“Early detection is the best protection!” was the battle cry of the many women in attendance at the OKtober forum last Oct. 18 at the Festival Mall upper ground expansion wing. The event featured informative and inspiring talks from breast cancer specialists and survivors and free breast screenings as part of the mall’s Stronger in Pink breast cancer awareness campaign for October.
As breast cancer remains the number one cancer in the Philippines and one of the most prevalent in Southeast Asia, OKtober sought to educate women about the illness and promote early diagnosis and treatment.
The afternoon’s first speaker was renowned surgeon and teacher Dr. Roel Tolentino, who educated the audience on important facts about breast cancer and debunked myths about the illness. “Huwag po kayong mag-alala kung may bukol,” he encouraged the women in attendance. “Magpatingin po sa doktor.” Breast cancer is a treatable sickness, said Dr. Tolentino, and it is always best for a person’s health to be checked and treated while the illness is still in its early stages.
A couple of survivor sharers also came to give heartfelt accounts of their own breast cancer journeys. First sharer was 55-year-old Zenaida Villas, who was diagnosed with breast cancer just last year and is currently undergoing chemotherapy. “Nagpapasalamat ako sa Diyos na may pamilya akong sumusuporta sa akin,” she told the crowd. “Hindi ko iniyakan ang sakit na ito.” Villas’ cheerful disposition was evident as she recounted how her journey so far has been filled with love and support from her loved ones and God.
Next to share was pediatrician Dra. Joy J. Aromin, who spoke about her two battles with breast cancer in 2009 and 2014. “It was a humbling experience,” she says about becoming a doctor-turned-patient after her diagnosis. She thanked God, her family, and her support group in Stage Zero, for giving her strength through both ordeals. In the end, Dra. Aromin says, “Cancer made me a better doctor.” Dra. Aromin’s touching story is truly a victorious one of faith, hope, and love.
Other guests for the OKtober forum were Dra. Angelica Arciaga and Cong. Ruffy Biazon, who gave the opening remarks; Lorena Carlos-Miguel from the ICanServe foundation, who named the institutions to approach for aid in breast cancer treatment; and PhilHealth representative Dr. Rufien Ison, who explained how the Z Benefit Package can help PhilHealth members undergoing cancer treatment.