Manila Bulletin - - Views • Features - By ALEX M. EDUQUE

SINCE my mom’s bout with breast cancer three years ago, I have never seen Oc­to­ber un­der the same light. Per­haps it was serendip­ity, though a greater part of me be­lieves that things al­ways hap­pen for a rea­son. You see, she went through the whole or­deal round about this time then, and I can­not be­gin to put into words how over­whelm­ing the sup­port was from strangers. And by strangers, I mean hospi­tal staff in a for­eign coun­try (in the United States), the most em­pa­thetic doc­tors I will ever come to know, and sim­ply, ran­dom passerby who wore a pink rib­bon on their scrub suits which mag­i­cally trans­formed the tense air into a more promis­ing and en­cour­ag­ing en­vi­ron­ment. You see, she chose to go through it with­out many peo­ple know­ing. Un­til af­ter her suc­cess­ful op­er­a­tion, and only when she was as­sured that she was cancer-free did she choose to let peo­ple in on her big se­cret (ex­cept of course some very close fam­ily mem­bers and dear­est friends). So you can just imag­ine how much ev­ery boost of con­fi­dence would mean. Each brave in­di­vid­ual who has faced, and fought the Big C has his/ her own story to tell. And, in that story, is that war­rior’s unique tac­tic, cho­sen ar­mor, and (for the lucky) emer­gence as a win­ner. In my mom’s (and many other women’s) case, their ad­vent to pay it for­ward, and do so much more.

Her first or­der to me as soon as the anes­the­sia sub­sided was to find an or­ga­ni­za­tion back home that could help her ful­fill her mis­sion: To be able to save (at least) a life ev­ery year. Hav­ing had the best med­i­cal team to at­tend to her, she con­sid­ered it to be the great­est bless­ing to be able to af­ford the treat­ment. She could not imag­ine what oth­ers who do not only face the un­cer­tainty of cancer, but worry about so much more than need­ing to get well have to go through. We were lucky enough to find the per­fect part­ners to sol­dier on the pink fight with – I Can Serve Foun­da­tion, who, with all bias aside, I feel has re­ally raised aware­ness on the im­por­tance of early di­ag­no­sis in breast cancer, and has filled the air with all the magic that pink fairy dust of pos­i­tiv­ity is ca­pa­ble of. Af­ter one meet­ing with its found­ing pres­i­dent Kara Magsanoc-Alik­pala and the most in­spir­ing man­ag­ing di­rec­tor one will ever have the honor of know­ing, Lanie Euse­bio, her “Sa­mu­rai Fund” was launched. The fund that would not only en­sure that a breast cancer pa­tient would get the right and best treat­ment, but one that would also en­able and en­sure a com­fort­able jour­ney.

Early de­tec­tion and di­ag­no­sis is the best cure. That is the cry of I Can Serve, and the best doc­tors in the world. I re­mem­ber when my mom was first di­ag­nosed with hav­ing a sus­pi­cious lump – I bawled my eyes out be­cause I had a feel­ing of fear come over me. When this was con­firmed, that fear in­ten­si­fied and I re­al­ized that more than the un­cer­tainty, it is the neg­a­tive stigma that cancer has that was killing me. I can­not be­gin to ex­plain the power that em­pa­thy and com­pas­sion has – not only to the war­rior fight­ing cancer, but to his/her fam­ily mem­bers as well. There is so much that a proper ex­pla­na­tion can do, and we were lucky to have the most heart­felt ones from my mom’s med­i­cal team at the time. Cancer does not al­ways have to be a death sen­tence. Ones jour­ney can be quite clad in pink clouds of re­al­iza­tion that changes one for the good – for the bet­ter, for­ever. It was be­cause of my mom’s or­deal that I per­son­ally learned to live and let God. It showed me that no mat­ter how much one plans and prays, His will al­ways pros­pers. Do not sweat the small things. And do not let worry over­come you. There is al­ways some­one, some­where else in the world, go­ing through your same (if not worse) strug­gle.

And this is #WhyWeFight. We fight be­cause we know that oth­ers go­ing through the same will get their strength from us. We fight be­cause we want oth­ers to know they are not alone. We fight, be­cause we know we will be­come a tougher war­rior with a more col­or­ful story to tell. We fight, be­cause some of the most beau­ti­ful fights are our very own – and we emerge with the re­al­iza­tion of strength, and re­silience we oth­er­wise would have never known we had.

Af­ter con­quer­ing her own pink fight, my mom made a prom­ise not only to raise aware­ness that early de­tec­tion is the best cure, but also to jour­ney on with like­minded in­di­vid­u­als, and I Can Serve in giv­ing light to those go­ing through some of their dark­est days. The way she spreads her sun­shine, and how she al­ways walks her talk – that is why she’ll al­ways be the strong­est sa­mu­rai to me.

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