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Message of Senator Loren Legarda “The Role of Family and Friends in the Battle against Breast Cancer”

September 17, 2011

In 1996, a strong woman who I deeply cherish died battling with the Big C. Bessie Bautista Legarda, my mama, was a victim of breast cancer, and even though she was a strong woman, we knew that the disease hurt her physically and emotionally.
Cancer is a frightening disease. It could mean a beginning of a new way of life. Accepting the changes that come with it entails much personal strength and great support from loved ones. While the cancer patient is going through her private emotional pain, members of the family who witness her losing her hair, vomiting after chemotherapy, and getting scars from the radiation therapy are also hurting.
A cancer patient needs to be strong, but her loved ones need to be stronger. A sister trimming down her beautiful long locks to a boy cut style while her sibling is losing hair from chemotherapy; a friend trading her leisure time with trips to the hospital to accompany her friend to treatment sessions; a husband assuring her wife that she is sexy and beautiful as ever even after losing a breast-these are simple ways of assuring a person with cancer that she is important, that people around her support her because they want her to get cured-this is where she will get the strength and will to go through the long and painful process of battling the disease.
The manner in which relatives and loved ones treat cancer is an important part of the healing process. Emotional healing is as vital as the physical healing through chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
The news about mama acquiring breast cancer came as a shock to our family and her rapid deterioration caused us so much pain, a pain that we share in common with every family who has dealt with cancer. But instead of focusing on the pain, my father, my brothers and I tried to always be extra cheerful when with her. We did not want her to feel frightened and worried. We wanted mama to always feel the warmth of our love and to keep in her mind that she will never be alone, that she has us by her side.
The pain that came from losing mama to breast cancer developed into a new sense of strength-the strength to empower women who are struggling against the disease and to raise awareness about breast cancer so that Filipino families need not lose another parent, child or sibling to breast cancer again.
In my mother’s memory, I established the Bessie B. Legarda Memorial Foundation in the year 2000. I wanted the foundation to embody the virtues-such as kindness, compassion and the strong desire to touch people’s lives in a meaningful way-that mama lived by.
Part of my advocacies today is to raise awareness about breast cancer and to empower women who are struggling against the disease.
One out of eight women is at risk of getting breast cancer. And men also suffer from it. Many studies have indicated that cancer-causing chemicals found in our body are most likely to have come from the food that we eat, water that we drink and the air that we breathe. These are the information we want to give out to people to help them avoid acquiring the disease.
For those who already have the disease, I want them to feel that BBL Foundation is a friend, a family that will support them, which is why, through the Bessie B. Legarda Award, we recognize women who have become sources of inspiration and have given breast cancer victims in the Philippines a voice. These women, many of them are breast cancer survivors, have given strength to other women who are struggling with the Big C.
A cancer patient is always in need of someone who will guide, support, care for, and love her. She must realize that she is important so that she will strive to get cured. And even if she does not get to win the battle, she must have been given that assurance that she lived her life well. This is the role of a cancer patient’s family, friends and those people who have become instant friends and family as she journeyed through the disease.
Thank you.