After almost a year of chemotherapy under my care, Mrs. Minerva was finally able to return to the UK. This was in late 2016. She had been working as a chef in a posh hotel in London for over 20 years, and she only came back to the Philippines for a vacation. It was during this vacation that she had noted a lump on her breast, and further work-up revealed that it was a malignant tumor that had already spread to her lungs and bones. I told her that as soon as she was strong enough and all her documents were in place she should return to London so she could use her comprehensive medical insurance. Cancer treatment in the Philippines can ablate one’s bank account, and very few people have private medical insurance. I have many returning OFW’s coming to the clinic, and the first thing I always ask is if they have good medical coverage abroad.
Mrs. Minerva and I would occasionally communicate in Facebook, and on the rare occasion that I would post something about myself she would like, comment, and share it using her two Facebook accounts. Except when my post was about action figures, she didn’t care much for those.
I recently posted a photo of myself and our new cancer center, and immediately I saw that there was “1 Share”. I clicked it and saw that it was a token share by my sister. Mrs. Minerva should have shared this twice by now, I told myself, so I went to her profile, a bit concerned. And true enough, in her profile were messages of condolences, reminiscences about her life, photos of how she looked when she was healthy. She had died only two weeks ago.
Being friends with patients in social media adds an extra degree of heartbreak when they start to deteriorate and die. You can see how they used to be in their youth, when they were full of life, when they had no idea that a random mutation would alter the course of their lives beyond their control, beyond anybody’s control. And you can see that there were people who loved them dearly, people who are now in pain.