Sai Belloan, a young lady aged 21, is one of those souls I happened to meet by serendipity in the virtual world of Facebook. A twist of fate, I would like to call it that way.
If you check out her FB profile she would strike you as just another normal young woman who likes Games of Throne and, most likely, has a crush on Kit Harrington (lol, now, who wouldn’t anyway?); dogs; Justin Bieber (oh go and love yourself); Friends (again, who wouldn’t?); and must have, once recently, fall madly in love with K-Drama (Korean drama TV series) and the Ken-doll like Korean actors. Pretty much like everyone in her age in this country, I bet.
She is blessed with a lovely face and a lovely family. She is the youngest of two siblings borne from a family who earns their living from manufacturing shoes and bags. She was, therefore, living a normal and comfortable life until this huge challenge came along in her life at the age of 15.
She was afflicted with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The Mayo clinic described it as: “a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is part of your immune system. In Hodgkin’s lymphoma, cells in the lymphatic system grow abnormally and may spread beyond the lymphatic system. As Hodgkin’s lymphoma progresses, it compromises your body’s ability to fight infection.” Its symptoms include fever, night sweats and weight loss and oftentimes, the presence of a non-painful enlarged lymph nodes in the neck, under the arm or in the groin area. Feeling tired and itchiness may be felt by those affected with this type.
In Sai’s case, the symptoms consisted of itchy skin, persistent dry cough for 3 months (the phlegm was laced with blood in the latter stage), fatigue and a lump in her neck that was biopsied (via sample taken thru needle-aspiration) but with negative result. However, after surgery and another biopsy, the lump turned out as positive. She went through a treatment consisting of 4 cycles of chemotheraphy. Note that HL type of cancer has a high survival rate especially in the case of young patients. She recovered and was cancer-free for the next 4 years. She graduated valedictorian from high school and went to University of Sto. Tomas to study BS Finance. She was enjoying a carefree life like any teenager…but, BOOM! Just like that, cancer re-appeared.
Everyone had, one time or another, a brush with pain and sorrow. We all learn to deal with it, let go and then move on. However, nothing will ever prepare for anyone to have another tryst with the same demon. That would be devastating to say the least. You already looked this devil in its eyes. You weathered the storm…and yet, it is back. Staring you in the face.
Initially, Sai worried that she might undergo stem-cell-transplant, a treatment that is being touted as highly effective in treating cancer cases (I have different un-expert opinion on this matter but it is irrelevant to discuss it here so let us save that for another day) but it is quite expensive in the Philippines (approximately $50,000 or more). Fortunately (financially speaking), her doctors put her under the first-line-of-defense treatment which means she had to undergo 6 cycles of chemotheraphy to get rid of the cancer cells.
A trip to the hospital for each cycle which is equivalent to 2 sessions is a “trip to hell” according to Sai. She was in constant pain. What with being poked by needles so many times to insert the IV-line…when a battered vein refused to take in the meds, they will simply poke another one to go on with the treatment. I will never understand how a 21-year old was able to handle all that. But she did. After each session, she would hurt from the side effects of chemotherapy: bone/muscle/body pains, shortness of breath and soreness of veins. Alongside with that, she had suffered “moon face” (steroids side effect), uncontrolled eating and insomnia. But, thanks to God, she is, again, in remission – free from cancer once more.
Now, why the heck am I writing this story? Well, people, cancer is not just like having a flu, recovering from it, then going back to your routine. NOT AT ALL. Sai was in college when her HL cancer recurred. She was building her dreams…looking forward to finishing school because she remembered how happy and proud her parents were when her older sister graduated from the university. She wanted to make them proud of her also. A typical dream of a child who dreamed of somehow paying back their folks’ sacrifices. She hoped to get ahead in life as that is what we were raised to do. One has to make a place under the sun. Cancer provided her a choice-less choice but to quit school.
