My mother and I attended the Silver Linings Homecoming for Breast Cancer Survivors (and their families and friends) and An Educational Forum last September 6, 2008 at Cebu Waterfront Hotel. The first Silver Linings was held in Manila three years ago.
I could not exactly describe the magical experience I felt to be there. Even in the airport on the way to Cebu, I was already happy and excited for my mom who chatted cheerfully with her breast friends who were also attending the seminar. They were sharing their terrifying experiences , which now, they merely shrugged with laughter – as if they did not cry a river of tears upon diagnosis.
More than one thousand two hundred cancer survivors and their families attended the affair. There was a different feeling in the air. While people did not know each other, cancer survivors (as well as their families) shared an instant bond at first sight. It was like belonging to a sorrority or an exclusive organization where one needs no words to understand each other. Everyone readily opened up with each other despite meeting only for the first time. When some of the survivor speakers cry in their testimonies upon remembering what they had gone through to be alive, the rest of the survivors in the audience join them in silent tears, i know they were also remembering what it was like for them. I could not also hold back my tears when they mentioned how sorry they were to their families for causing them to suffer too and how thankful they were for all the love and care their families and friends showered them. I identified what their families might have felt. I identified what their friends have felt. I went through it all too – the scare, the fear, the pain. It was amazing to see all of the participants with the same fears, with the same triumphs, with the same hope and prayers. The survivors gained support from each other just by being there.
Silver Linings was an eye opener for me. I realized that my family was not the only one who went through such ordeal and we are not alone in this battle. There are others who are also taking the path we are walking. I became conscious of the fact that cancer strikes anywhere, without discrimination in terms of age, status in life – the old, the young, the poor and the rich. Even gender – there were a few male breast cancer survivors there too. I saw others in worser situation than we were in. My mom saw for herself how “lucky” she had been to have the disease at this stage of her life – many of her breast sisters there were at the prime of their lives, like my age, some younger than me, with very young children to leave behind (if ever).
It was wise of the Icanserve foundation (the organizer) to invite the survivors’ blood relatives in the affair. Especially the females in the family. With the carcinogenic bloodline, it was a wake up call to grasp the harsh reality that somewhere in the future, the same fate might be paved for us. The whole day was so short for the educational inputs I learned from the speakers. I would have wanted to listen to all of the lectures but they were held simultaneously in different rooms to cater to the different needs of the participants – from Breast Cancer 101 to When Cancer Returns to even How Husbands Cope and the free consultations, free breast examinations. For lack of time, my mom and I, and her friends too, agreed to attend different topics separately so that we can share with each other after. I attended the Juicing, Eating Right During and After Treatment, and Healing Through Music, Sound and Movement Therapy.
I heartily thank my mom’s surgical oncologist, Dr. Mateo V. Tipgos for his invitation and for going out of his way to have us join the affair. He was also there to support his patients as well as the rest of the medical profession involved in taking care of breast cancer patients. God bless you Doc!
Allow me to share the horrifying facts I learned during the forum:
1. In Asia, Philippines ranks number one in breast cancer as leading cause of death of women. I did not know this. My mouth practically hang when I heard this.
2. To stop eating pork (and all pork products) and crabs, shells and shrimp — they are the dirtiest food of all. Imagine what the pig eats. Imagine what the crabs, shells and shrimp eat in the bottom of the river, pond, etc. And we end up eating it all too.
3. To stop eating FRIED foods. Even with the most expensive cooking oil, when oil is heated at least 38’C, lipid peroxide is formed and we eat it too. Do you eat / drink the peroxide?
4. To stop eating BAKED foods. Acrylamide is formed when food is baked.
5. The safest foods to eat are those cooked through boiling and steaming and especially raw.
6. Chicken is good – but make sure its “bisaya” not those fed with feeds.
7. White rice is a total no-no. It has something to do with the fertilizers.
8. Eat cancer fighting foods: broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, carrots, ginger, green tea, and full cream milk (made in Australia and New Zealand only – the cows there are grass fed. Those made in Europe and the US apparently feed the cows with feeds).
9. Beef, although to be eaten moderately, is still better than pork. There is more fat content of pork than beef.
10. Cut sugar intake – sugar feeds the cancer cells and makes them grow more aggressively. It works as their nutrition, or vitamins.
11. Stay fit and exercise to get rid of the body fat – the fat cells protect/shield the cancer cells from the cancer fighting food and medicines we take.
12. Drink Vitamin C.
13. And the most dreadfu fact I learned is – In cancer, once you are in, there is no going out. It will always come back.
On better note, I have to agree with the common cry of the survivors that cancer is by far the worst and best thing they had encountered in their lives. It was the worst thing considering the pain and fear they underwent during their treatment. It was the best thing too – because they have never felt more loved than before, they have never felt so alive, they have never been more closer to God. Amen to that. Fighting!