Wednesday, May 4, 2016

PBCN statement on the May 9th National Elections

Though breast cancer is also very much a political issue, the Philippine Breast Cancer Network maintains its distance from endorsing or aligning itself with any candidate or party in the forthcoming May 9th elections. Regardless of the results, breast cancer affects all women whatever her political color. To maintain its integrity and advocacy, the PBCN focuses on what needs to be done to prevent breast cancer towards the ultimate eradication of this environmental health epidemic.

Of the following distinctions of the Philippines, what can be said to be lamentable and unacceptable? 

1. It is the only predominantly Catholic country in Asia since 500 years ago;
2. It is said to be the oldest democracy in Asia since a century ago;
3. It is the only country in Asia where English is widely spoken since a century ago; and 
4. It has the highest incidence rate of breast cancer in Asia and the 10th highest worldwide since the past three decades.

Sadly though, the country’s political system has remained basically feudal and has yet to mature even after having ousted the Marcos dictatorship 30 years ago. Absent of a strong political party system, national public officials have continued to be elected simply based on pure popularity. Being such, legislators have all been ignorant on this public health epidemic and they have all always focused on early detection which is definitely far from prevention. Take for example, Senate Bill No. 1873 authored by Sen. Trillanes, SBN 2114 authored by Sen. Santiago and SBN 354 authored by Sen. Legarda. Worst of all, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s SBN 2114 during the 16th Congress was lifted almost entirely word for word from the US Senate Bill 931 of the 113th Congress.

Early in the term of President Noynoy Aquino, PhilHealth launched a Z Program providing free medical treatment for breast cancer. The PBCN registered its concerns on how the program would result in much over diagnosis and over treatment, other than not being able to cure breast cancer. Then by the latter part of his term, PhilHealth embarked on the wide distribution of contraceptive implants which will place many mothers at very high risk of getting breast cancer later on. At the end of his term, both of these programs will not be evaluated nor will the public ever hear about them because of their failures.

Now even cancer is being used as a vehicle for political office. This Cancer Party List aims for cancer patients and PWD’s to live a life of freedom through access to quality healthcare, medication, and equal rights through the following: 

1. Raising cancer awareness 
2. The development and implementation of policies that benefit cancer patients and PWD’s 
3. The rehabilitation and care of cancer patients and their loved ones. 

Are not their aims and goals also of the Department of Health? The PBCN turned down an invitation to join or support this party list primarily because it is no different from the Philippine Cancer Society.

All Presidential, Senatorial and Congressional candidates are thus challenged by the Philippine Breast Cancer Network to enact laws and directives to protect all women from the scourge of breast cancer, a few of which are the following which will not cost government a centavo:
1.      STOP mandatory annual chest x-rays for all government employees and make it optional for companies and schools during pre-employment and pre-enrollment. This alone will drastically reduce breast cancer because all women regardless of health status are being unnecessary exposed regularly to at least 1,000 millirads of radiation.

2.      STOP the use of hormonal contraceptives in its population control program because breast cancer is a hormonal disease. Women will not be placed at risk of breast cancer when the use of other methods such as condoms and rhythm method are encouraged instead.  

3.      STOP operations of air-water-soil contaminating industries regardless of environmental clearances - specially identified mining operations that continue to spill cyanide and mercury in the waterways of our country.

4.       STOP the use of triclosan and parabens in all productions of various cosmetics and bath soaps/shampoos among other common consumer products. A Safety Chemical Act needs to be legislated to keep our people healthy and not be at risk of developing cancer from these identified carcinogenic substances.


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Rosa lost her breast without her consent

Nineteen years ago, on the 10th of February 1997, Rosa underwent a frozen section after having been told it was just a diagnostic procedure, without being informed of likely losing her left breast. She woke up hours later, devastated that she had lost her breast without her consent. That particular day was the start of a personal journey that to this very day has touched countless lives of women facing the same ordeal. She was neither the first nor the only woman to have been traumatized by this unacceptable epidemic but that day ushered in the dawn of breast cancer advocacy in the Philippines.

