I met Ate Wendy Samonte after the closing program of SFC International Conference 2018.

She wore a facemask and thanked a group of brothers and sisters in the parking lot.

Bro. Cris Serdenia, a fellow servant leader in SFC Middle East introduced her to me.

Ate Wendy

Dear Lord, I come before You today in need of Your healing hand. In You all things are possible. Hold my heart within Yours, and renew my mind, body and soul. I am lost, but I come to You with grace. You gave us life, and You also give us the gift of infinite joy. Give me the strength to move forward on the path you’ve laid out for me. Guide me towards better health and give me the wisdom to identify those you’ve placed around me to help me get better. Amen. (Together with Ate Wendy & Bro. Cris.)

Ate Wendy was diagnosed with gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs), a rare type of cancer found in the digestive system, most often in the wall of the stomach.

She undergone surgery in 2016. She has no stomach anymore. Digesting food is a big challenge.

She shared her pains during chemo and CT scan sessions.

I felt her agony because I experienced the same.

Her optimism was a source of inspiration.

She went to the event as a victor and full of gratitude.

The SFC community was a source of hope.

Stories about Ate Wendy gave me a deeper understanding of God’s relentless love.

She was a living witness of God’s faithfulness.

Let us pray continuously for her complete healing.

Amidst her condition Ate Wendy remains steadfast in serving the Lord in whatever way possible, her gratitude prayer:

“Thank you God for being with me, inspiring me and using me to speak Your words to my brothers and sisters. Continue to use me Lord, allow me to see Jesus through the people around me and to experience Your great love.”

pancreas cancer 101


After a year of being diagnosed with pancreas cancer- this is me.


A dreaded disease feared by everyone, one of the leading cause of death around the world and one of the most expensive medical treatment that you don’t want to experience – cancer.

Big pharmaceutical companies are funding cancer research to find the ultimate cure. They are running against time to help more people as possible.

In Saudi Arabia, cancer research treatment facilities are limited only to government health institutions, priorities are given to locals.

Only Specialized Medical Center (along Fahad road) – a private hospital in Riyadh with  oncology department that can accept expatriates aside from locals.

We met Dr. Shawky Basherbashi, an oncology consultant and an amicable person. His presence lighted up the room. Optimist. He was like a long lost friend you met again.

We showed to him the biopsy result. He read it aloud and explained it line by line.

We found out that pancreas cancer was on the upper tier level of cancer hierarchy- the ultimate. Survival rate was very low compared to others. Mortality was very high.

Pancreas cancer have two (2) types; adenocarcinoma and the neuroendocrine tumor.

The adenocarcinoma rapidly spread or metastasize (mets) in the nearby organs, while the neuroendocrine tumor much slower. Usually diagnosed at the age of 50- 60 years old. No cure for now.

Compared to Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumor or PNet, it spreads slowly and very rare. It caused the life of Steve Jobs. PNet survival rate was high on patient who undergone tumor removal surgery. If not treated properly, complications can lead to adenocarcinoma.

Major causes are stress (alam na this! kaya chillax), lifestyle (di naman ako alcoholic, bawal naman sa Saudi ang alak), too much strain on the pancreas for eating fatty foods (another alam na this moment), too much weight, to name a few.

The meeting went well. My wife was with me and my father in law. A major eye-opener on healthy living.

During that consultation, I realized that we should not fear cancer at all.

Yes, a major life threat.

But my disposition would impact on how I face this dreadful disease.

Full of optimism.

Dadaanan lang ‘toh, hindi tatambayan.

the biopsy needle & vial


Smiling amidst the pain.


When you hear the word biopsy it is always associated with cancer – a dreaded disease that can take away your life.

I felt nervous when the doctor advised me to have one. They need to know whether the tumor was malignant or not.

The fear of the unknown crept in.

Questions after questions.

What if it’s malignant?

What will happen to my family and to my loving wife? I was just married for a year & a half. Too early to leave a harsh and a cruel world. I still don’t have kids.

I thought the biopsy was just a small prick versus the previous aspiration of the synovial fluid.  But, it was not.

A CT scan guided biopsy was required.

Like any medical procedure, you signed a waiver to free the hospital from any liability. I did.

Everything was prepared from the biopsy tool kit, radiation technology team, nurses and doctor.

Until, the doctor made a litany on the possible complications – pancreatitis, infection, bleeding, sepsis, etc. and many more.

“Do you still want to continue?” Asked by the doctor.

What?!? Who am I to halt the procedure?

Deafening silence.

All eyes were on me.

I muttered a resounding ‘yes’.

I laid on the scanning plate and looked at the ceiling. I hummed my favorite tune.

Entered the scanning machine, pancreas was located and anesthesia was applied just a few inches above my navel.

Suddenly, a big black tube with a 12-inch needle was pierced through my belly. I have never seen that before in my life. Not once, not twice but thrice.

Took a small specimen of the tumor and went to the vial.

A small vial and a not so tiny needle combo that forever changed the course of my life.

where it all began


I wish the teddy bear can ease the pain.


Fatigue, a black stool, nausea and constipation were the initial symptoms of the great battle.

It was just an ordinary day that became a turning point of my life.

