Battling breast cancer is tough, but these women proved that they are tougher.
Breast cancer is one of the most common diseases for women. In the Philippines alone, there are over 20,000 cases reported every year. Despite it being a cruel disease to deal with, many success stories have been made with the help of advanced technologies, and most especially with early detection.
From diagnosis to undergoing treatment, battling against this disease is undeniably physically and mentally draining, but these Filipina celebrities and personalities who braved the grueling journey proved that they are much stronger.
This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, let their stories remind you that surviving such a disease is very much possible; including how important it is to invest in self-love while also remembering that no matter how tough the battle is, you are not alone in this fight.
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Vicki Belo first opened up about her battle with breast cancer during her interview in NET25’s Korina Interviews in 2022. In 2016, the celebrity doctor-entrepreneur was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. She said she had to lay low for about two years to undergo treatment in Europe.
“I went to Europe, and I was told by them [doctors] there that I was going to die. 'Don’t bother to have chemo, don’t bother—just fix your affairs, you’re dead in two years,’” she recounted.
Despite being told the worst-case scenario, Vicki didn’t lose hope and decided to go to New York to meet a Presbyterian, recounting how they “wouldn’t give [her] anything.”
“So, what are my chances?’ and they [the doctors] were very quiet. ’We’ll try our best,'” she recalled.
Amid living with uncertainty due to her disease, Vicki also dealt with other significant events in that same year, including her daughter Cristalle’s wedding and the passing of her mom. She was also able to accommodate an interview at that time, where she recalled how worried she was seeing her hair falling on the floor.
Vicki overcame her breast cancer and has been enjoying her life to the fullest since then. She credits her daughter, Scarlett, for giving her the strength to fight through her illness.
“The number one secret is Scarlet…. I wanna be with her. I don’t wanna leave her so young. I kept praying, ‘Lord, please give me time,’” she shared.
She remains one of the biggest names in the beauty industry with her pioneer company, Belo Medical Group, while also enjoying marriage life with Dr. Hayden Kho.
Maritoni Fernandez found out she had 2a breast cancer in 2001 right after she gave birth to her daughter, Lexi.
Recounting the event during her interview with Toni Gonzaga in March 2023, the actress-entrepreneur revealed that she first found a lump on her right breast during one of her post-natal checkups. She initially didn’t worry about it that much for five years, until its removal at age 31.
While caring for her hospitalized mother, Maritoni decided to undergo tests "out of boredom." She was focused on her mother's recovery and her career at the time, so she waited until she was in the US to review the results.
The next day, she underwent an open biopsy, which revealed that the tumor was malignant. It was immediately removed, and Maritoni underwent further testing.
In the same interview, she recalled how hard it was undergoing chemo, while also making sure to comfort her worried daughter at the time.
Now, Maritoni has been cancer-free for 22 years. As seen in her Instagram updates, she also makes sure to do regular checkups while practicing a healthy and active lifestyle, managing her flourishing herbal business, while also enjoying life with family. Early in April this year, she celebrated Lexi’s engagement with her non-showbiz partner.
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Actress Jaymee Joaquin was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 and had four recurrences in the span of five years.
After she left the local showbiz industry, Jaymee went abroad to pursue different careers before finding her purpose. In the process, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Despite the journey being unfortunate, Jaymee used it as her drive to further thrive, helping not only herself but also empowering other people with the same condition.
Now a podcaster, blogger, and author, she is better known as “Jaymee Wins” in the U.S.
She now has a self-published book dubbed, That Sh*t Called Cancer, which tells her journey on how she won and has been winning in life despite the disease in aiming to extend support and spark inspiration and empowerment to other people who are also in their battle against the disease.
Since 2005, Glenda Garcia has been active in the Philippine Foundation for Breast Care (Kasuso Foundation) to extend her support to breast cancer patients by giving counseling, but she didn’t expect to go through the same battle until her stage 2 diagnosis in 2013.
In her 2013 interview in Startalk, the actress shared that after she noticed a lump on her breast, she initially believed that it was benign, so she was shocked to learn that it was an invasive carcinoma.
She underwent chemotherapy and had her breasts removed. During her treatment, she continued to shoot scenes for her teleserye, Akin Pa Rin Ang Bukas starring Lovi Poe.
As seen in her social media pages, Glenda continues to enjoy a cancer-free life while practicing an active lifestyle, like playing tennis. In her interview with entertainment portal PEP.ph in 2021, she shared that she has been doing regular checkups, such as breast MRI, bone scan, transvaginal, and blood tests, among others.
She is also active with doing TV shows on her home network GMA 7, some of her latest projects were The Cure, First Yaya and its sequel First Lady, and Nakarehas na Puso.
Dr. Gia Sison
Dr. Gia Sison is notably known in social media as a mental health advocate, but she also became a patient herself after she was diagnosed with stage 2a breast cancer in 2013.
“I know that time na it was bad; wala siyang shape, fixed siya, [and] sobrang laki niya. If I were to estimate it, kasing laki siya ng bayabas, it was that big,” the doctor-media personality recalled how she first noticed the lump on her breast in ABS-CBN's documentary show Paano Kita Mapasasalamatan. Upon knowing this, Dr. Gia shared how she “felt [her] world fall apart.”
“Parang nag-bungee jump from a doctor to a patient. The 360-degree turn was a difficult turn,” she said. “In fact, ‘yung journey from doctor to patient was a difficult process in itself,” she added, saying how she regretted focusing more on her work, not realizing that she wasn’t taking good care of herself.
As part of her treatment, Dr. Gia shared that she underwent a mastectomy for her left breast and chemotherapy for six cycles.
She went on to share how difficult the journey was, especially in chemo where she is isolated. It was so rough that she wanted to quit on the third cycle, being physically and emotionally tired.
Clinging to her dreams, her vocation as a doctor, and the support of her family, Dr. Gia managed to complete all the sessions and was eventually declared cancer-free.
“Hindi ako nagpatalo sa cancer dahil sakit lang siya, pero ako kasi may puso, meron akong pangarap, at mahal ko ‘yon,” she said.
“My whole experience as a cancer survivor made me stronger, it taught me to appreciate life, to be myself, to pursue my dreams, and that it’s okay to be weak sometimes para maka-gain ka ng strength to get by everyday of your life,” she added.
She also stressed the importance of making an investment in self-love to power through the disease.
“Laban lang, cancer lang ‘yan, and life can be tough, but we’re tougher than that,” she said. “Salot siya, pero we will overcome. Wag tayo papatalo, we just have to keep fighting.”
Now, Dr. Gia continues to do her oath as a doctor by serving the people by advocating for mental health. She currently has her own segment, G Talks on CNN and hosts a podcast on Spotify dubbed Walwal Sesh with Renz Argao and Vino Orajay which covers topics including heartbreak, love, sex, equality, and mental health, among others.