While raising my 3 toddlers, I would daydream about how I could create an impact in the world but I wondered how that could be possible since most of those I knew who did charity or social work either had expertise and influence in those fields or had lots of money. I had none of those. Though I was a licensed nurse, I wasn’t practicing, and was a full-time wife and mother instead. The only people I had an influence on were my children.
Fast forward to 2009, my mother was suddenly diagnosed with breast cancer. My world crumbled. I thought to myself, had I practiced my profession and probably worked overseas, I could afford the best treatments possible for my Nanay. Yet, there I was, heartbroken that I could only offer so much in terms of financial support for Nanay. But, God had a different idea. In one of my anguished prayers, He spoke to me and told me, “Even if you had millions, you cannot buy your Nanay’s life or health. Only I can save your Nanay.” And true enough, I have watched God move in so many mysterious ways in order for us to meet Nanay’s treatment needs.
One of those ways was through the Philippine Foundation for Breast Care Inc. (Kasuso Foundation). I found this cramped space in the corner of the Outpatient department of the East Avenue Medical Center where women diagnosed with breast cancer found hope and healing through partnerships with other entities that provided for every kind of need for the poor and those diagnosed with breast cancer. Nanay became a beneficiary of free chemotherapy treatments of that quaint little breast care center.
Accompanying Nanay in all her consultations, laboratory tests, and treatments for six months gave me an opportunity to reach out to the women who stayed inside that clinic for long hours while awaiting their turn for check-ups and chemo treatments. I got to hear their stories and I realized through them that everyone had a story to tell. They were not just breast cancer patients. They were women, mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, whose lives were rich with stories. I got to see the twinkle in their eyes as they talked about their families, children, or their past colorful lives. All they needed was someone who would listen. I also got to hear the prayers they would pray the night before their surgeries or treatments. And I got to watch, albeit with quiet tears, as they received their final diagnosis. For some, it would be their first and for some others, the return of their most dreaded enemy.
My interest in breast cancer grew with every story I heard – stories struggles finding financial assistance when the treatments had to be shifted to a more expensive kind of medicine, when they had to look for money for the next set of laboratory tests or the next chemo session because it would take 3-6 weeks for their requests with PCSO to be approved. I got to hear their meltdown and frustrations when things at home did not go well, just when they needed the support the most. I got to hear all sorts of stories, and each time I went home my heart burned to do something. I wanted to things to be better for them. I wondered about the women in the remote communities who did not have access to much needed healthcare and diagnostic tests. I got to tag along in visits to barangays when the foundation got invited to talk about breast cancer and witness the fear that ate women up just at the thought of having breast cancer. The passion to change something grew inside of me, until I decided to dip my feet and dive head first.
Eight years after, I have moved from a mere bystander to someone who has contributed something to create change. I started with the desire to have a separate functioning toilet for the patients, to a more spacious place for patients to wait and receive chemo treatments from, to dreaming of a building to accommodate more comfortable chemo chairs in exchange for the plastic chairs, to better programs that will make servicing the patients’ needs more efficient and their clinical experience more pleasant.
From an ordinary housewife whose only world of influence revolved around the four walls of my home, I have learned to dream of and create a better place for others.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is from Genesis 50:20 (NIV): “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
The Lord turned what happened to Nanay into a blessing for me. I learned a lot of things and I flourished. Now, lives are being saved through this.
This is my dream, where I see God move through the organization and the women that I meet every single time.