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Samaritans boost cancer victims’ chances

Led by a small charity founded by an Igorot karate teacher in Germany, Samaritans have given hope to two mothers and a widower in the thick of their fights against the big C.
Veronica Bitaga, a 56-year old mother of four from Pucsusan barangay here, was wheeled into the hospital last Friday for her second of six monthly chemotherapy treatment sessions for cancer of the colon.
Amparo Rivera, 53 and mother of five, last week was midway through her 25 daily radiation therapy sessions for cancer of the cervix at the Philippine Lung Center in Quezon City.
Adonis Togana, a 45-year old father of two who lost his wife and baby in childbirth, was also into flap surgery for relapsed skin and muscle cancer at the Obietas Clinic in San Juan, Metro-Manila. Soon, he will transfer to the Philippine General Hospital for radiation and chemo therapy.
“After that, my doctor said it would be good to have my left leg amputated,” he said before leaving for Metro-Manila.
Shoshin (Beginner’s Mind), a foundation led by former world shotokan (knife-hand) karate champion Julian Chees, sent last Thursday P10,000 to enable Bitaga to undergo chemo on time two days before Mother’s Day.
“Read about a mother, Mrs. Veronica Bitaga, so I texted right away (Shoshin secretary) Renate (Doth) to send about 195 Euro to get at least 10 thousand pesos for her,” Chees e-mailed last Thursday.
A native of Maligcong, Bontoc, Mt. Province, Chees became the only non-German by birth to be drafted to the Germany’s national karate team. Being the smallest in the team, he concentrated on kata, the formal exercises of the shotokan school under the Japan Karate Association, winning various European titles before topping the event in the World Shotokan Championship in Saarsbrucken, Germany.
Shoshin began connecting to the needy in the Cordillera in late 2004. Chees and his martial arts students were struck by television footages of communities wrecked by a typhoon at Christmastime and decided to pass the hat. Chees then traveled to Banaue, Ifugao where mayor Jerry Dalipog led him to the victims. He handed P70,000 to two mothers who lost their two children in a landslide that buried their house among the rice terraces.
Also responding to Bitaga’s plea, a Baguio family with an eatery along Session Road here handed over P3,000. A vehicle shop owner and a donor from Kabayan, Benguet contributed P1,000 each.
Veronica’s husband, Eddie, is an off-and-on construction worker whose income she tried to augment by selling small souvenir items at the Mines View Park before her latest illness was diagnosed last February.
Last March, she underwent surgery for colon cancer. It was her fifth operation. Her first was 15-years ago, when she delivered by caesarian section her twins – Elizabeth and Elvira, who just finished high school.
The caesarian section proved a blessing of sorts. Doctors found her ovaries showed tumor growth and had to be removed. She had two more surgeries were after that - for removal of her inflamed appendix and gall stones.
Rivera’s 25-day radiation treatment at the Lung Center was arranged through a P10,000 support from Shoshin, donations from local Samaritans, the kindness of an Igorot businessman who offered her billeting in his place along East Avenue, also in Quezon City.
Ricky, Amparo’s eldest child, brought her back to Baguio last week for blood transfusion and will deliver her again today for the resumption of her radiotherapy tomorrow.
It’s also a long haul for Togana, a teacher at the Pines City National High School here who was sidelined since he was diagnosed for “squamous cell carcinoma” in 2008.
Samaritans from all over helped him pull through his first set of chemotherapy sessions. Last year, he thought he was on remission when a check-up revealed the pesky cancer cells were back.
Adonis lost his wife and fellow teacher Maria and their baby in childbirth in 2005. He just couldn’t give up and is ready to have his leg amputated after the flap surgery and chemotherapy, as recommended by his doctor.
His fight is for Trojan, his 15-year-old son, and Jezrelle, his 13-year old daughter.
Reason enough for Shoshin to work his corner with a P10,000 support, Reason enough for Renato Valencia to add US250 on top of the donations of individuals and institutions here.
Another patient, nurse Shirley Concepcion of the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center, is slowly on the way to deliverance after her recent heart surgery at the Philippine Heart Center.
Like Bitaga, Togana and Rivera, Sshirley keeps a roster of her Samaritans. They include her fellow workers at the BGHMC and inmates of the city jail who also reached out to her. – Ramon Dacawi.

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