IT was a graduation like no other. The young graduates, no more than 17 years old, had masks on. Instead of togas, they wore caps to cover their chemo-caused baldness. And they were rejoicing not a new phase in education, but the priceless extension to their cancer-scarred lives.
In a project of the Cancer Treatment and Support Foundation (CTSFI), children with cancer who finished treatment at the National Children’s Hospital had a heartwarming graduation ceremony yesterday.
The Hematology Oncology Graduation Ceremony was attended by 14 out of 20 patients who have completed their rigorous treatment.
The event started with an invocation led by Dr. Kian Rubiano, resident in paediatrics, and welcome remarks by Dra. Cecilia Dizon, pediatrician.
Guest speaker Jowielyn Labris Tejol, 29, bared that she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia at 16. She revealed that she almost gave up and that she overcame the disease after three years of medication.
Patients who are still undergoing treatment also attended the unique graduation ceremony.
Dra. Amy Dy, Executive Director of CTSFI, gave a message of gratitude not just to the people who made the event possible but also to the parents who helped their children battle cancer.
“’Yung mga magulang po, maraming, maraming salamat sa inyong pagmamahal. Ramdam po namin kung ano ang pinagdadaanan niyo. Kaya maraming salamat sa pagmamahal, pag-aaruga at pagsuporta sa inyong mga anak sa kanilang karamdaman,” Dra. Dy said.
The momentous occasion, Dra. Dy added, aimed to raise awareness on cancer and the importance of early treatment.
Dra. Dy stressed on how self-medication can worsen the disease. She also cited the need for awareness on early warning signs of cancer.
“First, kulani, lumalaki. Ginagamot ng antibiotic pero kadalasan, lalong lumalaki. Kung namumutla or namamasa-masa, baka leukemia. ’Yung fever na hindi nawawala, kadalasan nireresetahan ng antibiotics, I mean that’s wrong, we shouldn’t give antibiotics to many of the children,” she said.
“Napakadaling mag-reseta ng antibiotics. So halimbawa kung ang lagnat, nakadalawang antibiotics na siya, nand’yan pa rin, ’di nawawala, you have to look for other symptoms also. Baka leukemia rin ’yun or lymphoma,” she added.
Dra. Dy also revealed that the case becomes more complicated if the patients seek doctor’s help only when it is too late. She expressed hope that non-medical people would also be educated about cancer.
“Una, maging aware ang mga tao na nagkaka-cancer ang mga bata. Two, I don’t think we are successful yet of educating the public on the early signs. How do we empower non-medical people to recognize it,” she said.
The Cancer Treatment and Support Foundation provides medical assistance to indigent cancer patients and also helps educate patients and their families about cancer.
The graduation ceremony is under the You can hug me and they are hoping to continue this event. They have a regular program called Giving Joy to Children.