THE BLOG

Cancer Taught Me To Love Sunsets

01/06/2017 10:20 BST | Updated 01/06/2017 10:20 BST

THE DEVELOPING world is changing fast. Non-communicable diseases - like cancer - are expected to replace communicable diseases - like malaria and tuberculosis - as the world's biggest killers by 2030.

Like many cancer sufferers in poorer nations , I was diagnosed very late. Here, I will outline some of the challenges patients in the developing world are face.

Cancer taught me to love sunsets.

It's a small thing, but it's just the thought that, 'Hey, another day has passed, but another day is coming', that gave me hope!

Being told that I had cancer was devastating - especially to discover that it was Stage Four, which meant it had spread to other organs.

The first diagnosis was lymphoma two years ago when I was 24.

I had started out experiencing back pain, feeling very weak and losing weight. Then after four months I was diagnosed with anaphylastic large-cell lymphoma - it's a rare type of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. I discovered that the cancer had already progressed to my abdomen, my spine and my lungs.

Accessing treatment at that time was very challenging. My friends, colleagues and family were my primary source of strength, while my only realistic option for life-saving treatment was a private hospital.

I was working in advertising and marketing, but when you are diagnosed with cancer it takes everything from you. Not only your hair, but all of your savings and chattels. I shaved off my hair first, rather than lose it to the disease.

Quite soon after I discovered we needed to raise US $20,000 for my treatment. My friends and family knew they had to be creative, so they set up a GoFundMe.com page, I had some support from a charity in the Phillipines, while my fiancé even screened a Disney film to raise extra funds! With the help from strangers and friends we raised just enough to fund my treatment and living expenses. Everyone did so much to help me and I was very fortunate to have them around me during my diagnosis and treatment.

My simple way of interpreting my illness was to say to myself, 'This was meant to happen. There's a reason why it happened.'

The biggest barrier to people receiving treatment in the Phillipines is that most don't have the ability to pay for it. I was just incredibly lucky.

Cancer patients also need the support of the government in terms of providing financing and reimbursements for the medicines that are not currently available, while patients still need more information in regard to these treatments.

A third challenge in the Philippines is the geographical situation. The islands are widespread - we are composed of 7,107 islands and the access is mainly focused on urban areas, like Manilla.

We have hospitals in far-flung provinces, but ultimately the treatment and the technology is not there, and most people are being treated without being diagnosed correctly.

We're a developing country, so it really takes a lot to prioritise healthcare and making sure that the right people get the right treatment and the right diagnosis. It's a matter of working together with all the different organisations; non-government organisations, the healthcare department and everyone - patients, doctors, and medical professionals.

Access to medicines is vital and it's important to really get support of every organization that would help this effort to move forward.

Now two years later I am finally in remission. In 2016, after becoming cancer free, I founded the Lymphoma Philippines Foundation - a patient organisation dedicated to supporting Filipino Lymphoma patients and their loved ones.

I know I just have to live life and be grateful for every day and every moment.

Jheric Delos Angeles was a guest speaker at the Takeda 'Blueprint for Success' summit in Geneva - bringing together experts from government, industry (healthcare and pharmaceutical), NGOs, foundations, academia, finance and the wider business world to explore how new partnerships and innovation can improve access to medicine for patients around the world.