Rosa moved fast forward, took strong action – being the lone Philippine delegate to the 1st World Conference on Breast Cancer in Kingston, Ontario 5 months later and establishing the Philippine Breast Cancer Network a month after her return home. Rosa had single-handedly changed the landscape of breast cancer in the Philippines in that brief period.
The day of her mastectomy, Rosa became a gladiator enslaved and thrown into the arena of mortal combat. She had no choice but to fight back and this she did to the very end with all her heart and soul with full honor and dignity! And just like Spartacus and Maximus, Rosa’s life and death began a movement to free the slaves. The only difference is that Rosa was a female gladiator in the killing fields of breast cancer.She never submitted to chemotherapy and radiation but instead pursued non-invasive and non-toxic measures.
To this very day, many women continue to be imprisoned by the prevailing ignorance and helplessness brought about by a most obscenely lucrative breast cancer industry. With barely any understanding at all, they are rushed to make hard and fast decisions without knowing all their options and without knowing what to expect from any treatment or intervention. With such blindness, they are led to the arena without the single most important weapon to confront the enemy - that of knowing and understanding breast cancer. They become pathetic torture victims who plead for their lives yet are slaughtered methodically. Their carcasses most often ending up in closed coffins or incinerators due to the severe violence they had been submitted to - with excruciating pain written on their faces that no make-up can hide. Many among them were robbed of the chance to fight back - denied that final victory over death!
It has been 19 years since Rosa lost her breast and the PBCN she started continues to lead the growing army of women breast cancer warriors in attaining their individual victories in the struggle with breast cancer! Despite its gigantic task and meager resources, the PBCN remains undaunted and keeps drawing strength from every breast cancer warrior.
For those who’ve lost their breasts, never lose heart. And for all who have heart, keep your breasts.

“Freedom from Breast Cancer!”

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

When will breast cancer end?

“If only it were detected earlier, something could have been done.” These are the often heard words of doctors. Very true, but what is that something? Breast removal? Chemo? But even then, when is early detection? How many years ago?

The reality is that breast cancer is most very often realized in advanced stages because it takes 5-10 years before the first signs and symptoms of breast cancer are manifested. This being the case, no woman can be blamed for seeking medical attention at advanced stages of her ailment because they never had any understanding of the disease in the very first place.

When does a woman know she is pregnant? Does it mean that when she misses a monthly menstrual cycle, it can be said she is pregnant? Only with a pregnancy test can she be positive she is pregnant. Therefore, it is only after the fact. Because even without a test, she will know she is pregnant as her tummy starts to grow. But what if a woman misses her monthly cycle but has never had sex, typically among nuns? Would a nun or virgin still submit to a pregnancy test? And what about lactating mothers who notice a lump in their breasts? Would they ever think of a breast disease, thinking that the lump is just milk?

Of course, pregnancy is different from breast cancer because the former is acceptable while the latter is not. Most, if not all women want to get pregnant but no women would want to get breast cancer. A woman can wait and see if she is pregnant but every woman would not want to wait and see if she has breast cancer. Doctors are then just waiting for all women to come to them when they already have breast cancer - and this is called “early detection?” Pregnancy tests are very safe and reliable while mammography is not safe and not reliable. Why else is a biopsy done after a mammogram?

Mammography is NOT early detection! Having annual mammograms is just waiting to be told one day that a malignancy is now detected, despite many years of undergoing mammography that showed benign results. Mammography has a margin of error of 20% for women 50 years & above and 40% for women below age 50 (false positive and false negative).  Mammograms have caused much over-diagnosis and over-treatment, especially in cases of DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ) because it is non-invasive. Somewhere between 30-50% of DCIS will go on to become invasive but 50-70% could safely ignore it and never have a problem. The dilemma is that there is no current technology to determine whether a woman’s DCIS will become aggressive or not. Because of this uncertainty, women are over-treated with surgery, chemo and radiation – simply waiting whether it will become malignant or not. Although DCIS is pre-cancer, the diagnosis brings much fear, bewilderment and difficult decisions for the woman and her family, most especially when understanding and knowledge of the disease process and non-invasive/non-toxic options are absent.

