Breast cancer has become a leading cause of mortality among Filipino women. And because of this, it really drives close to home. I’ve had a few relatives struck with the disease and to be honest, as a woman of a certain age, I also dread the ax falling on me. It could happen to anyone – young or old, rich or poor, famous or obscure.
The good thing is that breast cancer is treatable when detected at an early stage. There is also hope for countless Filipinos suffering from the Big C with the signing into law of the National Integrated Cancer Control Act which seeks to improve screening, detection, and information awareness about the disease , as well as assistance to those afflicted.
Reelectionist senator JV Ejercito is the cancer control law’s prime mover in the Senate, apart from championing the enactment of the Universal Health Care act which automatically enrolls all Filipinos in Philhealth, giving Pinoys access to a wealth of benefits like free check-ups and cheaper lab tests. The good senator did this in his capacity as chairman of the Senate committee on health and demography. As a result, his slogan this election season is “Mr. Healthcare” with a solid portfolio of legislative achievements to back it up.
But there’s also a deeper story on why he’s committed to the provision of health care as an advocacy. Unknown to many, his wife, the former Mutya ng Pilipinas title holder Hyacinth “Cindy” Lotuaco, was also diagnosed with cancer and faced the battle more than five years ago.
The bedimpled and soft-spoken Mrs. Ejercito, a former Cathay Pacific flight attendant, was Stage 2 when she learned she had breast cancer. Owing to her inborn faith, she dealt with it bravely but the thought of leaving behind her underaged son – who was just five or six years old then – was too much to bear. It was then that she vowed to be brave and strong for the sake of her family.
Cindy is shown in this photo with their beloved youngest son Julio Jose (eldest is her stepson Jose Emilio, a college student at the Ateneo).
Battling cancer in the past, she said, has made her appreciate things so much more. To value her family and friends above all else. To stay positive and live life to the fullest. To carry on the noble mission of helping people as a member of a political family.
Cindy admitted that the unwavering support of her reelectionist husband also contributed a lot to her healing, where he accompanied her to all eight chemotherapy sessions. It was in these sessions that they realized how emotionally and financially draining cancer can be to affected families, especially those living below the poverty line. They realized that even average income earners will not be able to afford the expensive treatments and a government program was in order.
The National Integrated Cancer Control Act of 2019 (RA 11215) – signed into law by President Duterte on Valentine’s Day this year – addresses various gaps in cancer care with emphasis on prevention and improving the chances for survival of patients. The law calls for the establishment of the Philippine Cancer Center and the setting up of specialty cancer centers in high-population and high risk areas outside of Metro Manila.
On the other hand, the Universal Health Care law also pushed by Sen. Ejercito in the Senate, gives all Filipinos access to quality and affordable health care and protects them from the financial burden of deadly diseases.
Cindy Ejercito talks more about her cancer experience in this video interview –
Cindy said she prefers to stay in the sidelines and give her full support to the JV Ejercito campaign these days. Now that candidates have entered the last stretch of campaigning, she helps by visiting the markets, talking to fellow moms and women. She expressed her wish for the success of her husband’s reelection bid so his noteworthy advocacies for the Filipino people – in the fields of transportation, housing, infrastructure modernization, education and health care, among others – can be CONTINUED.