Together with H, I accompanied my mom and her friend [who’s my close friend’s mother] to the 3rd Silver Linings held at Grand Regal Hotel, Davao City. This event, which was organized by icanserve foundation, is held every three years, gathering [breast] cancer patients, survivors and their families and friends. It’s regarded as a homecoming, where the breast sisters and their families come as one to support each other and to empower themselves how to cope and fight the blasted disease.
It is funny that three years ago, in Cebu City where the 2nd Silver Linings was held, my mom and her friend were there as newbies, still afraid and maybe even depressed why the big C has cruelly crept into their lives. Back then, I remember the reassuring feeling, to be overwhelmed by a thousand people who sympathized with us, and cheered the victims and survivors and their families to continue on.
This time, all of us in our small delegation were in happy spirits. My mom was glad that this time, she was attending lectures tailored for the needs of the survivors and not for those who are first timers and still undergoing treatment. My mother is on her last eight months until she officially earns the title, Cancer Survivor.
All of us attended the opening plenary where Ms. Loren Legarda also shared her experience of cancer when it hit her mother in the mid 1990s. Dawn Zulueta was also there to welcome us in Davao as she is also an advocate of breast cancer awareness.
After the morning plenary, the crowd broke into several groups to attend the simultaneous various lectures suited for the different needs of the participants. Since my mother was nearing her graduation, she attended “What to Expect Beyond Five Years of Cancer Remission”. It was hosted by Twink Macaraig, also a breast cancer survivor and the lecturer was Dr. Francis Lopez. My mom’s breast friend, who’s on her third year, attended “Cancer Causing Foods” hosted by Ms. Maritoni Fernandez. The lecture was given by my mom’s and her friend’s oncologist from Cebu City, Dr. Dennis Tudtud. H also attended this session as he was curious which foods to avoid henceforth. I attended “Exercise to Strengthen Bone Health” given by Ms. Tina Aboitiz-Juan. I chose to listen to this because ultimately, those breast cancer medicines destroy the bones and I want to gain knowledge on how to strengthen the bones since my mother is already suffering the ill effects of her cancer medicine now.
I’ve seen Ms. Tina Juan on TV when she had a segment in a daily morning show before. Before she started with her lecture, we moved around and did some light dancing, hehehe. She shared to us that she was invited at the 2nd Silver Linings but she had to refuse because that time, she was taking care of her mother who had cancer. She continued further that one year after her mother died, it was her father who got stricken with the disease again and that he also died.
Ms. Juan’s lecture was so interesting. Did you know that it’s not a given that if one ages, he’ll definitely have weak bones and had to slow down his movements? Ms. Juan said, we only become like that if we neglect our bone health. She informed us that everyday, our bones are developing and making new ones. However, when we neglect using our bones, we lose them. I thought all the while that it was normal to have lesser density in the bones as one grows old, but Ms. Juan says that’s false. It usually loses density because we fail to stimulate the bone to create more density. How do we stimulate the bones to continue making bones/density for us? We need to stress the bones. Being idle, just sitting down does nothing to the bones. Even leisure walking does not count. What then? Running, Jogging. But, if we only do these two, it only stimulates the bones in the legs and the knees. What about the spine and the hips which are the most important? Jumping rope for 15 minutes a day three times a week is enough to stimulate the bones. Doing Jumping Jacks for ten minutes daily will also do the trick. Or, jumping from the chair [or others] to the ground only ten times a day helps a lot. To stimulate the arms, you can do boxing [Ms. Tina says the bones of Manny in the arms are truly strong because they’re stimulated so much]. We can also lift weights. For the back and the hips, the simple push ups will do it. I’m not yet forty, so I guess it’s not too late to stimulate my bones to produce more density. Doing aqua exercises will also give the bones the stress they need to stimulate them.
After lunch, we had several lectures to choose from, namely, “Breast Cancer 101” by Dr. Mark Kho, hosted by Bibeth Orteza, “Look Good, Feel Good” by models Patty Betita [breast cancer survivor] and Lourdes Pareja, “Stories That Heal” by Dr. Honey Abarquez, hosted by Maritoni Fernandez, “How Husbands Cope”by Bobbit Suntay and Jim Paredes, hosted by Chiqui Roa, and “Eating Right During Cancer Treatment” by Dr. Romulo De Villa, hosted by Karen Davila [I didn’t see her]. The three of us ladies were in unison to attend “Look Good, Feel Good” because the other topics no longer apply to my mom and her friend.
