Family, Health, Relationships

“People find it strange that I don’t fear battling Stage 4 cancer”

By Gemma Koh , 9 May 2024

Cookie Reyes appeared to be standing in what looked like the Grand Canyon. 

“Massive mountains were crumbling around me, and the earth was shaking under me,” said the 45year-old Filipina homemaker, recalling a vision she had while bidding 2021 goodbye.

Cookie Uy-Reyes

Cookie and her husband Ian Reyes moved to Singapore from the Philippines in 2010. Ian is a managing director at a multinational IT company. Cookie gave up working after a second miscarriage – to focus on building their family.

A man standing squarely in front of her held both her hands.

“His eyes were so fixed on me, and my eyes were so glued to Him,” she told Stories of Hope.

“I felt so safe despite this apocalyptic scene that I felt I didn’t need to ask ‘Ready for what?’”

“He was smiling and it felt like He was winking at me – almost like he was asking me, ‘Are you ready?’

“I couldn’t help but smile back at His joyful face. I felt so safe despite this apocalyptic scene around us that I felt I didn’t need to ask Him ‘Ready for what?’”

This vision came to Cookie while she was immersed in worship at a New Year’s Eve church service. The man in it was Jesus.

At that time, she thought it was encouragement for the family ahead of her son Caleb’s open-heart surgery.

Cookie Uy-Reyes

When Caleb was a few months old, he needed machines to help him breathe, and was fed through a nasal feeding tube. “We had a hard time hiring a helper as they would cry when they saw Caleb and our mini-ICU home setup,” recalled Cookie.

Born with special needs, Caleb had gone through multiple medical emergencies and operations. The family had been told more than once to “prepare for the worst”.

“Instead of being comforted by family and friends, she was the one urging them to wipe away their tears.”

But a month after the vision of the Grand Canyon, Cookie was diagnosed with Stage 4 colorectal cancer. 

Cookie had gone for a colonoscopy on discovering blood in her stools after five weeks of feeling constantly constipated.

“When the news of the diagnosis hit, I was surprised and a bit confused.

“But I didn’t feel afraid,” said Cookie.

Resentful and bitter

Cookie wasn’t always so positive. 

In the previous 10 years, she had gone through the heartbreak of infertility followed by the anguish two miscarriages which sandwiched the grief over her mum’s passing.

“I felt abandoned by God. I felt constantly tested by Him. I felt He favoured and blessed others,” Cookie said. 

It was not helpful when some well-meaning Christians suggested that “God was teaching me a lesson or developing my character”.

“I felt abandoned by God. I felt constantly tested by Him. I felt He favoured and blessed others.”

At church, she sat with her arms crossed.

“Resentful and bitter towards God, I couldn’t sing the words of the worship songs anymore,” she said. 

At one service, a pastor asked people who needed a miracle to come up front. Cookie walked out of the church.

“I was tired of believing, only to be let down. I started to walk away from God.”

“My baby’s life depended on it”

However, things changed in 2015 when Cookie got pregnant for the third time.

“At 14 weeks, the doctor told us there was something wrong with our baby’s heart, lungs, brain, kidneys, chromosomes and more. We were advised to terminate the pregnancy.

“I desperately needed God; my baby’s life depended on it. But I was still so confused with His will regarding supernatural healing and I didn’t exactly know how and what to pray.”

Cookie went online to find YouTube testimonies and teachings on healing.

Cookie Uy-Reyes

“Before Caleb was born, doctors said he wouldn’t have much of a life. Now when I see Caleb enjoying activities like swimming or biking, I know it to be a miracle,” said Cookie. Caleb, now 8, no longer requires the machines to help him breathe or eat.

“Wanting to discover the truth on my own, I opened my Bible and asked God’s Spirit to show me. I read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, determined to watch Jesus’ every single move when it came to a sick person.

“She’s seen our journey for years – even before Caleb was born,” said Cookie (left) with one of her good friends and prayer partners, Mai Genato.

Verses like Mark 16:17-18 – which spoke of “signs follow those who believe … they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover” – set her faith in physical healing on fire.

