CITY OF SAN FERNANDO— April Anne Palomo was jolly when she began sharing what children do in battling cancer.
“They are brave little warriors,” she told local officials and mall-goers in a program held here early this month before the National Cancer in Children Awareness Month is observed this April.
When she spoke on the need to support parents who care for their sick children, her voice cracked. Near the end of what should be an inspirational talk from this 31-year-old woman, who works as a child life coordinator at Kythe Foundation, she apologized for being emotional. She paused, breathed deeply and regained her composure.
“Don’t lose hope. You are the children’s source of strength,” she rallied parents and grandparents who accompanied 19 children afflicted with various types of leukemia.
Then she appealed for help.
“The treatment they undergo is long, expensive and painful,” she said, adding that poor families cannot afford the treatment.
From her seat, Herminia Marasigan, a seamstress and grandmother of a 4-year-old girl afflicted with a more deadly form of leukemia, agreed by nodding and crying.
Palomo later joined the children and their relatives for lunch and an afternoon of play, watching a movie and shopping for clothes, all care of SM City San Fernando here.
The Cancer Warrior Foundation and Kythe Foundation help children at Jose B. Lingad Memorial Regional Hospital here and Tarlac Provincial Hospital (TPH) in Tarlac City, respectively.
The Department of Health or private donors provide medicines.
Palomo, a resident of Victoria, Tarlac, has devoted six years to Kythe Foundation although bigger salaries await her as a registered nutritionist and dietician.
“I find my work at Kythe very self-fulfilling. We’re able to help sick kids,” said Palomo, a mother to two boys.
At TPH, Palomo helps pediatric cancer and other chronically ill patients cope with their fears and pain through play and creative activities during their hospital stay.
She also counsels parents, said Maria Fatima Garcia-Lorenzo, executive director of Kythe that she and Icar Castro founded in 1992.
On the side, Palomo coordinates with Kythe’s head office on the patients’ medical needs. She assists sponsors and volunteers if they want to improve the hospital’s facilities or if they want to interact with patients.
Since 2007, Kythe has served 6,850 acute patients and 1,672 chronic patients in TPH. In 2012, Kythe provided child life services to 1,482 patients.
“It is not easy working with children who are trying to survive chronic illnesses. I think it has become more than work for April. It is a mission,” Lorenzo said. Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon