By Evelyn Castillo- Grooteman , Member Stichting Bayanihan  Juniors Coordinating Team

Data from the News Medical Life Sciences shows that 1 in 5 men & women worldwide develop cancer during their lifetime, and 1 in 8 men and 1 in 11 women die of cancer. In addition, according to the World Health Organization the two most common cancers in 2020 are breast cancer having 2.26 million new cases and lung cancer having 2. 21 million new cases.

What if one of the defining moments in your life is finding out that you have cancer?

The best way to launch the first Small Talk activity of the Stichting Bayanihan Juniors group is to answer this question and have a brief discussion about the global disease cancer. The virtual session was held on May 8, 2021 attended by 10 participants. One of the main objectives of the small talk is for the Juniors Group to have an informal platform for learning, enhancing their social awareness and productive exchange of experiences or knowledge, expertise which would help them grow personally. Myra Colis – Zymelka,  board secretary of  Stichting Bayanihan  and also a Stichting Bayanihan Juniors Group member, a breast cancer survivor herself took us to her journey with the big C by sharing her inspirational book the Unwanted Adventure with Big C. 

Myra relates, cancer ( a.k.a. Big C ) comes like a thief in the night, that no one really knows when it strikes or who will it rob of life. And when we are faced with such kind of experience you only have 2 options: give up and give way or face it and fight it. Choosing the latter paved the way in writing her book. The way she did it is to write everything she can about her experience. Although cancer came in as a form of disease for her, it can also come in different forms like toxic people, our failures, our biggest problem, misfortunes, imperfection and even self-sabotaging beliefs such as; it is not worth it, my story is not interesting and I don’t have time, which are actually excuses for us to go beyond our comfort zone. These sabotaging beliefs do come as limitations in disguise but they are just in our minds. However there are real limitations and we have to be beware of them; beware that failures, mistakes and imperfections are not signs of weaknesses and misfortunes rather prerequisite to success. Accept and face these real limitations but don’t hang on them too long instead, reflect on the experience and focus on what can be done now.

During the session, participants asked some questions to Myra that she willingly answered.  

Q: Along the process of cancer, what is the most difficult question thrown at you?

A: What if your days are really counted, what are you going to do?

I would like to leave something where my children could learn from in case they read this book. I wrote my story and documented what took place to make sure that my children and family will have something to read about me when I’m already gone.

Q. How did you keep on writing during those times that you don’t feel like writing?

A. When I don’t feel like writing, I don’t write because when you feel like it you can write as many as you want. Sometimes, you don’t feel like writing because you are not inspired to write something good. But what I did is to continue writing even if the words are not pleasant. Just continue writing to express your emotions and frustrations. Although they are not inspiring words they are expressions to let your feelings out, because basically they are the words that are stopping you from being inspired. The point is whether what you want to write is good, bad or frustrating emotions, just keep on writing.

Q. Are you going to write another book? If yes, what would it be about?

A. Yes, I will. I want to write about “Make Your Aspirations Come True”, using my journey as  a student of law  as an example. But since I still don’t have enough testimonies about it, it would be a book that I will write in the near future, because in writing you should write something you already know and you’ve already experienced.  I’d rather write a book about being an OFW; how should we improve as an OFW and how to go through and develop ourselves as an OFW,  since I can share a lot from my past experiences  being an OFW myself.

Myra describes that her unwanted adventure with the big C is a surprisingly rewarding journey of hope, strength and love. In addition the words, you are not alone, love, life, rainbow, faith, hope, sincerity, acceptance, do something, inspiration, determination, healing, strength, victorious are words that the participants  will carry as they go to their own life’s journeys and battles after being inspired by Myra’s story. 

Cancer nor death is not something we should be scared of, instead we should be prepared for it. One of the participants agreed with her and mentioned that being practical about it by preparing one’s  Last Will and Testament is a part of being prepared when the time comes. 

Myra also shared 7 beautiful gems – each of them carries a simple yet powerful truth!

  1. Acceptance is key to new and positive beginnings. 
  2. Positive thinking is not the same as passive thinking.
  3. Value others as much as you value yourself, because the people around you are the extension of yourself. 
  4. Beware! The heart can be deceitful and wicked! 
  5. To find healing, focus on life, not on the disease.
  6. Forgive the past, live the present and stay hopeful for a better tomorrow. 
  7. Listen to your inner self, it somehow already knows who you are and where you’re going from.

Myra encourages everyone to reflect and remember the good things that a bad experience had taught us. Furthermore, according to Myra  your life is the living testimony of God’s love for us, so when you dare to write about it that’s also how you can show you care. Most of the time what’s standing between you and what needs to be done is just really you, we tend to sabotage ourselves, but we can overcome it. So write your story now! Don’t be afraid to write about your failures, your mistakes, your imperfection, your successes and triumphs because the world is getting better from the true to life stories that are being told. In case you think writing a book is not my cup of tea, you can still share  your story through words and deeds. Because your story matters and you have an amazing story to tell. We do share them to learn, to inspire others and let others know that they are not alone. As they say our story is not just our story alone but it’s a story for everyone who will be able to relate, be encouraged and be empowered by it.