Bernardo M. Villegas
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Tale of a Cancer Survivor

           Last January 15, 2013,, the online media established by famous personality Maria Ressa, came out with an article entitled "I'm a breast cancer survivor."   I paid special attention to the report, not only because of the inherent human interest of the topic, but because the persons involved are close family friends.  The article was written by Crisann Celdran, married to Miguel Celdran, a close  friend of my nephews.   Miguel and my nephew Michael Arcenas are part owners of the  Nike Palace franchise in the Philippines.  I have known Miguel since his childhood and know in great detail the story told by Crisann in her advocacy of ICanServe Foundation.

          First, let me second her in asking support for the Foundation.  Let me quote her:  "Shortly after (I was diagnosed of breast cancer), I met Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala.  She had just gone through her own cancer journey and I was eager to talk to someone who understood.  Together with two other survivors, we set up the ICanServe Foundation.  We each had different experiences but one common goal:  that no breast cancer survivor should ever feel alone, ashamed or in the dark.  Today the 13-year-old foundation promotes early breast cancer detection via high impact information campaigns and community-based screening programs.  We provide hope and help to those on their own journeys to healing.  We strongly believe that early detection saves lives.  We believe that empowering women with information is vital."  (To know more about the Foundation, visit

          Crisann employed all human means available to be cured of her cancer.  She wrote:  "I had every treatment imaginable.  I underwent a modified radical mastectomy, endured 6 months of chemotherapy, 33 sessions of radiation and 5 years of hormonal therapy.  At 26 and with barely enough time to open our wedding gifts, I was a Stage 3 cancer patient.  It was an aggressive form and had traveled well beyond my breast and spread to my lymph nodes.""  She applied the age-old approach to obtaining a cure:  work as if everything depended on you and pray as if everything depended on God.  This two-fold solution can be summarized in the following remarks:  "When you are first told you have cancer your mind goes on overdrive.  Will my hair fall off?  Will I ever have children?  Will my life go back to normal?   Will I die?  There are also many things that carry you through.  Prayer and an unwavering faith.  Family and friend who come together and who know just the right things to say and do.  Cancer survivors who understand and who tell you they know how you feel and help you take both tiny steps and large strides towards recovery."

          The fact that she is able to tell this story is evidence that she survived the bout with cancer.  A part of the story that has still to be told was the important role of prayer and a strong faith.  During the period when she was receiving treatment, her husband Miguel had to make a business trip to Italy.  She asked him to pray for her cure to St. Josemaria Escriva, Founder of Opus Dei. At that time, the newly married couple were residing on Blessed Josemaria St. in Pasig.  Miguel made a special trip to the chapel where the mortal remains of the Saint lie, the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace on Bruno Buozzi St. in the Parioli district of Rome. Through the prayers of Miguel,   St. Josemaria interceded to God for her and got much more than her cure.  As Crisanne recounts in details:  "A few years after diagnosis, I developed a complication from my treatment that cost me my ovary  If there was still a chance of me ever having a child I knew at that moment that it was slim to nil.  Yet 6 years after my cancer diagnosis and just after I had completed my final treatment, I receive the biggest, happiest surprise of all.  An ultrasound showed I was pregnant with not just one child but two.  With a single breast, a single ovary and the odds stacked heavily against me, twin miracles arrived safely in my arms.  Today I have 7-year old boys on my side.  They are living proof that miracles can and do happen every day."

          I write this account to encourage cancer patients to supplement their human efforts to obtain a cure with prayers, and if they want to St. Josemaria,  who was beatified and canonized by Blessed John Paul II on the bases of two major miracles,  both having to do with cancer.  In a way, we can say that St. Josemaria is a "specialist" on cancer cure.  More importantly, he was called by Blessed John Paul II as the "Saint of Ordinary Life," having inspired numerous individuals all over the world to seek their sanctification through the ordinary work that they do every day.  For more information on St. Josemaria Escriva, visit or

          The story does not end there for me and Miguel, the father of the twins.  Do you want to know their names?  Not surprisingly they are called Mikael Lorenzo Josemaria and Matteo Gabriel Josemaria.  Their father and I are both football enthusiasts.  I was elated when Miguel updated me on the "professional plans" of Mikael and Matteo who are such avid football players that at times they go bed with their FC Barcelona sweatshirts.  I wasn't surprised with Miguel's proud report:  "Presently at Grade 2 in Everest, they play for the Kaya Academy four times a week and will be joining the FC Barcelona camp this April (which they did).  Their favorite player is Messi and for the big champions league games, they wake up at 3.30 a.m. to watch him and Barcelona play.  They dream to play professional football one day.  Why not?"  I say Amen to Miguel.  Thanks to the supernatural help of St. Josemaria, we have two other candidates from the Philippines who can follow the footsteps of the great Lionel Messi, the best football player in the world today.  For comments, my email address is