“This was my turning point,” she said, even though she doesn’t know why some people are healed and others not.

But what if God were to say to her: “Cookie, I want to take you home to be with Me?”

She replied: “I believe that when the Lord calls me home, it’ll be beautiful and lovely to be with Jesus. But it is my conviction that it is not His will that I will go out in sickness or cancer.” 

Confused but unafraid

One month before the cancer diagnosis, a Bible verse that echoed the scene of the Grand Canyon crumbling came to her – the day after the vision.  

“Even if the mountains were to crumble and the hills disappear, My steadfast, faithful love will never leave you … you will never be shaken.” (Isaiah 54:10)

“So when the cancer diagnosis hit, I was so prepared. My heart was so nourished by God’s Word.”

Shortly after, she received other verses such as Joshua 1:9: “Be strong and courageous … Do not be afraid, do not be troubled … for I am with you.”

Cookie spent the whole of January repeating these promises from God, thinking about them, and journaling about them.

“My heart was so nourished by God’s Word. So when the cancer diagnosis hit in February, I was so prepared.”

Instead of being comforted by family and friends, she was the one doing the comforting and assuring – urging them to wipe away their tears and encouraging them to trust in Jesus.

When diagnosed with cancer, Cookie was “intentional of not partnering with fear and trauma”, just as she had done when told that her daughter Lyanna could be born premature. “I kept my heart on the Lord’s promises, prayed Scripture, declaring safety and protection over Lyanna”. She carried Lyanna – who was born perfectly healthy – to full term.

“I understand this reaction comes out of love and concern, but I wasn’t identifying with this general despondence,” she said.

“People find it strange that I don’t feel fear battling Stage 4 cancer,” she said.

Cookie explained: “My conviction is that cancer doesn’t deserve the nickname ‘Big C’. It doesn’t deserve to have our hearts tremble at its name.”

“My conviction is that cancer must tremble at the name of Jesus.

“For me that meant: Do not partner with fear in my heart, in my words, in my thoughts.”

“For me that meant: Do not partner with fear in my heart, in my words, in my thoughts. Only agree with what God is saying. Be convinced and certain that God is for you, with you and inside of You.

“Jesus says: ‘I have given you the authority to trample on snakes and scorpions.’ (Luke 10:19)

“I would like to add cancer to that list. I don’t think Jesus would mind,” she said in a YouTube update to friends and family. 

Pastor Clement Sim

“Even before I was diagnosed, our friend and pastor, Clement Sim (left) prophesied that God wants me to share my heart,” said Cookie who set up a Facebook page to share with family and friends medical updates as well as what’s on her heart, and what she has heard from God.

“I wanted to take back the narrative that cancer is so powerful and to be greatly feared.

“It is not. It is no match against Jesus,” she explained.

“Jesus is with me, and this is Who cancer is up against.”

Sticking with the Bossman

When a pastor at church spoke about breakthroughs in difficulties, he asked the congregation to ask God individually: “What is the weapon You want to put in my hands for this season?”

“I thought it was odd that my weapon wasn’t Thor’s hammer, a bomb or something of mass destruction.”

Said Cookie: “Again, I thought this was for my journey with Caleb.” 

When she closed her eyes, she saw a vision of a man leaning against the wall, playing a guitar “in a folksy, acoustic, laidback Sunday morning kind of vibe that reminded me of Jason Mraz”.

“I thought it was odd that my weapon wasn’t a sword, an arrow, Thor’s hammer, a bomb or something of power or mass destruction,” said Cookie.

In January 2022, before she was diagnosed with cancer, Cookie (with Ian in left photo) won a guitar in a contest by the music school where she was taking guitar and keyboard lessons. Looking back, she says: “I almost feel like Jesus gave it to me. And now it’s turned into my weapon of warfare.” Photo from Believer Music Facebook.

“I believe Jesus was showing me how I would fight this cancer journey – with worship, rest, peace and joyfulness.

