|Each chemotherapy session in the Philippines would cost around P50,000.|
When we search for 'chemotherapy' and other chemotherapy-related topic on search engines online, results are usually from Wikis and other websites that don't have the information we want to know, especially if one want to search for a Philippine-related results.
This blog post aims to inform Filipinos what really chemotherapy is, and take a glimpse on what are the real scenarios these Pinoy chemotherapy patients have to go trough in order to survive.
Chemotherapy according to a breast cancer website is, a procedure that uses medicine to weaken and destroy cancer cells in the body, including cells at the original cancer site and any cancer cells that may have spread to another part of the body. Chemotherapy, often shortened to just "chemo," is a systemic therapy, which means it affects the whole body by going through the bloodstream.
INTERVIEW WITH A CHEMO PATIENT
I have the pleasure to interview Mrs. Joy of Karuhatan, Valenzuela City last Wednesday. 49 years of age. She is a factory worker for 27 years at Universal Towel which is also located in Valenzuela City. She’s already married with two kids, one girl and one boy. Her husband is a welder who has plan to work abroad to earn more.
Mrs. Joy is actually the aunt of my housemate’s friend. When I first saw her, I can immediately notice her jolly attitude as she greeted me. She's wearing a pink striped sleeveless dress with her jeans and slippers on. At first glance, she looks normal but when you stare longer at her, you will notice that his right breast is missing. She’s not thin, if not for this interview. You can’t tell that she undergo chemotherapy.
She invited me to their living room, when I saw her husband in his mid 40's which greeted me and told me that he’s one who is always reminding Mrs. Joy, to not forget to take her medicines daily, and then he laugh a little. At that point, I can already tell that this is a happy bunch.
DISCOVERING THE BREAST CANCER
On May 15, 2009, Universal Towel has this annual medical checkup, free for all its employees and Mrs. Joy treats it as a regular day, since she’s with the company for 27 years now. But she’s not aware that their yearly checkup will turn her life around.
Upon checking her, the doctor felt something unusual at her right breast and found out that she has cysts. At first, she was hesitant to believe what the doctor told her, so she asked medical opinion from three different specialists from three different hospitals – Chinese General Hospital, Santo Tomas University Hospital and Philippine General Hospital. But all these hospitals proved that she indeed has breast cancer and it was already on Stage 2, which really shattered her.
She told me that she don’t want to believe that she has breast cancer because she still feels healthy. “I was really depressed at first and I felt that I will no longer live, I immediately think of my family. What will happen to them if ever” Mrs. Joy told me.
On June 2009, she undergoes operation to remove big and small cysts on her right breast at Philippine General Hospital (PGH). She was not happy with the outcome because she still felt something painful in her chest area. So she underwent six chemotherapy sessions the following month, July 2009.
At the first few sessions she felt normal and told me that the chemotherapy has no side effects on her body, but on her succeeding therapy, she felt very weak and numbness on her muscle. “I have no appetite at all, no liquid intake even rice porridge. Back then my husband would beg me just to eat.” She detailed. “I forcibly eat citrus fruits just to have energy. I do it for my family.” She added. Not just that, she also experience lots of vomiting, sleeplessness and even full hair loss, she notice a lot of fallen hair whenever she took a bath.
“Naawa talaga ako sa sarili, kaya madalas akong umiiyak n’un.” Mrs. Joy said. She added that she suffers from low self esteem, and don’t want to go outside because of her hair loss. To hide her sickness she resorted in using bandana, cap and even wearing wigs occasionally.
She loves her family and the encouragement of them keeps her strong. “At times like this, you will really need the presence of your loved ones.” She said.
COPING WITH CANCER
One week after the operation she took Amoxicillin and other pain reliever as prescribed by the doctor, but the main medicine to treat her cancer is Tamoxisen, the brand name is Gyraxen from Korea. The doctor told her to take one tablet every day, for five years. The cost of the tablet is P22.00 pesos each. She also told me, that luckily she get some support from the local government. She receives free medicine from the congressman of her district, on a regular basis.
She also boils the roots and leaves of guyabano tree and drink its extract, it’s for detoxification also. Some of her detoxifying juices were discovered via TV programs like ABS-CBN’s Rated K, and she said it was also endorsed by Cory Quirino so she tried it.
When asked if she use the Internet to get more information on cancer and other related information. She said, no because she don’t have time to research on the internet because she feels contented on what the doctors told him and up to now, she doesn’t know how to use the internet yet. She also believes that the radiation coming from the computer can also harm her.
HER ADVICE TO OTHER PEOPLE
You can self-check if you have a breast cancer, regularly check your chest area and if you feel something extraordinary (abnormal swelling or increase in pain as you touch it) then, go to the nearest hospital for a professional opinion. Please be informed that this disease is not exclusive for females. There’s a lot of male who has this type of cancer.
Her advice to people that when you found out that you have cancer, don’t believe it immediately, ask for second opinion or even third, to found out if it’s indeed true. That’s what she did when she found out the bad news.
Also, the earlier detection of cancer cells, the better. Recent technological breakthrough has the capability of eliminating cancer cells faster, if it’s in earlier stage.
“If the medical tests confirmed that you have cancer, don’t lose hope and be strong. Don’t think that you’re sick. Keep thinking positive and keep the faith in God. Be emotionally, physically and spiritually ready to overcome this hurdle.”
“If you have extra money try other alternative medicines or remedies for cancer like herbal medicines. It’s effective yet affordable.”
“You can also ask some helpful tips from cancer survivors for extra knowledge for this sickness. Like for example, now you can immediately search on the internet for tips, unlike me who didn’t know how to use the internet up to now.” She ended.
We talked for more than three hours with her husband and her nephew and she looks very positive. I’m actually expecting that she would feel emotional as we go along, but she didn’t. Actually I’m the one who feel that way, as she share her experience to me. This lady earned a lot of respect from me.
Right now even though she has no right breast, she still feels positive in recovering and she’s very happy that her hair is coming back to life. Moments such as this, makes me think that we should all live life to the fullest, but make sure that we all live a healthy life!
On a final note, I can say that being positive in life can really go a long way.
photo credits: iStockPhoto, VaccinationDangers and SouthernersJournal.