This October, the PBCN urges women and men to join us in removing the pink ribbon blindfold and ask “why are more and more women getting breast cancer?” Why has the incidence rate of breast cancer in the Philippines increased from 1 out of 32 in 1980 to 1 out of 13 today?  Why does our country have the highest incidence rate in Asia and the 10th highest worldwide? Why does government refuse to acknowledge the environmental and occupational risk factors for breast cancer when the evidence is already out there? The general public needs and deserves a full understanding of ALL potential risk factors for the disease that threatens ALL women – rich or poor, young or old, with or without child, learned or unlearned, Christian or Muslim, whatever ideology or political persuasion.

Government and media continue to focus on “lifestyle” risk factors such as diet and exercise, while ignoring the potential 60% of breast cancer cases for which they have no explanation. What about the role of chemical, environmental and occupational exposures? Why, when the WHO (World Health Organization) states that prevention (which is not the same as early detection) offers the most cost-effective long-term strategy for the control and decline of breast cancer in our country?

Why is primary prevention (stopping the disease before it starts) not given priority over treatment and care? Why are those with the power to influence decisions on public healthcare not acting on what we already know now? Why do they persist in refusing to acknowledge the role of environmental and occupational toxins by ignoring decades of evidence up to the present day on the link between lifelong (womb to grave) exposures to toxins and the escalating breast cancer epidemic in the Philippines?

Since 18 years ago when the PBCN was established, countless women from all over the country (as well as OFW’s worldwide) have taken contact by email, phone call and SMS for varying reasons: from asking what to do and asking for financial aid. All inquiries were promptly replied to: 24 hrs daily, 7 days a week and 12 months a year for the past 18 years. All were given information to arrive at fully informed decisions. But what the PBCN does, barely touches the surface. Not all women have internet nor a cell phone, and neither can the PBCN exist forever.

The PBCN addresses women with breast cancer, women not yet with breast cancer and women still to be born.  Though the first is most immediate, the last is what really matters. Ask any candidate in the forthcoming elections their stand on breast cancer and let us elect whoever will make our country free of breast cancer!  Whoever gets elected President or Senator has to firmly act and not continue the deafening silence of government on this grave public health epidemic. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Living 16 years with breast abnormalities

At age 23, Analiza felt lumps on her breast and her fear for breast cancer led her to attend the PBCN's 3rd Philippine Conference on Breast Cancer in the year 2000. The only girl in a family of four, they had lost their mother to breast cancer and all her brothers were very worried for her. To this day, she has been able to overcome her anxieties without submitting to any invasive or toxic treatments.

Upon learning of the environmental links to the disease, it was easy for her to understand what had most likely caused her mother’s breast c├íncer and had also placed herself at risk. Their home was where her father kept all the pesticides used in the rice fields nearby their home in the beautiful province of Bohol.

Soon after the conference, she had her first thermal breast imaging which confirmed both of her breasts to be abnormal. A doctor advised her to undergo a mammogram and excision biopsy of the 4cm lump in her left breast – both of which she did not do. Instead, she followed all that she learned from the PBCN. Two years later, she did a repeat thermal imaging which now showed her left breast to be normal but with her right breast still abnormal. She was able to avoid any damage to her breasts.

Analiza, standing 3rd from left.
In 2004, she was an active participant in the PBCN’s 5th Project BRCA, an intensive 5-day training course for breast cancer activists. With a wider knowledge and deeper understanding of breast cancer, she decided to again undergo the PBCN’s Battle Plan for breast cancer, but this time in a more intensive way than she did by herself.

At age 31, she had her 3rd thermal breast imaging which still showed an abnormal right breast though her left breast remained normal despite presence of a lump. This no longer worried her because it did not matter whether it was malignant or not. She remembered very well that all malignancies are definitely abnormal but not all abnormalities are malignant. What was important was that she had learned how to deal with her breast abnormalities – that hers may most likely be of the non-aggressive type and that any aggressive procedure may just likely harm her.  She would rather continue with all she learned from the PBCN in addressing her breast abnormalities.

Now age 39, she is preparing herself for marriage and felt it best to have another thermal imaging.  The results have shown inflammations and she will again be doing a non-invasive and non-toxic approach. She understands that her body is constantly at risk from varied environmental risk exposures and needs to again do “house cleaning.”

