Pink Perspective 2021: Pinked in the New Norm

By Kathleen Joy Imperial, Jianne Ilysse Yu, and Honey Jane Sayta | Posted on December 10, 2021

The month of October is none other than the renowned Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink October,  as it’s called,  is designated as the “Pink Month.” People around the world support this common cause by increasing awareness about breast cancer. It’s a month to educate people about the disease, including its prevention and its treatment. As inspired by the many celebration and activities of people around the world for this cause, the Rotaract Clubs of Cebu Fuente; Community Based, the University of San Carlos, and the University of the Visayas Chapter, in partnership with the Cebu Doctors’ University – College of Medicine; Asian Medical Students’ Association – Accentuating Lives through Service and Advocacy (AMSA–ALSA), Community Outreach Resource and Education (CORE), in collaboration with Rotary Club of Cebu Fuente and Icanserve Foundation, have come up with a two-day webinar – “Pink Perspective” – to raise even more awareness about the impact of breast cancer. An initiative to discover the perspectives of survivors, breast cancer patients, and their loved ones, this webinar allowed its audience to learn more about the big C from experts on Day 1, and be inspired by the stories of love and hope on Day 2. This year’s Pink Perspective’s theme, “Pinked in the Norm” was all about the timely experience encountered by our breast friends in the world today. 

Dr. Kim Gonzalez Daroy, a well-known breast surgeon in Cebu, was the first speaker on Day 1. She provided an informative “Breast Cancer 101” talk, noting that the Philippines has the highest incidence and fatality rate of breast cancer among Southeast Asian countries. Dr. Daroy emphasized what women should do to prevent breast cancer as well and shared that stage 4 cancer has a 20% chance of survival. She strongly said, “If we can’t prevent cancer, at least we can prevent breast cancer deaths.” The second guest speaker, Dr. Arnold Uson, discussed the current status of the Covid-19 vaccine as well as concerns about vaccine hesitancy and anti-vaxxers. He went on to describe how Covid-19 infects our bodies. As pointed out by Dr. Uson, “The vaccine’s goal is to halt the pandemic; cancer patients and survivors should be protected against Covid-19.”

Following the open forum with Dr. Daroy and Dr. Uson, was the second part of the talk involving the financial support that breast cancer patients may receive. The project head of Malasakit Center, Asec. Girlie Enriquez Veloso, discussed the updates regarding the services inside Malasakit Centers – a one-stop-shop for medical and financial assistance that provides patient navigation and referral to appropriate health facilities, information on PHIC membership, coverage, and benefits packages, and a special lane for Senior Citizens, pregnant women, and people with disabilities. To quote, one of the comforting statements she shared was, “You are free to do whatever you want as long as you are in a public hospital. Malasakit Center can assist you with any illness you may be suffering from.” The last speaker for Day 1, Dr. Avril Tiu, spoke about the Z benefit (Breast Cancer) package of PhilHealth. Z Package covers primary disease situations that are deemed “catastrophic” both economically and medically. For Breast Cancer (Stage 0 – ll A), it is valued at Php 100,000 in Dr. Tiu’s presentation of the Z Package-Catastrophic Benefits. She explained that “the Z Benefit package is a comprehensive method offered to PhilHealth members to deal with illnesses or health conditions that could result in prolonged hospitalization and expensive treatments.”

Moving on, Day 2 kicked off with a new round of speakers – five, to be precise – who established their own perspectives with the unique stories they brought out in the open. First came the perspective of Dr. Carmina “Mina” Alferez, both a doctor who has cared for cancer patients and a sister to one of those very individuals. She served relevant realness in the first part of her talk with a “menu of emotions” – anger, anxiety, fear, guilt, isolation, and loss – and went on about how to handle these emotions, especially when you see them in the eyes of cancer patients. “Break down those walls,” was one of her memorable mantras to encourage everyone to overcome the hesitancy surrounding cancer and to be brave enough to address the hard issues. Eventually came her heart-wrenching story of witnessing her sister’s cancer journey. Carla, the late sister of Dr. Mina, was a person she loved and cared for dearly. Being the doctor in the family, Dr. Mina was very hands-on with her sister’s situation; accompanying her to tests, assessing her health, supporting her physically and emotionally. It would be a complete understatement to say that her sharing brought tears to the eyes of everyone in the room. In truth, it brought loads of waterworks that set off what would become an inspiringly tear-filled afternoon.

