Filipino students pen poetry, letters for cancer patients - GulfToday

Filipino students pen poetry, letters for cancer patients


Dr Sharon Mendoza lectures on cancer and her journey as a patient on treatment before Grade 12 students of Alfiah Filipino Private School in Sharjah. Kamal Kassim/Gulf Today

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

Four hand-written letters, four poems and four sketches, composed within 30 minutes, had been packed and are on their way for distribution to cancer patients in the UAE.

Fact is, one of the poems is scheduled to be given to a gynaecologist in Abu Dhabi diagnosed with colon cancer a fortnight back. 

“Hope” by Renz Macawile goes this way: “Rise, for there is hope/Whenever you feel alone/Remember to always cope/To every difficult situation…No one can ever put you down/If you always keep your faith/Someone will always be around/To help you lift your feet…This is what I tell you my friend/Be strong, and be brave/Life is a continuous challenge/God is always there until the end.”

Macawile was among the 37 Grade 12 students—12 girls and 25 boys—of the Al Alfiah Filipino Private School who attended the lecture-workshop on breast cancer held at the Skyline University College (SUC) in University City, Sharjah on Thursday morning.

Macawile beamed a smile when Gulf Today informed him of the choice by SUC assistant professor Dr Karamath Ateeq.

Ateeq happened to drop by at the venue and in a conversation with lecture-workshop speaker/facilitator Dr Sharon Mendoza, her colleague, got to know of the compositions.

Ateeq, holding the quarter of a pink cartolina in which Macawile scribbled his thoughts, said such gestures of concern and poetry must be encouraged: “This definitely is not only for my sister but for our entire family.”

The idea of creating positivity out of the wrathful Big C has become Mendoza’s advocacy.

Mendoza is a breast cancer patient continuing treatment—this time undergoing Zometa Chemotherapy for bone protection and strengthening at the NMC Specialty Hospital in Abu Dhabi, after the completion of her six-month chemotherapy/radiotherapy sessions, since attacked with the curable disease three years ago.

The assistant professor has been sharing her journey and personally penning letters of encouragement to fellow cancer patients since.

The trigger to even involve the youth, not only talk about facts and figures on breast cancer, yet make the advocacy more far-reaching, happened, when on one of her medical trips to the capital, Mendoza got the chance to talk with a fellow Filipina who had contemplated committing suicide twice.

Mendoza, advised not to drive as her current medications may result in involuntary muscle movements, recalled they were both waiting for the Sharjah-bound bus when she noticed her “kababayan” talking and grumbling to herself.

Mendoza learnt the Filipina was going through some family issues: “She told me: ‘You have cancer. You want to live. I am alive. I want to die. I already tried twice to end my life.”

Her “kababayan” expressed gratefulness when they parted ways in Sharjah after reading Mendoza’s “ready letter of encouragement.”

On Thursday, Mendoza expressed gratitude to the SUC management in the forefront of outreach programmes against breast cancer.

Students Affairs dean Dr Osama Thawaleh said the talks led by Mendoza and for this year put in-charge was lecturer Dr Taleb Eli, has been a yearly SUC commitment: “This is a preventive measure. (The youth) should not be left out.”

Assistant professor Dr Kaku Agha said: “We do believe that students are good at learning fast. We hope that with this session, you (the students) can save yourself and your family members.”  

Mendoza’s lecture was a combination of research papers from international bodies, on Filipinos being pre-disposed to cancer as a result of their genetic links to the Austronesian/Malayo-Polynesian ethnicities, her published research paper on the Philippine cultural factors on cancer co-authored with her daughter Jeconiah Loius Dreisbach, an easy- to-understand cancer video clip.

The short films on two Caucasian girls, ages 18 and eight, brought goosebumps to the young audience, especially that the latter had undergone radical breast mastectomy.

These were the basis of the extemporaneous speech segment that saw the excellence of four male students, instantly rostered for the contest and  asked to speak on randomly thought of topics, threshed from the lecture and the argument on whether the youth are a force to reckon with.

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