Whether or not she has breast cancer is no longer an issue for her. She feels fine with her breast abnormalities and has been able to manage her health all these years. Her example has even greatly influenced her family, friends and acquaintances in avoiding environmental risk factors in their daily lives. She admits that had she submitted to an excision biopsy, she may most likely have been over diagnosed and over treated at age 25 for the lump on her left breast and would probably have not been able to enjoy a full life for the past 16 years – specially now that she is preparing herself for married life. 

Only with knowledge and understanding of breast cancer can one be empowered to arrive at fully informed decisions and take action. As one can live with breast cancer, more so that one can live with breast abnormalities.

"Freedom from breast cancer!"

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sailing the unknown sea of breast cancer

From January to September this year, a total of 25 client-patients (68% below age 50) were mentored by the PBCN. The youngest was 22 and the oldest was 85. They all underwent an intensive period of detoxification and nutritional healing fortified by an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the environmental causes of breast cancer.

Ages 20-29      2                      Ages 50-59      3
         30-39      6                               60-69      3
         40-49      9                               70 & up  2
                      17                                               8
Prior to their individual protocol, 15 had been medically diagnosed positive with malignancy while 10 only had abnormal thermal breast imaging.  The PBCN maintains that having inflammations as shown from an abnormal heat pattern is enough reason for early intervention to be able to correct and reverse the condition without invasive and toxic measures. With conventional textbook medical practice, a positive malignancy must be determined thru a biopsy before treatment is done – surgery, chemo and radiation. 

It must be understood that it takes 5-10 years before the first symptoms of breast cancer are manifested. This is a primary reason why mammography has a very high margin of error of 20% to 40% false negative and false positive. In fact, any mammogram result needs to be confirmed with a biopsy. Worst of all, even women with physical manifestations such as engorged breasts, large lumps or nipple discharge are still subjected to mammography when it is clinically clear that breast cancer can already be assumed. History taking even without any diagnostic procedure can further validate physical examination.

These particular cases were prevented from undergoing unnecessary surgical procedures:

A 29 y/o was spared from aggressive medical procedures in Singapore.
Biopsy of right lump of a77 y/o was avoided because her left side was more abnormal.

A 66 y/o was prevented from a mastectomy in a tertiary government hospital.

Of the 15 who had been medically diagnosed and or treated prior to contacting the PBCN, none had any understanding at all of breast cancer and all regretted having submitted to invasive and toxic treatments which made matter worse for them and their families. All lymph nodes removed from 3 cases were negative for malignancies while only 9 out of 61 lymph nodes (15%) removed from 5 cases were positive. Their lymphatic systems have now become impaired by the loss of so many clear lymph nodes.  By having been mentored by the PBCN, four were spared from surgery and chemo while seven did not anymore undergo chemo. The three who submitted to surgery and chemo sought the PBCN as a last resort because they already had recurrence and/or metastasis.

Mammogram and or biopsy only---4
Up to Surgery only--------------------8
Surgery and Chemo-------------------3    

The following cases where spared from the debilitating effects of chemo and huge expenses.

After fully completing the PBCN's protocol, 66 year old Luz was so happy that her repeat thermal imaging after just two months showed a vast improvement of her very severe inflammations after her mastectomy. Furthermore, she has not been taking any of her previously prescribed maintenance medications for her scoliosis and hypertension feels great. She and her entire family are now more than ever fully decided not to undergo chemotherapy and continue all they have learned from the PBCN.

A 44 y/o  OFW nurse methodically cut-up in Dubai for a non-life threatening case of DCIS.

An 85 y/o case who has continued not to submit to chemo since her mastectomy in 2008.

No two cases of breast cancer are the same and this is why one should not be made to routinely undergo and submit to medical textbook procedures and treatments. Harm will always be known after the fact whereas utmost precaution reduces probability of harm and complications. To err on the side of caution is always of paramount benefit to a woman's welfare and well being.

Seventeen years of dealing with breast cancer have brought about the following healing perspective.

1. Empowerment of the individual – character, attitude, purpose and spirituality are qualities which strengthen her will and determination to scale the heights of healing and wellness. She must strive to maintain peace and happiness within herself all throughout her journey.  And only by knowing and understanding the environmental causes and risk factors of breast cancer can she learn how to live with the disease.

