Karen Marie Banez Rodriguez
I WOULDN'T ALLOW CANCER TO GET THE BEST OF ME.
Karen Marie Banez Rodriguez, a professional veterinarian,
homemaker, wife and mother of two girls is a cancer survivor.
Although she had her gallbladder removed in March 2009,
the biggest health threat that she had to face was cancer of
the breast and uterus.
FACING CANCER AT 39 YEARS OLD. .
In 2002, Karen, then only 39 years old, had developed a lump
in her left breast which was later diagnosed to be Stage 2
cancer. She was already a St. Luke's regular because she
and her family were all Medicard holders, a health insurance
card. They use the card for medical consultation at the
hospital. She narrated, "Of course, you go to a hospital with
good doctors. That's a priority. I decided I was going to
St. Luke's al for a lump in my left breast. I had a biopsy and they found something wrong in the results . Dr. Manuel Mariano, who is a good friend and our neighbor, insisted on me going to an Oncologist/Surgeon right away."
Dr. Mariano recommended Dr. Menandro Siozon who immediately ordered an ultrasound and mammogram for Karen. She narrates further, "He gave me Tamoxyphen, an anti-estrogen drug. Because I had too much estrogen, I was feeding the cancer cells. After five months, I went back for further tests on that lump. The tests came back positive for cancer."
Karen was immediately scheduled for a Modified Radical Mastectomy (MRM) on the left breast. She remembers the date vividly, "It was October 2, 2002 when I had to rush home immediately to pack my things. My brothers and sisters in the U.S. were already calling doctors they know in the Philippines to check out the credentials and reputation of Dr. Siozon. They all gave good comments about him. My uncle told me to really trust my doctor. When you're placed in that situation, you have to pray and you also have to trust. I had to really trust my doctors and I did." At this point, Dr. Charity Viado-Gorospe, Director for St. Luke's Cancer Institute was also consulted about Karen's condition. She inevitably joined the team of surgeons who operated on Karen.
The MRM took two hours. After four days, Karen was discharged with a drain bag for the fluids removed from her body. After that procedure, Karen had to go through 6 cycles of chemo every 21 days. Her first chemotherapy cycle happened at the end of October. Then she had to go back to St. Luke's every three months (for the next two years for check ups. After the second year, she only had to go for check-ups every six months until the fifth year. Karen thought that her fight against cancer was finally over after this episode.
She was wrong: there was yet to be another health problem looming on the horizon.
A SECOND BRUSH WITH CANCER
In November 2009, during what seemed like another routine check-up for Karen, it was discovered that she had myomas growing in her uterus. Again, this was because she had too much estrogen in her body..
For this case, Dr. Siozon turned her over to the care of Dr. Edna Corpuz, a truly gifted and skilled OB-GYNE who conducted more tests including a PET-CT scan. Karen shares, "Only St. Luke's had a PET-CT scan equipment which can see the smallest thing inside my body." Dr. Corpuz confirmed that what Karen had was going to lead to uterine cancer, if not managed immediately.
This time the solution was another surgery, Total Abdominal Hysterectomy Bilateral Salpingo Oophorectomy a.k.a. TAHBSO. Putting it simply, Karen had to have her entire uterus and ovaries removed. Then there was the chemo that she had to contend with once again. She had to go through chemotherapy every three weeks. This left her weak." I went through all the physical manifestations of chemo like losing my hair, my skin turning pale gray, and coming off it moonfaced. But my doctors at St. Luke's were all very compassionate, especially Dr. Gorospe. When she would see me feeling very weak, she would tell me not to get depressed because I had the means to pay for the drugs and treatment. Other cancer patients suffer more because of lack of financial support. I also had the support of my husband and family so these were all very positive things that I had to focus on more, than the side effects of my chemo."
She shared, "The doctors at St. Luke's, when they say surgery has to be done, it's because it has to be done. They are not businessmen making money out of their patients. In fact when the subject of professional fees came up, I was only charged half the amount! I was given a discount!"
SURVIVING AND LIVING CANCER-FREE
Today, Karen still goes to St. Luke's for check-ups. She is not taking any maintenance meds and has vowed to take care of herself more after her second bout with cancer.
She would glow when talking about her doctors. She gave their names and their positive attributes one by one: "Dr. Gorospe is sweet and compassionate. Whenever I see her, I hug her. She is very knowledgeable and convincing. She listens to what I have to say throughout my treatment. Then Dr. Siozon has this father image. He is very authoritative but not in a domineering or dominating way. Dr. Corpuz, my OB-GYNE is the same: tough but very compassionate. Dr. Vicente Bernardo who operated on me when I had my gallbladder removed is also a bone cancer survivor. When he shared his own struggle with bone cancer, I was inspired by it."
"My whole family goes to St. Luke's. I recommend it to my friends and even friends of my friends who have been diagnosed with cancer. I tell them to look for Dr. Gorospe."
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