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Cancer survivor goes home for good

by | Feature

Mar. 13, 19 | 10:40 am

Photo: Remedios “Mommy Pilar” Mazo and husband, Jimmy.

DUBAI: A clichéd question asked by most Pinoys when fellow Filipinos come home from work abroad, especially to those who have stayed long years, is: “Eh, di ang dami mo nang pera?!?”

Probably not to 63-year-old Remedios Mazo, who arrived in Dubai 25 years ago in 1994 and has worked as a household service worker, since.

Things were running along just fine for “Mommy Pilar,” as she is fondly called in Satwa, a Filipino enclave in Dubai. But this went into a grinding halt around 2006 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

She narrates: “Nuong una, parang may kulani ang kili-kili ko sa left side. Panay lang ang dasal ko na sana mawala na ang bukol.” (At first, there was this lump in my left underarm. I prayed that it goes away.)

The pain wouldn’t and so Mommy Pilar’s employer took her to a doctor. “Hindi ko na matiis ang sakit,” Mommy Pilar said. (I couldn’t bear the pain anymore.)

Mommy Pilar before she underwent mastectomy

Medication to ease the lump did not work, prompting her panic-stricken employer to have her undergo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which found cancer tumors in her left breast.

“Marami na at nasa tabi ng puso ko,” Mommy Pilar recalled. (There were already many of them and they were near my heart.)

Doctors recommended that her left breast be removed as the tumors were precariously lodged near that vital organ and would metastasize.

Under the knife
“Ayaw kong mag-pa-opera. Umiiyak din ang amo ko. Pero sinabi ng duktor: ‘Pumayag kana Pilar na tanggalin yang breast mo. Ako ang naka-aalam dahil ako ang doctor mo. Bukas o makalawa mamatay ka dahil nagkalat dyan sa tabi ng puso mo ang tumor,’” Mommy Pilar said. (I didn’t want to go under the knife. My employer was also crying. But the doctor insisted. He said: “Give your consent, Pilar, that your left breast be removed. We need to have it removed. I know because I am your doctor. If we don’t this, you’ll be dead tomorrow or the next day because the tumors are all over your heart.)

And so, with her husband, Jimmy standing by for her, and help from her church ministry as well as an Australian businessman, Mommy Pilar underwent mastectomy a week before Christmas on Dec. 17, 2006. This was followed by six rounds of intensive chemotherapy.

“Oh my God! Sobrang hirap. Mabuti pang hiwain ang katawan mo dahil tulog ka. Pero ang chemo? Napakahirap. Nagsusuka ka. Lahat ng panglasa mo wala talaga. Ang kuko ko, ang iba natanggal o nangitim,” Mommy Pilar shared. (It’s so agonizing. You undergo surgery and you don’t feel a thing because general anesthesia is administered. But chemo? Very punishing. You vomit. You couldn’t know how your food tastes. My fingernails, some were falling off, others turning dark.)

It went on for six months.

Prayed hard
Mommy Pilar said she hung on and prayed hard. She could not die, not yet. She still has her 86-year-old mother afflicted with a heart ailment to provide financial support for.

“Kumapit ako sa panginoon. Kaya binuhay pa nya ako dahil sa mga mahal ko sa buhay. Ako lang ang nagsusuporta sa magulang ko. Mahirap lang talaga kami. Twenty-five years na ako dito sa Dubai. Hanggang ngayon katulong pa rin ako,” Mommy Pilar said. (I held on to the lord. He kept me alive because of the people I love. I am the only one helping my parents. We come from a poor family. I have been here in Dubai for 25 years and till now I am still working, a housemaid.)

Today, Mommy Pilar is taking medications for her immune system. She was declared cancer-free in 2015. Prior to that, the Sharjah-based charity Friends of Cancer Patients (FoCP) oversaw her regular post-chemo check-ups.

Part-time
Mommy Pilar should have been taking it easy to fully recuperate considering her age. But nay. She works part-time as house maid getting paid Dh24 an hour for a nine-hours’ work every day. She has also tried selling food by the Satwa bus station where a police officer on duty once gave her Dh100 and told her to go home instead.

Her husband, whom she married 20 years ago, is a storekeeper at a ship repair company in the Hamriya Free Zone and has been having issues with his paycheck.

“Tinitiis ko lang po dahil ang asawa ko tatlong buwan bago magsueldo tapos pag maka-sueldo, isang buwan lang ang binibigay. Kaya ako nagpa-part time para may ipadala ako sa nanay ko at para rin sa pamasahe ng asawa ko,” Mommy Pilar said. (I am just bearing it. My husband’s salary is always three months’ late. I need to take part time jobs so I can continue sending money to my mother back in the Philippines and cover my husband’s transportation needs going to work.)

Hamriya is in Sharjah, a neighboring emirate of Dubai. Daily bus commute could cost around Dh50.

For good
Mommy Pilar said she and her husband will be heading home for good. Twenty-years – with nine spent battling cancer – is enough. As they were earning meager sums, the couple were not able to save enough. They managed to invest in a house in Bulacan but is now dilapidated and in need of huge repairs, Mommy Pilar said.

“Maghahanap po ako ng foundation na tutulong dahil tuloy pa rin ang treatment ko. Malaki pa rin po gastusin. Every six months tinitignan din ang dugo ko. Bahala na si lord,” said Mommy Pilar. (I will look around for a foundation that can help. I am still incurring huge expenses for my treatment. I need to have my blood checked every six months. I leave it up to the lord.)

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THE FILIPINO TIMES is the biggest and most trusted Filipino newspaper in the UAE.

It has a print run of 60,000 copies and 250,000 readership per week; bolstered by 2.5 million visitors to its website every month. It also has an e-newsletter sent to its 250,000 subscribers every day.

The Filipino Times is FREE and has the widest targeted circulation across the 7 emirates of the UAE.

With more than 2,500 strategic distribution spots, TFT is available where the Filipinos are - at Smart Bus Shelters, Metro Stations, restaurants, supermarkets, schools, airport lounges, Emirates and Etihad Philippine-bound flights, churches, Filipino community events and many more.

THE FILIPINO TIMES. We are where the Filipinos are.

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