Reflections

~ January 23, 2020 ~

A Dharmic Journey in Facing Cancer

Reflections • Article

By Wiyono Gunawan (pictured above in the middle, with his spiritual family before his operation at his home town, December 2017)

This reflection has been translated and edited for better clarity. The original piece in Bahasa Indonesia can be found below.

My name is Wiyono Gunawan. I am a 39 year-old married man with no kids, no longer able to work in a formal office setting due to an illness. Currently housebound, I am helping to care for my aging and sick mother’s small home business in Malang, East Java, Indonesia, where I was from. This is my personal account in facing cancer. I share it with the hope of encouraging others who also sick.

Fortunately, prior to the illness I was already in touch with the Dharma. I thank my uncle for introducing the Dharma and Dharmajala to me. Dharmajala is a Buddhist organization that was founded by Jimmy 18 years ago to make a bridge for people into Dharma. The group has helped authentic meditation lineage gurus to take root in Indonesia, for example Mingyur Rinpoche and Phakchok Rinpoche.

Being connected to the Dharmajala group was a blessing for me and my family. I attended it’s beginner retreat in 2010 and joined its spiritual family. I was first introduced to Mingyur Rinpoche’s program and then bridged into Kyabgon Phakchok Rinpoche’s teachings. This lead to the formation of  the Dharma Stream Group Bali, in 2015, where I worked and lived before my illness. These groups were my pillars of support that got me through as my sickness unfolded.

In Constant Pain

In mid August 2017, I was awakened from sleep by the urge to urinate. Blood came out instead. I also hadn’t passed any stools for 6 days.  The pain of urinating got the better of me. I went for a medical check up and was hospitalized for a week. After an abdominal ultrasound, the doctor couldn’t find a thing. I was prescribed with a 5-day medication and put under observation.

Two days later, I started to vomit repeatedly. After an X-ray, a nasogastric tube was inserted through my nostrils and into my stomach. Two days after that, I would vomit each time I ate or drank. Because I couldn’t defecate, the doctor decided to do a colostomy.

Before the operation, I asked a Dharma brother if  he could contact Phakchok Rinpoche on my behalf to request for blessings. Rinpoche encouraged me to do Tara and Medicine Buddha pujas before the operation. After the colostomy, I ended up with a fecal pouch attached on my abdominal wall.

During this time, I kept reciting Medicine Buddha’s mantra in accordance with Rinpoche’s instruction. My urine was still bloody, though less often. From a biopsy taken from my colon, my doctor told me that I had cancer, but  didn’t know what kind of cancer it was. An earlier colonoscopy and biopsy did not indicate any tumor in the colon.

Mentally, I was shocked when I heard that I had some kind of cancer. I could not believe it. I was in a state of disbelief and constant questioning.

“Why must I experience this? Is this my karma?

“Why must I be the first in my family to experience this?”

Physically, I was in constant pain. I had sleepless nights because I had to urinate every 10 minutes. It was painful and bloody. I was scheduled for weekly visits to the doctor. My mind was still wrestling with the fact of having cancer.

Not Giving Up 

A month later in September 2017, I had the opportunity to attend Mingyur Rinpoche’s retreat, “Joy of Living II” in Surabaya, Indonesia, and had an audience with him. He said to me, “No hope, no fear, letting go, but don’t give up.” His message was etched  in my mind ever since and it gave me confidence. With the guru’s blessings, I accepted my sickness as the ripening of karma. Before, during, and after the medical treatment, I prayed that my illness would represent the illness of all sentient beings.

Because my urine still had blood in it, I went for a second medical check up in November 2017. From my ultrasound results, my Doctor informed me that I had a 3 cm tumor in my bladder and needed to do a cystoscopy. I was given  general anesthesia which caused me to be unconscious during the procedure. From the operation room, I was transferred into a normal hospital room for 4 days and went home.

When the anatomical pathology report came out, I was told that I had  Stage 4 Bladder cancer. In order to confirm the diagnosis, I was asked to do an MRI scan. The 3 cm tumor had grown into 7 cm in less than a week. The cystoscopy had provoked the growth of the tumor. The urologist recommended a permanent urinary catheterization and chemotherapy for  treatment. I took time to consider this treatment and discussed it with my family.