She is cured, yes…still, she lives life with Damocles sword over her head afraid that the cancer may recur a third time. She is scared of having dreams for herself again because one day she might wake up losing them once more. She worried about her parents because they are getting old and she would not like to see them earning and putting up money for her treatment. She posted a long recount of her cancer tale on 22 July 2017 putting up a brave face against this odd…what she did not tell you much about is that she lives everyday like someone near a cliff…anxious, frightened to fall in that abyss.
Cancer changes a person. It makes you brave because you have no other recourse but to embrace courage. It makes you treasure life more because you have tasted what it is to almost lose it. It makes you cherish the people in your life because you are not sure how long is your time to share and spend with them. Nonetheless, at the same time, you always live with fear…less for yourself but more for the people you love and might leave behind. It is a harrowing tale that will continue to unfold every day of her life. It will take a very long while for her body to completely recover and regain back its maximum health…it will probably take double that time for Sai to be completely confident that things will be really okay.
She is thankful for the friendships she gained (strangers and otherwise) while she has been going through this challenge. Misery loves company, true. It may be “misery” but, from there, compassion and love bloom that only show our humanity in the face of adversity.
Right now, she is taking her time to recover. She would have wanted to go back to school right away to avoid the additional two years (thus, additional expenses) she may incur as a result of the implementation of K-12 Program in the Philippines. However, I tried to reason out with her that there are more important things other than college education…and that, at this time, priority should be given to her health; it, being given back to her for yet another chance. I love to mention here that Sai learned watercolor drawing by herself from the YouTube University (pun intended) while she was sick. When I asked her the other day what is she keeping herself busy with, she said: “Painting my bedroom.” Oh, the kid must be doing a Michelangelo on her ceiling, who knows?
She also continue to share stories of her friends that are still battling with cancer and seeking financial assistance in the hope that by sharing their posts she might be able to help find a charitable soul who may be willing to extend help. She established a Facebook group for HL and non-HL cancer patients which you can find through this link https://m.facebook.com/groups/1465490123521821.
Lastly, Sai never lost her faith that God is there for her and her family.
My goal in writing her story is not to educate you about cancer. Google can provide you with tons of information if you would like to read about it…neither am I seeking pity and consolation from you although understanding and compassion is very much welcome. If you are reading this, I am knocking at the door of love and kindness that reside in your heart, please hear my prayers:
1) I am begging you to show support to people who are suffering from cancer by sharing their stories especially those who are in need of financial assistance…that is the least we can do. By doing such, perhaps our efforts might lead to someone who has the means to help. It is shooting in the dark, yes, but who knows an arrow might find its way to the right heart.
2) If the cancer-patient is selling items to raise the money required for their treatment, we can either patronize his/her product or, again, help in the selling campaign (I do not have to remind you, though, to check authenticity of any such campaign before diving into it…Heaven knows how the Internet works these days).
3) If you have the financial means, kindly donate to their Go-Fund-Me
4) If none at all, sincere prayers will do. Humans are beings made of energy. Prayers are energy. You get the picture.
Having said that, please start with Ramon Christopher “Casi” Ramos Burgos. He is Sai’s friend…another soul suffering from non-HL cancer that she happened to befriend in the cancer community. Originally, we intended to write a story for Casi but he has been confined in the hospital and not available to provide details that we need. By sharing Sai’s story, you will be sharing Casi’s battle with cancer as well. If you are able, please check his Go-Fund-Me at https://www.gofundme.com/2ce3sqdw. Your financial help, whatever the amount, will be most appreciated.
Or, if you are interested in ordering cancer-awareness t-shirts, you can check this link to place your order https://www.facebook.com/iamcasimon/posts/1592362204139378.
PLEASE, I BEG YOU…share Sai’s story (and by that, sharing Casi’s plea) or kindly re-post Casi’s Go-Fund-Me link or help him raise the US$50,000 (it only has $500 so far, a loooooong way to go) by promoting the sale of his t-shirts. A simple click, a simple share is all we are asking from you. Maybe somehow, somewhere it would get result.