Humans at NLEX

Love and Work

by Nina Sangueza and Jovit Caballero

Love has the power to heal. Psychiatrist Karl Menninger echoed this belief when he said, “Love cures people — both for the ones who give it and for the ones who receive it.”

The adage applies to the love story of NLEX employees Sandy and Noel dela Cruz. “It all started when we were in college, way back 2002, from an April Fool’s relationship joke to 19 years of a happy and strong relationship with him,” Sandy shared.

Sandy dela Cruz was our (ASUD) pioneer Toll Teller, while Noel Dela Cruz was a (ASUD) pioneer Patrol Crew. Once they became regular employees of TMC in 2005, they got married and immediately started a family.

Sandy and Noel have been blessed with two boys, Vin Dyosef who is now 14 years old and Owen Xander who is now 8 years old.

Sandy and Noel worked hard for their family. “We very are fortunate to work in the same company, with double benefits and double blessings we received from NLEX, we were able to start and manage our family’s finances as well.” Sandy said.

But that didn’t mean the couple didn’t encounter any challenges. Since they both worked in shifting schedules, it was not easy to find time to talk. Sandy recalled: “Sometimes we tend not to see each other in a day, due to different shifts, our short dates and short talks are often during on our way to the Supermarket and while doing some tasks. Not so normal, but we have managed to survive and enjoy every minute of the relationship.”

In 2013, their relationship was tested. Noel explained: “Sinubok kami ng pagkakataon. During that time, I was really down. Lugmok na lugmok ako and hopeless. Hiyang-hiya ako sa kanya but she never left my side. Siya ang nagpagaling sa akin at tinulungan akong maibalik ang dati kong sigla. She deals with my anxiety. I was blessed with the right partner who did not give up our marriage, she believed and supported me all the way. After that, sobrang naging maayos na ang lahat. Feeling din namin after that na-surpass na namin ang lahat ng mga pwedeng maging problem sa hinaharap, kahit gaano kahirap.”

The couple faced another challenge sometime in 2015. Sandy felt a lump on her breast that was a bit painful. Sandy ignored the lump for five years until she mentioned it to Noel. Noel convinced Sandy to have it examined even though Sandy was scared. It was November of 2019, when she had it checked, and it turned out to be early stage breast cancer.

Thus, as the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, Sandy had her chemo sessions. Right after the first session, her hair started to fall out. As depressing as it seems, Sandy requested Noel to shave off all her hair. “Para maipakita ko sa kanya na OK lang yun, nagpakalbo na din ako sa kanya!”  Noel recalled.

Sandy had to undergo eight sessions of chemo and 18 sessions of Herceptin for her to regain her strength and health. Sandy had undergone a mastectomy. One of her breasts was removed to prevent the cancer from coming back. She said, “The pandemic was a blessing in disguise to us, during that time our finances was tight, but due to the pandemic and the kids are home schooled, we were able to save money for my treatment,  and appreciated all the blessings we received.”

To support her treatment, Sandy sells food and other stuff online. Her friends also helped her to do “ukay” online selling. She even has series of online raffles for small prizes to sustain her treatment. They can’t imagine how they  managed to finance her treatments.

Sandy and Noel also attend the Christ’s Commission Fellowship (CCF) weekly sessions. This has helped them a lot. They are able to reconnect and strengthen their relationship with God.

Sandy also decided to be a full time mom and she availed of the early retirement Program for Toll Collection staff offered by the Company. These days, Sandy  goes to her  follow up check-ups as she continues to regain her health and take maintenance medications. She is hoping to make a full recovery.

Sandy has also gotten into gardening. Her favorites are caladium plants. She also added that it’s not just plants that she has grown to love more. She has also grown to appreciate Noel more. He feels the same.

“Mas na-appreciate ko siya ngayon, kasi ngayon ko naramdaman yung care n’ya,” Noel explained. “Mas naging close kami dahil magkakasama na kami ng mas matagal sa bahay. Ito yung mga hindi naming naranasan nung pareho kaming nag-work, na ibang-iba sa paniniwala namin dati. Ang sarap sa pakiramdam yung pag uuwi ako sa bahay kumpleto at maayos ang pamilya ko. Feeling ko ako na ‘yung pinakaswerteng asawa dahil ngayon kumpletong kumpleto na ang pamilya ko. Hindi katulad dati. Ngayon, perfect na ang pamilya namin. Kaya talagang mas na-appreciate namin ang isa’t isa.”

For her part, Sandy said: “Maraming nawala sa akin. ‘Yung sa physical, ‘yung breast ko, feeling ko nun, kulang na ang pagkababae ko. Pero inisip ko na lang madami din akong na-gain. Nag-iba ang perspective ko sa buhay. Hindi katulad ng dati. Nagkaroon ako ng peace of mind dahil nakilala ko ang Panginoon.  Nakita ko kung gaano ko ka mahal ng asawa ko. Hindi niya ko iniwan. Kaya lumaban ako sa sakit ko. Kaya hindi ako nahirapan sa sakit ko dahil sa Diyos at sa asawa ko. Na- appreciate ko din yung mga tunay kong kaibigan, na talagang tumulong at hindi ako iniwan. Madaming problema dumarating pero nalalampasan naming kaya. Don’t worry about anything, instead pray about everything.” Sandy also cited Philippians 4:6 as a source of inspiration.

Marriage stands the test of time when both you and your spouse work towards making things better. We are tested when we face adversities. If you can sail through the adversities as one, as a team, then you have won half the battle of life.

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