2. Support of the individual – Family and friends are crucial in lifting up her spirit and cheer her up as she runs the marathon of her life. Though she will seek the opinion of others, she alone must decide the road to take and whatever her decision, for as long as she is fully informed, must be respected and supported. Having her follow whoever provides financial help is NOT support but pressure or even coercion.  This can be also said of health insurance which automatically decides her treatment in the guise of care and support for its clients.

3. Safe Environment – An empowered individual with all the full support around her will be nothing if she works or resides in an environment that caused her cancer or that will expose her to more  carcinogens.  In confronting breast cancer, so many hard decisions have to be made.  She may have to resign from her job, change occupation or even transfer residence.  She needs to act decisively on the external condition in her daily life to reduce, if not eliminate identified environmental factors that can cause or aggravate her condition.

4. Resources – Expenses cannot be avoided but it is totally untrue and incorrect to think that having so much money and resources can buy a cure.  Nowhere in the entire world can a cure for breast cancer be found or bought, no matter how much money one has. There are only a wide array of treatments and protocols (both conventional and alternative) that have positive and negative results.  Breast cancer would not be a controversy if there truly is a cure.

In mainstream conventional practice,  the order above is reversed where resources is #1 and the individual is last. The more money one has, the more treatments are offered while the patient is given only minimal participation because of absence of full information. She would always be asked if she would prefer this or that, but how would she ever know?

In coping with breast cancer, it is the individual who is the ultimate and final player. And this is why the PBCN was started 17 years ago and continues to exist – to mentor breast cancer warriors.   


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Rosa's Plenary 15 years ago

27 July 1999
Ottawa, Canada
Opening Plenary
2nd World Conference on Breast Cancer

A most beautiful morning to all the gallant women and men in the global movement for the eradication of breast cancer. My name is Rosa Francia-Meneses and I am from the Philippines.

When Laurene Clark asked me to talk in this opening plenary, I felt challenged. To speak before such a huge audience baring my soul, if not my chest…that is tough Yes, living with breast cancer is really tough. Tougher still when you have to recount the terrible pain of a not so distant past. It’s like scratching a wound and exposing the raw part of it. I go through this motion many times when I talk – so you can imagine how often I bear the pain.

Recalling the pain serves a purpose – to remind myself that dealing with it is living with breast cancer. As I do so today, I am reminded of the many other gallant women doing the same. My story is the same as every woman with breast cancer. 

In February 1997, after my two year old daughter refused to suck from my left breast, I went to a doctor because of a nagging lump I thought was dried breast milk. I went alone, thinking that it was a routine checkup. Nothing prepared me for the shock that followed.

He was not a doctor of my choice but one referred by my health maintenance plan. After enduring the pain of a mammogram, he coldly told me I had cancer and had to undergo surgery at once. He didn’t wait for any of my family’s presence for that heartless declaration. With utter disbelief, I told him I couldn’t have cancer – no one in my family had cancer. My ears then just shut off and I no longer heard whatever he was saying afterwards. Walking away from the hospital like a lost soul, I don’t even know how I got home.

My 21 year old daughter was eager to learn of the result. Suddenly, the tears I had been holding back flowed like Niagara Falls. No words came out but it was enough for my daughter to know that death was casting its shadow on us. My husband had to be brave for both of us. He brought me to his childhood classmate who was a cancer surgeon. I must have been stricken with total numbness for I just left everything up to them.

His friend had me immediately confined in preparation for a frozen section biopsy. Being both ignorant, we left everything up to the doctor. Again, nothing prepared me for what happened later on.

I was brought to the operating room early in the morning and regained consciousness from the anesthesia early evening. Upon opening my eyes, I saw the sad faces of my family and friends around me. I thought I had died. My body felt torn apart, like some blasted wall. I instinctively reached for my heart where the pain hurt most. Realizing that my left breast was gone, I could only wish I was back in my mother’s womb.

