Pink is not just a color.

It brings meaning and gives life to those who lose and seek hope. It represents a facade of one’s significant role as life goes on. The pink ribbon is a representation and a reminder that when there is determination, lies strength.

For the World Untold entry, I took the initiative to write and dedicate this blog to our cancer warriors and heroes. A constant reflection and a reminder that cancer may be the greatest enemy but a battle towards a new life. This blog foretells stories of trials, experiences, memories and the alarming rise of breast cancer in the Philippines. This article is dedicated to family, friends, and those struggling to fight cancer. It reaches out to families who are still in healing of losing their loved ones. Each story represents a significant revelation of how cancer can affect the community as a whole.

Cancer in the Philippines

It is inevitable to think that being diagnosed with cancer is a catastrophic and widespread epidemic. The significant rise of breast cancer in the Philippines is truly a disturbing concern.

The Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society reports that the Philippines is one of the countries that with high cases of women with breast cancer. The prevalence of breast cancer resulted to at least 16% of 50,00 cases. Invasive Ductal Carcinoma is the most common diagnoses for breast cancer making up to 70-80% of breast cancer in women. More information here

This is confirmed from a 2010 report by the Philippine Cancer Facts and Estimates Data in coordination with the Department of Health (DOH) and Philippine Cancer Society, Inc. 

The Breast Cancer Network further reports that breast cancer and its prevalent studies, stages that 1 of every 13 Filipino women are expected to develop breast cancer. Statistics not only discerns the rise and growth of cancer in the Philippines, but also makes us aware of the victims fallen by Cancer. As early as 30-40 years old, diagnosis for breast cancer may happen. While the usual age to develop cancer could be around 50 and above, sadly most cases fall with women below 50 years old. More to this concern, men are also in the verge of developing breast cancer. The Philippine Cancer Society along with the National Breast Cancer Foundation further proceeds to explain that both sexes male or female inherit breast cells and tissues at birth. There is still a risk of men developing cancer, usually at ages 60-70 years old. More info

Foundations / Organizations 

Among the numerous organizations, I am delighted to get to know more about the I Can Serve Foundation” . I Can Serve has been providing hope and light to breast cancer survivors and victims since 1999.

What makes this foundation unique is the programs that are in line with the advocacy. The foundation’s objective is to inform women on tips on preventing breast cancer by instilling guidelines. I Can Serve believes in the objectives by encouraging women to perform a breast self examination by age 20, then by age 30 having a clinical examination, and for those age 40 completing a mammogram.

The foundation has also been an ethical way of breaching through camaraderie as it is run by volunteers who are cancer survivors as well.

Group pictures with some of the volunteers during the I Can Serve pop-up booth at Rockwell Center, Makati

The foundation has been providing activities and programs such as the “ Ating Dibdibin” or “ Take Your Breast Care To Heart”. These activities have been done both in Manila and even breached out to province places like Tagum, Davaol del Norte. See here. This program promotes the importance of patients and non-patients to undergo earl detection through screening programs. Currently, the program is in partnership with local governments for the foundation to reach out to local communities around Metro Manila. Every October, the foundation holds a pop up booth at the Rockwell Center Mall. It has its own online shop and sells merchandises on breast cancer. I was able to pay a visit to their booth and chat with the volunteers. Aside from the merchandise store, they hold events such as fashion show, talks, and gatherings. Last October 7, 2017 I was able to drop by the booth. I was amazed and grateful to have the opportunity to interact with the organizers running the booth. They were cancer survivors, and the foundation made it a safe haven for them to interact and build hope within their selves and to others as well. Here are some of the merchandise items that were displayed, and at the same time available in their website. The foundation has t-shirts that are worn by the volunteers. It comes in shades of black, pink, white and gray. The iconic logo of the two ribbons are designed for the foundation. This has definitely sparked my attention. Pink baller bands with a shade of white. Customized Ball tips pens and even pencils display a pretty attention to mall goers, like me! Aside from the products being an iconic and everyday wear kind of accessory, this explains why it is sold in affordable prices. Talk about getting a good price for good bargains. These souvenirs can be place as good gifts to our fellow cancer warriors. Probably you would consider having little pouch organizers you can use for school, work or at home. Hand sanitizers are partnered with Messy Bessy. Every item seems to be useful tools to fulfill a woman’s girly needs. My favorite item would have to be the eco-bag. I love going around a mall with an extra eco-bag, and this item was irresistible to me. It comes in shades of black, pink and white. Of course, I got the pink! I adore how the items are useful and resourceful too.

Warrior Stories

Braving Cancer is never an easy process. Aside from physical pain, cancer patients have to undergo mental and social pain as well. I was able to gather a number of respondents who have braved their way until today by sharing their experience. These are stories that show light and inspiration to what they have become today.

Angeli, 50

“I can truly say that, a cancer diagnosis is not a death sentence”

“On Dec. 4, 2010, I discovered a lump on the upper right quadrant of my right breast.  Upon consultation with my obstetrics-gynecologist, a surgeon, and a pathologist, I underwent a lumpectomy on Dec 11, 2010. On Dec. 15, 2010, I was informed by my surgeon of the results of the biopsy done on the removed lump: I had invasive ductal carcinoma. On Dec. 21 I had Stage 2 Breast Cancer. I had radical mastectomy to remove my entire right breast.  Thankfully, the cancer had not spread through my lymph nodes I was ER-PR positive which meant that my hormones were “feeding” my cancer, or something like that.  I also tested +++ for the Her2neu gene which meant there was a bigger chance of the cancer recurring.  My oncologist recommended 8 cycles of chemotherapy and 17 cycles of Herceptin.  I started chemotherapy on Jan. 25, 2010.  My last chemotherapy session was in July of the same year.  Unfortunately, I had to stop the Herceptin because it caused me to develop cardiomegaly and cardiomyopathy, which i still have until now. I am now cancer-free. The biggest difficulty for me was the numerous long-term negative side effects of the chemotherapy and Herceptin: Tinitus and loss of hearing, fatty liver, “chemo brain” or a certain dullness or slowness in my thought processes sometimes, forgetfulness, cardiomyopathy and cardiomegaly, endometriosis, heavy bleeding and anemia, premature menopause, and ostopoenia.  “

Arlene, 51

“I treasure the experience as my badge of courage & faith, life has never been sweeter since then, 5 years after.”

