This October, the PSU through the College of Nursing and Health Sciences is celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Month by hosting a cancer forum presided by one of the up and coming independent groups in Palawan today: the Palawan Cancer Support Group.

“Cancer is not a single disease with a single cause. Rather it is a group of diseases with different causes, a multifactorial phenomenon. Most cancers are preventable if they are detected early and if those factors that have caused them are avoided. Being part of the health community, we must be active in supporting this endeavor,” said CHMT Dean Sonia Ygloria in her opening message.

Her statement clearly set the tone for the afternoon event as guest speaker Mrs. Rebecca Arquero, president of the Palawan Cancer Support Group, herself a cancer patient, took to the podium to share her experiences with the audience.

“I paid the price for ignoring my disease and not giving it attention,” Mrs. Arquero bared.

She shared that several years ago, her massage therapist brought to her attention a lump that she had felt on her body in one of their massage sessions. She did not take this seriously and later on, it grew. Since she did not have the money to purchase prescribed medication, she treated herself with herbal medicines, thinking that this would cure her.

“It was a total of 6 years that I did this,” continued Mrs. Arquero, who is also the high school principal of the Immaculate Conception Parish Learning Center. “Eventually the tumor had already worsened. On April 5, of this year, my son carried me out of bed and brought me to the Ospital ng Palawan. I was not speaking and I was not eating anymore. That was the only time that I went to the doctor.”

Now she has vowed to promote cancer awareness so that she can help in guiding people not to commit the mistakes that she has humbly admitted to. After much introspection, Mrs. Arquero decided to form the PCSG. She was able to do this with the help of some very supportive people and other like-minded individuals that she encountered in her journey.

One of them is her eventual physician, Dr. Joseph Tovera, touted as the lone Medical Oncologist in Palawan. He was also at the event to share his expertise, not only regarding cancer as a health issue, but also regarding the cancer awareness advocacy that he, together with the PCSG is espousing.

“The physical, spiritual, medical, social and emotional aspects are the things that we need to be focusing on, not only financial support,” shared Dr. Tovera, clearly citing the often overlooked aspects of the cancer condition.

Speaking more in his capacity as a cancer awareness advocate he added, “Information dissemination, particularly of cancer, has been the challenge of many advocacies. It is very challenging because we aim to change the mindset and the culture and even the tradition, sometimes even religious beliefs which are walls that prevent us from bringing information to the public. Definitely the help of media will boost the awareness of the public.”

Asked for a message that he wishes to convey to his intended audience, he said, “If you only listen to the many words of cancer patients right now, they always say that if there is anything not normal that you notice in your body such as the presence of lumps, pain or change in color, then have yourself examined by a doctor. Do not think that it’s cancer right away because if you do, then that is where the fear comes in. All the more you will resist seeing a doctor. So the best thing to do is ask the doctor what is going on in your body. That is the attitude that we need to adapt.

“I always say that cancer is not only the disease of the patient but of the entire family and the community. Think of cancer patients who refuse to get treatment because of the lack of money or the absence of an immediate family. With the PCSG they can now identify with a group where they can belong. The PCSG is a family whose members are very aware of what is going on in an individual cancer patient with the same experiences and the same emotional pains they have.”

Such is the passion and the determination that Mrs. Arquero displays. Her health condition and her 35 years of service to the government have not been reasons to keep her from serving the community until now. Before she was diagnosed with cancer, she was also dealing with diabetes.

But with much fervor, she concluded, “In the end, somehow all these efforts that we have will make a difference.”