Anguish and hope: A lung cancer patient’s battle with the disease, money woes photo / Jean Mangaluz

MANILA, Philippines — Since her diagnosis, Normita Dee Sebua has struggled to pay for treatment as she fights lung cancer.

Sebua spoke of her anguish and despair at a recent Lung Cancer awareness event hosted by the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology, the Philippine Cancer Society, and AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals Inc. Her words echoed the severity of this life-threatening illness and highlighted the urgent need for support and awareness.

The memory of dread still lingered in Sebua’s mind, when the doctor told her that a test was necessary after her checkup. Back then, she was just a caterer, and the diagnosis cost her dearly. To her dismay, it was revealed that her lungs contained fluid.

She does not fully understand how she even got it in the first place, as she did not have any vices like smoking. Sebua later said that other family members had died due to cancer.

When she was a little girl, Sebua recalled being ordered by her father to buy cigarettes. As an adult, her smoker husband passed away due to emphysema.

“Hindi ko alam kung paano nangyari kasi wala naman akong nararamdaman, hindi ako nilagnat, hindi ako sinipon,” she said.

(I did not know how it happened because I did not experience anything, I did not have a fever, I did not catch a cold).

Treatment was difficult, as she was merely a “charity case,” said Sebua. When the fluid was extracted, she said that it was red. After a few more tests, benign nodules were found in her lungs and a cancer cell was in the fluid sample.

Doctors wanted more samples from Sebua’s lungs, but it was too expensive for her.

Sebua’s pulmonologist advised her to get chemotherapy. She was able to find a hospital where she would only have to pay for the medicine, not the treatment.

The problem was, the medicine cost P10,000 every chemo session.

“Kaya siguro maraming namamatay,” said Sebua. (Maybe that is why so many people die.)

Desperate, Sebua even tried alternative medicine, spending P13,000. However, she said that the smell and taste were unbearable. She started to weaken and lose weight within eight days, pushing her to stop.

Sebua also laments the lack of reliable government health services, as services can be inconsistent sometimes, and for someone like her who needs treatment regularly, this becomes a challenge.

Having limited options, Sebua is relying on the good graces of her friends and families. The Philippine Cancer Awareness is also helping her financially, Sebua said.

“So ngayon, nagki-chemotherapy ako, sa tulong nalang ng iba’t-ibang kaibigan, kung kanino ko hahanapin. Dahil every week, kailangan mayroon akong P10,000 to P12,000. Hindi ko naman po pwede hingin lahat sa anak ko dahil may pamilya na,” expressed Sebua.

(For now, I am taking chemotherapy with the help of my friends, where I can find them. Because every week, I need P10,000 to P12,000. I cannot ask all of it from my son because he already has a family.)

The news of cancer hit her hard, as she did not want to leave her son, even if he had a family. Not wanting to let her sadness overwhelm her, Sebua remains hopeful and encourages others to keep fighting.

“Magsaya na lang ako, habang kaya ko magsaya. Kung iiyak lang ako ng iiyak, baka ma-depress lang ako ng ma-depress at kung ano pa ang magawa ko. Ganoon lang po ang ginagawa ko, mabuhay ako sa araw-araw. Gusto ko maging masaya. Ayoko tingnan yung kabila na, mamamatay ako. Lahat tayo mamatay, kanya-kanyang panahon,” said Sebua.

(I will just be happy while I can still be happy. If I keep crying, I will fall into a deeper depression and who knows what I will do. That is how I do it in my life every day. I want to be happy. I do not want to look at the other side, that I will die. We will all die in our own times).


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