Photo shows Rose Menesses and Ann Fonfa (founder Annie Appleseed Project meeting for the first time in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, 1997 World Conference on Breast Cancer
The battle line with breast cancer was clearly drawn in the 2nd Philippine Conference on Breast Cancer, attended by less than a hundred last October 28th-29th, 1999 in Quezon City.
Though participants were less than last year's conference, the entire proceedings were much deeper and focused. Unlike the first conference which sought to establish whether or not there was reason for the PBCN to continue or not, the 2nd Conference embarked on raising the level of struggle - of rasing the stakes!
Despite severe lack of funds, the impact of the PBCN has been felt in just a year's time:
1) The Cancer Institute of St. Luke's Medical Center (SLMC) had removed posters
announcing the 2nd Conference. To this date, the Medical Director, President and Chairman of the Board of SLMC did not at all reply to the PBCN's letter of outrage over the incident;
2) Identified cancer physicians have advised their breast cancer patients not to get involved with the PBCN;
3) The Philippine Cancer Society did not support the conference;
4) Government authorities and corporate sponsors continue to keep distance from the PBCN;
5) The pharmaceutical industry reacted by sponsoring three undertakings:
- on April, 1999, the quarterly publication of medical oncologists "Moving On" for patients was launched. In it, a lead article stated that "Patients become confused as what to believe....questionable therapies are portrayed as natural and non-toxic; while standard conventional therapies are portrayed as highly dangerous...luring cancer patients into an ever-increasing doubt about the efficacy of their conventional treatment."
- five days before the conference, a half-day forum in a 5-star hotel to present the medical point of view to the public (the very first time after more than 30 years of existence of the Philippine Society of Medical Oncologists) with emphasis on "free admission."
- on the last day of the conference, a paid cable television medical show on breast cancer, the very first ever on breast cancer alone.
The conference was opened by Nina Galang of Miriam College who spoke about the deteriorating environment of the country and how all sectors must be involved in taking concrete steps to avert an impending ecological disaster in the Philippines.
In her plenary address, PBCN's Founding President, Rosa Meneses spoke on the global crisis of breast cancer as well as the raging controversy on genetically manipulated food, emphasizing the strong global action against Monsanto - the Carcinogenic Corporation.. "Each of us lives to fight another day, and our victory lies not in how long we live but in how we fight the battle of our lives," she said. For his part, her husband Danny spoke on the existence of a breast cancer epidemic in the Philippines and how and why government, industries and the medical establishment are allowing the situation to continue. "If a study on the direct links of the environment and breast cancer where to be done, there would be no other ideal place in the world to select than the Philippines," he said.
In the panel of alternative therapies, Dr. Edna Lao pointed out that "physicians are only part of the therapy and that once a patient undergoes chemotherapy, the body becomes more difficult to fight back." Joaquin Tan, a Mistletoe practitioner questioned early immunization programs which tend to reduce a person's natural defense mechanism and summed up by saying that "to heal, one must get sick." In their very first public presentation, two herbalists spoke on the promising role of their discoveries in non-toxic regimens: Virgilio Ecarma related how his tea made from the narra tree has been found to improve the immune system in his AIDS patients while Ruben Ensoy related how his herbal liniment has relieved two women with breast complaints. Also, for the very first time, Danny Meneses shared their "Home Battle Plan" which was a adaptation of foreign regimens, that of Breuss, Gerson, Plocher, Wigmore and Kaur and those of Ecarma and Ensoy. He also spoke about Dr. Samuel Epstein's "Dirty Dozen Cancer Risks Women Should Avoid."
In the panel of breast cancer surgeons, Dr. Diana Cua emphasized on early detection and sentinel node biopsy; Dr. Kenty Sian presented how breast reconstruction could help a woman cope with her mastectomy; and Dr. Malou Matsuda was very emotional in discussing surgical procedures stating that "the doctor can remove your breast, but he cannot take away your heart."
Two films (both provided by The Breast Cancer Fund) were viewed: "Exposure" and "Rachel's Daughters." The entire audience learned so much that they opted to take late lunch just to finish the films. Once again, safe , organic meals were served during the entire conference and many were interested in knowing of more recipes.
Unlike last year, there was also now an exhibit of pictures which showed all the major activities of the PBCN since the 1st Conference. Also shown were the two world conferences where Rosa Meneses was a plenary speaker. A special spot was given to pictures from "Art Rage US" and "Winged Victory" with the words hanging above: "The Greatest Risk of Not Surviving Breast Cancer Today is Just being a Woman in the Philippines." Also, unlike last year, three major television crews and two newspaper reporters came to cover the event.
In the last panel, Marivic Gomez presented her thesis on how the family was the strongest support system in the Philippines. Two breast cancer survivors related the recent formation of WBC groups: Marisette Galang from Makati City set up Bosom Buddies in January 1999 while Encar de la Paz from Zamboanga City set up the Western Mindanao Breast Cancer Action in September 1999.
On the issue of breast cancer as a public health issue, Dr. Maya Lim - the only female surgeon in her area and the President of the Zamboanga Medical Society bewailed the highly lamentable attention and budget given by government to the disease. She started her presentation with the question, "Who is responsible for our health?" In her region, the actual health budget per person per year came to less than US$0.50 because the greater protion was allocated for administrative and personnel wages. She was outspoken in pointing out "that there are many bad doctors out there and patients should fight for their rights."
Very serious questions were asked from the audience. Rosalinda Jorolan from Manila, moved by the victorious lawsuit of Matuschka against her surgeon, recounted how she too wanted to do action against her own surgeon. The lack of information and awareness was most glaring in the provinces as put forward by Mitzi Domalanta from Pangasinan, Antonita Gomez from Pampanga, Elvira Galang from Bulacan, Josephine Jumio from Laguna, and Ana Fernandez from Davao. Two female leaders from urban poor communities related how women breast cancer simply waited for death to come with even one account of how worms were already visible in a poor patient's breast.
For their parts, Lina Imbao and Chit Marfil recounted how they have decided to take charge of their own disease and how the PBCN provided them much information and support. One after the other, women spoke of their miseries and frustrations on breast cancer. Though it was evident that they were all speaking for the first time in public about their personal battles, it was clear to all that no one was alone.
The conference emcee, Brownie Villavicencio presented the untiring and dedicated volunteer staff of the PBCN and were given due recognition for their selfless contibution of time and efforts for the conference.
During the closing ceremonies, pictures of the women of the PBCN were flashed while the song of Rochelle Stern played, "I'm still a Woman." Then a moving tribute of pictures and song was given to Leni Cuartero, a 33 year old breast cancer warrior who lived only for 15 months after her mastectomy but gave her all for the PBCN.
The PBCN adopted The Breast Cancer Fund's mission:
1. To replace mammography with a safer, more reliable from of detection;
2. To discover and promote non-toxic treatments;
3. To eliminate preventable causes of the disease, such as those in the environment; and
4. To make the best possible medical care, support services and information available to all.
The PBCN will never be a "ladies auxillary" to the medical profession nor will it ever be a "free marketing tool for the hospital." The PBCN has drawn the battle lines with the Cancer Industry and it is with sheer guts and raw courage that the world breast cancer movement will be pushed fast forward in this side of the globe. In a very powerful and earth shaking moment for the very women facing breast cancer with their bare chests, all lined up to sign a huge board with the PBCN's Call: "Stop the Killing - Take Strong Action!"
Reported by Rosa Meneses, President of the PBCN
Founding President of the Philippine
Breast Cancer Network,
via email from
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