In the interest of keeping it real, I would like to make this confession: I have been feeling discouraged after experiencing what I’d like to call “a few minor work setbacks.”
Just as I was starting to wallow in the pit of frustration, however… I received the best message ever: A request from our partners from Liwanag ng Masilaw to do a fundraiser benefitting families financially hit by cancer.
I was so grateful because it allowed me to take stock of why I’m still doing “the wine thing.” It involves the promise I made to my father to help people who really need it in any way I can… I mean, I could never compare to his side of the family who are all in the medical field – but that’s beside the point. I will do what I can with what I know.
Anyway. I know I’ve talked about this before, but for those who aren’t familiar with it, I’d like to talk about why dealing with cancer’s financial repercussions is super important to me.
I first met Jen in the second term of SY 2011-2012 and she was pretty hard to miss. She was cute, intelligent, jolly… and was an amputee. I broke my own rule of not engaging with my students on a personal level and asked about her prosthetic leg, which had its own adorable black ballerina shoe (complete with a teeny bow). She told me about how she had bone cancer but was “ok,” how her dad recently passed from the disease, and how she was loving being back in school.
At the time, Chad and I were about to get married so Jen and her classmates decided to give me a sendoff by making a scrapbook (which I almost confiscated… The kids were paying more attention to that than the lesson, pfft). On her “dedication,” she drew a dress she wanted to wear to our wedding. I thanked everyone and jokingly told her that she was a little too old to be a flower girl.
Fast forward to the following term (and a few weeks after the wedding). I didn’t see her anymore but thought nothing of it… until she and her mom came to school. She was out of uniform, and the mom was out of sorts.
The cancer was back and has gone to her lungs. They had to pull her out of school for homeopathic remedies in Tagaytay… The finances were not looking good, so much so that they had to give up their home and live with other people separately because their friends/family could only take one person at a time.
When I took a leave the following term, I received word that things took a turn for the worse and that she was confined in Sta. Ana General Hospital.
Now, I will not go into what my participation was during that time because I refuse to make this about me… but I will never forget her last day: She couldn’t speak anymore so she was communicating through my iPad, gushing over our wedding photos (she was still jokingly expressing her frustration about not being made flower girl to the wedding). She typed that she wanted to eat. After joking about how she was no longer allowed to at that point (she was drowning in the constant buildup of fluids in her body so eating was out of the question), she clarified that she wanted to have dinner with her family that night. I told her mom, who contacted Jen’s brother and made it happen.
She got her wish that last night of her life. I got a call from her mom at 8am the following day telling me Jen was gone. The wake was initially a financial struggle as well but… I suppose the only beauty about having to pass away so young is that there are so many people ready to help.
Now, I could choose to focus on being bitter about the unfairness of it all: The death of a joyful, brilliant young woman at the age of 20, the pain that she and her family went through, why on earth money got in the way of making her last days much more comfortable… but I choose to turn this negative into a positive by highlighting one element of Jen’s story: The finances, which were so bad that her family couldn’t be in the same home with her while she was being ravaged by that horrible, painful disease.
That’s the reality of cancer. It drains families’ energies, emotions, spirits, and finances.
While I can’t even fathom helping every single family with their cancer-driven emotional struggles, I know we could help in the financial aspect. Liwanag ng Masilaw’s goal of monetarily helping families who are struggling to stay afloat (amongst other things) is such a great cause.
We hope to see you online via Zoom, or in James and Daughters Estancia Mall at 5:00pm on April 15, 2023 (Saturday). It’s gonna be a hot one: We’re gonna make summer-themed food (with non-meat options!) and feature drinks that are, to use a line from Demi Lovato’s song, “cool for the summer.” Tickets are Php500. If you couldn’t make it, a donation in any amount is more than welcome. We are also selling T-Shirts.
For transparency, part of the proceeds for the ticket and T-Shirt sales will go to Liwanag ng Masilaw’s fundraising efforts for families that have loved ones struggling with cancer, and part will go into production.
See you there!
For Jen, who I will never forget
For Menchie, who reminded me about what’s important; and Jonas, who constantly and humorously reminds me to finish our booze… There are, after all, sober kids in Africa.