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This four-time cancer survivor never loses hope, so why would you?

By LAI S. REYES, The Philippine STAR Published Jul 05, 2022 5:00 am

Surviving cancer is anything but easy. Acing it once may be the toughest thing you’ll ever do. But for those who’ve done it multiple times, the battle never gets easier.

Take it from Jaymee Joaquin, a budding Filipina commercial model, blogger and podcaster (under the name Jamie Wins) based in San Diego, California. She has been fighting for freedom — from cancer — since 2017.

“I was showering when I felt a lump on my left breast,” she shares in a video message during MSD’s Women’s Cancers Summit held recently at Edsa Shangri-La Hotel. “So I went to have it checked and eventually got diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer.”

Jaymee spent the entire 2017 doing conventional treatments. She had chemotherapy, lumpectomy radiation, and hormone therapy.

“I was in remission for a year and a half. But in 2018, the cancer came back,” relates Jaymee, who’s cheated cancer a total of four times.

Though the battle never gets easier for cancer patients (and survivors), losing hope should never be on the vocabulary.

Since then, Jaymee has been on continuous active treatment, because every time the cancer would progress, she has to switch to a different treatment.

“I have been in that hamster wheel,” she adds. “The journey has been very challenging and hard. But luckily, I’m still here fighting for dear life.”

And yes, to relish the freedom from cancer.

‘Kalayaan ng kababaihan mula sa kanser’

Just like Jaymee, Filipino women have a long history of fighting for freedom — freedom of speech, freedom of suffrage, and equal rights.

However, as long as diseases like cancer can take hold of their lives, they are at its mercy and yes, not completely free.

In fact, breast cancer and cervical cancers are among the most common and most fatal cancers in women.

Jaymee Joaquin, a budding Filipina commercial model, blogger and podcaster, is still on active treatment.

In 2020 alone, more than 10,000 Filipinas died of breast cancer and more than 4,000 lost their battle with cervical cancer. And that’s the reason why Hope from Within, a multi-stakeholder cancer advocacy spearheaded by MSD in the Philippines, organized the “Kalayaan ng Kababaihan Mula sa Kanser” Women’s Cancers Summit.

It is aimed at bringing attention to the plight of women afflicted with cancer, empower them, and amplify their voices as they battle the diseases head-on. 

With the passage of the National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA) in 2019, the government can strengthen cancer control in the country, increase cancer survivorship, and reduce the burden on families and cancer patients.

The event was hosted by TikTok content creator Ayn Bernos, who had a cancer scare last year.

“Early this year, I had my biopsy surgery, which thankfully, turned out to be benign,” relates Ayn. “But it took me five years of worrying about my health. It took me five years before I finally took the step to figure out what was happening to me.”

During the summit, Jaymee and Ayn gave voice to the concerns, fears, and hopes of Filipina women who have sought liberation from these illnesses.

Ayn Bernos, TikTok content creator, had a cancer scare last year.

“Cancer changed my life in a very, very complicated way,” adds Jaymee. “It has its good and bad side.”

According to Jaymee, the good things are all about living life to the fullest.

“Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I was very petty. I was never content. It took so much for me to be happy,” she says. “But now, simple things make me happy, like waking up alive and functional.”

The bad side?

“I’m constantly scared of little things. I can’t help but feel anxious about the unpredictability of my health, my mortality. All of these things haunt you,” adds Jaymee, who utilizes the power of social media to spread awareness on breast cancer.

Understanding triple-negative breast cancer

According to medical oncologist Dr. Josephine Tolentino, there are many types of breast cancer, one of which is triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC).

“It is considered an aggressive cancer because it grows quickly, is more likely to have spread at the time it’s found, and is more likely to come back after treatment,” Dr. Tolentino explains. “This cancer tends to be more common in women younger than age 40.”

Dr. Josephine Tolentino

When asked what are the signs women should look out for, Dr. Tolentino replies: “The most common sign is a breast lump. It can be painful or not, but most of the time it’s not.”

Most of the time when a patient notices a lump, she would consult her primary-care physician to assess her condition.

“Now, if it is, indeed, cancer, the patient needs a multidisciplinary team, which consists of medical experts, to manage the disease,” explains Dr. Tolentino. “In treating cancer, there’s no one doctor who knows everything. It takes a village to create the best treatment plan for a patient.”

There are various treatment options for TNBC. The general treatments for anyone who has cancer are surgery, radiation therapy and systemic therapy.

“Under systemic therapy, there’s hormonal therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy. These treatments promise better outcomes,” adds Dr. Tolentino.

Sadly, these treatments don’t come cheap. And so, aside from the physical and psychological burden of having the Big C, financial toxicity is also a big issue.

Providing healthcare access to Filipinos

Equitable access to quality cancer care has been the dream of cancer patients like Jaymee, survivors, and their families.

With the passage of the National Integrated Cancer Control Act (NICCA) in 2019, the government can strengthen cancer control in the country, increase cancer survivorship, and reduce the burden on families and cancer patients.

“The NICCA is a good way to start improving the cancer situation in the country, because we all know that it’s not at par compared to first-world countries,” says Jaymee. “I experienced that (cancer) progression when I was in the Philippines.”

This landmark health legislation was designed to provide cancer patients with quality healthcare services, increase access to innovative treatment options, and provide their families with financial risk protection, among other cancer-relevant items.

“This act will definitely improve the cancer situation in the country. So I really hope that NICCA will come to fruition,” notes Jaymee. “If you guys want to make this happen, please sign the petition.”

To all the cancer patients and their carers, stay resilient, faithful and patient.

“And know that better days are just around the corner,” Jaymee adds.


Make your signature matter. Sign the petition by visiting this link.