The National Cancer Institute (NCI) an agency attached to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under the United States Department of Health and Human Services based in Bethesda, Maryland, USA, is the world’s largest organization dedicated solely to cancer research. EPCALM is now exploring possible areas of collaboration with NCI through the East Asia office of the Center for Global Health under its director, Ann Chao, PhD.
EPCALM was one of the main reasons for the Philippine visit of Dr. Chao from February 6 to 8 February 2012. Dr. Chao met with EPCALM patients and their families, members, and officers at the St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC) Global City on 07 February 2012. Also lending their support to EPCALM and gracing the occasion were the pastors of the Ellinwood Malate Church and other partner churches, guests from SLMC, and pharmaceutical partners, Therapharma.
Mr. Mitch Duran, Head of the Pastoral Care Ministry Program of EPCALM’s Spiritual Arm, hosted the simple program. EMC Associate Pastor Carlos Dela Cruz led the opening prayer. This was followed by an institutional audio-visual presentation of EPCALM produced by EPCALM Director for Resource Mobilization, Mr. Sunny Ku. Erlyn P. Cabanag-Demerre, MD, EPCALM Founder and Chairman of the Board, then welcomed everyone to the gathering. She gave an overview of EPCALM, emphasizing the organizational vision and mission, the burden of Leukemia showing statistics that mortality rates in the Philippines are about the same with the incidence rates.
EPCALM patients and family members came to share their stories: 33 year old Arlene Bismanos from Laguna is a mother of four (4) daughters. She was diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia last December 2010 when she was pregnant with her fourth child. She is now in remission. Rene Macalalad, a 25 year old farmer from Mulanay, Quezon was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) in January 2012 and is now in remission. Maria Ella Cabanlet, MD, is the wife of marine officer based in Baguio City. She has undergone bone marrow transplant (BMT) and is now in remission. All three (3) related how they tried to find out as much as they could about the disease; search where they could access help; and how they were led to EPCALM, the only group assisting adult leukemia patients and their families in the Philippines.
This was also the experience shared by Mrs. Mildred Kho, the mother of Anna Carmela (who has since passed away) and Mrs. Helen Alega, mother of Jezreel. All of them expressed their appreciation for the way EPCALM walked with them in their respective journeys — providing medical, spiritual, and, yes, even financial support.
Volunteers Marie Beth Lorenzo and Sunny Ku talked about how they were “roped in” to help EPCALM by Dr. Demerre’s enthusiasm. Although initially reluctant, they have been blessed through their involvement and interaction with adult leukemia patients and their families.
Rachel Rosario, MD, Executive Director of the Philippine Cancer Society (PCS) and EPCALM Consultant gave an inspirational message. She could fully empathize with the patients and their families, being a cancer survivor herself. She appreciated the work that EPCALM is doing and committed to strengthen the linkages between EPCALM and the PCS.
Likewise, Charity Viado-Gorospe, MD, Director, St. Luke’s Global Cancer Institute, expressed support for EPCALM. As well, she extended the invitation to Corridors of Hope, a support group for cancer patients and their families that she started in St. Luke’s Medical Center and now has chapters in various places in the country. Joven Cuanang, MD SLMC Senior Vice President and chief medical officer verbalized his enthusiasm for St. Luke’s Medical Center to engage in collaborative research with NIH. He also applauded the existence of EPCALM and expressed the need to see to the affordability of bone marrow transplant at St. Luke’s Medical Center.
In response, Dr. Chao gave an overview of the programs that the Center for Global Health is currently implementing, hoping to collaborate with EPCALM in the future. She also thanked everyone for the warm welcome extended to her during her visit.
Justice Z. Demerre, CE, EPCALM President and CEO gave the closing remarks.
EPCALM commemorates and celebrates the life of Fiscal Erwin Piedad Cabanag who succumbed to leukemia in 2005. EPCALM has since extended assistance to more than 40 leukemia patients and their families.
“….Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds….”
Odette De Guzman
EPCALM Advocacy Ministry Director
February 7, 2012