I am no stranger to cancer. For while I have not been diagnosed of the Big C and, God forbid, I hope I never will be, I have had two members of my family succumb to it. And the pain of watching people you care so deeply for, slowly but savagely waste away, still haunt me to this very day.
When my Mom succumbed to breast cancer in 2003, I was not by her side. Not even within the premises of the hospital where she was taken three days before she drew her last breath, of which I was also not informed. I only learned about it when one of my siblings called me from the hospital. What followed after that was a very painful process of (a.) First, having to deal with the loss of my Mother who was the heart and soul of the family I have come to know as my own, minus the biological ties; and (b.) Having to deal with the painful drama that ensued between family members, made only worse by one ego trying to outdo another’s and, well, you must have seen enough teleseryes to know very ugly family squabbles can get sometimes.
Two years passed and it was my Dad’s turn to surrender his mortal body. Colon cancer took him away from us but if you ask me, a part of him died when Mom went and he died little by little every single day since. And once again, my tough and ultra-independent stance crumbled and I was left feeling raw and emotionally vulnerable.
Looking back at what could possibly be two of the darkest moments of my life, I realize how important having a good support system – composed mainly of family and friends – is. I had an abundance of the latter, but was clearly left out in the cold by the former. But I told myself, one out of two is still good and with my friends’ support, I was able to slowly get back on track and inch my way closer to complete catharsis.
During the healing process, I did not carry around a manual to refer back to for every achingly familiar situation I was about to face. But I do remember doing a lot of things which eventually led me to completely accept my loss and do what every person in the same situation must do – move on.
A few months ago, a dear friend of ours was diagnosed with Stage 2B breast cancer. Abie, as we fondly call her, is all but 30 years of age; a single Mom; a doting daughter to her parents; and the family’s sole breadwinner. When she told us about the doctors’ prognosis, Noel and I, in our separate conversations with her, could only stare at the floor in shock and disbelief. The knowing alone is too painful – and we’re not even the ones whose bodies were being ravaged by the cancer cells. But you see, this is where Abie held us all in amazement: though clearly in pain and overwhelmed by the impact her chemotherapy and other medical expenses would have on their finances, she kept her composure and not once did we ever hear her speak ill of God or curse the heavens above for her affliction. To this day, she continues to bear it all with grace and shining positivity that she puts us in shame for all our pettiness.
Upon her doctors’ advice, she underwent mastectomy and soon after, started her chemotherapy treatment – a painful process she will have to sustain all the way until end of the year. During which, we are all hopeful that the cancer cells will be put to rest once and for all. Now these things cost money. A LOT of it. And between taking care of the family and fighting for her own life, Abie can only do so much. So Noel, who has known Abie for almost seven years now, thought of a brilliant idea to raise funds so we can all – in our little ways – help Abie.
And that’s how SOLACE was born.
SOLACE: An Open Photo Shoot Project For Abie Pana
Date: 30 April 2011 (Saturday)
Time: 9AM to 6PM
Where: 123 Pioneer Street, Mandaluyong City
Rate: Php800 inclusive of hair and make-up
Photographer: Noel Abelardo
To reserve a slot, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
About the photographer
Noel Abelardo is not your typical boy-next-door. He’s blessed with looks and that enviable style, sure, but he’s got the talent and, most of all, the heart to back it up. In nearly six years that I have known him, he always pulls out a trump card – at that every moment when you thought he couldn’t possibly do better than the first almost-perfect attempt. It could be his interesting life and its oft-confounding details that gave him the inspiration to capture faces and moments in crystal clear lenses – an inspiration he is able to sustain to this very day – and selflessly offer these montage of captured emotions back to the world. And if you ask him ‘until when’, he will most likely quip ‘forever’ . And you just know, that by ‘forever’ he means exactly that – and not a day less. Interestingly, his approach to photography is not too far removed from the daring and risqué manner with which he courts love and commitment. Which, in retrospect, is perhaps one of the bigger reasons why we remain as close as we had been the first months of our meeting back in 2006. Noel’s talent in photography, arts, music, and his other creative pursuits is only rivaled by his unflinching loyalty to and love for family and friends. I often tell him, he is bound for bigger places – doing far greater things with his talent. And looking at his growing portfolio of achievements, I daresay, he is no more than a marathon away. Thank you Noel, Abie and I could not have asked for a better friend.