A SPARK OF LIGHT IN THE SHADOWS: Three women share their journey of detection, prevention, and their road to recovery

September 20, 2019

Never was it an easy feat to embrace trials that seem impossible to overcome. It takes a courageous spirit to be able to accept and to take a step, not only to recovery but also to be a symbol of hope and strength to anyone who may be in need of a Silver Lining.

Being an inspiration may be a daunting task but it also gives you a great sense of pride to know that someone, somewhere, found your journey to be their motivation to try and live their life to the fullest.

This September 28, 2019, ICANSERVE Foundation will stage the fourth installment of SILVER LININGS 2019—a summit for the Philippine cancer community—at PICC. The Summit also coincides with the 20th anniversary of the ICANSERVE Foundation which makes this year even more special.

Gathering the largest number of cancer survivors where every individual is given an opportunity to forge friendships and partnerships with fellow ‘warriors’, the summit aims to give participants courage and to let them know that they don’t have to go through the journey alone.

With the aim of being able to reach out and be a form of support, three ladies share their experience and give personal advice with the hopes of being a spark of light to those who need it most.

Nikoy De Guzman is a businesswoman, a Bikram Yoga teacher, and is the current president of ICANSERVE Foundation. She shares, “Breast cancer runs in our family. My grandmother had it, my mom had it, and I had it–twice (once on each breast). The experience of our family shows the importance of early detection. That was key to our survival. I am with ICANSERVE because I would like all women to be knowledgeable about their risks, even if they don’t have a family history of cancer. I want to see more women benefit from early detection by adhering to the guidelines. From age 20, do a breast self-exam (BSE) monthly. From age 30, undergo a clinical breast exam every year, in addition to the monthly BSE. If you are 40, it’s time for a baseline mammogram.” She adds, “There are also available insurance plans that allow you to claim for critical illness. Get one while you’re young because cancer treatment can be expensive, especially if found in the advanced stages. We have to be proactive and take care of ourselves because as women, we take care of a lot of people. We have our families–parents, siblings, spouses, children. We can’t take care of them if we are not well enough to do so.”

Certified Public Accountant and current vice president of ICANSERVE Foundation Lian Chua is a Stage 2 Breast Cancer (2001 – 18 years), Stage 1 Uterine Cancer (2007 – 12 years), and Stage 2 Non Hodgkins Lymphoma (2009 – 10 years) survivor. “I was diagnosed with breast cancer at a relatively young age of 37, an age that you wouldn’t think that you will have one because you are busy with your career and social life with no consciousness of serious diseases, especially cancer. But diagnosed I was and I had to go through surgery to remove my left breast, chemotherapy and five years of hormone therapy. I thought that was it but a year after I finished my hormone treatment I had another cancer diagnosis and had to go through another surgery this time total hysterectomy. Lucky for me it was at an early stage that it no longer needed further treatment. Two years after, I felt I had a fish bone in my throat but it turned out that my right tonsil was inflamed. I took antibiotics but it didn’t do the trick. I had tonsillectomy and after a week, the histopathology result came out and it was malignant: non-hodgkins lymphoma. This time, I was treated with chemotherapy and radiation,” Chua shares.

Her personal advice? “Don’t take your annual physical exams for granted. Even if you are not employed, make sure you get yourself checked every year. Minimum is breast self-examination monthly which costs nothing. Women aged 30 and above can submit themselves for a clinical breast examination (CBE) at their health center. Just make sure the health worker is trained in CBE. ICANSERVE has a project called Ating Dibdibin under which we train barangay health workers to do CBE. My experience just proves that an early detection gives you a higher chance of survival. It also means you spend less for your treatments because there are more treatments and very costly for late stage cancers.” She adds, “Listen to your body. Trust your intuition. Manage your stress, eat anything in moderation and be active.”

For current treasurer of ICANSERVE Foundation and Vice President of GSIS Marge Jorillo, her breast cancer journey is a cautionary tale. “I found out I had breast CA in May 2005, thanks to the reddish brown discharge I had on my right breast, which was a blessing in disguise. Otherwise, I had no inkling at all because there was no pain. I didn’t bother to do any self-check breast exam and mammogram. I thought I was leading a relatively healthy lifestyle so breast cancer or any form of cancer couldn’t touch me. I couldn’t have been more wrong! When I finally got checked, my tumor size was huge at about 9cm. Thank God my lymph nodes were negative for cancer and it did not spread to other parts of my body. I had modified radical mastectomy on my right breast, four cycles of chemotherapy, and 32 days of radiation. A year later, I had prophylactic total hysterectomy.”

Marge also advised to be highly sensitive to your body, not only to your breast. “Go to your doctor immediately if you feel anything odd. Visit the ICANSERVE website for further information and do check out our ATING DIBDIBIN video on breast self-exam. Please follow and just do it. Better to detect early than late. Talk to other survivors for support. Having a community of breast sisters helped me successfully navigate the ‘fear of the unknown’, along with praying. Oh yes, I’ve never deprived myself of having a glass of wine (or beer) post cancer. Life is short. Cheers!”

Educate and Inspire

This year, the Summit has prepared creatively presented interactive forums which offers various topics not only for the different needs of the cancer patients but also for their family, friends, and supportive medical team; all of which range from personal, to medical to advocacy.

During the event, participants can avail of free X-rays, BMIs, consults with doctors, and many more activities.

Silver Linings is brought to you by Unilab, LifeScience, AC Health, Del Monte, Pfizer Philippines, Roche, the De Guzman group, The Good Seed, Bayo, New World Diagnostics, and Parkway Cancer Center.

Staged by the ICANSERVE Foundation, Silver Linings will be on September 28, 2019 Saturday at the PICC, Pasay City from 8am to 5pm. Registration fee is P500 to include meals.

Pre-registration can be done on-line at https://icanservefoundation.org/?page_id=4787 or on site on September 28. Text 0915 068 4666 or call landline 02 636 5578 for queries.

——
NOTE: A short version of this story, written by Visions and Expressions, was published on September 20, 2019 on page D-2 of Manila Bulletin. Ms. Lian Chua, featured in this story, passed away on the same day.