Cancer care for all | Inquirer Opinion
At Large

Cancer care for all

/ 05:04 AM February 06, 2019

All lives matter” is the booming clarion call of the Cancer Coalition Philippines, a consortium of cancer support and advocacy groups that recently successfully lobbied both houses of Congress to pass the cancer bill strengthening government and private response to cancer treatment and prevention.

A corollary motto might also be “no one left behind,” assuring resources and efforts to every Filipino struggling with cancer regardless of “cancer stage, age, gender and ethnicity.”


Recently, local government representatives from Malabon, Muntinlupa, Marikina and Taguig issued a statement calling on the Department of Health, PhilHealth, other government agencies as well as other local government units and civil society to “transform and create breast cancer-initiated programs and services responsive to the needs of patients living with all stages of breast cancer.”

Kara Magsanoc Alikpala, one of the founders of “ICanServe,” a cancer care organization, explained that in the view of many caregivers (including cancer specialists), public officials and the public at large, time, effort and resources are simply “wasted” on those with advanced metastatic breast cancer since “they are going to die anyway.” This may explain why “existing government programs focus mainly on treatment assistance for early stage breast cancer.”


But with today’s medical advances, metastatic breast cancer is now treatable and survivors can still pursue quality lives. Or as Alikpala put it: “They may no longer be cured, but they can still survive and accomplish a lot.” Their hope is that, soon, cancer even in its advanced stage will be considered as just another chronic disease.

One of the “tried-and-tested” approaches to the care and comforting of people with breast cancer, as the local government health providers testified at a recent gathering, is “Patient Navigation.” This is a program where outreach workers partner with patients in seeking diagnosis and treatment, accompanying them through the complicated processes of applying for government support and exploring all modes of treatment.

Equally valid and urgent, said Carmen Auste of the UICC, or the Union of International Cancer Control, is providing emotional and social support, since cancer is a tremendously isolating experience. Patients must often reconcile themselves to “seeing pain as part of the cancer experience,” while believing that there is hope beyond one’s initial fears and apprehensions.

Also, a part of the response that it is hoped will be pursued through the cancer bill is the institutionalization of palliative care, helping patients manage pain and disabilities while sustaining and maximizing the time they have left on earth.

* * *

My “semi” millennial daughter claims I “guilt-tripped” her into watching “Eto na Musikal nAPO!” which is starting its rerun after a successful inaugural season last year.

But she acknowledged that, despite her misgivings, she did enjoy herself. And me? Let me quote my cousin Nito Braganza who, when I asked if he enjoyed the experience, remarked: “Of course! This was part of our growing-up years!”


You might say the musical replayed the soundtrack of our youth, when OPM was a fairly new development in the pop music scene, and the APO were the youthful idols who spoke to our hearts and times. Just seeing the bell-bottom jeans and multicolored minis was an exercise in dreamy nostalgia. While watching the emergence of social awareness among a generation spooked by military violence and an emerging insurgency raked up painful memories.

Director-writer Robbie Guevara captures the zeitgeist uncannily, capturing the goldfish bowl-seeming life in an elite campus where romantic troubles and parental conflict play out against the backdrop of martial law. And, of course, the APO’s songs provide the musical background, speaking of generational angst and the youth’s search for meaning.

That things change and politics would intrude into the once-solid bond of this musical trio is something we of their generation (or thereabouts) know. But it’s still valuable to know how the APO emerged from its campus-based beginnings and struck out into the wider world, changing that world at that time and making their mark.

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TAGS: Apo Hiking Society, At Large, cancer care, Eto na Musikal nAPO!, ICanServe, Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala, Rina David
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