Secondly came Tingting and Jeff Caballero – speakers who would share their stories of facing cancer from the perspective of lovers. While the love Dr. Mina expressed previously was familial, their story heavily expressed the romantic love that they had for each other; love that bound them together through all the hardships they faced as a couple when Tingting herself was diagnosed with breast cancer and told about the possibility that she may have difficulty having children. As Jeff put it so eloquently, “Love is the most powerful thing in life. Use love because love is real, it’s powerful. It’s free, and it’s unlimited.” It brought tears in another, happier way, allowing listeners to marvel at the amazing way love shaped the lives of these two individuals and, of course, provoking a long round of yearning and “sana all’s.”

The third speaker’s story was a bit shorter than the rest, but not for the reasons you think. Truth be told, Cindy Tesoro Go didn’t take much time in sharing yet another perspective of witnessing a sister leave due to cancer because she didn’t want to end up bawling in the middle of her speech. The tears still came, though – both on her part towards the ending and on my part throughout the entire spiel – as we all grieved and also learned from her moving testimony. It was the part where she talked about when her sister passed that hit the most; when she spoke of how “that night, I lost my protector, my kakampi, my hero, my supporter, my adviser, my strength, my travel buddy, my twinning buddy, my business partner, my best friend, my ate, my sister.” Nonetheless, Cindy was both brave and thankful to share her sister’s story while holding back her tears. To quote a few of her ending words, “She may not be with us now, but I believe God always has a reason for everything. I am just happy, blessed, and grateful I was able to have a sister like her, and I will continue to share her beautiful story because I am so proud of her.”

Dr. Myra Luminaries came in afterward as the fourth speaker and brought a whole new set of emotions to the table. She, herself, is a survivor of not only one but TWO types of cancers, as well as a survivor of the other big C’s: Covid-19 and a cyclone. Dr. Myra’s story was heartbreakingly awe-inspiring in its own right. Here we have the perspective of a survivor who has been through so much, who has been hit with wave after wave of challenges, and who has come out stronger than one can ever imagine; firmly trusting in God. She ended her testimony with a relevant message of how we cannot prevent cancer from happening, but we can lower down the risks with early detection – the very reason why she shared her cancer journey with everyone in the room. It was really a moment of appreciation for how strong this woman has been throughout her life, and Dr. Myra was very happy to share her story with a big smile instead of any signs of sadness – “today, I am here with you and, today, I would rather smile than cry.”

Lastly, to end the event, was Dr. Monica Romero, who gave yet another insightful and eye-opening message from her perspective as a doctor. A very memorable line from her was her message about perceiving cancer. She shared her thoughts of how “cancer can be scary and it can change our life. But if we choose it, it can be beautiful.” Indeed, the afternoon was filled with beautiful stories. True, some induced more bouts of sadness while others induced more slivers of happiness, yet the one common factor that all these perspectives had in common was that they really showed everyone how cancer can be a blessing and not just the curse that people stereotypically see it. 

All the speakers brought a certain momentum to Day 2 that was unparalleled, proving just how incredibly amazing the event was. Pink Perspective 2021  in its second year, has changed and touched the lives of so many people and, above all, continues to champion the causes and stories of all our breast friends who have fought and are still fighting cancer in our world today. As the mantra goes, now and in the countless years to come, “Early detection of breast cancer can be cured. Early detection is our best protection. Early detection saves lives.” 

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