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.