Thea’s not giving up

Take part in school activities. Graduate summa cum laude in college. Become a nurse and help people.
These are some of the aspirations of seven-year old Thea Fantinalgo, a Grade 2 pupil of the Special Science Course in the Dumalag Central School in Dumalag, Capiz.
“She’s an active student, a Star Scout leader and she loves to dance a lot,” said Marilyn, 38, Thea’s mother who is a teacher in Dumalag.
“She’s very intelligent and responsible. For example, she can do multitasking like doing her homework and watching television yet she gets high scores still. She’s a first honor student, in fact,” added Marilyn.
As for becoming a nurse, this desire developed after the Fantinalgo family received a terrifying news: Thea has acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
Thea Fantinalgo with her parents
Rufino and Marilyn

According to the Boston Children's Hospital, “Leukemia is a type of blood cancer. It develops in the bone marrow — the soft, spongy center of the long bones that produces blood cells. The child’s bone marrow makes white blood cells that do not fight infection, as they are supposed to. These abnormal cells are called “blasts” and they reproduce very quickly. When the blasts crowd out the healthy cells in the bone marrow, the child begins to experience symptoms, such as a fever, bone pain and anemia.”
The National Cancer Institute lists the following as the symptoms of ALL: Fever, weakness or feeling tired, easy bruising or bleeding, bleeding under the skin, shortness of breath, weight loss or loss of appetite, pain in the bones or stomach, pain or a feeling of fullness below the ribs, painless lumps in the neck, underarm, stomach, or groin
For Thea, it started with body pains and high fever in April this year. The laboratory results showed that she has low platelet count and has many white blood cells. So, suspecting that she has leukemia, her physician at the Roxas City Hospital referred Thea to Dr. Lita Paclibar, a pediatric hema-oncologist based in Mission Hospital, Iloilo City.
“After the doctor’s diagnosis, I cried and cried and couldn’t accept the news. Thea’s so talented and intelligent and I can’t believe that this happened to her,” Marilyn said.
But, they are not about to give up. Not even Thea. One source of inspiration for her is Angeline Quinto’s song, Patuloy ang Pangarap. “When she was confined in the hospital, she always listened to this song until she fell asleep. She loves that song until now,” Marilyn said.
Also, being sick did not make Thea forget about studying even if she has stopped school because of her illness. Whenever she’s in the hospital for her out-patient chemotherapy sessions, she brings her books with her.
She’s also a popular kid among the doctors. “She’s loving towards them. She has so many fans in the hospital because she can join in the conversations and can crack jokes with the adults. She even knows their names,” the mom said.
Indeed, Thea’s smart mind is noticeable even during the interview. She can name all the laboratory tests and treatment that she went through. Whenever her mom is unsure with some of the medical words, Thea is there to complete them with confidence.
Ironically, it’s the patient who is her parents’ best advisor.
“Relax ka lang, Mama. Daw ikaw ang may sakit,” Thea said, according to Marilyn. “She keeps me and her father (Rufino) strong.”

TREATMENT
Meanwhile, chemotherapy treatments are expensive and they are done weekly, bi-monthly or monthly, depending on the need. Apart from that, there are laboratory tests, blood transfusion, medicines, transportation and other necessary expenses.
There are cases that because of the weak immune system, the patient develops other diseases.
For some parents like Marilyn and Rufino, this has taken a toll on their finances. “I cleaned up all my savings and took out loans to make sure that Thea is treated,” Marilyn said.
Fortunately, Dr. Paclibar introduced the Fantinalgo family to KKK (Mga Kaibigan ng mga Kabataang may Kanser) where she is a member. Now, Thea is one of the beneficiaries of KKK and she enjoys chemotherapy treatments courtesy of the organization.
As for KKK, the funding comes from varied donors who want to help. The more donations that organization gets increases the chances of more children coming from poor families to become beneficiaries. At present, KKK has nine beneficiaries.
“These poor families never had a budget for medical needs, more so for expensive chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy. In fact, most of these children with cancer die because the necessary treatments were not availed of, due to financial constraints. Costly cancer treatment forces many children and their families to drop their plans for the future and just focus on surviving in the present,” said Dr. Ma. Socorro Martinez, president of KKK.
Apart from the treatments, some KKK supporters visit the children in the hospital to bring them toys or food in order to put a smile on the young patients’ faces.
“KKK was formed not to fight against children’s cancer, but to fight against the hopelessness that the kids with cancer and their family feel. This is the most important intangible contribution that KKK gives. We try to help them financially for the chemotherapy of the children, and hopefully emotionally by letting them feel that they are not alone and that they can turn to us for support,” added Martinez.
For more information about KKK, visit our website at http://www.iloilokanserkids.webs.com/ ; Facebook page – KKK Mga Kaibiganng mga Kabataang may Kanser or e-mail to iloilokanserkids2010@yahoo.com. Call us at 0917.3031400.* (By Kathy M. Villalon,
Photo by Dr. Ma. Socorro Martinez)

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