Bahrain: This Filipina breast cancer survivor shares her story

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Breast cancer is the most frequent cancer among women, impacting 2.1 million women each year, and also causes the greatest number of cancer-related deaths among women. Today, we are sharing our conversation with Erylle Hidalgo, a breast cancer survivor, about her struggles and her story of hope.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you and what are you doing in Bahrain?

I am Erylle dela Rosa Hidalgo, a Filipina resident in Bahrain. I am a single mom of three who came to the Kingdom to sustain my children’s education and future.

When did you first learn that you had breast cancer? What stage were you diagnosed with?

I was detected with breast cancer in March 2020 at 43-years-old. During the 2nd or 3rd week of that month, I felt a small mass on my right breast. At first I did not mind, thinking it was only something normal like fibroids.

Since I was working at a medical center during that time, I had the chance to check with our gynecologist wherein she advised me to get a mammogram and an x-ray. It took me a while to undergo in an MRI and screening as the procedures were a bit expensive for me.

After a while, the test results came. I was confused with the number of medical jargons but the phrase that stood out the most from the result was “highly suggestive of malignancy – 95%”. I was referred to another hospital to help me interpret my screening results and get a biopsy procedure. The biopsy showed that I had an “Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Grade 2” – a cancer that began growing in a milk duct and has invaded the fibrous or fatty tissue of the breast outside of the duct. I underwent another biopsy because there was another cyst found near my axilla and unfortunately, the results showed that it was also positive with cancer cells.

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What was the biggest challenge you have experienced during this battle?

My experience with breast cancer was really tough especially when I was already advised to do chemotherapy. The biggest challenge for me was the financial burden breast cancer entails.

As a regular wage earner, I am already struggling enough financially with my responsibilities so I did not have money to pay for the procedures. I tried asking help from my friends and colleagues but due to the pandemic, they were also struggling. I remember thinking that it was better for me to die here in Bahrain at least my family will get financial compensation when worst comes to worst.

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We cannot imagine how tough your battle with breast cancer was. How did you handle it in Bahrain? Where did you get the support?

Nevertheless, I couldn’t have done it alone. I have supportive nurses like Ms. Divina Tungol and doctors like Dr. Wadie Yousif, who didn’t even let me pay for the screening procedures. I have friends like Famel and Shane Fields, who were the first people to support me in paying for my tests. Finally, I have my guardian angel, Mr. Michael (name changed for privacy purposes), who helped me in everything without any hesitations.

At first, I cried knowing that I had cancer. I immediately accepted it soon after because I know that crying will not change the fact that I have it. I surrendered everything to God and tried my best to live as positive as I can.

I am also blessed with people who are continuously praying for me especially my family, friends and extended family here in Bahrain. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to answer any of these questions, let alone survive the entire experience.

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