If the pandemic has taught the world a lesson or two, it is the importance of cherishing the gift of good health, and enjoying life unrestricted. It has put things into perspective, and the fear of getting ill is even more realized. Indeed, the reality of COVID-19 terrified the world, but there are those who have lived a reality like this much longer– cancer warriors and survivors.
Marking this year’s World Lymphoma Awareness Day, the community comes together to honor and support cancer survivors, warriors and their families, and educate more people about Lymphoma.
Lymphoma is a cancer that starts in the immune system’s infection-fighting cells called lymphocytes. The lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, bone marrow, and other areas of the body contain these cells, and Lymphoma leads lymphocytes to change and increase out of control. Common symptoms include enlarged lymph nodes, chills, weight loss, fatigue– all of which are more likely to be caused by other conditions, such as an infection, which is why getting checked by a doctor is important for proper diagnosis.
It is one of the top 15 cancers in the Philippines, affecting around 11,000 Filipinos every year. Yet with lack of awareness, authorities estimate a larger number of patients that are left undiagnosed.
“Lymphoma exists”, Jeanne, a Lymphoma cancer survivor, stresses, “For someone who was diagnosed with Lymphoma and know nothing about the disease…if people knew more about this cancer that can actually affect even the younger ones, maybe we could have been more aware of our health (and) the symptoms that Lymphoma can do to our body.”
Such is the mission of Lymphoma Philippines, a non-profit organization for Lymphoma patients, survivors, and caregivers aiming to spread awareness on medically-approved Lymphoma-related campaigns in the country. The lack of information is what inspired cancer survivor Jheric Delos Angeles and his wife Anna Tapel-Delos Angeles to create a community of Filipino patients and their family members in order to educate more people and provide much needed support to those in need, including fighting for better healthcare.
Rhiz, a Lymphoma cancer patient, shares her experience living with the disease amidst the pandemic, “It’s very hard. The agony is double. During the pandemic, going to the hospital was difficult and scary for cancer patients like me. As it is, we cannot afford to get COVID.”
Christine, a Lymphoma patient caregiver, echoes Rhiz’s sentiments regarding hospital visits. On top of that, their income was cut off for a time during the lockdown and they had to rely on their savings to continue medication.
While Lymphoma is considered to be a curable cancer if diagnosed early, access to treatment is a challenge as costs related to the disease can range from one million pesos to three and a half million pesos depending on the hospital and treatment protocol.
Recognizing these challenges, Lymphoma Philippines hopes to continue spreading information and possibly save lives. As part of its efforts, the organization along with The Carewell Community Foundation, EPCALM, KAYA, and The Philippine Cancer Society, also in partnership with Takeda Healthcare Philippines, held a public online event to mark the World Lymphoma Awareness Day, and shared practical information beneficial to Filipino Lymphoma patients and their families. This includes:
- Mental wellness advice for patients and their loved ones
- A private Facebook group for patients and their loved ones where they can get information and support from each other
- Patient navigation that helps patients in their journey from diagnosis to post-treatment and connects them with the right agencies and groups
- Emotional support groups in partnership with Kanser sa Adolescents and Young Adults (KAYA) and The Carewell Community Foundation
- Social work services that can assist patients in their journey
“It is an unimaginably difficult journey for patients and their loved ones living with cancer. Having gone through it myself, a strong support system is crucial in the journey and we at Lymphoma Philippines are committed to lending help however possible,” says Lymphoma Philippines co-founder Jheric Delos Angeles.