Support from Spiritual Friends

In the meantime, the Eight Jewels of Healing from Akara that I ordered through a Dharma sister in Jakarta had arrived at my home from Malaysia. It contains eight healing objects that have been assembled by Phakchok Rinpoche in accordance with the authentic teachings of the sutra and tantra on the Medicine Buddha.

It heals through sight, sound, contact, taste, wearing, touch, smell and inhalation. In early December 2017, four members of my spiritual family flew all the way from Jakarta to Malang (about 860km apart) to visit me. Besides bringing Dharma pills from Phakchok Rinpoche, they also gave me encouragement and reassurance that I’m not alone in facing the disease. They recorded a video and took some pictures to update Phakchok Rinpoche on my case.

On January 2018, I went to Penang for a second medical opinion. After learning my medical history and anatomical pathology report, the doctor claimed that I only had five more months to live. In order to be sure of the prognosis, he asked me to do a CT scan. Based on the results, he said I might still have a chance and recommended me to undergo a bladder removal surgery since it was already fully covered by tumors. The estimated cost was RM 50.000. I had to go back to Indonesia to discuss with my family. My thoughts at that time was that this was part of the purification I had to go through. I was grateful that I had the opportunity to pay off my karmic debts.

In less than 10 days, I was back in Penang, although the funds raised from our families only reached RM 40.000. The pain was excruciating and hard to bear. Due to my inexperience, I was unable  to receive immediate hospital treatment as I did not bring enough cash for an advance hospitalization fee payment of RM 30.000. I assumed that payment could be done via bank transfer. A Dharma sister from our spiritual family in Jakarta contacted a Dharma brother who lives in Penang. He helped to cover the inpatient administration fee with her personal guarantee to pay him later so that I could be treated immediately. The balance RM 26.000 had to be paid for the operation to proceed.

This was settled through internet banking with the help of another Dharma sister in Jakarta. A Dharma brother from Jakarta who was in Nepal also donated on my behalf to some pujas in Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling before my operation in Penang Adventist Hospital on 23 January 2018. The major operation was successful.

Another Dharma brother from Jakarta who was in Penang at that time, came to visit me after my operation before flying back to Indonesia. He organized a fund-raiser that helped to pay off my RM 30.000 debt,  thus enabling me to start my 8 tri-weekly chemotherapy cycles as prescribed by my oncologist. It costs RM 7,000 for 1 cycle and another RM 1,500 for my 3-Day stay at Penang.

Practicing with Chemo

In April 2018, I went back to Penang for a second chemo cycle.  Due to money constraints, this would also be my last chemo cycle. While undergoing chemotherapy, I had  been doing Sadhanas according to Phakchok Rinpoche’s instruction. I would view the doctor as Medicine Buddha and the medicine as his nectar. Before the nurse gave me the chemo drugs, I would recite the Medicine Buddha’s mantra. After the second chemo cycle, I only relied on a healthy lifestyle, Dharma practice and supporting Dharma activities.

During this time, my spiritual family was trying to find alternative ways out. In mid August 2018, they arranged a 3-day Qi Gong meditation workshop in Jakarta which I attended. I practiced it daily after that. I went back to Penang on November 2018 for a medical check up. The CT scan results indicated that there were no longer black spots in the colon as well as in the spleen and lymph nodes.

This gave me a great boost. I felt like I was getting a second life. It made me more disciplined in maintaining my daily routine. According to my oncologist, I should be back for control on July 2019, and recommended me to do a blood test and CT scan every 6 months. But I have not done it due to financial constraints. If the blood test and CT scan showed good results, then endoscopy would follow. If the results were good, then they will do a colostomy reversal surgery. The estimated cost for this surgery would be RM 20.000. Just doing blood test, CT scan and endoscopy would cost RM 9.600.

Grateful For The Experience  

In retrospect, I feel so blessed. Some of my friends who had cancers, who went to the same hospital, who were treated by the same doctors and underwent the same medical treatments had already passed on. One of the main factors for this was being depressed.

