I just learned recently that today, February 4, is World Cancer Day. It is an initiative started in 2008 by the Union for International Cancer Control. It aims to promote cancer awareness and education and to campaign for governments, groups and individuals to take action.
In the last few years, cancer has become personal to me. I’ve seen friends and relatives, adults and children, battle this terrible illness. Like so many others, my life has been forever touched by cancer.
“We Can. I Can.” That is the tagline for World Cancer Day 2016-2018. It’s an invitation for all of us to reflect on what we can do, as individuals and as part of communities, to help fight the battle against cancer.
I CAN educate myself about making healthier lifestyle choices. I CAN continue to support my friends who are battling cancer.
With my family, WE CAN educate ourselves so we can create a healthier environment and lifestyle. WE CAN talk about cancer prevention and early detection.
In one way or another, all of us are affected by cancer. Whether we choose to help a hospital or an advocacy, a family member or a stranger, a hundred people or one person, we can make a difference in someone’s life. We can take part in this global fight against cancer.
An Open Letter to Sam Smith from a Fan’s Godmother
Dear Sam Smith,
In case you don’t have time to read this whole letter, I’ll start with my big and simple request. May I please ask you to send a shout-out of encouragement to Rianna Arcos during your August 14 concert in Houston, Texas, USA and again in your November 21 show in Manila, Philippines?
In the morning of 16 December 2014, Rianna, Kylie, Lilac (Rianna’s mom) and I were lined up at a nearby SM Ticket Counter, joining the queue to buy tickets to your May 10 concert in Manila. Rianna and Kylie are two of your biggest fans (I’ve heard them singing your songs many times over), and they wanted to get the best seats possible.
At this time, Rianna was near the tail-end of 6 cycles of of chemotherapy and radiation treatment in Manila for Stage 3 Hodgkin Lymphoma that was diagnosed in June 2014. Buying these tickets held the promise of celebration for Rianna’s end of treatment and Kylie’s then-upcoming birthday.
When we left the counter that morning, Rianna and Kylie were beaming with their concert tickets in hand. These two young ladies, these best friends were going to have the time of their lives watching your show.
May 2015 came. A week before the concert date, we saw the news about the postponement of your Manila concert. True fans that they are, Rianna and Kylie didn’t get mad. They only wished that you would get well so you can sing again, and hopefully still come to Manila for your show. Like all of your other fans in the Philippines, they waited for good news.
Not long before then, we were faced with terrible personal news. After another scan was done, doctors discovered that Rianna’s cancer is still there. Her parents searched for the best place to seek further treatment. This brought them to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.
Rianna’s chemotherapy treatment in MD Anderson Cancer Center started just a week ago. Right now, no one can say until when. It all depends on how her body, how her cancer reacts to the treatment. We don’t know when Rianna and her mother will come back to the Philippines; we don’t know if Rianna will be back before November 21 to watch your Manila concert with her best friend (my daughter) Kylie. We don’t know if they can have this moment with you.
All of this brings me back to my request. Would you, Mr. Sam Smith, please give a shout-out of encouragement to Rianna Arcos during your August 14 concert in Houston, Texas, USA? And again during your November 21 show in Manila, Philippines? Please say #RiannaCancer! (Rianna’s mom made this hashtag to symbolize our belief that although she has cancer, RiannaCan beat her cancer.
I wish you the best of health, continued success in your career and joy in your heart. Thank you for reading this godmother’s big and simple request.
Lea (Rianna’s godmother)
P.S. If you would like to get in touch with Rianna or her mother Lilac while in Texas, please let me know. And if you would like to help their fundraising efforts for the Bone Marrow Transplant that Rianna needs after chemotherapy, please see the link below.)
Rianna is this towering 16-year-old package of talent and determination. Like her mom and some of her other family members, she is a passionate musician with a naturally melodic singing voice and able hands on the piano and guitar. She is an artist with a flair for drawing. Until recently, she had been a strong athlete and a fierce competitor in gymnastics.
Rianna is the eldest child and only daughter of a very dear friend of mine whom I’ve known for the last 29 years (note: we’ve been friends since we were very young; i.e. we’d like to think that we’re not that old!). She is my goddaughter, and is perhaps the oldest friend and surely one of the closest friends of my daughter. (I have photos of them together as toddlers, but I won’t post them here so they will still talk to me.)
After going through six cycles of chemotherapy and radiation therapy last year, she is still battling Hodgkin Lymphoma (cancer of the lymph tissue). She needs high-dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplant to give her the best possible chance of beating cancer. These treatments, however, are very expensive. Her mom has set up a GoFundMe.com page to help raise funds.
I’m appealing to anyone who would like to help Rianna beat cancer by donating to her medical fund. Please help us give her the best chance of overcoming this hurdle to her dreams of college, of music and art, of helping others through her gifts.
I didn’t know Lorraine personally. I only knew of her through Facebook. She was a very close friend of my cousins in California. When my cousins recently posted about a fundraiser for her, I learned a little bit about her story. She was a young woman who had gotten married in March this year. Just months after, she was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer. Using GiveForward.com, Lorraine’s family raised funds for her treatment and asked for support and prayers for the newlyweds.