“Look Good, Feel Good” was actually a make up session, which I also enjoyed because I’m not really skilled to put my own make up. Model and cancer survivor Patty Betita, the host, shared her story first before she introduced her co-model and friend, Lourdes Pareja, to us. Ms. Pareja has now shifted to being a make up artist after her modelling stint in the early nineties. She said there are two things make up can do to you— make you beautiful or make you ugly, hahaha. There was a volunteer who was made up by Ms. Pareja and truly, make up in her case made her beautiful. While us girls were immensely engrossed in the make up session, H was intently listening to Dr. Romulo De Villa’s lecture on “Eating Right During Cancer Treatments”. He said the lecture was very informative.
After the lecture on looking good, we proceeded to “Stress: Disease and Weight Gain” where us and H were reunited, hahaha. The session was hosted by Ms. Melissa De Leon and our resource speaker was Ms. Nadine Tengco. I think a lot knows her from our ongoing national show “The Biggest Loser”. She is the dietician/nutritionist in that show.
What gainful new information did I learn from the lectures? Well, apart from bone health, and the make up lecture, Ms. Nadine Tengco’s topic was very helpful to help me understand how stress messes our body to our detriment. She said our body does not know how to read whether the stress is emotional, mental, physical – the body simply reads it as stress. What does it do? It causes the body to release some hormones which are supposed to help us, but then, the body reverses it that it’s not doing the job anymore. It causes blood sugar to elevate, blood pressure to rise, and even open the floodgates of our brain to turn on our appetite so that we eat and eat and eat non stop. If we starve our body because of our crash course diets, the body feels threatened that it won’t let go of our fat and refuses to burn them and instead keeps on reserving fat, fat, fat. That’s why in some cases, even if we’re no longer eating, we gain weight. Ms. Nadine enumerated foods to fight stress. I don’t remember them all, but they’re mostly fruits and vegetables. She also tackled some interesting issues on specific foods which are marketed as ‘healthy’ but which aren’t really. I don’t want to mention the names because… I don’t want to destroy any of them, I might get sued, lol. Ms. Nadine said it’s not enough to know what food we’re taking, but it’s more on ‘how much’ we’re taking. Ms. Nadine said the body only needs just enough to survive, however, if it doesn’t get what it needs, it compromises it’s available resources just to survive… like if we starve our bodies to grow thinner, our bodies will convert our muscles to fat because it’s afraid it won’t have enough energy to supply our bodies.
Another thing my mom, her friend and H learned and relayed to me was that when we eat, it should be in this order: vegetables first, then fruits, then protein and lastly, carbohydrates. The lecturer in my mom’s “What to Expect Beyond Five Years of Remission” told them this. Her friend’s and H’s lecturer in “Cancer Causing Foods” told them the same thing. The lecturer in “Eating Right During Cancer Treatments” also said this. Unfortunately, none of them could remember the reason for this, lol. I wasn’t in any of the lectures, so I can only nod to them, hahaha. The three of them have started to observe this order of eating, but I don’t think I can follow anytime soon. How am I supposed to eat my rice last? I’d rather not eat rice at all. I mean, it would taste weird to eat rice alone.
All day long there were free breast examinations for any interested participant. Too bad, I chickened out and did not avail of it… well, the lines were kilometers long, lol.
The simultaneous lectures ended around 5:00 PM and we all went back to the main hall for the Closing Plenary. This time, we listened to the Stories of Hope of the cancer survivors: Singer Chad Borja, Writer Ceres Doyo, Director Olive Lamasan, Melina Avila, Anelle Forbes, Susanna George and Uka Norodin [male breast cancer patient]. I am so sorry that during the testimony of Uka Norodin, I could no longer sit still because I got so tired already that I went back to my room in the same hotel and missed Mr. Jim Paredes testify his experience when his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and Singer Bituin Escalante who rendered a finale number.
Just like the first one that we attended, this year’s Silver Linings was indeed fruitful and a good source of helpful information that not only the victims and survivors of cancer can use, but also their families and even the public at large. Thank you so much to icanservefoundation headed by Ms. Kara Magsanoc – Alikpala, founding president, who is also a breast cancer survivor.
God bless all of you who made this event possible. By God’s grace, we’ll be back to attend the next one. After three years, both my mom and her friend will be certified cancer survivors.