the Corcoran, California native said. “I said, ‘wow, that’s not normal’.”
She quickly hurried out of her shower and raced to her husband, Gener Naguiat, 48. She then showed her sister-in-law. One week later, Naguiat was getting checked by her personal doctor.
Everything was moving so fast, and a few months later, she was starting chemotherapy. Naguiat had been diagnosed with stage four cancer.
“Not too many people are surviving stage four,” she admits. “I’m one of the blessed ones.”
After chemotherapy, it was time for surgery. Naguiat’s cancer was spreading to different areas of her body, including her neck and liver. She had never stopped to think about the consequences of treatment.
When she was first diagnosed, she had asked the family doctor, “‘OK, what are we going to do?’”
She knew her hair would vanish, her weight could shrink and her appetite could diminish. But Naguiat said nothing was stopping her from making drastic changes to her lifestyle.
“I think my faith has something to do with it,” she says. “For me, it’s mind over matter.”
So, Naguiat decided to eat despite very little appetite. She said she even gained 30 pounds at a time when when she didn’t even taste the flavors of the food. She recalled having a “see food” diet, meaning she ate what she saw just to remain healthy.
Cancer never seemed to faze her. She said her faith in God gave her all the strength she needed.
“I know cancer; I might die in the process,” Naguiat says. “But I said, ‘I am going to put my 110 (or) 115 percent trust in the Lord.”
Naguiat had strong faith that God would one day heal her. In the meantime, treatment for Naguiat is done every 21 days. She travels approximately 50 miles to Fresno every 21 days for treatment at St. Agnes Medical Center. During the same trip, Naguiat sees her oncologist at the California Oncology.
In October, Naguiat was taking Kadcyla, a targeted treatment for metastatic breast cancer. Doctors switch her medication every year to find the best treatments for her cancer, which has now been around for 10 years. The cost of treatment every time Naguiat visits Fresno is around $16,000.
On Oct. 15, she had undergone her 50th treatment, a radiation to contain the cancer which had spread to her neck and femur bone, she says. The cancer has spread to about nine different areas in her body.
When she was diagnosed, her daughter Genshel Amber Naguiat, 17, was in the second grade. She’s now 17 and has helped her mom battle breast cancer too. Generally, her entire family has been supportive, she said.
Naguiat said her parents and family in the Philippines have been supporting through the process, even when some in her family like her dad, who is 72, don’t understand her condition.
“It’s too much for everybody,” she says. “We have to explain it to them, how the treatments are going to go (and) how I am going to look.”
Her dad doesn’t ask about her cancer directly. Naguiat says he will often turn to her mom, who is 67, to ask about it. Naguiat chooses to console her dad when he doesn’t want to think about her cancer.
“If God wants me, he will take me,” she says she tells her dad.
Naguiat has one brother in the United States and has two more, along with a sister, in the Philippines. But she considers many of her close friends and doctors “fambam” or family.
Naguiat says there is little she can do but go through treatment and pray for recovery. She says that allows her to live normally and even travel to the Philippines once a year. She will go there in December alone.
“For some people they think when we have cancer, it’s like they’re going to stop living,” Naguiat says. “For me it’s like, I’m rejoicing. It’s like, live life to the fullest.”
She believes one day, her cancer will go away. With her trust in God, Naguiat says there is a purpose why she was diagnosed with cancer.
“I always tell (friends and family), maybe God has a purpose for why this happened,“ she says. “One day, it will disappear.”
In 2006, Naguiat was enrolled in College of the Sequoias in Visalia, California. She was studying nursing and had hopes of becoming a registered nurse. When she was diagnosed in the fall semester, she had to leave school.
She had been enrolled for about three years and had trouble getting into courses that were in high demand for her nursing focus.
“By the time I got in, in August, then in October I found out I had cancer,” Naguiat said. “So, I’m in, but I got sick and I had to stop going to school.”
She now lives her daily life helping others heal and spreads her own story for another to hear. She volunteers at Our Lady of Lourdes church in Corcoran where she sings in the choir, is a lector and teaches catechism classes.
“You can put that suffering into something, and that is what I did,” Naguiat said.
She’s had many names through her journey with cancer like, “sunshine” and “light, thanks to her positive and optimistic attitude.
That same attitude is what she needed to face the reality of having to lose her hair, she explains.
“When i first walk into the infusion area, you see different people, I told my doctor, I refuse to look like them,” Naguiat says of the notable change in weight and look.
She took matters into her own hands and decided to cut her own hair before the heavy treatment did it.
“I said, you know what, I am going to lose it anyway,” she says.
The only problem was she had trouble finding someone who would do it. Neither her sister, nor her hairdresser would cut it for her. Until she found a barber, Louis. He finally decided to help her, despite also feeling bad that while Naguiat had cancer, it would be him who would help her lose her hair.
But for Naguiat, there was nothing to feel bad about. She knew her hair would one day fall out when she underwent her first chemotherapy treatment and she wanted to be ready.
Cancer was never something Naguiat thought about before she was diagnosed. But now, every 21 days she is in Fresno, she is reminded of her journey. She has also found several other cancer patients who have chosen to call her “chemo buddy.”
Naguiat likes the praise and agrees that she helps others get through it. For her, though, God is the only chemo buddy she needs.
After all, her faith is so strong that, “they called me crater catholic, since birth,” she says.
And it is God’s will for her to reach out people online as well as reserve time to spend and help friends heal. She teaches about trusting in God.
“I never question him, I always accept him,” she says.
Every year, she tunes into Channel 24 to watch news anchor Stefani Booroojian announce the annual Breast Cancer Month activities, some she takes part in like the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.
Naguiat wants people to understand there is life during and after cancer, and “don’t give up, don’t change whatever you love to do.”
In her 10-year battle with the disease, she has learned to hope for one thing about others.
She says, “I just hope people will be more like me, happier.”