By Andrea Aro and Marjaleen Ramos
“Miracles do happen – and I’m a testament to that. “
As we celebrate Cancer Awareness Day (Feb. 4), we took time to talk to a cancer survivor who has defied the odds and beat cancer.
It was almost five years ago when Jheric Delos Angeles, then 24, learned he was diagnosed with Stage IV anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), a rare subtype of lymphoma.
According to Dr. Andrew Davies, consultant in medical oncology, lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that develops when white blood cells called lymphocytes grow out of control.
Upon learning about his diagnosis, Angeles’ world was turned upside down and thought it was the end.
“It was devastating at first. I was shocked, and couldn’t process my feelings and thoughts well. I thought it was the end,” he said.
As he went through several rounds of chemotherapy, Angeles couldn’t help but feel afraid and anxious.
“Anxiety and fear were pulling me down. But as time went by, I learned to accept what was happening. My then-girlfriend — now my wife — friends, and family, even strangers, were there to support me financially and emotionally.”
Despite the devastating turn of events, what pushed Angeles to keep going were the people around him. “Seeing the people around me, and their unwavering support pushed me to stay strong. My hope during that time is just to recover and be completely healed.”
Seven months later, against all the odds, Angeles survived and has now started seeing life from a new perspective.
“It allowed me to see things and life differently. My mantra has always been ‘one day at a time.’ Sadness and fear don’t necessarily disappear. But I’ve learned to acknowledge my emotions – that it’s okay to feel down, that it’s okay to not feel okay.”
“I’ve learned to appreciate the small things – the sunsets, the sunrises, and everything in between,” he added.
He also became more conscious about his lifestyle and taking care of his body physically, emotionally, and mentally.
But Angeles’ journey didn’t stop there. With the help of his wife, he started a group to help raise awareness about lymphoma.
“My wife and I started a patient group, Lymphoma Philippines Foundation, to help patients and their loved ones who are diagnosed with lymphoma. This allows us to raise awareness about the disease, and to advocate for them.”
When asked if he ever thinks of the cancer returning, he said: “This is normal amongst patients who are in remission. The anxiety kicks in at times. I just enjoy the second life that was given to me. One day at a time!”
For those who are still fighting cancer, Angeles encourages them to fight and believe that miracles do happen. “I know it’s hard, but keep on fighting. Acknowledge what you feel. It’s okay to cry. Draw strength from the people around you. Focus on getting healed, and have conversations with people who underwent the same experience. Talk to your doctor and other healthcare providers about your options.”
It was a difficult battle, but with the faith and support he received from the people around him, Angeles won his battle against cancer. “With faith and love of people around me, I was able to overcome it. “
Cancer Awareness Day, led by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), aims “to raise worldwide attention and inspire action for a cancer-free future.”
Read more: World Cancer Day: Tips to reduce your risk