By Reeda Bantug
Feb 28, 2021, Bacolod City
She was the bravest being that I have known. One who battled a deadly disease for almost half her life or more than twenty years, she was an inspiration of courage and faith. From the first time that she discovered about her diagnosis, Stage 3 of breast cancer, I was a witness of her journey of life that was full of triumphs despite the challenges.
Because we grew up together, shared many memories with family and friends, and even did business together, we were like sisters and best friends. We practically knew what was going on with each other’s lives since we were kids. I loved being with her, she was my go-to chum who also cared for me and was always there for me in good and bad times. Our moments together were mostly fun and enjoyable as she had an infectious vibrant and winsome personality with an analytical and profound mind. We would talk and laugh about the simplest and silliest things to the heavy and deep issues of the times.
She was then a respected manager of a large department store which newly opened in my hometown, being re-assigned from the big metropolis where she held management positions. She was at the peak of her career and was enjoying every moment of her work. She had gained favour from her top bosses as they trusted her and recognized her abilities in her field of expertise.
One fine day, she invited me to lunch. Little did I expect that she would drop a bombshell. She revealed that she has just been to the doctor for a check-up and the prognosis was not good. She had a lump in her left breast that needed to be taken out because it was malignant. I was shocked with disbelief. I could not believe what I was hearing. She was too young, not even in her thirties. From what I know, this disease was only for old people. I didn’t know what to expect. Is her time on earth already up so soon and will she suddenly pass away? What lies ahead of her? We were both scared of what is in store.
After much deliberation with other close relatives, it was decided that she will have her surgery in the metro instead. There were better doctors and hospitals there and her chances of survival would be greater if given the proper treatment. With much prayers and faith for her healing, she was able to pull through with flying colors. She underwent the usual treatment. She went to a few doctors who helped her to the best of their abilities.
Her journey in battling this disease continued for several years. She had numerous rounds of minor surgeries, chemotherapies and radiation, countless trips to the doctor’s clinics and hospitals. She was steadfast and strong, never giving in to the symptoms that were common in this ailment. She lost her hair a few times and had to don on different styles of wig. She would get good medical reports today, and then another not so good the next.
But amidst all these, she was defiant. She never stayed put, was always on the go. She rarely missed work, continuing on to two to three different types of managerial functions in big companies which demanded full responsibilities. She was on top of her game, giving more hours at work than what was demanded. She was relentless, not giving a chance to let the big C dominate her life.
She liked to live independently, not wanting to be a bother to others. Even if she struggled moving her left arm due to nerve malfunctions, she would still be the designated driver of our girl cousin gang whenever we hang out. She extended helping hands to whoever needed them, not thinking of the difficulties this would cause her. She was inspiration of hope to many as she showed that life was worth living. It was her positive outlook, caring attitude, and strong faith that carried her through.
She travelled a few times a year for many years, with her high school and college batchmates, close relatives, and friends. She enjoyed every moment that was allowed her. She organized many social gatherings, reached out to as many people as she could, and even took care of her nephews and nieces. Because she was single, she became a doting aunt to many, a second mother to them.
She also took many chances on love, not looking at its spoils and pitfalls, always soaring up to give only the best to her loved ones. She loved without much condition, just wanting to make them happy with any little way that she could. At times, she would be downtrodden, but never depressed. She always bounced back on her feet, and showed a strength that was only possible with grace and faith that comes from above.
Hers was a life of forty-eight years, well lived to the fullest. She was my hero, one I admired, one I cherished, especially as I remember her on her birthday which is just a few days away. Her name was PINKY.