Tag Archives: Hodgkin Lymphoma

Sam Smith, Please Say #RiannaCan Beat 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?


Rianna Arcos is a bright and lovely 16-year-old girl from the Philippines who is currently going to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas for chemotherapy to treat her Stage 4 Hodgkin Lymphoma. She is my goddaughter and the best friend of my 15-year-old daughter Kylie.

The Backstory

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.

IMG_6343When 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.

Kylie and RiannaRianna’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.


The Request

Kylie and RiannaAll 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.)






Help Rianna Beat Cancer

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.

GoFundMe Rianna

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.




Inspire Monday: Hodgegirl and Cancer Teen Mom

mother and daughter?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.

It’s no wonder that Cancer Teen Mom has a strong and brave daughter in Hodgegirl 🙂 I am blessed to know them both, and to be literally closer to them during this time.

(Note: Photo above is not Cancer Teen Mom and Hodgegirl. It’s a royalty-free stock photo.)


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