Being born as human and able to be in touch with Dharmajala and the teachings from authentic lineage gurus is my biggest fortune. Without Dharma, I believe would have died without undergoing further treatments. Without Dharma I wouldn’t be able to face the reality of having cancer and to live with it. Everything came together perfectly.  This cancer experience provided me with an opportunity to recognize the value of things that we must value and what we must have. I don’t know what lies ahead. But I know when death comes, I have the Dharma with me and I really feel grateful that until this day, I can still practice.

Last but not least, whatever merits, I have gained through this sharing, I would like to dedicate it to every sentient beings. May all sentient beings achieve Buddhahood. I would also like to dedicate to the long life of Mingyur Rinpoche, Phakchok Rinpoche and all the lineages gurus, and to my spiritual family and all cancer patients, may they receive the blessings from all enlightened ones.

Sarva Mangalam

Have something to share about your Dharma practice and how it has impacted your life? We’d love to hear from you! Drop us a message at [email protected].

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Jodoh karma dan cukup jasa. Sebuah perjalanan penyembuhan dari kanker

Tulisan ini dibuat berdasarkan pengalaman pribadi dari seseorang yang bukan siapa-siapa dalam menghadapi kanker. Dengan harapan dapat memberikan semangat kepada orang lain yang sedang sakit.

Semuanya dimulai dari pertengahan Agustus 2017, ketika saya tidur dan terbangun ingin buang air kecil dan ternyata yang keluar adalah darah. Saat itu, saya memutuskan untuk pergi ke rumah sakit, untuk mengetahui penyebab dan cara pengobatannya. Namun, tidak diketahui dan ditemukan penyebab utamanya. Perjalanan ini terus berlanjut, sakit yang dirasakan makin tidak tertahankan, hingga akhirnya saya harus menjalani operasi usus. Setelah selesai menjalani operasi, derita sakit tidak hilang/berkurang, bahkan makin sakit karena banyak darah yang keluar.

Secara normal apabila kita divonis menderita kanker, kita merasa bahwa umur kita tak akan lama lagi. Ketika hal itu terjadi pada diri saya, saya hanya bisa pasrah. Sampai akhirnya, di awal Desember 2017, saya mendapat kunjungan dari keluarga spiritual, yang hanya khusus datang dari luar kota hanya untuk menengok kondisi saya. Mereka datang untuk terus menyemangati saya, bahwa saya tidak sendirian dalam menghadapi penyakit ini.

Penyakit datang akibat matangnya karma buruk kita. Ketika saya bertemu dengan dokter, dan saya harus menjalani operasi kedua, yakni angkat kandung kemih. Saat itu saya hanya berpikir bahwa ini bagian dari purifikasi yang mesti saya jalani. Saya bersyukur, bahwa dalam kehidupan ini, saya berkesempatan untuk melunasi semua hutang karma negatif.

Sebelum dilakukan operasi kedua, sekitar bulan September 2017, saya berkesempatan bertemu salah satu Guru saya, Mingyur Rinpoche. Beliau mengatakan kepada saya No Hope No Fear, Letting Go but Don’t Give Up. Pesan itu yang terus saya ingat sampai sekarang. Dengan berkah dari Guru, saya merasakan bahwa karma menjadi matang pada saat di kehidupan ini ketika saya mengetahui esensi dharma sehingga saya tidak ragu untuk menerimanya dengan bahagia. Saat sebelum, sedang dan sesudah dilakukan tindakan medis, saya berdoa, semoga penyakit yang saya derita ini mewakili semua makhluk.

