Sunday, September 18, 2011

Beyond Breast Cancer - A Silver Lining

"Every person is a cancer survivor from day one!"

Yesterday, September 17, 2011, Mum and Ina-Tay attended the 3rd Silver Linings at Grand Regal Hotel, Davao City. Silver Linings is the educational forum slash homecoming for breast cancer survivors and the people who care about them. It is held every three years and organized by the ICanServe Foundation, an organization that "provides hope and help to women with breast cancer. It promotes early breast cancer detection through high impact information campaigns and community based screening programs. Its network of cancer survivors light the path for women with cancer towards total healing."

WeCanServe: Mother and daughter "banding."
 When people hear the dreaded word - Cancer, most often than not we immediately feel scared and pity for those diagnosed with the disease. But yesterday's event radiated hope and joy, it was contagious! More than 500 people filled Grand Regal's ballroom each with a story to tell. It was a gathering that paid tribute to the strength and spirit of women with breast cancer - regardless of economic status, religious and ethnic backgrounds. There was just this atmosphere of hope that came from people who battled and continues to battle with the disease and those with them in their journey towards healing. Talk about strength in spirit and number!

ICanServe Foundation's spokesperson Bibeth Orteza, a breast cancer survivor herself and wife to film director Carlitos Siguion Reyna, kicked off the event followed by welcome remarks from actress Dawn Zulueta Lagdameo (ICanServe volunteer) and ICanServe founding president and cancer survivor Kara Magsanoc Alikpala. Senator Loren Legarda (who lost her mother to cancer) was also present and provided an update on sponsored legislations for Cancer patients such as Chemotherapy leave and financial assistance. These legislations are yet to be approved by the Congress.

I managed to ambush Ms Kara Magsanoc Alikpala during the day to ask her why they chose to hold the 3rd Silver Linings in Davao City. "Davao Region has always been close to our hearts at ICanServe. We started our community-based breast cancer screening program "Ating Dibdibin" in Panabo City 2010 and we have been overwhelmed with the community and LGU's response. They were very responsive and interested about breast cancer. Davao is a very fertile ground for information dissemination," she enthusiastically shared.

In 2010, Panabo City in Davao del Norte was the second Local Government Unit to embrace the "Ating Dibdibin" program as permanent. The program teaches early breast cancer detection techniques through forums and screening sessions to communities so that suspicious lumps can be diagnosed at an early stage. 

"In Southeast Asia, our country has the highest rate of breast cancer mortality and number nine in the whole world. That is why we go to communities and teach them how to do breast self exam," Ms Kara added. Most cancers in the Philippines are discovered in the late stages when it is already terminal. Most women refuse to have themselves checked by a doctor despite knowing they have suspicious breast lumps.

There were breakup sessions to discuss in-depth issues related to breast cancer by oncologists (doctors who specialize in cancer treatment) from Manila and Davao. Celebrities like Maritoni Fernandez, Melissa de Leon and Bibeth Orteza shared their own experiences and acted as moderators for the sessions. Other breast cancer advocates, model Patti Betita gave a session on looking good and feeling good especially for cancer patients undergoing chemo and radiation therapies. ANC newscaster Twink Macaraig moderated the session for Her2 breast cancer with Davao-based oncologist Dr. Gay Lapus.  Mum attended the session on What to Expect Five Years of Remission by Dr. Francis Lopez, a respected oncologist from Manila. I chose to sit in the Role of Family and Friends forum where we were encouraged (and reminded!) to be the rah-rah squads slash caregivers to our respective loved-ones battling cancer. It was moderated by Mr. Bobbit Suntay who established Carewell Community along with her late wife Jackie to support, educate and give hope to people with cancer and their families. Actress Melissa de Leon (sister of Christopher de Leon) also shared her family's and friends' involvement when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was Mum's caregiver when she went through Chemotherapy and looking back I never regretted being by her side every step of the way despite the fact that I had to set aside my then flourishing career as a development worker. I chose this session because after my Mum's diagnosis and treatment, I promised myself that I will support (not financially though) other families cope with the reality of breast cancer. I can never over-emphasize the importance of family support, encouragement and prayers to a cancer patient. When we are there for them when they need and even when they don't us, our loved-ones can focus on getting well.

We went home filled with stories that healed and new friendships formed over breast cancer. For the first time Mum was in a group where she never felt self conscious because she only had one breast left. I would like to believe she now had more than enough courage and hope to be completely well just being with her "breast" sisters who fought bravely and won. As what Ms Kara told me, "Dark clouds seems to block the sun, that's what we feel when we are diagnosed with breast cancer. But if you stare at the edge of the cloud, you can see the sun gleam. That outline is a silver lining and cancer patients have learned to see beyond the clouds. That is inner strength."

Mum on her first and definitely not the last Silver Linings!

Sisters in faith turned breast sisters. Mum with Ate Raquel

With Mum's breast sisters from Ilo-Ilo City. :)


  1. When in the face of adversity, the only thing we can really do is to look at the bright side. There is a silver lining to every cloud, no matter how dark. We just have to tap into our inner strength to overcome life's obstacles.

  2. I'll second that Pep! Thanks for following me, I finally saw the woman behind Pepperrific Life. Geez, now I know why Mr. SO is so willing to fix the car! :)

  3. it's good to know that there are a lot of organization doing this and caring for those who have cancers...

    following you sis... please visit and follow my blogs;

    thanks! see you around...

  4. Hi Rovie,

    Thank you for visiting and taking time to write a comment, I appreciate it very much. Yes, ICanServe Foundation really does a lot to promote awareness among Filipino women. God bless you!