“ Life is what we make of it --- cancer or no cancer. Choose to beat it and not be beaten BY it. It’s going to be one hell of a roller coaster ride but each trip will make you stronger than the last!
Patty Balquiedra is the second featured mAss Kicker from the Philippines. After more than 20 years of experience in management positions and independent consulting, she stepped away from the corporate world to spend more time with her family. Her cancer diagnosis caused her to re-evaluate her priorities. She created the blog, Non Stop Babble. She now considers herself a “momprenuer” and created the online store, Yellow Bird Shoes. We were fortunate to connect with her online and ask her a few questions to get an idea of what “post treatment thrivership” is like in the Philippines.
mK: Thanks for doing this Patty! We are really looking forward to hearing from more “thrivers” in the Philippines and Asian! First question… What/ when was your diagnosis? How did you find out about your diagnosis?
PB: I was first diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma of the left breast, stage 2A on Aug 23, 2012. It was my husband who found the lump in my left breast! He called my attention to it and that was the only time I knew that it was there. In November 2013, I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.
mK: What were your symptoms?
PB: I had no symptoms at all. My doctors told me that it was probably my father’s sudden death (3 months prior to diagnosis) that spurred the sudden growth of the lump to 4cm.
mK: Why did you get involved with advocacy? What exactly do you do?
PB: I realized in the course of my journey, how a lack of information and education can be the cause of finding out one has late stage (breast) cancer. So I promised myself I’d be vocal about “early detection” and how important it is. I had already been a blogger for years since 2005 and so a writer/friend suggested that I start a new blog to document my breast cancer journey. I’ve been doing that since.
mK: Education/awareness is always the first step. Who is your hero or heroes?
PB: My heroes are the women I have met since this journey began, especially those who have encouraged me to live life as if the cancer isn’t there. Those who have survived it for many years and those who live with it but just move on with their lives as normally as possible. I also love and highly regard my Oncologist, who gives me hope and constantly assures me by being so involved in my treatment.
mK: So, what motivates you?
PB: My loved ones — husband, 2 daughters, my widow Mom. They all take their cue from me so I need to be strong for all of them.
mK: Family is so important in this journey. When was the first time you felt like yourself after your diagnosis?
PB: I think it was when I “graduated” from chemotherapy treatments in February 2013. Soon after that, when I felt that I had somehow physically recovered from the meds, I began to engage in my usual activities, become active in my daughters’ academic community again, reach out to my friends socially and be the typical stay-at-home wife and Mom. It felt so good to be back.
mK: What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
PB: I laugh more, cry more and try to get angry less these days. I laugh at the silliest and shallowest things and every chance I get. I also cry easily, whether happy or sad. Happy tears are usually triggered by small miracles and blessings that I know are ways that God is speaking to me. I cry when I hear of someone I know get diagnosed or succumb to the disease. I get angry when I hear that a fellow-warrior/patient isn’t getting the kind of medical attention he or she deserves.
mK: What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve done?
PB: I would say that my being absolutely open about my journey is interesting, especially in a culture where most people would rather be quiet about something as life-changing as having cancer. I took a chance and wanted to be heard because I wanted to help inform people.
mK: What would you say was the toughest challenge you faced as a survivor? How did you overcome it?
PB: The return of my cancer just a year after initial diagnosis. I am currently undergoing chemotherapy again because on my first anniversary (October 2013), my bone scan revealed possible metastases. A CT scan confirmed it and now I’m being treated as triple-negative, which was never mentioned to me by my previous team of doctors. It was really difficult for me to accept that the cancer was back so soon and had spread only 9 months after chemo ended. I lost all my positivity and withdrew from social media and some of the people who were close to me. It took a while for me to process everything that was happening. I dealt with a basket-full of feelings — anger, confusion, fear, doubt. It was just too much at one point. But after it had all sunk in, I turned to God and surrendered all of it to Him, realizing that He was the only one who could help me survive this new challenge. Things have been going well since then and my current treatment protocol is really working. Financially, it was also a huge challenge because I didn’t have health insurance. Since quitting my corporate job 3 years prior, I hadn’t even looked at the prospect of signing up for a personal health plan. Lesson learned!
mK: What is your guilty pleasure?
PB: Eating what I want, when I want. I don’t have a specific guilty pleasure because I try to have everything in moderation.
mK: Moderation is KEY! “Random question time”… If you could stay one age forever, what would it be? Why?
PB: I’d probably go back to my 30’s when my kids were babies and I could re-do most of the things that, in my mind, could’ve influenced the growth of the cancer in my body. Things like not getting enough sleep, smoking (yes I smoked for about 20 yrs), working too much, exposing myself to a lot of stress.
mK: Hahaha! They are learning experiences… What do you like to do in your spare time?
PB: I’m very active as a parent representative in my daughters’ school. I’m a blogger, so I attend a lot of blogger events and write about the brands that invite me to their media launches. I also do social media work for a couple of well-known brands. But work is part-time. Full-time, I am a wife and Mom.
mK: Busy busy! What are you up to now?
PB: Aside from my blogging, I have also started an online shoe business. My own brand which I market exclusively on the internet at the moment. When my current treatment is over, I’ll probably expand the business to include other channels. (also see reply to previous question)
mK: Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
PB: Surrounding yourself with people who love and care about you is important. Find a support group, people who truly understand what you’re going through and can hold your hand along the way. These people will also be able to provide you with information that you need. It’s not easy but being as positive as you can be will really help you heal more quickly. If all else fails, pray and pray a lot.
mK: Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know… anything.
PB: My life is quite the open book because of my blog.
mK: Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?
PB: Life is what we make of it — cancer or no cancer. Choose to beat it and not be beaten BY it. It’s going to be one hell of a roller coaster ride but each trip will make you stronger than the last!
Patty Balquiedra: “non-discriminant” eater, cancer patient advocacy blogger, extremely busy wife/mom/daughter, and open book about her battle with breast cancer in the Philippines. Check out her blog, Non Stop Babble. Let’s UNITE the world and FIGHT these diseases TOGETHER! First step is sharing our personal stories!