Updated: Apr 5, 2020
NOTE: This blog is proudly written in collaboration with iGoPink.org, an American non-profit organization that supports breast cancer patients and research for October, the month for breast cancer awareness.
I officially received my stage 2A diagnosis on October 2016 after discovering a lump on my left breast as I conducted self-exams while showering. In 2017, I did the all-inclusive treatment composed of chemotherapy, lumpectomy, radiation and hormone therapy that will linger on for 5 years or more depending on how my body reacts. With the grace from the Creator, support from my medical team and loved ones and lots of self-care, I’ve been on remission for 1 year and 4 months now.
As I write this blog and reminisce it all, I remember that devastating feeling when the doctor said, “Your tumor is malignant.” I was only 37 then, at the peak of my looks, just about to take off in America, and living a healthy lifestyle. Yes, breast cancer does run in the family of my dad’s side but never in a million years did I imagine I would get it. Since I turned 30, I left the highly stressful Philippine showbiz industry and I’ve lived a stress-free life exploring the world doing simple jobs just to get by, I’ve been exercising and eating healthy, I barely get sick except for mild colds here and there, I have great friends and social circles, I have a good heart and an awesome life! So getting a diagnosis felt horribly surreal.
Why me?! Although my doctors kept assuring that it’s not my fault I got diagnosed because 1 out of 8 women will get it in this lifetime regardless of genetics, lifestyle, age, etc. I still can’t help but wonder if there was something I could’ve done differently to prevent it. And besides, out of all the women in the world, why did it have to be me? Even now, there are days when I blame myself for it… it’s as though my body betrayed me after doing everything I can in my power to take care of it all along. And that creates a domino effect of me having trust issues with life. But I am currently in the works of changing that mindset by deepening my spirituality, living a healthier lifestyle, strengthening my relationships and practicing tremendous amount of self-love. And slowly, I’m arriving at the stage of acceptance that sometimes, life happens the way it’s suppose to happen. It hasn’t been easy but day by day, I’m getting there.
What makes breast cancer nasty is its ability to make you feel ugly and insecure. I was a commercial model and media presenter in my home country so I was immersed in an industry where looks are everything. Imagine how badly it bruised my confidence to suddenly have to lose my gorgeous long hair, to see my breasts become slightly uneven because of lumpectomy, to have a huge scar on my left boob, and to lose so much weight on chemo and then gaining it back and more from hormone therapy. Tamoxifen, my hormone therapy blocks off estrogen from which my cancer feeds so I felt less of a woman. I have moments of self-pity and depression thinking that I’m no longer desirable and feminine. And growing the short, curly hair can be a pain especially for someone like me who’s not used to it. I had to invest more on wigs, scarves, a good hairstylist, girly wardrobe, nice make-up and chic earrings to compensate for my missing long locks and that’s a lot of credit card swiping. On top of all that, I’ll have to deal with people giving me the “poor you” vibe, talking to me about someone they know who died of cancer and treating me like a fragile person about to die soon. Even if they are coming from a good intention, it still gives me heaps of anxiety and I’m left with no choice but to deal with it. And the last ugly truth is that every little pain I feel in my body triggers a panic attack that the cancer has returned and I’m gonna die. But with time and experience, I got better at managing anxiety by practicing yoga and meditation, going for a walk, talking to a friend, praying and finding good distractions. I’m learning as I go to convert my fears, insecurities and doubts into faith, hope and love.
Flirting with the idea of death is definitely a scary territory. However, with every traumatic breakdown brings forth life-changing breakthroughs. Since my diagnosis, I see life in a grateful and appreciative lens. I was awakened to realize that to live is a privilege that I should never take for granted. This is why I started being active on social media to constantly remind the world about this message. I also developed a deeper sense of self-love. I’ve learned to vocalize my needs politely, say no to people, situations and things that aren’t good for my well-being and to relentlessly pursue anything that gives joy in my heart. In effect, I gravitated towards relationships, events, opportunities and a lifestyle that have a much higher and better quality than ever before.
This experience forced me to grow up, humbled me down, made me internally strong and gave me the gift of awareness and empathy towards other people’s suffering and pain. I have been stripped off of superficiality and truly value the intangible things that money can’t buy such as family, friendships, love, faith, tranquility, purpose and service. And lastly, I wake up each day thanking the Creator for giving me another chance to WIN, to breathe, to live, to learn, to inspire, and to make a positive difference in this world.
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