Although I didn’t know her, I was quietly rooting for Lorraine. I wanted her and her husband to have a million ways to enjoy being young and happily married, and eventually being old and still happily married. I hoped and prayed that she would beat cancer and get back to her life with fierce determination and beautiful flair. I didn’t know her, but I would guess from all the kind words and lovely photos I saw that Lorraine was a woman with a big heart, a woman beloved and cherished by many.
Today, my heart broke a little when I saw the news of her passing. Just like how my heart broke a little when I heard the news of Robin Williams’ passing. I don’t know Lorraine beyond what her friends recently posted on social media, just like I don’t know Robin Williams beyond his works as an actor and comedian. But I do know that losing a loved one so suddenly, whether to cancer, to suicide or to something else, is painful beyond words.
Circumstances may be different and distances may be far and wide, but grieving the loss of loved ones brings people together in solidarity. We are heartbroken by the loss, but we also cherish the wonderful memories and we celebrate the lives of those who have gone before us. And we allow ourselves to grieve together, for family, for friends and for strangers.
These two ladies are close to my heart, close to my family, and in the last month have shown me how strong they can be in the face of surprising and daunting obstacles.
Less than a month ago, a huge bomb was dropped. It was discovered that Hodgegirl (my 15-year-old goddaughter) has Hodgkin Lymphoma, cancer of the lymph tissue. It was a shock to us all. How can this happen to this young girl, bright and healthy, athletic and busy, soon getting ready to take on college life?
Hodgegirl has been, in Cancer Teen Mom’s words, such a trooper. She’s been so positive and so brave, through the diagnosis, through the chemotherapy, through this whole “thing.” I’ve been with her a few times since we all learned the diagnosis, and even when she was dizzy and weak from low blood count, I’ve never seen her act difficult or hopeless. And she still worries about how her cancer is affecting her family. Having cancer at the age of fifteen is only magnifying Hodgegirl’s strength and kindness.
Cancer Teen Mom is doing what any loving and dedicated mother would do. She is providing her daughter with all the care she needs during this very difficult time. But what inspires me is her determination to keep it all together for her daughter, for herself and for her family. Like any typical mother in a similar situation, she also has her down moments. But afterwards, she would let it go, pick herself up and go back to being her busy, perky self. I think it’s also uplifting that Cancer Teen Mom has started sharing her story through her new blog, The Hodgegirl Chronicles. Though it may serve the selfish need for catharsis, it serves the bigger purpose of giving another voice, unique and common, to those all over the world who are dealing with Hodgkin Lymphoma.
His book and his lecture are so inspiring (and entertaining too!). Even though he was already diagnosed with a terminal case of pancreatic cancer when he gave this lecture and wrote this book, he shared his message with so much joy and enthusiasm. He talked about achieving his childhood dreams, about not letting obstacles stop you, and about making the most of every moment.
But my favorite part of his message is when he talked about enabling the dreams of others, how that is even more fun that achieving your own dreams. This is one of my dreams – to enable the dreams of others. And first and foremost, I want to enable the dreams of my children.
By homeschooling my kids, by being a hands-on parent, by helping them know themselves better and encouraging them to dream big, I hope that I am enabling them to really achieve their dreams. If I can be a dream enabler on a bigger scale, if I can realize a way to reach out to more people, children and adults, and help them find and achieve their dreams, that would be the best legacy I can ever hope to leave behind.
Four days ago, I learned that my fifteen-year-old goddaughter has cancer. She is the daughter of one of my dearest friends, and she is one of my daughter’s best friends. Her mother and I have been friends for the last 28 years (and counting). Only one year apart in age, my daughter and my goddaughter have known each other since they were babies. Safe to say that our lives intertwine in many ways.
Four days ago, our lives took a sudden change and we are reeling from it.
My daughter and I were with the family when the oncologist first discussed the type of cancer, course of treatment, what to expect, etc. Hodgkin lymphoma, common among adolescents, very much treatable, chemotherapy and radiation. So many words, so many new realities that, from then on, would linger in my mind. Thankfully, the oncologist was very positive, encouraging everyone be positive and to take things one step, one day at a time.
Today, my goddaughter will have her first chemotherapy treatment. Although I am hopeful that her youth and her athletic background will help her cope well, I still worry that she will become so weak, so fragile, so unlike the strong and lively girl we know. And seeing her that way will break our hearts.
When the oncologist was talking about chemotherapy, one of the first things my goddaughter said was, “Will I lose my hair?” The doctor did say yes, but she quickly assured her that after all the treatment, her hair will grow back, and maybe even nicer than before. It suddenly hit me. Losing your hair, like losing your strength and your appetite, can be very traumatic. Suddenly, you look different, you feel different, your life becomes vastly different.
This passage was part of today’s Gospel reading:
“Even all the hairs on your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10: 30-31)
My goddaughter is definitely worth more than many sparrows. And I have faith that all the hairs on her head are counted, as each one falls off and as each one grows back, stronger and lovelier than before.