interview with Maritoni Fernandez

originally from HealthToday Online:

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 
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. 

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