Painting Samoa pink for Pinktober

By Manamea Apelu-Schwalger 30 September 2017, 12:00AM

My journey with cancer has often woken me with a yearning. Something inside me beckons for a courage that lives beyond me, like a step up from where I am climbing slowly. 

I always feel oh so more fortunate, cancer has never broken my spirits, as it can do so to those whom it wreaks havoc on without so much a warning. So my silence breaks the sky I want to reach when I look at it with my tiredness.  

My sister’s poetic writing has found its way into my writing today, as I think of my body’s illness and I ponder on the aloneness of birth and the falling apart of life. 

If you know my determined spirit and my persistent dedication to fine detail, you will know that PINK is not exactly my favourite colour. Instead, I love the vibrant green foliage, the sharp white pua and the prestigious red teuila. 

The vivid yellows of prickly bromeliads laid in soft greens of mondo grass. Pink flowers, well you can guess I am not a grower of them so, I do not think I have much of that around the house to look upon. 

But for my fated illness, the soft feminine elegant pink has significantly dominated my clothing attire, my FB page and now yet again, the month of my birthdate, October.

Pinktober, you may know, has taken to all corners of the earth, with the breast cancer awareness campaign being criticised for dominating attention every October, its signature Pink plastered everywhere you look. The Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London have all illuminated their skylines in support of Cancer Awareness in recent years.

Breast cancer is the leading cause of death for women with cancer in Samoa.  

The Samoa Cancer Society recently reported  ‘Thirty women in Samoa died of cancer in 2016, mothers, daughters, grandmothers, aunties and friends. Thirty families were left decimated with loss and grief. So far this year, 90 new cancer cases have been referred to the Samoa Cancer Society, 60% of them, women, many confirmed to have breast cancer.’

Cancer can be effectively treated and even cured! That is a fact. Early detection can save lives and is as equally important as living a healthy lifestyle. Many of the cancer cases presented up at the hospital are almost always late stage. Early detection is the backbone of cancer awareness campaign including Pinktober.  

The National Health Services have screening programs in place, with mammograms and blood tests and even a simple consult for information with a staff member from the Samoa Cancer Society.

I continue to proactively support the hard work of the health sector, with Government and N.G.O’s like the Samoa Cancer Society who continue to forge the way to provide the best health services for our people with cancer. 

I have found along this journey an astounding amount of support from the medical professionals to politicians to advocates for cancer patients. Not to forget the influential assistance of the public sector who pour resources in support of initiatives surrounding cancer awareness. Samoa is filled with the generosity of kind hearts who have reached out to better our communities through these initiatives. 

This, I know have come out of pure love for country and mankind. I also know, this is God’s love.

I am still walking this earth, for however much longer, it is by his grace. The HER2+ breast cancer has found its way to my brain. Incurable, inoperable, the dominating words of doom that seem to circle me closer with each of my battles with my cancer adversary.  I am told my faculties will go in due time as my brain cells succumb to the disease, but I have learned to calm myself in the face of such promises.

At this exact time in 2014, I was getting ready to sit my U.S.P. exams, and armed with bandages from my first breast surgery, I gave my late mother her final wish, I graduated. Fast forward to last October, I was wheeled into our emergency unit up at Motootua with cancer filled lungs. 

By November 2016, I was told to come home to farewell my loved ones.  One year later, I am still here. So if you wake up to a PINK Samoa, think beautiful thoughts. 

Think of all those less fortunate who cannot voice these thoughts, who fight cancer silently. 

Think of the policies that continue to change for the betterment of our societies as a result of public voices and opinions regarding anything, CANCER for me. Think of how we can encourage people to understand the signs and symptoms of cancer. Think of how we all proactively can be a part of a Samoa that can come together, collectively, to perpetuate our purpose on this earth. 

So to think of my sleepless nights and the long fight to make a difference with my small life, I believe with all my heart that God is ever so gracious. 

I feel as a bird. I am content to fly though the cage this body embraced me with, is my humble beginning. I feel that the pain of my cancer is endowed with words and inspirations, even I cannot describe, to touch another woman’s heart, may she be a daughter, a wife or a mother. 

For me, and Pinktober, I long to see the daylight of Octobers as much I dread the nights, but I am a climber of high mountains, and a believer of the impossible dreams. I have imprints in my grateful heart to say to every broken thing this short life has to hold, that 

“ All is well with my soul.”

Yes, it is true. God is love. His light can never be extinguished. 

A blessed Pinktober Samoa.

By Manamea Apelu-Schwalger 30 September 2017, 12:00AM
Samoa Observer

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