Coping with breast cancer and the Yolanda disaster
MANILA, Philippines – “Chemotherapy is painful. Being sick is painful. Cancer is painful,” said Lucia, a 45-year-old teacher from Visayas.
“But I continue to fight the battle for my family and for my students,” she added.
Lucia was diagnosed with Stage 3-B breast cancer last year. She was advised to undergo a surgery which removed her left breast. Fourteen tumors were removed 10 of which were malignant and 4 were benign.
“When I was told that I need to undergo chemotherapy after the operation, I was at a loss for words. It’s expensive and I have 3 children who are in college.”
For a mother of 4 who wanted the best for her children, Lucia had second thoughts whether she would proceed with chemotherapy or not.
“I first talked to my children and they told me that I should get well, but it was painful for me as a mother. I am also an educator and the last thing I would want to do is make them stop schooling,” she said.
Her 3 children had to stop while she is undergoing treatment.
“I came to the point when I no longer wanted to eat because I would only throw up. Chemotherapy takes all the strength one could possibly have. My eyebrows started to fall off including my hair. My nails were black and I was so thin I could not even recognize myself. I almost gave up but I have a family. I have my students - enough reason to make me want to keep fighting,” Lucia said.
When typhoon Haiyan hit Visayas last November, the school where she was teaching was partly damaged. In response, World Vision has set up Child-friendly Spaces (CFS) to provide children with a safe environment to play, express and cope with the situation.
Lucia, who was then already having chemotherapy, was one of the teachers who took charge of the CFS.
“This is my calling and I don’t think cancer will make me want to stop,” she said.
Lucia has been teaching for 20 years and her passion for the children remains the same.
“Sometimes, they would ask me about my hair. And I would explain. It gave me the opportunity to also talk to them on how they can better take care of themselves. My students are already in Grade IV. It has been an opportunity for me to let them know the importance of eating vegetables. It is not easy to be sick and so as young as they are, I want them to know the importance of their health,” said Lucia.
She said the tent has not just become a place where children can play but also a place where she can influence them.
Lucia finished her 6th session for chemotherapy last February, but in April, another tumor has been found and would need minor operation. She was also advised to undergo radiation.
“I don’t have enough money to finance that treatment but I am giving it all to God. He has sustained me for the past year and I know that He will provide. I will still live to see my children finish college. For now, I will just keep doing what I love doing and that is teaching,” Lucia said, flashing a hopeful smile. – Rappler.com
Joy Maluyo is a Communication Officer for World Vision's Haiyan Response. She is currently deployed in the Visayas and is moving around World Vision's assisted areas in Panay Island, North Cebu, and Leyte.