CANCER is the third most common cause of non-communicable-disease-related death in the Philippines, next to heart-related diseases and vascular system diseases. Lung cancer, meanwhile, remains to be one of the most commonly occurring cancers in both men and women in the country, with over 17,000 incidences of the disease recorded with an 80% mortality rate just last year. The good news is, lung cancer is no longer an automatic death sentence, as it was once widely considered.
At the dawn of a new era of cancer management, Hope from Within, an advocacy group supported by Merck, Sharpe & Dohme (MSD), staunchly promotes early detection and diagnosis, and increased access to new treatment options such as immunotherapy to help improve patient outcomes that brings the fight closer to saving more lives.
Hope from Within’s advocacy ambassadors led by local celebrities, Tirso Cruz III, Susan Africa and Marlo Martel, shared their personal journeys to Cancer patients and caregivers, with the aim of inspiring those who are currently going through similar battles.
“It’s very important to take advantage of events like these to inspire,” said Susan Africa, actress and caregiver to her late husband Spanky Manikan. “Everything happens for a reason and maybe that’s why this happened to us – so we can share our experiences, inspire others, and [help them] learn from our experiences.”
“It’s also important that they know how we went about it, especially the acceptance part,” added Tirso Cruz III, a lung cancer survivor himself. “Years ago, when you say cancer, hopeless nakaagad. But as technology and the medical world has progressed, marami na ang nagpatunay that cancer is really a disease that can be won.”
They were also treated to a song number by young actor Marlo Mortel, who lost his mother to cancer. As a caregiver, he also mentioned that “it’s important to turn bad situations into something good, to inspire people and give them hope.”
Since its inception in 2017 Hope From Within has steered major discussions within involved communities, focusing on the prevalence of lung cancer and on how it can be fought and managed throughout the entire cancer patient journey. Through information campaign and experience sharing for a, it aims to educate and spread hope amongst patients, caregivers and the larger community, that the once seemingly hopeless disease now has more widely available treatment options.
With the patient voice at the heart of all its efforts, MSD in the Philippines has since expanded the dialogue to include discussions of a wider range.
In 2018, Hope From Within held more inclusive discussions and awareness campaigns on other cancer types like Hodgkin Lymphoma, head and neck, gastric, bladder, and melanoma cancers, in its expansion to Cancer Game Plan PH.