I have leukemia.
I was at home, sitting in front of the computer one afternoon last August 2008, when Papa called to break the news. I thought he was joking. Papa was a natural comedian and he loved cracking jokes, no matter what the situation. But this time, he was serious. My eyes began to water and the tears fell, one after the other. Even though I was trying to hide it from him, he could tell. He simply said, “Don’t cry na, ha? Don’t worry, kaya natin ‘to.” I was amazed at how he was able to hold back his tears while I cried uncontrollably. He chose to remain strong so I wouldn’t feel weak. Superman talaga.
When I put the phone down, I immediately went online to research about the kind of leukemia he had. Leukemia doesn’t have stages, only types—and his was the worst (AML or Acute Myeloid Leukemia). I learned that no matter what medicine or treatment a cancer patient takes, the family should always be there to support him, to shower him with love and laughter. And that was what I planned to do.
From that day on, I went to the hospital as often as I could. I wanted to show Papa I was going to be there for him all throughout and that we were going to surpass this together. I also helped Mama by running errands and doing simple tasks. I knew she was the one who had to do most of the work, staying with Papa at the hospital and taking care of the kids at home. My other siblings helped too, in any way they could. It was truly a team effort.
A Beam of Light
Even before cancer struck him, Papa always thought and lived positively. Nothing could stop him from achieving his dreams. His positivity kept him strong, brave, and determined to battle the big C. One of the first things he told me was that he wanted to get well so he could be a spokesperson for those with leukemia. He hadn’t even undergone any kind of treatment at that time, and all he could think about were the things he wanted to do after he was healed. He was that positive! He continued to write and record songs and take pictures for his Camera Club competitions. He wanted to be an inspiration to those who were sick like him. He wanted them to know that despite this illness, goals can be attained and dreams can be lived.
Papa was able to go home one last time before he went back to the hospital. We did what we would normally do at home: watch movies, eat together, play board games, and take naps beside each other, no matter how crowded the bed was. Luckily, we were able to take a few pictures as one whole family. Little did we know that those would be our last photos together.
Click on to read more about Francis Magalona's final days.