“I was diagnosed on Oct. 2012, and had to undergo radical mastectomy on November. I had my 1st out of 8th chemotherapy cycles on Dec. 24, 2012. I finished my final chemotherapy on July 2013. The spirit is willing but the body is weak. I wanted to continue normal activities, continued to report for work during the course of treatment. But I had  to keep things to a minimum and go on through and pretending that everything is ok with matching losing hair. Its been 5 years since, and it was the biggest milestone of my life. Each time I feel the pain not only physically but emotionally & mentally, i keep on whispering,” this too shall pass and start counting all my blessings.”

Cecile, 49

“Don’t let cancer rule our lives!”

“I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma when I was only 36 y/o. Back then, my youngest daughter was only 2 years old. I expected it to happen since my mom also had breast cancer and all the females in her side of the family. But I did not expect it will hit me that early. When surgeon told me about it, I even told him  that it can’t be because I am an athlete. Now I realize how stupid I must have sounded to him then. Staying positive was a struggle. Because when I was diagnosed and undergoing treatment, my mom, on the other hand, was dying of it. Friends also had a more difficult time in accepting my cancer than me. There is life after cancer. I am a single parent so I don’t have the luxury to dwell on feeling sorry for myself. I breezed through the anger and acceptance phase because I knew I have children who needed me. After treatment, I went back to my passion of playing volleyball and now manage a UAAP women’s volleyball team showing people that all it takes are positive outlook in life, smile often and live life to the fullest.”

Ivy, 44

“There is life after cancer. Live life to the fullest!!!!!”

“I have a familial history of breast cancer from my mother’s side. I was diagnosed last 2012 and had a lumpectomy. My chemotherapy was done a month after my surgery and was able to complete the 6 sessions by April. After that, I had undergone radiation after my treatment. I am now on my 5th year as a survivor now. Basically the struggle was on financial needs since I had a positive 3 type so my meds were quite expensive. During this times we had a college student attending university at the De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde, so we were a little hard up.”

Alnette, 51

“Each day is a blessing. Each day is a celebration.”

“I had to undergo cancer twice in my life. I was diagnosed with Uterine and Breast cancer. “In 2008, I was diagnosed with Stage 2A uterine cancer. I had total hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy and radiation therapy. I was diligent in my monitoring and screening tests.  In May of this year, my mammogram was normal but there was a small lesion seen on my sonogram. Biopsy revealed a tubular carcinoma. I decided to have right total mastectomy with breast reconstruction. I am on my 4th month post-op.  “ “Having survived uterine cancer, I couldn’t believe that I also had breast cancer. To me, the most difficult part is monitoring after surgery – praying and hoping that there is no recurrence.  “

Anonymous, 31

“I knew I had to fight it. I wouldn’t give in to cancer.”

“ In 2001, I found a lump in my breast and was diagnosed with breast cancer. I underwent  lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation, then it recurred after 6 months” “I tried different treatments, including a surgery to remove the pocket of fluid, but nothing seemed to help. My pain was constant, and I felt so bloated. My daily routines  were affected. I was feeling depressed that I was going to have to live with the pain and swelling.” “Understanding that I might not see results from six months to a year, I was thrilled when, less than a month after surgery, I could already see the difference. My pain was gone. I could get my fingers around my opposite wrist, which I couldn’t do before. The improvement in my condition also inspired me to become more active.”

Facing The Battle

JOIN THE MOVEMENT. BE THE MOVEMENT

Suit up that warrior. If you feel any lump or pain around the breast area. Have yourself checked as soon as possible. Women by the age of 40 must already have regular check-ups and undergoing mammograms. Whether it may be breast, colon, uterine or the other like, The greatest defense we have is by giving continued support to organizations such as the I Can Serve Foundation, Philippine Cancer Society and other organizations that promote the wellness and advocate for those victims of Cancer. There are a number of volunteer programs that are available for you to participate. Not only will it support the foundation’s cause but as well as give you a sense of guarantee of contributing to society’s welfare.

An Open Message to the Kalibutan:

We are all victims of this battle. The pain that our warriors endure may be painful, tragic but only temporary This is the light of a message to our fellow cancer warrior that hope is not gone. To those who have fallen victims, it was never your fault. Stop blaming yourself and stop shaming past actions. You can do this and believe you can! Know that around the corner there are people who are looking out for you, and there are people around the world who share your troubles. We are here for you with open ears, minds and hearts. To those in healing, there will come a phase where pain will hit us. But that pain may not be around for so long. Share to the world and allow yourself to heal properly We are all in this battle with you, because we are #StrongerTogether

#StrongerTogether

#MaKusganPagNakaUban

Miss Kalibutan

#We.Cancervive is a project of Miss Kalibutan’s World Untold series with collaboration of We.Hrvst Lifestyle MNL. She would like to extend her sincerest gratitude to the models for partaking in this awareness shoot. Models: AJ Dela Calzada (ayjdoesntmatter) Anna Escalona (annacarmina) Blance Elamparo (blancake_) Anton Co (mrantonco) Edith Suan ( edithsuan) Kimi Siao (kiimmmiiisiaohas) Photos by: Mackie Daus (themakkiavelli)