Welcome to my site! I hope you will enjoy reading the personal articles as I journey and navigate this life. I welcome suggestions for topics that you think are important, relevant, and valuable.

Please feel free to leave your comments by clicking the "Comments" section, located below each article. You can also email any article to your relatives and friends by clicking the "Email This" button, also located at the end of each article.

I am inviting my readers to share their stories of courage, success or resiliency to inspire other readers. You can submit your stories, 2-3 paragraphs in length, via the Comments section, located at the end of every article page. Your stories will be added to the "Readers' Contributions" page.

A close-up of a newly opened delphinium flower (Summer 2013).

Friday, November 5, 2010

What Is Resiliency?

Picture a time in your past when you felt the world will end. When you felt you cannot face another morning. Perhaps a co-worker bullied you, criticized you,  and spread malicious gossip about you--to the point that it was difficult for you even to breath. You lay in bed feeling so alone and rejected, you thought you could disappear and nobody will notice.

Now come back to the present. You are still here. The world did not end. You have welcomed so many glorious mornings. You have a fabulous group of supportive friends. And you find you are not alone. You thrived despite your adversity.

So how did you overcome those dreadful moments in your life? And how are you going to deal with distressing events in the future?

Believe it or not but you have a natural, inner strength that functions like an immune system. This inner strength enables you to bounce back from crisis and adversity. Psychologists call this ability as resiliency.

Defining Resiliency

This term is derived from the Latin word “resilire” meaning “to jump” (or bounce) back into shape (Webster’s New World Dictionary, 1974). Furthermore, it can be understood as:
  • “the power or ability to return to the original form or position after being bent, compressed, or stretched” (Webster’s New World Dictionary, 1974);
  • an adaptive, stress-resistant personal quality that allows the individual to “bounce” back and to thrive despite unfortunate life experiences (Markstrom, Marshall & Tryon, 2000; Place, Reynolds, Cousins & O’Neill, 2002);
  • the process of, capacity for, or outcome of successful adaptation despite challenging or threatening circumstances (Masten, Best & Garmezy, 1990);
  • an interactive product of beliefs, attitudes, approaches, behaviors and physiology that help people fare better during adversity and recover more quickly following it (Fostering Resilience in Response to Terrorism, n.d.).
However, resiliency is not a monolithic construct, that once achieved, will always be present. It is not a fixed attribute of the individual because circumstances in life may vary. When the situation changes, so may one’s resiliency (Masten, 2001).

Types of Resiliency

Three types of resilience can be gleaned from this multi-dimensional phenomenon according to Howard, Dryden and Johnson (1999):
  1. the coping type of resilience wherein the individual does not succumb to adversity in the face of sustained and acute negative circumstances (e.g., continuous family conflict);
  2. the “overcoming odds” type of resilience wherein the individual succeeds in recovering from crisis or trauma (e.g., death of a sibling or parent);
  3. the thriving type of resilience wherein the individual is able to prosper from extreme trauma and becomes better despite of it (e.g., despite losing his leg, a war prisoner cared for the wounded and dying soldiers non-stop).
Hence, the capacity to be resilient acts as “protective shield” that helps people cope with the vicissitudes of a stressful world. It is obtained by a combination of personal characteristics (e.g., temperament) and psychological characteristics (locus of control). The people around you, the opportunities open to you, the conditions you are in--all these factors influence your capacity to be resilient.

Note to my readers: If you have any personal story of resiliency that you would like to share, send it to me at If it is good and well-written, I will include it in one of my books. It will be copyrighted in your name. Expect working with me in the editing process. Deadline for submission is December 31, 2010.


Fostering resilience in response to terrorism (n.d.). Retrieved from

Howard, S., Dryden, J., & Johnson, B. (1999). Childhood resilience: review and critique of literature. Oxford Review of Education, 25(3), 307-323.