Setelah mengubah konsep untuk menerima kondisi negative dengan sikap positif, hal berikutnya adalah menghargai semua kondisi yang kita miliki. Bertemu dengan keluarga spiritual melalui organisasi Dharmajala, adalah berkah untuk saya dan keluarga. Kenapa saya mengatakan demikian? Saat hendak dilakukan operasi kedua, pengobatan di Malaysia. Saat itu saya tidak membawa Cash Money untuk uang muka biaya opname. Dapat dibayangkan apa yang terjadi ketika kita tidak membawa uang, apakah mungkin dilakukan tindakan medis. Lagi-lagi, saya dibantu oleh salah satu Dharma Brothers yang tinggal di Malaysia. Seketika langsung menuju ke rumah sakit untuk menyelesaikan biaya administrasi rawat inap. Sehingga saya dapat segera ditangani oleh dokter. Jadi, selain karma buruk berbuah, karma baik juga berbuah. Sebagai seorang bukan siapa-siapa, bukan juga pengurus organisasi namun berkah yang saya rasakan sangat banyak. Bisa mendapatan perawatan medis di rumah sakit terbaik, dan ditangani dokter terbaik. Semua datang dengan bersama dan sempurna. Dengan demikian pengalaman kanker ini memberikan kesempatan untuk mengenali nilai dari hal-hal yang harus kita hargai dan apa yang harus kita miliki.

Satu operasi besar telah berhasil dilakukan oleh tim dokter. Selanjutnya, saya harus menjalani kemoterapi sebanyak 8 kali. Yang bisa saya lakukan hanya 2 x, karena terkendala biaya. Dan selama proses pengobatan, banyak dilakukan sponsor puja di vihara Ka-Nying Shedrup Ling, dan juga melakukan latihan sadhana seperti yg direkomendasikan oleh Phakchok Rinpoche. Saat menjalani kemoterapi, saya melihat dokternya sebagai Buddha Penyembuh, obat yang diberikan adalah nectar dari Buddha Penyembuh. Sebelum perawat memberikan obat kemoterapi, dibacakan dulu mantra Buddha Penyembuh. Jika kita memiliki pandangan yang benar, terhadap orang yang memperlakukan kita, segalanya akan berubah menjadi baik. Dengan pandangan seperti ini, rumah sakit sama dengan wihara. Selama sesi kemo, saya mendedikasikan secara tulus untuk semua pasien yang menjalani perawatan kemo yang sama agar memiliki sikap positif. Dengan menunjukkan sikap positif terhadap dokter, perawat, maupun pasien yang sama seperti kita, dapat mempengaruhi dan membuat perbedaan besar.

Setelah menjalani kemoterapi sebanyak 2x, karena terkendala biaya, keluarga spriritual saya, tetap berusaha mencari jalan keluar untuk pengobatan alternative. Akhirnya, saya memilih jalur meditasi sebagai pengganti kemoterapi. Dan selama 4 bulan berlatih secara rutin, hasilnya pun tidak sia-sia. Melalui pemeriksaan CT-Scan terakhir November 2018, kanker yang tadinya ada penyebaran di limpa, getah bening dan kandung kemih dinyatakan bersih. Pengalaman seperti mendapatkan hidup kedua, membuat saya makin disiplin dalam menjaga makan, istirahat cukup, olahraga teratur.

Terakhir saya ingin mendedikasikan penghargaan dari semua perjalanan positifnya dalam kehidupan kepada Guru saya, yaitu Mingyur Rinpoche dan Phakchok Rinpoche.

Saya akhiri sharing dharma ini dengan dedikasi sederhana dengan hati yang murni kepada semua Guru terutama Mingyur Rinpoche dan Phakchok Rinpoche dan kepada setiap individu yang terlibat dalam perjalanan ini. Semoga semua pasien kanker pada saat ini semua bersukacita atas berkah semua yang tercerahkan.

Sarva Mangalam

2 responses on "A Dharmic Journey in Facing Cancer"

  1. Wiyono Gunawan,

    Thank you for your article about your “Dharmic journey facing cancer”. You are very brave and I wish you ease and comfort. I am so glad that you have such a good caregiving support team. You are in my thoughts and practice. Yours in the dharma, Andrea Sherman

  2. Dear Wiyono, thank you for sharing your experience with us. My father passed away on 2014 because of a tumor in the colon. It is wonderful to know how Dharma can influence our perception of disease, I wish my father had had that kind of insight and faith.

    My prayers and appreciation to you!

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