Remembering Gina, an unforgettable courageous breast cancer patient-friend (1988 to 1993)
Last November 1-2, 2011, one of the patients that I remembered and included in my prayers was Gina. I vividly remember her as a very courageous smart young breast cancer patient who eventually became a close friend of my wife, Jackie. I paid tribute to her by retrieving an article entitled “Gina’s Appeal”published in Betty Go-Belmonte’s Pebbles in Philippine Star in 1990. I also paid tribute to her by retrieving, rereading, and personally typing a 1993 write-up on her by Dr. Grace Jamon, published in Manila Bulletin. I also retrieved her pictures and also those of Grace through the website of MDH Cancer Crusaders Club (http://ca_crusaders_club.tripod.com/cancercc.htm) and my Facebook. Dr. Grace Jamon is a doctor of philosophy, a professor in the Department of Political Science, University of the Philippines, Diliman. I featured her last September 15, 2011 as a breast cancer survivor with 22 years in remission in my Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=726455799&sk=notes#!/notes/reynaldo-o-joson/breast-cancer-survivor-grace-jamon-22-years/10150292337900800)
Remembering Gina, a friend
(The following piece is written as a tribute to Gina Symaco de Arquiaga who succumbed to cancer May 23at the age of 33. While fighting the disease for five years, she visited breast cancer patients like her to encourage them to “fight this thing to the end.” Through her efforts, the Cancer Crusaders Club at the Manila Doctors Hospital was organized as a support group to cancer patients. If her body could still take it, she would not have left that Sunday, while she was waiting for her child’s birthday. The author is one of the lives Gina’s courage touched – Editor, Manila Bulletin, June 7, 1993)
By Grace Gorospe Jamon
If there is a word that aptly describes Gina, it is courage.
“It is her brand of courage that will enable us to move on,” declared Iñaki, Gina’s husband, during necrological services held for her last week.
Gina was 33 when she left us. Cause of death – breast cancer.
I met Gina four years ago (in October 1989) when I was diagnosed and operated for the same deadly disease. One afternoon while resting in my hospital bed, two unfamiliar souls emerged from behind the door introducing themselves as Gina and Iñaki de Arquiaga. Their faces gleamed with compassion. Iñaki was offered a seat by my husband who was then so downhearted. Gina – as if a close friend – sat at my bed, gripped my hand and said, “We came to let you know that you are not alone.”
What a profound moment that was to have someone who knew your pain, who by her life, her love, and compassion for others like me, was saying, “It’s going to be alright, you’re not alone. We’ll battle this together. We’ll fight for our lives till the end.
In tears, Gina and Iñaki told us their story and as we told ours we knew that was the beginning of a journey together.
It isn’t a smooth journey. We, cancer patients, live through a gamut of emotions. We succumb to bouts of depression, hopelessness, self-pity and fear – of recurrences, of going through a slow excruciatingly painful kind of death, of leaving our loved ones behind prematurely.
Indeed it is through God’s grace that we continue to live normal lives and it is that grace that enables us to continue to fight for this precious gift that God has given us.
With very profound courage Gina fought for her life. She was only 28 years old when she found out that she had cancer. That was only barely two years after her marriage to Iñaki. Yosu, her first born, was not even a year old. Even through chemotherapy, she miraculously gave birth to a healthy baby girl. She had several recurrences but braved them all. She remained undaunted. These never dampened her spirit. As she lived through her own fears, God gave her the courage to continue to be a blessing and encouragement to others. Each time she visited a patient, and lifted their spirits, she turned her own mourning into joy.
I saw her last during the Cancer Crusaders Club yearly get-together at the Manila Doctors Hospital last December. She was one of the moving spirits behind the success of this support group. There she took it upon herself to deliver some words of thanksgiving for our doctor, who looked after and beyond our medical needs.
As she was being introduced, her medical history narrated, all of us stood up and gave a standing ovation to the courage, generosity, love and compassion so authentically depicted by her life.
Hardly able to speak, her voice breaking, her body frail and worn out because of cobalt, she extemporaneously delivered her last words of thanks.
Gina, from us whose lives you have touched deeply, thanks for the courage that you’ve allowed us to experience through you. You will forever remain in our hearts. We will not give up the battle for you.
Grace in September 2011, 22 years in remission
Thanks for being so much a part of this journey of faith. Thanks for your concern and commitment to our welfare.
June 22, 1993
Breast Cancer Survivor Grace Jamon – 22 Years
by Reynaldo O Joson on Thursday, September 15, 2011 at 9:34pm
Ms. Grace Jamon came to see me today, September 15, 2011, for a check-up. In 1989, when she was 33 years old, a few months after she gave birth, she noticed a 5-cm mass on her left breast. She consulted me after which I did a needle biopsy followed by a modified radical mastectomy (total mastectomy and axillary dissection). Histopath result showed infiltrating ductal carcinoma with 2 positive lymph nodes in the axilla. She received 6 cycles of chemotherapy (cyclophosphamide, methotrexate, and 5-fluorouracil). She is now 55 years old, 22 years in remission. We both thank God for this remission. Grace was a professor in the Department of Political Science in the University of the Philippines Diliman when she got operated in 1989. Up to now, she is still connected with the department. After her operation in 1989, she made it her mission to do counseling for breast cancer patients who needed help. She had counseled the wife of a former secretary of health who was afflicted with breast cancer and other breast cancer patients. She can be reached through her Facebook or through the MDH Cancer Crusaders Club, of which she was one of the original members.
Scanned publication in Manila Bulletin – Remembering Gina
Scanned note of Grace Jamon