The days that followed were like preparing for a final exam. My husband and I devoured as many information available on breast cancer and sought anyone with knowledge of this disease. It was to get myself ready for chemotherapy because I was given a very bad prognosis of advanced breast cancer with 16 out of 23 lymph nodes found malignant. With chemo, I was being given a 5 year statistical chance of survival but without chemo, I was not to survive more than two years. Five months later, I had not yet submitted to any further assault on my body.

By fate, a friend had informed me of the 1st World Conference on Breast Cancer in Kingston, Ontario. This time, my feeling was not for anyone else to decide for me. I had to be fully armed with knowledge and understanding before facing another battle.

I gathered all my inner strength to travel all by myself for the very first time outside my country, at a great distance on an extended airfare payment just to attend that historical conference in July, 1997. It turned out that I was the only breast cancer delegate in attendance from the Philippines. It was as if I was the only one with breast cancer from my country.

I clearly remember that time when I was among the audience, simply overwhelmed as I listened to the plenary talks of the late Bella Abzug, DevraDavis, Annie Sasco and Sandra Steingraber. By some unexplained force, I was drawn to the concurrent session of Joan Reiss. As she presented, I was already contemplating on what had to be done to prevent my three daughters from getting breast cancer.

Traveling back to the Philippines, I chanced on Akiko Domoto at the airport and told her of my intention of holding a similar conference in my country, no matter the burden for a sick woman like me. At hindsight, there seemed to be an unseen hand leading me to people who would later mean much to what I would be undertaking.

The Kingston Conference was the reason why my husband and I have decided to commit our lives to the movement for the global eradication of breast cancer – to live or even die so that others may live. The conference galvanized me and to this very day, I have not submitted myself to any form of chemotherapy or radiation, 29 months after my radical mastectomy. How did I manage to stretch the time, struggling to live to once again be with all of you, not anymore the “lost” soul from the Philippines but as a plenary speaker.

Immediately upon my return from Kingston, along with my husband and a few close friends, I established the Philippine Breast Cancer Network on the 28th of August 1997, patterned after the Canadian Breast Cancer Network.

Against many odds, we were able to hold the first ever Philippine Conference on Breast Cancer on October 1998. We were blessed with the presence of Andrea Martin of The Breast Cancer Fund, Kimiko Goldberg of the Japan Breast Cancer Network and Cindy Termorshuizen (representing Akiko Domoto of the Japanese Diet). Devra Davis sent invaluable materials which have since become the core of the PBCN’s information and awareness initiatives.

In spite of the spiraling increase in breast cancer incidence and mortality in the Philippines, no considered the highest in Asia, there has been no organization whether private or government focused on the issue of breast cancer alone, prior to the PBCN. All were general cancer groups that were hospital based, initiated by doctors and which maintained a purely medical point of view. All were just preoccupied on how to cope with medical treatments, how to accept one’s fate and how to prepare for one’s death. None at all even slightly touched on the causes of breast cancer.

Breast cancer patients in the Philippines have no rights. They have no right to speak or to ask. They have always been considered to be the walking dead – people to take pity on and offered prayers for. It’s just tough luck if one gets breast cancer in the Philippines.

During the recent public deliberations on the Total Ban of incinerators in the Philippines, our Department of Health (DOH) wanted an exemption for medical incinerators, our Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) wanted an exemption for chemical incinerators and our Department of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR) wanted an exemption for solid waste incinerators. Our own government and not the private sector were unsupportive of the total ban. During the Belgian Dioxin Scare, our DOH stated that our government was not in any position to act on dioxin in our food, water and air supply, even as far as saying that “a little amount of dioxin was nothing to worry about.”

The 5-Year Health Priorities for Research of our Department of Science and Technology (DOST) focuses on cure and treatment and simply looks upon cancer as an unavoidable cost of progress. Our Department of Agriculture (DA) actively promotes and encourages chemical farming. Our tri-media is more concerned with sensational news of rape and kidnapping, not knowing that the same level of violence is committed everyday of hundreds of women diagnosed with breast cancer.