Markstrom, C. A., Marshall, S. K., & Tryon, R. J. (2000). Resiliency, social support, and coping in rural low-income Appalachian adolescents from two racial groups. Journal of Adolescence, 23, 693-703.

Masten, A. S. (2001). Ordinary magic: Resilience processes in development. American Psychologist, 56(3), 227-238.

Masten, A. S., Best, K., & Garmezy, N. (1990). Resilience and development: Contributions from the study of children who overcome adversity. Development and Psychology, 2, 425-444.

Place, M., Reynolds, J., Cousins, A., & O’Neill, S. (2002). Developing a resilience package for vulnerable children. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 7(4), 162-167.

Webster’s New World Dictionary. (1974). 2nd College ed. Nelson, Foster & Scott Ltd: Toronto, Canada.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Surviving Cancer: A Postscript

I received some comments based from the article I wrote the other day about cancer. One was from a former Xavier University student who told me of her mother dying of lung cancer in 2004 and of her father dying in 2007 of pancreatic mass, complicated with diabetes. A new friend from Illinois shared her story about her aunt Sarah who died of womb cancer.

Their stories are heart-breaking. Any person who has witnessed a loved one suffer and then die of cancer will know the pain associated with it. My mother died of stomach cancer in 1998 when she was 77 years old. I was a rebel child, her only child, but when cancer struck her I suffered with her. I agonized day after day at the thought of losing her. I researched the area of oncology, looking for the best treatment for her. I made a wager with God that I will give up all my material possessions if He will heal her. She eventually died after so much suffering on her part and on my mine.
Not all people who has cancer dies. Some survive. My Ph.D. supervisor, who used to climb the Three Sisters Mountains in Kananaskis, survived. He had cancer of the blood. A good friend of mine, also a professor at the University of Calgary, had a similar cancer. He travels all over the world, including the Philippines, to help marginalized people. He survived. A former co-worker of mine, who worked in the same non-profit organization where I used to work, had colo-rectal cancer. He too, survived.
So what do these three people have in common that helped them defy the odds of dying from cancer? First of all, they are middle-age. Their ages ranged from 55 to 66. Second, they are male. Third, they are all living in Canada. These demographics might have something to do with their survival but there could be other factors as discussed below:
Positive Attitude. These three survivors have one thing in common: a positive attitude. They might have been shocked and traumatized upon being told by their doctor that they have cancer. Initially, they were probably depressed. However, they did not sulk in the corner and blamed God. Nor did they wallow in self-pity. They maintained a positive attitude which includes hope, acceptance, fighting spirit, and looking on the bright side.
There are contradictory reports on the relationship between positive attitude and cancer patient survival. Some studies suggest that a positive attitude has no bearing on cancer survival. However, some studies show that a positive attitude is an important component in surviving cancer (Kamloops Daily News; Journal of Advanced NursingThe Kingston Whig Standard). Conversely, a negative attitude, such as hopelessness and helplessness, is associated with decreased cancer survival (The Lancet).
Social SupportNumerous research show the importance of social support, in the form of cohesive family and caring friends, in surviving cancer. For instance, cancer patients who are socially isolated show a higher death rate compared to those who are socially integrated and having the most social ties (Journal of Clinical Oncology). Health care providers (doctors, nurses) are also important sources of support, with emotional support considered as very helpful to cancer patients  (Journal of Social Issues). The number of supportive friends, supportive persons, the extent of contact with friends, and the size of social network are considered statistically important for survival (Social Science and Medicine).

The three cancer survivors I have mentioned have strong social support from their family, friends, and co-workers. The two professors continued working despite having cancer, meeting students, editing theses, giving lectures. My co-worker immersed himself in helping problematic kids stay away from trouble. They may have looked like hell on some days but they carried on, with family and friends acting like cheerleaders. One of the two professors wore a hat for two years to hide his baldness as a result of chemotherapy, yet he was always wearing his brightest smile, always sincerely curious about how other people are doing.

