originally from HealthToday Online: http://staging.healthtoday.net/dispcp.cfm?cty=4&filename=Maritoni.htm
Breast cancer: Not the End of the Road
There is life after breast cancer. Filipina actress Maritoni Fernandez tells Gina Abuyuan-Llanes her story. In March 31, 2000, her 30th birthday, Maritoni was diagnosed with breast cancer. A health buff, she could not believe the diagnosis. But the overriding emotion was fear--not of dying, but of the "process of dying." What if it hurt, the actress thought. Maritoni knew she couldn't die just yet. "Alexia isn't old enough, she needs a mom," she remembers thinking. Alexia is Maritoni's seven-year-old daughter. As soon as they heard the news, Maritoni's husband, Alex, and Alexia flew to West Virginia, where the actress was scheduled to undergo a lumpectomy, four cycles of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation therapy. Her husband and little girl's loving presence sustained Maritoni through the harrowing weeks and months of cancer treatments. And, of course, there was God. "I didn't have a support group," Maritoni says. "God provided all the support I needed." Her tribulation turned out to be more physical than emotional. "That's where the acting comes in. You have to psyche yourself up to do something you don't really like. I hated it," she says of the chemotherapy sessions. The powerful anticancer drugs made her deathly sick for 10 straight days, then well again for the next 11. "But I knew chemo was going to make me better," she says. "All I could do was pray to the Lord. It's like walking through fire--how do you get to the other side without burning your feet? You just have to take it one step at a time and, eventually, you'll get through the flames." This unwavering resolve and faith helped her in withstanding the rigors of a lumpectomy, a less radical procedure that requires lymph node dissection but, unlike a mastectomy (surgical removal of all or part of the breast), necessitates subsequent radiation therapy. Lumpectomy leaves a long, thin scar running diagonally from the side of the breast and across the armpit. "For a while I went through the I-don't-feel-like-a-woman-anymore stage. Imagine most women have two breasts and I only have one and a half," Maritoni says, laughing. "Then I moved on to a stage where I wanted to know everything about reconstructive surgery and augmentation. I even told my manager 'This is the best thing that's ever happened to me, now I can buy the bra size that I want.'" Maritoni says she's more confident now and believes that real beauty goes beyond the physical. She goes to the gym at least four times a week and plays three- to four-hour matches of badminton thrice a week. "If you're healthy and physically fit, you're beautiful." Maritoni had been praying for the longest time - she wanted to know her real purpose in life. She is very grateful God finally answered her prayer. "It's such an amazing thing. God wanted me to go through the whole nine yards--surgery, chemo, radiation. He wanted me to know and feel all of it." She sometimes thought that only bad people deserved to go through her ordeal. "Now I realize that He wanted me to speak to people, and to speak to them about things I've actually experienced." Maritoni recently gave an inspirational talk on cancer to 5,000 Filipina overseas workers in Hong Kong. She cried as she recounted the talk, her total commitment to her mission and the profound impact of her battle with breast cancer on her faith undeniable. "Cancer is something you can never cure, there's always a chance it will come back," Maritoni continued. "But what are you going to do? Live your life scared, stop living your life? You give it your best shot. You put up the best fight you can. And leave the rest to God." Try to inspire people, she says, and live everyday as though it were your last "because that's all you can do. Just be grateful for the time you do have, and whatever comes, comes." If the worse does come, be not afraid, says Maritoni. "Don't succumb to fear because fear is from the devil. Do everything humanly possible to help yourself. There are a lot of new, effective treatments. And know that God is up there to take care of you. Have faith because if you don't, then half the battle would have already been lost." Original material is provided by HealthToday. Disclaimer: This information is of a general nature only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional health advice and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided and at all times should obtain specific advice from a health professional. To the extent permitted by law, MediMedia Limited, their employees and agents accept no liability (even if negligent) for any injury, loss or damage caused by reliance on any part of this information. All rights reserved.
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