At the age of five, the world of a typical child is filled with play, discovery, and learning. For a young Nob Ryan Villarin of Mandaue, it was all this, secure in the company of his family and friends.
Until he began to experience tell-tale symptoms. Intermittent fever, stomach ache, and severe back and joint pains that made it hard for him to get up and move around. His parents brought him to their local hospital for tests. But despite initial negative findings, the symptoms persisted. He was referred to a specialist and after a Bone Marrow Aspiration (BMA) test, new results confirmed that he had Stage 2 Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).
That was 13 years ago.
“As a child, I really did not understand what my diagnosis meant. All I knew was that I was sick and hurting,” Villarin said.
ALL is a type of cancer of the blood that is curable through prompt and complete chemotherapy treatment. The chance of survival is very high among children but it comes with a heavy financial cost.
While the thought of their child battling cancer broke the hearts of Villarin’s parents, the anticipated cost got them to a point of desperation.
“My parents at that time did not have that much in order to pay for all of my medical expenses,” Villarin said, as he described the turning point in their search for help from possible sources in the community. “We were watching television when we spotted an advertisement (public service announcement) and there we found Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko Foundation Inc. – Cebu,” he confirmed.
The “Pangga-a Sab Ko” program of Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko Foundation Inc. – Cebu (KKMK-Cebu) provides medical and psychosocial assistance to children with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). Since 1995, the program has nurtured back to health over 100 cancer survivors and currently supports around 40 children who are still undergoing chemotherapy.
“Despite our financial issues, the Foundation helped us by giving the assistance essential for my chemotherapy treatment. It also gave my family the hope that I could be cured from my disease,” he said. “It turned out to be the positive plot during what I call ‘my chemotherapy years’. The Foundation helped me by providing medicine thus reducing our expenses,” he added.
Beyond the medical assistance, Villarin appreciates the personalized care that the Foundation’s medical team and staff extended to him during his treatment. “The Foundation stayed by my side throughout my treatment. They helped me experience life as a normal person, without conditions, not being confined in a hospital bed. Because of them, I was able to continue my education and I got to do my passion as well,” he said.
“It was one of the reasons why I considered the battle with my illness worth fighting for,” he added.
Nob Ryan Villarin exited his chemotherapy on December 2008 after three years of treatment. He has been cancer-free for 11 years now. He is currently a second-year Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology student at Velez College.
“My childhood dream was to become a doctor. The inspiration came because of my experience as a patient, because of my history with cancer,” Villarin reveals. “My journey has inspired me to help others. While battling cancer, the only thing inside my mind was that I wanted to finish this thing already. Hopefully I shall become an instrument in helping others conquer this disease as well.”
The 20-year old personifies determination as he pursues his lofty dream. “Kapwa made me realize that life is worthwhile journey. There will always be obstacles along the way yet the struggles made me resilient,” he added.
Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko Foundation Inc. – Cebu marks its 27th year of service on November 29, 2019. The Foundation remains steadfast in its mission of providing assistance to the marginalized sector of Cebu and its environs.
Aside from its flagship project for children with cancer, it also provides assistance for major surgeries, and other referrals for medical and social needs. Its continuing outreach services also impact communities in Cebu and the surrounding provinces through comprehensive missions that include surgical, dental, optical, and blood diagnostic services.
KKMK-Cebu expresses its heartfelt gratitude to its benefactors, donors, partners, volunteers, and members who have fueled the Foundation’s work. The Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc., Alpa Foundation Inc., JEG Development Corporation, SM City Cebu, International Pharmaceuticals Inc., Simon Enterprises Inc., RGMA Network Inc., Chateau de Busay, and City Government of Cebu are among the numerous notable institutions that have epitomized unparalleled generosity. To all of them, its gratitude is boundless as it says, “Salamat sa inyong pagpadayon nga pagpangga!”