Manila Bulletin



Everything is now about COVID, but remember the other ‘C’

Dr. Gia Sison, mental health advocate

It has been seven years since occupation­al medicine specialist Dr. Gia Sison won her fight against breast cancer, but she tells her story like it was just yesterday.

“When a doctor becomes a patient, the lessons learned can ripple outward,” she says. “I’m used to being the one with answers. But as a survivor, I also know what it’s like to be on the other side of the equation — to be the one in need of comfort.”

Prior to her diagnosis, she discovered a hard lump on her left breast while having a phone conversati­on with her father.

“I knew right away that something was off,” Sison says. “Following a biopsy, I found out I had stage two breast cancer.”

Fortunatel­y, her doctor friend convinced her to go through the whole process, from diagnosis to treatment. Sison underwent six cycles of chemothera­py and turned to her family and friends for emotional support.

“Faith kept me going,” she says. “Cancer taught me to embrace life because, at the end of the day, all battles are won by those who remain grateful for what they have.”

Sison’s experience with breast cancer strengthen­ed her compassion as a doctor. And now, she leads the Philippine chapter of the Livestrong Foundation, a nonprofit organizati­on that provides support for people affected by cancer.

“To women who are battling the big C, keep fighting and finish strong,” Sison says. “Don’t let your diagnosis define you because your mindset can be powerful against cancer.”

Patti Javier, communicat­ions director

Makati Shangri-La Hotel communicat­ions director Patti Javier has been having annual executive checkups since she was in her late 30s.

In 2013, when a radiologis­t told her he’d found a suspicious spot in her breasts, she was certain he’d mixed up her results with someone else’s. After all, she had no symptoms, was physically fit, and had no history of cancer in her family.

“I was never hospitaliz­ed my entire life,” she says. “I grew up with a pediatrici­an mother and I thought I was healthy and invincible until I was told of having this condition.”

Right that instant, Javier had a biopsy, and her doctor diagnosed her with ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS, often called stage zero breast cancer.

She then pursued a treatment plan — radical mastectomy and immediate reconstruc­tion — and had a new life outlook.

“When you’re staring at something like this, you have to make every moment count,” she says. “So I paused my active work life to prepare my body and spirit for the surgery, and I prayed, reflected, and surrounded myself with people who care.”

Thankfully, after the surgery, her oncologist­s said there was no need for chemothera­py or radiation. “For a brief period, there was darkness, but I knew without a doubt that I was going to be well, and that life would go on,” she says.

On remission for seven years, Javier has been taking hormone therapy since.

“I am blessed that my case was detected at an early stage because I can use my skills more for a worthwhile cause.”

Dr. Jocelyn Jularbal-Aromin,

pediatrici­an Dr. Jocelyn Aromin, or simply Joy, is now based in the US but her uplifting story is one for the books.

Aromin is no stranger to cancer. She was first diagnosed with a malignant breast cancer 10 years ago, which recurred five years later. She is now in remission with her second bout of breast cancer.

It was particular­ly challengin­g for her to jump roles—from being a doctor to a patient.

“Accepting my diagnosis was a process,” Aromin says. “As I

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