Hearing cancer in a diagnosis can shake one to the core. You go through a roller coaster of emotions and stages of denial, fear, doubt, and vulnerability.
Vanessa Ann Patiño – Ong found out about her lung cancer in 2017. Even before her diagnosis, this mother, artist, and businesswoman was already living a healthy and active lifestyle. She has always been mindful of what she ate and followed a pescatarian diet. A life-threatening illness was far from her thoughts until the doctor dropped the C-bomb.
“It was just an incidental finding when I had my abdomen checked. I felt a severe pain, and I thought it was due to appendicitis. I headed to the emergency room and underwent a CT scan. The scan also showed a portion of my lungs. The gastroenterologist then advised me to see an oncologist. I went for a second opinion with an oncologist in Manila. After a series of scans, tests, and biopsy, I was told I had stage 4 lung cancer.”
Rather than letting the bad news dampen her spirit, Vanessa focused on what mattered most. She was determined to fight cancer for her family and those dear to her. “The first thing that came to mind were my three daughters—Zoe, Caelie, and Isobel—who were still too young to grow up without a mom.”
WILL TO LIVE
It was important that she inform her family about her condition right away. More than ever, she needed their support and prayers. “My husband, Randall, and I decided to tell our two older children first. We only informed our youngest about my condition when she was already old enough to understand. I messaged my close friends that I am determined to fight this illness, and I asked them to pray for me.”
Vanessa has always found solace in faith. She surrendered her worries and fears to God and turned to a particular life verse for hope and courage. “God is faithful; He will not let you be tested beyond your strength. But with your testing He will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:1)”.
Vanessa took a proactive stance and set her mind and heart on possible solutions. She braved the battle without letting the odds rob her of her hope, joy, and will to live life to the fullest.
JOURNEY TO HEALING
“I preferred to have my treatments done in Davao because I wanted to be close to my family. I gave full trust to my oncologist, Dr. Arthur Lui. He had just returned to Davao to practice after years of being based in Canada. His plans were concrete, and he always had options. I was the first to use immunotherapy, which was added to my chemotherapy treatment. I always had scans and monitoring every three months.”
Vanessa recalls facing several stumbling blocks. “Some scans showed that cancer became resistant to medications. I had to change my treatment again and took oral medications, which worked for a while.”
“Because of the pandemic, it took a year before I went for a checkup with my neurologist in Manila. I found out I had to undergo a Gamma Knife procedure again because of brain metastasis.”
The side effects of some oral medications included body aches, cough, and loss of appetite. “I took those medications for a few months since my cancer progressed. But right now, I’m doing chemotherapy and immunotherapy and taking targeted medications.”
LIFE GOES ON
In spite of all discomforts and challenges, Vanessa never wavers. There are no guarantees in life, as with cancer, but there is no reason why she shouldn’t enjoy life’s pleasures or pursue whatever sparks joy and bring inspiration.
She maintains an active and healthy lifestyle and engages in activities that help improve her overall well-being. This stylish BTS ARMY makes time to bond with loved ones and indulges in different forms of relaxation—from baking to painting, tablescaping, and Ikebana.
“Art inspires me to stay creative and not feel sorry for myself,” she reveals. “It helps me maintain a positive outlook. I paint subjects that make me happy, like my Ikebana arrangements, travel memories, and flora and fauna, to name a few.”
She had her first solo exhibit in Davao City in April 2021. Her second solo exhibit opened in Cebu last April 2, 2022.
ROOTED IN GRACE
Friends and family continue to rally behind Vanessa and storm heaven with prayers. “My husband is my rock. He takes good care of me and has always been so supportive. Cancer treatments are expensive, and I’m lucky that my in-laws are also very supportive. I’m grateful for my family, friends, and prayer warriors.”
Adversities also bring to light other missions and purposes. Vanessa decided to use her talent to help others and donated proceeds from her first solo exhibit to aid cancer-stricken children at the House of Hope.
The battle is not over, and Vanessa is still undergoing treatments. Yet she remains calm and collected and radiates positivity—proof of her strong faith and belief that God is with her throughout the journey.
“To those who are going through a storm, put your trust in God. Stay positive and always choose faith over fear.”