Early Detection. Stage of cancer at diagnosis is the best predictor of survival (Journal of Psychosomatic Research). This means medical screening and early detection is crucial in surviving cancer. Some cancers do not have any symptoms but if you are experiencing any or some of the symptoms listed below, you should go to your doctor immediately:

For a detailed discussion of the symptoms of cancer, go to: emedicinehealth

The three individuals I have mentioned who survived cancer had their cancer detected early. They did not wait until they were feeling worse. At the onset of a symptom they immediately went to their doctor and this singular act was probably one of the reasons why they survived cancer.

To conclude, take good care of yourself. Eat healthy. Minimize red meat in your diet and choose plant foods. Try to have more than 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. 

Sleep well, at least 7 hours. Engage in physical activity daily, at least 30 to 45 minutes.  Avoid carcinogens in your food and in your environment.

Stay positive. Have lots of good friends, the ones you can count on. Manage your stress. Develop a resilient attitude. Pray. 

Go to your doctor as soon as you notice something abnormal.

You are important.

Suggested Readings

Monday, November 1, 2010

Health News Today: Cancer--An Overview

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. It accounted for 7.4 million deaths in 2004. Lung, stomach, liver, colon, and breast cancer cause the most cancer, with tobacco use the single most important risk factor. Worldwide cancer deaths is projected to climb, with an estimated 12 million deaths in 2030.
Cancer is the name given to diseases in which cells multiply abnormally. Cancer cells are called "rebel" cells because they do not follow genetic instructions.
Cancer cell error occurs when there is mutation in a single cell which eventually lead to abnormal cell division. For cancer cells to thrive, they need oxygen and therefore they invade into blood vessels. Once they are in blood vessels, they go into other parts of the body and grow. This process is called metastasis.
What causes cancer?
Cancer be caused by any or a combination of the following: heredity and external agents. Three categories of external agents include:
  • physical carcinogens (ultraviolet and ionizing radiation)
  • chemical carcinogens (asbestos, components of tobacco smoke, aflatoxin [a food contaminant], and arsenic [a drinking water contaminant])
  • biological carcinogens (infections from certain viruses, bacteria or parasites)
Examples of infections associated with certain cancers
  • viruses: hepatitis B and liver cancer, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and cervical cancer, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Kaposi carcoma.
  • bacteria: Helicobacter pylori and stomach cancer
  • parasites: schistosomiasis and bladder cancer
Cancer risk factors
  1. tobacco use
  2. being overweight or obese
  3. low fruit and vegetable intake
  4. physical inactivity
  5. alcohol use
  6. sexually transmitted HPV-infection
  7. urban air pollution
  8. indoor smoke from household use of solid fuels
Prevention strategies
  • increase avoidance of the risk factors listed above
  • vaccinate against human papilloma virus (HPV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV)
  • control occupational hazards
  • reduce exposure to sunlight
American Cancer Society (ACS) Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention
Maintain a healthy weight throughout life.
  • Balance caloric intake with physical activity.
  • Avoid excessive weight gain throughout the life cycle.
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight if currently overweight or obese.
Adopt a physically active lifestyle
  • Adults: engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity, at least 5 days per week. Forty-five to 60 minutes of intentional activity are preferable.
  • Children and adolescents: engage in at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity at least 5 days per week.
Consume a healthy diet, with emphasis on plant sources.
  • Choose foods and beverages in amounts that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat five or more servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits each day.
  • Choose whole grains in preference to processed (refined) grains.
  • Limit consumption of processed and red meats.
There are three modalities to treat cancer: 
  1. Surgery (when tumor is localized) 
  2. Radiation therapy (when tumor is too big for surgery)
  3. Drugs, such as chemotherapy (when cancer has spread). Chemotherapy, which often leads to nausea and hair loss, can shrink certain proportions of cancer and may prolong the life of some patients. 
Suggested Readings