Remembering Bessie
- Loren Legarda () - October 21, 2001 - 12:00am
The month of October reminds me of one special occasion and one very special person: the Breast Cancer Awareness Month and my dear mother, the late Bessie Bautista Legarda. We used to celebrate my mom’s birthday every 22nd of October until she succumbed to breast cancer in 1996.

Breast cancer is currently one of the most dreaded diseases that afflict women. Ten out of 100 women are at risk of developing breast cancer. Second to lung cancer, breast cancer causes the highest number of deaths among women. Meanwhile, one out of 100,000 men in the whole world is at risk of getting the disease.

The education of our people about breast cancer is still insufficient. Myths about the disease abound: That a breast injury causes cancer; that pain is the only indication that you are afflicted with the disease; that if you’re diagnosed with breast cancer, you will most likely die from it. The general public is unaware that there are several examinations for the early detection and proper treatment of breast cancer. This can be done with the assistance of various government units and non-government organizations.

Educating ourselves about breast cancer is only one side of the story. Coping with it once you or your loved one is afflicted is another.

It was difficult to accept the fact that my Mama was "sick" and this sickness would soon take her away from us. During the time she was diagnosed with breast cancer, we were not yet fully aware and properly informed of the disease. It was traumatic for us to see my mother go through the difficulties of the disease. It was painful to know that we would soon lose her.

Mama’s passing, however, did not leave us crumbled and hopeless. As I would often say, it is only when someone close to you leaves that you realize your own mortality. I view my late mother’s death as an inspiration. Mama taught me that surrendering to God’s will does not mean resignation. It means surrender to God: "Yes, Lord, if this is what You want, then I accept. Let’s go through this together."

As a tribute to my mother I have established, with the support of Zonta Club of Makati headed by Monica Aveo, the Bessie B. Legarda Memorial Award, to recognize people instrumental in our campaign for breast cancer awareness. Last year, the award went to Dr. Stephani Jeffrey who dedicated herself to training breast cancer surgeons in the country.

This year’s recipient is Linda-Panutat, mother of two and President of Prime Spots, Inc. Linda was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 1997. She fought the disease with courage and determination. She survived and has been cancer-free for four years now.

In 1998, Linda and Dr. Diana Cua formed the Bosom Buddies Breast Cancer Support Group, an organization of breast cancer survivors whose primary mission is to raise the awareness of the patients, and the public as well, by conducting counseling sessions and providing support services to patients and their families. Starting with only five members, there are now 75 members who actively contribute to the organization’s endeavors.

With Dr. Diana Cua, Manila’s first breast surgical oncologist, the latest technology and the support of Bosom Buddies, breast cancer patients can look forward to a quick and successful recovery.

The pink ribbon is the symbol of Breast Cancer Awareness. While it reflects the femininity of women, it also embodies their determination in going through whatever trial they have to face.

To the breast cancer patients still fighting their battle against the disease – do not lose hope, you shall soon find the best rewards of life by surrendering to God’s will. To the breast cancer survivors – your admirable determination serves as inspiration to us all. To Bessie, my Mama – we love you, we know you have found eternal happiness and fulfillment, and we shall continue to share your love and inspiration to everyone.

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