The greatest risk of getting breast cancer tomorrow is being born today in a developing country. The greatest risk of not surviving breast cancer today is being a woman in the Philippines. But now, the landscape of breast cancer in the Philippines is changing. To this day, the PBCN has been able to enlist more than two hundred women with breast cancer and several hundreds more of women at risk of getting it. The PBCN has conducted a series of 7 lectures and 6 symposiums all over the archipelago that had more than a thousand in attendance. On October this year will be held the 2nd Philippine Conference on Breast Cancer.

A month ago, a nurse who was moved by one of our provincial symposiums; a daughter who had just lost her mother to breast cancer; and a female surgeon who is disturbed by the high incidence rate in her locality – each made separate contact with us expressing their desire to do something. To commemorate the PBCN’s 2nd year of existence with the help of these 3 women, the PBCN launched the first ever breast cancer prevention project in the Visayas, the first ever “Fight Breast Cancer Week” in the University of the Philippines and the first ever breast cancer symposium for Philippine Muslim women. Talk about things just happening through some unseen hand.  

The PBCN has been moving forward and taking strong action, breaking the silence and shattering the walls of apathy and ignorance. We have been taking a journey in unknown territory that has never been seen in the Philippines. We have had to rely on help from friends here and there, now and then, in whatever form and in whatever way. We continue to uphold and defend our dignity and self-esteem, never cowing to statements that in fund raising, “beggars can’t be choosers.” Though we have not received any major funding from whatever source, we will never beg for our lives.

Four months ago, I attended a breast cancer conference in Brussels, organized by the US National Breast Cancer Coalition. A week before, I had surgical removal of a lump due to recurrence. This did not stop me from traveling because it was my first opportunity to be a plenary speaker in an international setting. What almost prevented my attendance was the Belgian Embassy in Manila. They doubted the conference and they doubted me. It took five visits and several communications within a brief period before I was finally issued a visa – and believe it or not, just a day before my flight departure.

Recurrence for a woman with breast cancer is of extreme anxiety. But the recurrence of a foreign embassy’s arrogance and discrimination of women living with breast cancer makes matters far more unbearable.

Today, I stand before you, a single-breasted woman with a recurring hurt in my heart. I bear with me the memory of sixteen women from my country who have gone ahead and the faces of five women of my delegation who should have been among you right now, to witness this historical conference.

The Philippine delegation to this 1999 World Conference onBreast Cancer underwent a radical mastectomy, performed by a supposed embassy of goodwill and friendship which has made them diplomatic surgeons armed with the skill and precision only a woman who has lost her breast can never forget. The Philippine Canadian Embassy felt that this World Conference was not reason enough to be granted an entry visa and worst of all, considered the Philippine delegation a scam. My five colleagues: a nine year breast cancer survivor, a medical doctor, a nutritionist and two physical therapists never felt so rejected and humiliated in all of their lives. They had prepared and looked forward to coming with me, most specially Chit Marfil, who said, “Do I have to undress and show these embassy consuls the scar on my chest?” Like men in white, these diplomats felt no need to neither explain themselves nor apologize for their acts.

Imagine the shock I got when our delegation was called a scam and denied visas? A delegation that I had long worked for to realize? They cut up my delegation just like when my breast was cut off. They had rudely and coldly shut the door that was opened two years ago in Kingston where I was also all alone. I find myself all alone again. What does it have to take for a woman to wage battle with breast cancer?

Not only are we faced with the uncertainties of medical science and the greed of a cancer industry, but now, we are even insulted with the indifference and callousness of a host country’s embassy officials. This incidence has now become an international concern. The outpouring of letters from all over the world in support of the rejected PBCN delegation to the conference has finally shown the true meaning of global action.

But then there will be no winners- only losers. On the side of the Canadian Embassy, their decisions must not be questioned, much more be pressured. On the side of the Philippine Breast Cancer Network, our motives and actions must not be undermined, much more, be insulted. On the side of the organizers, of this world conference, this undertaking must not be doubted, much more, be exploited. On the side of women all over the world who are afflicted with breast cancer, our condition must not be compromised, much more, be aggravated.

Women have long been the watershed of man’s bruised ego. And when she gets breast cancer, she becomes his nightmare. She is cut, burned and poisoned but much worse, she is doubted, insulted and robbed of her dignity. She who nurtures life has lost her value. How much longer does this have to go on? How many more women have to get breast cancer?

