Saturday, August 25, 2007


Persie Mapili’s life was not that unusual. Born poor some forty-four years ago; she eventually met and fell in love with a handsome young Filipino. They were married and started their family. As time passed Persie’s focus became her five children. She dedicated her life to helping them escape the very poverty she had suffered. Her sacrifices were never ending. If there was one bite of food left, her children got it. If there was one peso left, she spent it on clothes and school supplies for them. All her money and energy went into her children and their future. She encouraged them and monitored their academic progress. Two of her children are now university graduates and earning a good living. Two are still in the university and the last one is doing well in high school.

What started as a small lump in her breast began to grow and was uncomfortable. Again she sacrificed for her children. Rather than see a doctor she spent the money on tuition fees. Later as the discomfort became pain she finally was forced to see that doctor. It was breast cancer. If they operated and treated it, they might be able to save her life or at least give her a few more years. The ride home in the pedicab was long and silent. She stared at the road as it sped by, thinking about her choices. By the time she reached home her mind was made up. She would make one more sacrifice for her children. She would give up her life.

There was no expensive surgery, no expensive medicines; she continued to dedicate her life to her children and their future. Her children suffered whenever she cried out in pain, so she endured the pain without sound or tears. Even on the final day of her life she showed no sign of the searing pain that tore through her body. Her last words were, “I am fine; Go study.”

While I honor and respect Persie’s sacrifice, I can not help but think her family would prefer to have her at their side. Her children would rather have her smile than ten diplomas.

The Philippines is the leading country in Asia for breast cancer deaths. Breast Cancer is the third major cause of death in the Philippines. We even have more breast cancer deaths than several of the larger western countries. During a World Health Breast Cancer survey in Manila 54% of the women examined were found to have signs of possible breast cancer; of those examined only 27% sought medical treatment. While breast cancer can be cured if caught early enough, in the Philippines one out of every two breast cancer victims will die the first year because they were not diagnosed or treated soon enough. Over 64,998 Filipinas and Filipinos are diagnosed with this disease every year. (Yes, men get breast cancer too.)

Who is at risk for breast cancer?
*High risk people are men and women between 35 and 50 years old. But BC can strike teenagers also.
*People who have a family history of breast cancer are at higher risk.
*If you use contraceptives you increase your chance of getting breast cancer.
*Post menopausal women are at a greater risk.
*If your first pregnancy was after your 34th birthday the risk is higher.
*If you are infertile and can not have children you are at greater risk.
*Some foods can increase your BC risk ( Deep fried foods, food boiled in coconut milk, charred meat, etc)
*Not getting a regular medical check up puts you at greater risk. If you can afford it get an annual mammogram. At the very least give yourself a periodic breast self exam. Have your husband help you with the exam. You can help him check for testicullar cancer. Do not wait for something to hurt. When it hurts it is often too late.

Many Filipinas/Filipinos put off seeing a doctor thinking, “What I do not know can not hurt me.” “Why spend the money?” “I feel fine an exam is a waste of time.” There is an endless stream of excuses and that stream often ends in the cemetery. Your family NEEDS you. Be an Everyday Hero, prevent breast cancer; get an exam regularly and teach your friends to do the same.

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