What you should know about EPCALM

DIRECT LINE - Boy Abunda - The Philippine Star

I have always believed in God. I have always believed in Jesus Christ. I am a Marian devotee. I am a Catholic, practising to the best I can.

I was recently hospitalized and was carefully watched by a team of dedicated and brilliant doctors of St. Luke’s Global City. I am afraid of blood, needles, and any medical procedures but thank God I made it through the rain and the blood extraction.

Dr. Erlyn Demerre is Nanay’s cardiologist. She is our family’s cardiologist. She is both friend and family. Her brilliance, expertise and compassion have touched and saved thousands of lives. Dr. Demerre is the founder and chairman of the board of EPCALM (Erwin Piedad Cabanag Adult Leukemia Ministries), a Christ-centered, non-stock, non-profit organization that reaches out to help leukemia patients and their families. She has made it her personal advocacy since her brother lawyer Erwin Cabanag, who was the city fiscal of Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental, passed away due to leukemia on May 12, 2005.

Today, the first adult leukemia foundation in the Philippines is known as the EPCALM Adult Leukemia Foundation of the Philippines, Inc. Dr. Demerre explains, “The message of EPCALM is really not unique. It’s simply putting into action what we have been taught and what we learned ever since we could grasp and understand that there is a God of the Universe who cares for all of us. We need to shed a little for others — our time and talents. To share unconditionally and without motives except to help save a life and to make a difference no matter how small. To help add quality to the rest of the life of one person at a time. Assist the patients in finding hope even through the most hopeless of situations. EPCALM stands on God as the Hope, the Healer and the Provider.” 

What is leukemia? According to Dr. Demerre, leukemia, commonly known as the cancer of the blood, is actually a cancer of the bone marrow where blood cells are formed. It is characterized by an increased production of abnormal cells, which are actually immature cells (blasts) that do not develop to maturity, and through time builds up in the blood and crowds out healthy blood cells, making it difficult for the blood to carry out its normal functions. These leukemic cells can travel with the blood all over the body, reaching almost any organ, making leukemia present in many different ways, depending on which organs are involved.

Treatment of leukemia is complex and there is a specific treatment plan prescribed to fit the needs of a patient who must be taken care of at a medical center that have doctors (hematologists) who are knowledgeable in treating leukemia.
“Leukemia does not discriminate — it can inflict on anyone from all walks of life, from any social status. Let us join hands to strengthen and structure the support for leukemia, for we may just be awaken one day to the same needs that some of our inflicted brothers and sisters and each of their families are currently requiring,” enthused Dr. Demerre.

We can all reach out to leukemia patients by volunteering in EPCALM’s various resources: 1. Resource of time (serve as prayer warrior; patient visitation; manpower support of outreaches, events and office work); 2. Resource of finances (donate for patient’s needs — medical and/or personal; donate for any EPCALM programs for the benefit of the patients; sponsor an event or any logistical need); and 3. Resource of expertise (medical expertise to help patients and medical outreach programs; expertise on training for livelihood programs for patients’ families; spiritual ministerial expertise; counseling expertise; care-giving expertise, etc).

“EPCALM endeavors for a partnership with the Department of Health (DOH) for the Legislation of a National Leukemia Awareness in the Philippines to open avenues to fully support our Filipino adult leukemia patients, as well as increase support for our pediatric patients from both the government and private sector,” said Dr. Demerre.

The EPCALM office is located at Suite 341 Medical Arts Building, St. Luke’s Medical Center, 279 E. Rodriguez Blvd. Quezon City.

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