Family, friends’ support fuels football coach’s drive to beat cancer

By: Mars G. Alison - Correspondent/CDN Digital | May 07,2020 - 06:38 PM
Coach Ralph Eben Plaza (in dark blue) with his DBTC football team before he got bone cancer. | Contributed Photo

Coach Ralph Eben Plaza (in dark blue) with his DBTC football team before he got bone cancer. | Contributed Photo

TALISAY CITY, CEBU, Philippines — Support from family and friends is what is fueling Ralph Eben Plaza’s fight to conquer bone cancer amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis which is making his situation more difficult.

The 25-year-old football coach and MAPEH teacher of Don Bosco Technical College (DBTC) got the surprise of his life last January when a back pain that he started suffering last November was diagnosed as bone cancer.

“Wala jud ko mag expect ani na sakit, tinoud bah kaha ni na sakit or basig gibinuangan ko,” said Ralph of his initial reaction upon learning that he has Ewing Sarcoma of the bone.

(I was not expecting this disease, I wondered if it was real or maybe this is  just a joke.)

“Usa sa nagpa lig-on naku kay ang tanan mga kaila naku like barkada, workmates, batch, karides, family, girlfriend, relatives, parents sa school, Salestian priest, coaches, etc., how they show me support during sa akong trials,” said Ralph.

(One of the things that is giving me strength is how my barkada, workmates, batch, karides, family, girlfriend, relatives, parents sa school, Salestian priest, coaches, etc., is supporting me through my trials.)

“Anah sila di jud magpakita ang barkada basta masakit ta, na sayup jud nah na esturya, btaw, dako jud ko pasalamat nila,” Ralph added.

(They said your friends would stay away when you get sick but that is not true at all, I am really thankful to all of them.) 

Ralph said that he started suffering body pain last November 2019 and when he had it checked up, the doctor’s finding was just back pain.

He said the pain got worse in January this year and last January 24, he finally learned that he had Ewing Sarcoma.

According to the webmd.com, Ewing’s sarcoma is a very rare type of cancerous tumor that grows in the bones or the soft tissue around the bones, such as cartilage or the nerves. It usually affects people from the ages of 10 to 20 and has a high rate of being cured.

Ralph’s condition then worsened as by February, he started losing strength in his legs until finally he got admitted last February 24 as he couldn’t move his legs anymore.

As to what caused it, Ralph’s doctors are also at a loss as he was already 25 years old. And, they also do not have a history of cancer in their family.

As per webmd.com, half of all people with Ewing’s sarcoma of bone are under 15 years of age at diagnosis. Peak ages are between 10 and 20. Although it is also known to affect young adults, it is, however, rare.

Making his fight against bone cancer more difficult is the COVID-19 which, among others, has derailed his leg therapy so he could regain its use.

“Akong therapist wala maka ari diri tungod sa lockdown,” said Ralph.

(My therapist was not able to come here because of the lockdown.)

He was supposed to get a therapy session on his leg every other day so he would be able to move them.

His football team’s therapist visited him once but was not able to return because of the lockdown.

After undergoing surgery where he got spine implants so his spine will not collapse, he is now undergoing bone treatment every 21 days. 

This in itself is a risk as he needs to get this at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) which also treats COVID-19 patients, and him being in a vulnerable state. 

“Lami na kaau di na lang pa check up kay kuyawan ko (referring to the Covid-19), pero laban lang jud,” said Ralph.

(I am tempted to no longer go for a check-up because I am apprehensive about the COVID-19, but I will be strong.)

His next bone treatment will be on May 18, where he has to stay at the hospital for two to three hours. 

He also needs to get a CT scan to check on the tumor which was immobilized. Should the doctor still find traces of the tumor, they will immobilize it one more time and depending on the result, and they will decide if he should undergo chemotherapy or not.  

With his present situation, Ralph said that he had learned so much not only pertaining to his health but also spiritually.

“Di jud ta dapat makalimot sa kahitaas-an bisag asa ta, sa kalisud o kalipay. Tanan na usab jud, peru everything changed for a good reason pud,” said Ralph.

(We should not forget the one above, either in time of difficulty or happiness. Everything really changed but everything changed for a good reason.)/dbs

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TAGS: bone cancer, DBTC, Don Bosco Technical College, Ewing's sarcoma, football coach, Ralph Eben Plaza

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