By Bambina Buenaventura
(This week, I asked Bambina Buenaventura, a friend of many years, to share her involvement in a matter truly close to her heart and that of her husband’s Cesar. This is her story. —Conchitina Sevilla Bernardo)
One day, I received a call from Bobbit Suntay asking if he could see me. I knew Bobbit when he was the principal of Xavier School, where my boys were then enrolled. Bobbit had lost his wife to cancer and he had founded Carewell, a cancer support foundation. When we met, he asked me if I was willing to join Carewell as a member of the board of trustees. I readily agreed.
Carewell was established by Bobbit and his late wife Jackie Fernandez, inspired by their experience at the Wellness Community in the US. They were convinced that the quality of both of their lives, as well as the efficacy of Jackie’s medical treatment, had been greatly enhanced and improved by the programs they joined.
Today, Carewell is on its sixth year and belongs to a global network of cancer centers.
Cancer is not new to my husband Cesar and me, either. We both lost our previous spouses to cancer. Cesar’s late wife, Nanette, battled ovarian cancer in the ’80s, and my late husband, Edwin, died of lung cancer at the very young age of 33.
At that time, support groups were practically nonexistent, and information on cancer, cures and prevention was scarce. How I wished there had been support groups to turn to back then, when Edwin and I were going through his cancer journey.
Nothing prepared us for what lay ahead. Anyone who has experienced the anxieties of having a loved one diagnosed with cancer knows the painful roller-coaster life it entails—the good and bad days, the uncertainties, the pain and sometimes the feelings of hopelessness and loneliness.
Six years ago, cancer revisited our families. Cesar’s youngest brother, Paeng, lost his life to kidney cancer, and the following year, Cesar’s son-in-law Adam succumbed to stomach cancer.
When Paeng passed away, in lieu of flowers, we asked his friends to donate to charities in his name. We believed there was no better way to remember Paeng than to donate funds to help fellow cancer victims. Carewell was an obvious choice.
Through generous donations and fundraising activities, Carewell now serves nearly 400 cancer patients at its Makati center, and through various partner organizations. Over a dozen doctors and wellness professionals generously offer their time and talent.
All of Carewell’s services and programs are offered free of charge to cancer patients and their loved ones. Its mission is to provide support, education and, most importantly, hope, so persons affected by cancer can continue to live full and fulfilling lives.
Carewell provides counseling and support groups, medical consultations and referrals, and wellness and fun activities, all organized by energetic and dedicated volunteers. Eventually, Carewell hopes to extend its Makati center to various other locations to be able to reach out to more patients and their families.
In order to continue providing these programs and services at no cost to people affected by cancer, the Board is tasked to raise public awareness and funds through various activities.
These include upcoming exhibits by photographer Wig Tysmans and painter Sequi Cu Unjieng, a “Star Night 3” event and concert in October, an art auction and fun run in November, and various other activities.
The Merchandise Committee has met several times to carefully choose and finalize its 2012 Christmas packages. These are specialty fruit jams commissioned by Carewell, distinctively packaged and labeled as The Carewell Collection. They are now are available for holiday gift-giving needs.
I am so glad to be among Carewell’s volunteers. It is fulfilling to be part of a group that truly cares and is able to make a difference in the lives of people who are going through their respective cancer journeys.
Spending time with the “Carebelles” (Carewell’s cancer survivors) is like experiencing life at 60 mbps. You see people who’ve stared at life’s challenges, dealt with them bravely, and come out smiling, victorious and hopeful. Because for them, each new day is another day to live and appreciate life.
Learn more about Carewell by exploring www.carewellcommunity.org, visiting us on Facebook, e-mailing us at [email protected] Or, call us at tel. 7510242 or 8151294 to schedule a visit. Perhaps, you, too, can volunteer at Carewell!