“Listening to God’s whispers, reading the Bible, claiming God’s divine promises for healing, playing and singing worship songs every day aren’t just helpful – they fuel me. 

“What keeps me joyful is keeping my eyes and ears on the Lord, rather than focusing on my condition, how my body feels, or my medical results.

“When I feel discouraged, I know I’ve taken my eyes off Jesus.”

“When I feel discouraged, I know I’ve taken my eyes off Jesus. As fast as you run back to Him, hopelessness and worry disappear,” she said.

“Spiritually, I come to Him daily to be nourished by His presence. 

“Encounters with God feel like a care package of joy and strength for the day. 

“I really enjoy being with Him.”

Choosing peace over chaos

The story of Jesus calming a fierce storm (Mark 4:35-41) came to Cookie’s mind one day when she was “sitting with God, and downloading what is in His heart”. 

It talks about “God’s peace overwhelming the chaos – and not the other way around”.

It came before she went for her first surgery, which took place nine days after she was diagnosed with cancer.

Cookie’s rectum, where the tumour was, was removed in the first surgery. She also had a colostomy, which created an intestinal opening in her abdomen for food waste to exit her body. Nine months later, she went through another surgery to remove the colostomy bag and had to learn a new way to move her bowels in what was “an intense and difficult period”.

She told herself: “I will chose peace.

“I don’t feel that I have to strive to be peaceful or have to be joyful. God imparts these. I am at peace, I am rested, I am in faith. I believe Jesus deserves our confidence.”

“He is my champion,” said Cookie of her husband Ian, who took over her Mummy duties. “He looked after me and had the unenviable task of changing my colostomy bag every three days.”

“Jesus is such a Boss!” Cookie exclaimed.

“He has such authority that even the wind and the water know who is Boss. The message I got is: ‘The cancer will bow in His name.’

“I personally feel that if I fear, I would be partnering with someone inferior. I’d rather stick with the Bossman.” 

Two months after Cookie’s first surgery, Caleb went for open-heart surgery.

Cookie Uy-Reyes

Cookie (left) playing the guitar during worship with her small group from church.

“I’m going to be courageous and do what this vision told me to do: Pick up my weapon and fight by singing over the discouraging circumstances,” she said, picking up her guitar in a YouTube update, and declaring God’s faithfulness by singing Wait On You.

Miracles along the way

There are of course moments when Cookie feels anxious and down. Her body “is in chaos” from surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy. She is also immunocompromised.

Since September 2023, Cookie’s cancer markers have been progressively increasing. 

“Weariness creeps into my heart as this storm rages all around me,” she wrote in a Facebook post in March.

In the midst of “disappointment and frustration … pain, fatigue and sleeplessness”, she clings to promises she gets from her “morning dates with Jesus”. They include Bible verses or songs like “Joy in the Morning“, which she listened to on repeat.

Cookie Uy-Reyes

“Sometimes it feels like He is singing over me when a tune plays in my head or if I come across a song I don’t know on Spotify,” said Cookie, pictured worshipping on the keyboard at home, sometimes accompanied by Lyanna.

Just as she’s seen miracles in her son’s life, Cookie has also seen miracles in her cancer journey.

“I am intentional about being grateful. I enjoy my time with my family, and serve my church,” said Cookie. She was also able to travel when wearing a colostomy bag “when logically it should have been a disaster”.

Recently in March, taking one step took her six seconds. She screamed out loud when she put her weight wrongly on her foot, scaring her six-year-old daughter.

On a Friday, she had to use a wheelchair. Her doctor wanted to admit her to A&E, but she refused as she wanted to keep her promise to give her testimony at church that Sunday.

“Even though I haven’t seen complete healing, I am intentional about being grateful for miracles along the way.”

Her church prayed for her and believed she would be well enough to do so.

“The next day, I was well enough to walk around the mall and do my errands as though nothing had happened,” she shared in her testimony at Soakability Church on Sunday. (Listen to it here around the 1.32.32 mark.)

“Even though I haven’t seen complete healing, I am intentional about being grateful for miracles along the way.”

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