I call on every country to each have a national breast cancer network with a patient’s perspective. I call on the creation of a World Breast Cancer Network. Our numbers have been growing and the army of breast cancer warriors are uniting and closing ranks for one purpose. Together we will change the world that all our daughters may never experience the pain and agony of breast cancer.

And just by being with all of you today, I feel no longer alone. I may have lost a breast and I may even lose my life, but I will never lose my heart.

To each of you, I give all my love from deep beneath my bare chest.

Monday, July 7, 2014

HUMAN NATURE - Pink marketing at its worst!

When a woman hears the word MAMMO, what enters her mind?

Try typing the letters MAMMO in your search engine and see what comes out - Mammoa film by Shyam Benegal released in 1994.....A "long bomb" home run as first described by Atlanta Braves career player and third baseman Chipper Jones (#10) ..........Mammo: Mammography/ Breast Imaging......or referring to the mammary gland.  Of these four, what would be the most common understanding to one's mind upon hearing the word MAMMO?

Well, there is now a self-proclaimed "pro-Philippines, pro-poor and pro-environment" passionate enterprise called HUMAN NATURE that provides personal care products in the Philippines, the United States of America and other countries worldwide. Unfortunately, it turns out that this company is anti-women and really only interested in making millions from the lucrative and huge market of women because of its corporate support and promotion of mammography.

In a message received by the PBCN on 20 June 2014 from the company's President Anna Meloto-Wilk: "MammoMe was an initiative of Kasuso Foundation and they were the ones who approached us regarding the idea. Since we are a company that believes in a healthier lifestyle and in promoting products that are safe, we think it's a great collaboration."

"The name of product itself - MammoMe - also came from the party of Kasuso Foundation and their agency. The root word "mammo" refers to the breasts, to the mammary glands, and is in no way intended to relate to mammograms."

"If you look at all our promotional materials, you will see that we heavily concentrate on instilling the habit of doing breast self exam which every consumer can do without any help from a doctor. We firmly believe this is a great way of empowering women in taking better care of their health and in knowing their body better."
"Lastly, a big part of MammoMe is helping indigent women who need financial help in getting the health care they need. A significant portion of the proceeds go to funding medical treatment for them."

Is the company into prevention of breast cancer or treatment of the disease? Are the company's products meant to prevent breast cancer or meant to augment breast cancer detection?  It proudly states that their products are 100% NO harmful Chemicals and yet they are telling women to regularly self-exam their breasts in the shower. Well, the more you consume their natural body wash product, the better for them cause most women will never feel a lump in the shower until it is already palpable. So what good is the company's campaign to fight breast cancer? There is NO such thing as early detection because it takes 5-10 years before the first symptoms of breast cancer are manifested. Furthermore, once a breast lump is felt in the shower, what next? Aha! You are to undergo a mammogram! So can  Anna Meloto-Wilk honestly insist that their product in no way is intended to relate to mammograms?

Mammo-you, Mammo-Me?  To my knowledge, this is the very first time that a company in the whole world has engaged itself in the full support and promotion of mammography! (The PBCN challenges the company to market Mammo-Me in the USA.)
One in 13 Filipino women will get breast cancer in her lifetime BUT is this meant to instill fear or should it be taken as a wake-up call for women to act on preventive measures instead of detection? To take action on eliminating the environmental causes of breast cancer such as paraben in personal care products! 

Sadly, Anna Meloto-Wilk has allowed herself to be grossly misled by vested interests of the breast cancer industry to believe that lowering one's risk of breast cancer is solely on diet& fitness, breastfeeding and monthly self-exams.  Think about this: a woman has a negative reading from her annual mammo year in and year out till one day, there is a suspicion and finally, she is said to have a malignancy. So where is prevention? Self-exams, especially mammo is just to tell you of an existing problem - not preventing it from happening.

HUMAN NATURE has to immediately change their entire campaign into breast cancer prevention - NOT breast cancer detection. They are very much in a position to do so because of their paraben-free products!  By heeding this serious and urgent concern, Anna Meloto-Wilk can now truly say that her company is Pro-Women! Meanwhile, HUMAN NATURE is just another pink washer!