I went to Hamadi hospital for my regular checkup – initial diagnosis was Anemia or low blood. Blood transfusion must be done as soon as possible. Unfortunately, they cannot accommodate me anymore. Beds were full.

So I traveled from Hamadi to Al Habib hospital without knowing that I was already a walking time bomb – ready to explode anytime because of low hemoglobin levels.

I met Dr. Sulaiman Gali, a gastroenterologist from Sudan and showed him the lab results from Hamadi. Hemoglobin level was 6 versus 12-14 for normal male.

Lo and behold, I was sent to the ICU immediately.

Panic mode erupted.

Nurses were squabbling to find veins from my fatty muscles.

Low hemoglobin was caused by internal hemorrhage from my digestive tract. Endoscopy was done to remove the blood clot.

Six bags of blood were transfused.

A brutal day in the hospital – flare attack from my gouty arthritis was hell, a slight touch on my hands and feet made me cringe in pain.

Hemoglobin went up but with on and off fever.

Body was not responding to several bottles of paracetamol and antibiotics. Two (2) probable cause: the gouty arthritis and digestive tract’s continuous bleeding.

Aspiration of synovial fluid from my joints was done. How? Imagine a long tiny needle inserted on your ankle to get a liquid in between your bones without anesthesia.

I closed my eyes during the painful procedure. It was difficult for the rheumatologist to aspirate because the space in between the ankle joints were very small and they need to prick several times. Ouch! They got a yellowish fluid, which means a sign of infection.

In addition, the doctor advised me to undergo a CT scan to check the digestive tract. Prior to the actual scan, I drank one liter of water with contrast formula. Tasted like metal but who am I to complain it was a requirement.

Nothing compares to my first CT scan experience because it was never my last.

Initially, the radiation technologist from India assisted me but had difficulties transferring me from the bed to the scanning area. My body was in pain. The scooping board was not used.

Grateful that I was endorsed to a Filipino radiation technologist. He did it with a breeze. My heart pounded because they found “something” and I drank more water with contrast formula to see it clearer.

After a few days, the CT scan result was out. A small tumor in the ampula or head of my pancreas was found causing a blockade in my digestive tract.

I have to undergo a biopsy to check if it’s malignant or not.

The tumor was not as big as a Nutella bottle.






Being diagnosed with PNet, it was not easy to live a life that you were not used to before.

After a few days of the big breaking news, I lost my appetite. The PNet tumor in the pancreas head blocked the digestive tract from my stomach and liver to the small intestines. It was very difficult to digest the food.

I was not able to eat properly. I puked.

The bile from the liver was secreted directly to the blood stream. It did not pass through the usual digestive tract because of the blockade caused by the tumor.

I was like a yellow bruised banana from my scalp to the sole of my feet.

Bilirubin was to the roof. Salt was my perspiration.

The itch threw me to the wall.

Sleepless nights.


Several visits to the hospital yield nothing but nausea.

I never knew that it was a tough battle.

Prior to my PNet diagnosis, abnormal uric acid level was my new normal. Gouty arthritis left and right at my hands and feet.

Pain after pain – but the warrior is just on the initial stage of the battle.

Onward we go.

Can I carry on?

the journey

2015-01-02 21.34.26

A foreboding symbol of a battle- a suprise welcome gift from my wife after my Qatar business visit.


What will you feel if you find out that you have only few months to live?

I am Ramed R. Borja – a Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumor (PNet) warrior from the Philippines.

What is PNet? It is a rare type of pancreas cancer.  Steve Jobs of Apple & Prince Sultan of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – are some of the victims of this cancer.

My wife Maria Judith Borja, asked me to chronicle my cancer journey. I am doing this blog out of my love for her and also to share my PNet journey to the world.

When I was diagnosed last February 3, 2015, I was shocked.

Dr. Wael Kattan, a Saudi doctor from Dr. Habib Hospital in Riyadh, KSA broke the news: “The biopsy is out, its cancer.” Kind of slap on your face breaking news update. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the candidness, but I was not prepared for it.

My wife should have not cried if the Jordanian nurse did not put a box of tissue in front of her. Maybe they were use to this type of convo and they know the sequence of events.

As we drove home, I felt numbness on my body. So many questions and I can’t find answers. I was not able to speak for few days. Thankful that my wife was beside that time.

Before the diagnosis, there were symptoms.

I do love my job in the retail industry but the stress at work will get a toll on you. The nature of my work entails travel in the Gulf Cooperating Countries (GCC) of the Middle East. I was incharge of marketing for the largest computerstore in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and also for the branches in Qatar, Kuwait & United Arab Emirates.

I came from a business trip in Qatar when I noticed a combo of nausea and constipation for several days. I felt fatigue just putting my pants & longsleeves. Putting a single step on stairs was hard. Moving an inch was tiresome.

I  pushed myself to go to the hospital.

Lo & behold, my hemoglobin dropped to 6 – normal male is 12-14. Internal hemorrhage in the digestive tract. Panic mode in the hospital, rushed to the emergency then to the ICU. Six bags of fresh Arabic blood transfused to my chubby nerves.

My hemoglobin was stabilized at 11 but I have on & off fever for few more days. Doctors investigated and found out from a CT scan that I have a tumor on the ampula of my pancreas.

It was the start of the Battle of Nutella.