Saturday, February 8, 2014

#Itcanhappentoyou - The Silent Killers in the Philippines

After taking a hiatus from regular school, I began appreciating weekends again. That's why when I went to Ascott Manila to listen to AXA Philippines on my precious Saturday, I have to admit I was dragging my feet. It was difficult to leave the boys when they are so relaxed and happy.

But a promise is a promise to which I am glad I kept. That's why on a very hot Saturday afternoon I find myself listening to AXA Philippines' presentation about the Big C  - Cancer - a disease that can hit anyone, anytime, anywhere - and what can we do about it?

AXA Philippines has partnered with Ms. Camille Pratts to talk about her experience on dealing with cancer. It was my first time to hear that Ms. Pratts has lost her very young husband (30 years old when he died at 2011) to nasopharyngeal cancer. What she and her husband thought was just persistent recurring colds and fever was already early symptoms of his cancer. Unfathomable! I actually had goosebumps while listening to her story. The idea that it can really happen to anyone was surreal.

In a nutshell, she recalled her story of how they found out about his cancer. Ms. Pratts shared that she and her late husband had a civil marriage in 2008. In 2010, they decided to get married in the church. A few months after their church wedding (around June 2010) her husband complained of a pain on the lower left side of his neck right under his ear. When the pain appeared persistently, they went to the doctor to have it checked. The initial suspicion was a swollen lymph node because of his allergic rhinitis. 

The husband, named Anthony, received medication then for infection. However, Anthony would get better for a short while and then the symptoms will return again. Camille said that cancer was the last thing in their mind because her husband was very young and he looked healthy. After all infectious diseases have been covered and none proved to be the cause, the doctor suggested for them to entertain the idea that it might be cancer. After testing for cancer, it was then that they found out that Anthony has an aggressive type of cancer that is inoperable because the tumor lies under the brain just beneath the ear. The tumor was also malignant.

Anyone who hears the news that they have cancer will be devastated. However, the family was quick to decide that Anthony should get treated right away. Treatment included 30 sessions of radiation for 30 days (P3000 per session during that time) and 1 round of chemotherapy every 6 weeks (about P60,000 per session).

Anthony's parents were the ones who covered for his medical bills while Camille continued working for their son. After his treatment that year, he took a one month break on January 2011 and come February he was due for a re-assessment. The PET CT scan procedure at that time was less than P100K which is currently priced at P120K. The hopeful couple found out that the cancer has spread to his lungs, kidney and bone. The doctors ordered another round of treatment which included a stronger dose of chemotherapy concoction within a shorter span of time, 3 weeks instead of every 6 weeks. 

By August 2011, Anthony had painful bruises on his body and needed a pain medication patch. The patch costs around P20K to P25K which needed to be replaced every three days. Anthony decided not to do his last chemo session because he was already too sick and too weak. He died on September 23, 2011.

This was Ms. Camille Pratt's first time to share her story to the public. 

Before Ms. Pratts came to share her ordeal with cancer, AXA Philippines also invited Dr. Renz Guinto and DOH Usec. Teodoro Herbosa to talk about Non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Usec Herbosa calls it the silent killers of our society. NCDs, according to him, does not discriminate against men and women nor those living in the urban or rural areas. Yet, there seems to be no expose to make the Filipino people aware that we are dying of these diseases.

Ms. Pratts said that there are two things she learned from her experience. (1) how important lifestyle habits are (2) how lucky they were that they have their family's financial support.

However, what if you are not prepared? What if you don't have anyone to support you? The emotional burden alone will kill you of stress and depression affecting your immune system and motivation to fight the disease. The addition of financial responsibilities might actually seal the deal (not a very good one in this case).

I'm writing this post with no intent to create any pandemonium or panic to anyone. My goal here is the same with DOH and AXA Philippines and that is to be part of an information campaign - to be aware, informed and educated - that we need to prepare for NCDs that can affect our life in so many aspects (physically, emotionally, psychologically, & financially) if ever it hits us or anyone we love. 

However, information campaign can only do so much. We, as individuals, should actively participate in and promote discussions that really matters to us Filipinos. NCDs are real problems and there are real solutions to ease its burden.

In terms of government support, DOH Usec Herbosa urges every Filipino to be more active in knowing about the #SinTaxLaw and the different DOH programs such as #PilipinasGo4Health.

In terms of financial support, AXA Philippines has two health insurances which they claim as the first in the market to cover 56 major and 18 minor critical conditions up to age 100 (AXA Health Max) and for those younger there is an easy and affordable package (AXA Health Exentials). For parents out there who are thinking of getting coverage for their children with special needs, the AXA technical team said that they cover healthy individuals so people who are born with congenital disease such as heart defects or genetic disorder like down syndrome are not covered. However, behavior disorders like ADHD and psychological disorders such as bipolar syndrome, depression are subjected for underwriting. The products they offer also do not offer coverage for paying maintenance medicine but include a benefit for a lump sum amount. To learn more about AXA Philippines’ products and services, visit or AXAPhilippines. You may also call their customer hotline (02) 5815-AXA (292) or (02) 3231-AXA (292).

Dr. Renzo Guinto - How Healthy Is the Filipino (powerpoint presentation)
DOH - Usec Teodoro Herbosa - The Silent Epidemic (powerpoint presentation)
Camille Pratts - AXA Philippines Interview

1 comment: