I have never read an article on cancer for more than 9nth times. Each time I read, I put the message into my hearts; and each time I read, I am totally overwhelmed for I connect the word cancer to what it has done to my life. Everybody knows that my wife of 35 years, Rosalinda Linsangan Natividad, a native of Gapan City and an alumna of the old St. Theresa’s College in Manila, passed away from the complications of a breast cancer.
Last Month, I came across a copy of a Time Magazine, April 1, issue, a bold title on its cover: “How To Cure Cancer” I paid an attention to the asterisk: “Yes, it’s now possible – thanks to new cancer dream teams that are delivering better results faster” by Bill Saporito. I turned the page and I read:” The Conspiracy to End Cancer!” But the blurb strongly stated: “a team based, cross disciplinary approach to cancer research is upending tradition and delivery results faster!”
Before my wife’s mastectomy in 2000, I would not even bother to read any write-up on cancer. The word connotes a negative vibration in my nerves. I am afraid of the word. I had been in contact with my friends who suffered so much pain and suffering and most of them passed away. It is a total denial of the reality in life. What I read most are features and columns on how to prevent cancer. As a foodie, I do prepare and cook superfoods and during those days, I wanted my wife to be free from radicals by eating lots of antioxidants. But I the back of my mind, I do remember her mom who succumbed to a breast cancer few years ago. I had become uneasy. Is breast cancer hereditary?
But one night, before we retired, Linda dropped a bombshell! By tomorrow, in a mellowed voice, she would undergo a radical operation on her right breast to remove the cyst which was cancerous. The word cancer blocked my consciousness, tongue-tied and as if the wall clock fell and the time stopped. Am I dreaming, and I shoke my head. Linda was calm and she said that it was not evasive, still at an early stage. Men in general are weak, so emotional, so defensive. But Linda was calm and apologetic: “Dad, I will be okey.” Deep inside, it is a death sentence!
I started reading feature articles, medical reports, internet, columns and broadcast about breast cancer. When I was alone, fear had become a dark shadow. But hope started to clinch my quest. Linda would be okey. She was strong, vibrant, and had unwavering faith in God. Hoping that cure would be available. And with those millions of dollars being raised to spend on cancer research, time would come that cure is possible. Faith in God; and hope for the cure made us normal people.
For many years, we were living with cancer. It was a social gathering every time she would go for a chemo session; and it was a normal routine for her radiation schedule. Life went on normally. Linda would be more involved in the various community activities and events. Being the publisher and the editor-in- chief of our family business, the Filipino Journal, she never missed her responsibility to make our newspaper a real “pulse of the Filipino community”. For me, as I mentioned one time, jokingly, that she married a community. She just smiled and kissed me.
We joined various fundraising events to raise money for cancer research. We would join the marathons. My two sons and I were totally involved. Our friends did share our missions. More involvement, more money cancer research. And we raised the bar so high. Thinking, that someday, sooner, cure for cancer would be available. I knew millions of dollars have been raised to financially support the various research projects to find a cure.
But in December 2007, life had changed for Linda. She was hospitalized but rather to have a good rest, her involvement to the Filipino community did not stop. Her board of directors would visit her and discussed the problems and solutions being encountered by the organization. Her room had become a board room and she enjoyed it. She was still the front and centre of her volunteerism. Her community involved is unconditional! But I found her stay in the hospital was stressful every time when the doctor would tell her: “Have you prepared the end of life?” And Linda would answer back, with hope: “Who are you, God?” It pained me every time they would say those words to us. It was more than a death penalty. These doctors had lost empathy, a human touch, a compassion. After more than two months, she succumbed to this dreadful disease. Her life was cut short. I became an instant widower; my two sons, without mother. Such a deep void was unfilled. Reality turned into denials.
I thought that there would be cure for breast cancer? What happened to the millions of dollars earned by the continuous fundraising for the cure? Was there really a cure? Would cancer be “a thing of the past?” Same what happened to tuberculosis and polio? My attitude had changed. One night, I was watching a TV program and the discussion was about the search for cure. Nothing had been found. What happened to the millions of dollars raised? I got frustrated. I was shortchanged. I was robbed! I decided not to join any fundraising, let alone to contribute any penny. Linda is gone; and my interest to join for the cure turned cold.
But there was a 360 degrees change of heart.
I bought the magazine and I went to a coffee shop to read the article on cancer. I turned the pages of the magazine and the headline of the magazine turned my upside down! The title states: “ The Hero Scientist who defeats cancer will like never exist”. I felt the cold breeze even I was inside the coffee shop. So, cancer, therefore, is incurable no matter how million of dollars are spent in cancer research? Nevertheless, I started reading the feature article. My ill feelings had changed and my eyes had opened and my heart started throbbing when a single topic of the article had so much interest: “the presence of the so-called “dream team” funded by STAND UP TO CANCER (SU2C)
I read the article with so much enthusiasm and with excitement of discovery. I dreaded the statistical date of success and failures of all kinds of cancers. I coffee had becoming cold as I read the hot reality of cancer especially the costs of cancer research for 2008: a hefty, and a mind boggling amount! $77.4 billion dollars; and lost production of $124.billion! And the most uninspiring: probability of developing some type of cancer over one’s lifetime: For men, 1 in 2; for women, 1 in 3! It breaks my heart! Someday, I will be a number in the stats.
I read on and on with so much self-consciousness of my own destiny. Men? 1 in 2? I counted those men drinking coffee groggily and chattily in the coffee shop. There were 14 of us men.( at least 7 women)..so, if the equation is right, 7 of us would not develop some type of cancer; and the other 7 would? Which group would I be? Nobody knows, I guess.
At first, I read the whole article with so much apprehension. Leisurely, I would admit as the stat would say that men have more chance to get cancer than women. I did read again as I got another coffee refill. And as I read those information given by the works of the dream cancer team funded by SU2C, I got inspired by the very germ and content of the article. Wow! The survival rate has gone up from 10.8 to 13.7. Even it is an American statistical data, it would be the same as the Canadian reality. What separates Canada and the USA in North America is the invisible border between these two countries. I said to myself, very promising. I did read slowly to understand every word in the article. Each word has become an additive to my negative attitude towards cancer care fund raising. The Time Magazine article touched my very sensitivity to the advancement of cancer research .This line touches my nerve: “Cancer is a thief and biological con artist, breaking into and taking control of the mechanism of a cell and coaxing it to grow and divide in dangerous ways.”
In addition to the inspiring facts, that in MD Anderson Cancer Centre, thru its president, Dr. Ronald DePinho, adopted a similar collaborative approach around what the world renowned institute call its “Moon Shot Programs,” assembling six multi-disciplinary groups to mount comprehensive attacks on eight cancers: lung, prostate, melanoma, breast, ovarian and three types of leukemia. And the attached price: $3 billion throwdown!
I read on and on until i have almost memorized the words, the facts and figures, the inspiring efforts of the cross-disciplinary and cross-institutional research teams. I am carried away by the progress of the research. I think of my wife, Linda…but my contentment followed as she said: “Dad, there is always a reason why it happens. God provides.”
And thinking of the probability of getting any type of cancer: 1 in every 2 men; and, 1 in 3 women, my goose bump raises and a feeling of cold snap; And with that $3 billion throwdown for cancer cure, my feeling of involvement is satiated!
Let us run for a cure!
(And if you want to read the article, please check the Time Magazine, April 1 edition. You will feel dignified and inspiringly engaged!)
Photo by Rod Cantiveros | Filipno Journal