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Fighting cancer

I only have cancer, but cancer doesn’t have me

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (PIA)--"I have to stand up. I only have cancer, but cancer doesn’t have me," said Dr. Myra Luminarias of the Department of Health (DOH)-10 in an episode of Konsultayo, a media and health forum hosted by the Philippine Information Agency-10 and DOH-10.

Luminarias had stage 2 B HER2-positive breast cancer, which meant very expensive treatment.

"Dili na lang unta ko magpa-chemo kay lisod gyud kaayo on my end, nga ing-ana ka dako, (I would not have chosen to undergo chemo because it was so difficult on my end that the fees are so high)," she said.

On her first dose, Luminarias had to spend P225,000; meanwhile, for the second cycle to the sixth cycle, it's P120,00 every three weeks, the seventh cycle until the end, P85,000 every three weeks; and on top of it all, there is radiation and medicine to avoid vomiting and remain comfortable during chemotherapy.

"Grabe pud bya ka draining ang effect sa chemo (The effect of chemo is super draining), especially the first five to six days," she said.

Dr. Natasha Emano-Elazegui, a classmate and surgeon, immediately handed over $100,000 when she decided not to undergo chemotherapy. Elazegui was her surgeon and paved the way to begin her first chemotherapy session.

Luminarias realized how fortunate she was.

The following cycles were sponsored by coworkers, patients, and clients while working at German Doctors Hospital.

"The German doctors' hospital I was working at then sponsored the next cycle. I just only added a little bit, and then on the third cycle, it was the cervical cancer network program consultants who pitched in. I only added a little bit together with my family, my siblings, my friends," she said.

She could never forget them, said the doctor. She listed each of them, and every night until now she has prayed over each of them.

Her patients, she recalled, were the most touching part.

They did ‘pass the hat’ and a cellophane bag of coins was given to her while she was at the hospital.

Instead of giving up, it drove Luminarias to have that spirit, saying, "Kung kini sila naningkamot para saimu, nganong magpa pildi ka sa cancer (If these people are doing the best effort for you, why should you let cancer defeat you)?"

What is cancer?

Cancer is abnormal cell growth. The building block of the body is the cell. Cancer is a building block in and of itself. As a result, the doctor explained, there is abnormal cell growth from the cell itself.

In breast cancer, it is the breast tissue that is affected. "How common is this?" she said.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer, not only in the country but worldwide. The second most common cancer is lung cancer, followed by colorectal cancers, liver cancers, and others.

The most common sign and symptom is a bukol, or lump, in your breast. Another one is skin dimpling. such as an orange peel appearance, a consistently painful part of your breast, or if not, a consistently reddish area of your breast.

One sign is also a flaky part of the breast, skin is peeling off and, no matter how you treat it, it does not heal.

Another symptom is abnormal nipple discharge when you push the nipple. Blood, water, or pus could all be involved.

Milky discharge not at the right age, must be investigated, she said. For example, if a woman is in menopause but there is milky discharge, these are things manifesting abnormally.

What to do?

The best way to screen is to do a self-breast exam.

Based on a study, when you reach the age of 20, you do the self-breast exam regularly every seven days, even up to the 10th day from the first day of menstruation.

When you reach the age of 30, it is strongly advised that you consult with a doctor on a regular basis.

When you reach the age of 40, it is highly recommended that you have a regular annual mammogram. There are breast lesions that are so small that they cannot be detected by the palm of our hands or our fingers, but they can be seen on a mammogram.

"We have to spread the word; to advocate is to promote early detection," the doctor said.

When you have cancer, it will bring you not only to your knees but also to your feet. So, therefore, don’t allow it to happen. Early detection saves lives. So have yourself checked, she said. (JMOR/PIA-10)

Dr. Myra Luminarias (2nd from right), Department of Health (DOH) 10 in an episode of Konsultayo, a media and health forum hosted by Philippine Information Agency 10 and DOH10 shares her experience in dealing with breast cancer and is urging women to have regular breast exams or checkups. (PIA10)

About the Author

Jasper Marie Rucat

Regional Editor

Region 10

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