Paul Perez is Convenor and Spokesperson of the Cancer Coalition of the Philippines (CCPh). CCPh is a partner institution of the Stratbase ADRi.
Beyond the alarming findings of numerous studies and statistics on the catastrophic effects of cancer, it is the countless, heart wrenching stories of the survivors, and there are many, that people must hear.
To understand the human dimensions and economic magnitude of a crisis, the best witness is always a survivor. This is an open message shared recently in social media by Jojo Flores, a cancer survivor and ally in the advocacy for a nationwide cancer control program for all Filipinos.
Open letter to Duterte on urgency of the Cancer Control Act
Dear President Duterte,
My name is Jojo Flores, 52 years old, Stage IV tongue cancer survivor for more than nine years now. I write this letter to you in behalf of all Filipino cancer survivors (newly diagnosed, ongoing treatment, and post treatment), their affected family members and loved ones and all cancer patient advocates. Our collective prayer and desire – spearheaded by the efforts of the Cancer Coalition Philippines – is for the speedy passage of the Cancer Control Act.
Here, Sir, is a short backgrounder of my medical situation: I worked in a multinational semiconductor manufacturing company for 25 years but left the corporate world in 2011. In March 2009, I underwent surgery – near total glossectomy – where I lost 90 percent of my tongue, permanently impairing my normal speech and forever altering my ability to ingest food. All my food intake since after surgery must only be pureed, I no longer have the ability to chew food and can now only swallow food. Apart from the said surgery, my treatment included six cycles of chemotherapy concurrent with 30 sessions of radiation therapy (done in June 2009). In October last year, I was diagnosed with osteoradionecrosis – bone tissue death where a significant portion of my left jaw bone had to be “scraped” to remove the decayed bone tissues. All my left lower teeth were removed in the process. I am scheduled for yet another surgery but this will be done after having gone first through hyperbaric oxygen therapy to improve the chances of success. Based on this narration, one can easily imagine the financial resources incurred (and will be needed) – all for the management of this cancer type and its side effects.
But the Cancer Control Act is not just about providing better financial aid to cancer survivors. It is a holistic legislation for the “comprehensive management” of a disease that is cancer – from public awareness; to early detection, screening and prevention; to actual medical treatments; to post treatment necessities such as accessible and affordable access medicines, and necessary nutritional needs; to establishment of accessible health centers nationwide; to updated and accurate national registry of patient records; to creation of more cancer support groups nationwide; to social protection of patients: particular to post treatment patients – how to reintegrate them into society and be productive citizens again, particular to being PWDs after treatment – providing the proper infrastructure and support for all types of resulting disabilities (as in my case with food ingestion issues now, where I cannot just go to any restaurant and eat as normal); to having more clinical trials & research with the aim of improving cancer treatments and quality of life of patients; etc.
May I add, Sir, that when you sign the Cancer Control Act into law, this will become a landmark health legislation is supported millions of cancer stakeholders and co-authored by a great majority of legislators from both Houses of Congress. A legislation that has broken the political lines and will benefit the poorest Filipinos. The Senate has approved the Committee report with the support of 16 Senators. In fact, the House Committee on Appropriations and Health has approved the amendments to the budget provisions and is supported by 200 congressmen! By your simple endorsement, you will achieve what many administrations have sadly neglected.
The urgency of this law is not just because of emotional sensitivities but is based on hard facts and realities of the economic catastrophe that strikes the families of 100,000 new cancer cases a year and the very alarming 60,000 cancer deaths which is 10 percent of the annual national death rate. The latest data shows that this is now the third highest killer and the figures are rising.
With God’s grace, I am past cancer treatment. My motivation for writing this letter to you, Sir, is not for myself, but for my fellow cancerites whom I fully empathize having gone through the similar crisis as they did. Neither is this about me, for in my heart I know that I am just a servant, an instrument whom He uses to achieve a specific purpose for His glory.
With your help, we can win the war against cancer. With your help thousands of Filipino lives will be saved to become productive citizens of our country.
Thank you for your time, Mr. President. May you be continued to be blessed with good health and wisdom.
Maraming Salamat po.
Leo “Jojo” Flores
Leo “Jojo” Flores is an active supporter of the Cancer Coalition of the Philippines. A tongue cancer survivor.
Image Source: philstar.com