As the pandemic continues to persist despite all the efforts made by various sectors, 42-year-old two-time cancer warrior Maria Francia Vizcaya still believes that through faith and having hope, everyone can get through this.
The mother of four is based in Dubai and currently working in a retail company. Vizcaya, on overseas Filipino worker, was first diagnosed with breast cancer through a screening campaign in 2018. After a series of using mammograms, ultrasound, and biopsy, she was confirmed to have cancer called invasive ductal carcinoma.
“I immediately underwent a full radical left mastectomy followed with chemotherapy. Through it all, I still actively participated in most of the activities at work. Coming to work helped me to divert the pain and discomforts from chemotherapy, and at the same time it gave me more strength,” she said.
She had a ‘triple-negative’ cancer, a type of cancer that is more aggressive than others. She was also found to be BRCA 1 positive with strong Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC).
“Due to these, I was on monthly monitoring even after the 6 cycles of chemotherapy and became a survivor,” she said.
As she survived it, Vizcaya became active in sharing awareness about breast cancer as if it was a calling that needs to be served. While she’s at it, she also helped in supporting other cancer patients and survivors morally. She also went back to work while waiting to get fully recovered.
In order to regain and recover, she had to eat on a balanced diet and at the same time, engaged in strength and endurance exercises at the gym, including boxing training.
Another cancer battle
As Covid-19 spreads across the world this year, just this May she was confirmed through a PET CT scan that she has to go through another cancer battle–this time, the experts found metastatic bilateral pulmonary nodules.
“It is scary but this time being strong is the only choice. No way I’m going to give up, especially for my 4 kids. Despite the news, I was still fine until I found out that I won’t have any help from the charity this time, as I just got approvals recently. My only hope then is the medical insurance, which I’ve got special approvals for, but in Abu Dhabi. I tried twice, but due to restrictions, it didn’t happen. I tried to get requirements for another hospital in Al Ain but due to the same concern, I’ve had a lot of difficulties. I ended up self-paying in the same hospital where I started the treatment in 2018,” she recalled.
Through the help of kind-hearted individuals, she was able to push through with her chemotherapy treatment. Although it was challenging financially, due to her weakened immune system which is risky due to the pandemic, she had to file unpaid leave which left her with no income for a few months.
“I had to barter some of my things for food, vitamins, etc. and had to sell some t-shirts to help me with my expenses. And once, came to a point where my attention was called for my pending medical fees and during the same day I found an eviction letter from the real estate when I reached home from chemotherapy,” Vizcaya said.
She further recalled that that night, she experienced a lot of pain and discomfort due to the side effects of medical treatment.
“I was so distraught and don’t know if I will cry or scream. But then I paused for a few seconds and told myself that “God is bigger than all of these”. I thought of the many blessings that I could remember which is more than I deserve, and give Him my thanks for all of it. In spite of what happened that day, I regained have the peace and calmness within me,” she added.
Vizcaya said that the situation taught her to change things she can accept things she cannot.
“To always think positive and be happy, and to manage stress in all aspect of my life. Above all, to keep the faith in God, have hope, and never give up,” she concluded.