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In the midst of cancer

I don’t want to survive, I want to thrive!

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (PIA)--"Hala ka gwapa kaayo sila, gusto ko mugwapa, Dili ko gusto mo survive lang, gusto ko mo thrive pareha nila (They are so beautiful, I want to be beautiful as well, I don’t want to only survive but I want to thrive just like them)," said Khessie Louise Lluch, as she saw a line of breast cancer survivors during a healing mass in Cebu years ago.

In an episode of KonsulTayo, media and health forum, Khessie, or popularly known as "Karen" Lluch, a breast cancer survivor and one of the original founders of Thrive CDO Breast Cancer Awareness Advocacy Group, shared how she navigated her journey when she first found out she had cancer in 2011.

"In 2012, I finished my treatment for breast cancer, it was in 2011 that I had breast cancer stage 2A. I had my treatment in May to October of 2011, and from May to October 2011, I was alone," the Thrive CDO founder said.

For sure, she had her family and friends who loved and cared for her, but she was looking for that missing piece: a support system that could relate to and guide her on what she was going through.

"In October of 2011, I was in Cebu for radiation treatment, because there was no radiation machine here in Cagayan de Oro. It was also in SM North Wing Cebu where so many breast cancer survivors gather for a healing mass," she said.

From there, she realized she wanted to be like them, beautiful and thriving despite cancer.

"That is the reason Thrive atong ngalan kay to encourage and give hope nga kung i-empower nato atong selves, and help other women empower themselves with knowledge, we can help the community to thrive," she said.

(That is the reason we named the group Thrive because if we encourage and give hope, empower ourselves, and help other women empower themselves with knowledge, we can help the community thrive)

It is Thrive’s 10th year, and the advocacy remains, Lluch said.

Thrive CDO is a breast cancer advocacy group for breast cancer patients and survivors that can help with treatment options, explain what is happening in their bodies, and advise where to get help.

Catch it early

Breast cancer cannot be prevented.

"But when we say that we want to prevent it, we want to catch it early. So how do we catch it early?" Lluch explained.

First is really breast checkup. If one is 30 or older and the risk is high, there is a need to go to a doctor.

"You will not die of cancer, you will die of the expenses," she said.

That is why for those who are afraid to get checked because of expenses to go to the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) instead.

"Ang NMMC, gwapo ilahang cancer center, daghan ilang improvements didto. For the public, mahadlok man gyud mu adto og private, I am saying that now, adto mo sa NMMC, naay PCSO and DSWD nga makatabang," she said.

(NMMC has a very good cancer center, they have made so many improvements. For the public who are afraid to go to the private hospital, I am saying that now, go to NMMC, there is a Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) and a Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) who can help)

The Republic Act 11215 on Cancer, signed by President Duterte and taking effect in 2019, is a law that establishes a national cancer control program and appropriates funds for it.

Karen Lluch said those who have cancer will not be afraid anymore because the government is here to help.

"Cancer is our enemy, but we can do something about it," she said.

Anyone who is a cancer survivor can apply for a Persons with Disability (PWD) identification card because cancer is forever.

Cancer changes people

"Yes, it has changed me a lot," said Lluch.

In 2010 and 2011, Karen just wanted to live a quiet life that consisted only of herself, her son, and her friends and family, but the Lord had other plans.

"I would never have expected that I would continue this kind of life, being in public for this matter. But the Lord said you do public service in this way, in this manner, and share your time," she said.

"I could have been bitter about it because [maka pobre gyud ang cancer] cancer can really make you poor. Treatment will leave you poor, which is why I am very passionate about government programs," she said.

"What changed me was not cancer but meeting other survivors," she said, emphasizing that the notion of doing this together really pushed for the advocacy to start and sustain up to this day.

"It is really those people who advocate for it; we can do this together," she said.

Cancer is not a death sentence, but it is just a word, so empower yourself.

"A good attitude covers 50% of your treatment; if your treatment is okay and access it financially, you know where to go, you have one-fourth covered, and the rest is up to God," she said.

Continue to pray, have hope, and thrive, she advised. (JMOR/PIA-10)

In an episode of KonsulTayo, media and health forum, Department of Health 10 discusses topic on breast cancer awareness month. (ZRD/PIA10)

About the Author

Jasper Marie Rucat

Regional Editor

Region 10

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