EVERY December, they gather to party, to celebrate life, and to be inspired to live. Thus children with cancer singing Rachel Platten's "Fight Song" were literally singing about their life and how they are fighting to survive.
This was the scene during that December 9, 2017, when the House of Hope Foundation celebrated its 10th Survivors Day. The children were all over the place at Martin Hall of Ateneo de Davao University, lining up for treats like ice cream and cotton candies. There were cosplayers to pose with in between taking photos of themselves. Over-all, it was indeed a gathering of hope, if not for the bald heads and face masks that remind us that they are fighting the big C.
Amid the huge crowd on the stage singing Fight Song, it was difficult to find who's beautiful voice it was singing through the sound system, and then you notice a teacher seated among the over a hundred children holding a microphone to the mouth of a boy on a wheelchair. I earlier noticed that boy, he only had one leg. The other is cut up to the knee, a shoe covering the stump. And with an angel voice he sing, "And I don't really care if nobody else believes, 'coz I still got a lot of fight left in me."
It was in 2010 when Dr. Mae Concepcion J. Dolendo, the pediatric-oncologist of what was then the Davao Medical Center now the Southern Philippines Medical Center thought of organizing the Survivors Day, to buoy their spirits amid the high mortality rates of their patients, who at that time were brought to the hospital too late.
Reaching out to the poor people suffering from cancer was but taking wings, and at that time, it's the prevailing belief that a child from a poor family once diagnosed with cancer has just been given his or her death sentence. Dr. Dolendo refuses to let that belief continue and thus with the help of friends set up the pediatric oncology unit in SPMC, which now has hundreds of patients with much better chances of survival than the 10% survival rate the children had when pediatric oncology was first made available to the poor in the mid-2000s. House of Hope from a simple halfway home for children undergoing treatment for cancer inside the SPMC now has education facilities so that the children will not miss classes even when they have to undergo months of treatment. They have come a long way, indeed, and they are still fighting.
Published in the SunStar Davao newspaper on December 17, 2017.
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