Mrs. Erlinda Tagle
Palliative Care Patient
The Medical City, Pasig, Philippines
Brave and Blithe
In January 2008, 60-year-old Erlinda Tagle was diagnosed with breast cancer and sought treatment at The Medical City (TMC) Cancer Center’s Breast Clinic. She had a mastectomy on her left breast the following month, but the cancer recurred unexpectedly in the same breast soon after. Chemotherapy was then introduced, but the process was halted after four cycles when it was not found to be effective. It turned out that Erlinda had a rare case of triple-negative breast cancer, found only in nine out of 100 patients.
Erlinda then opted for a second mastectomy, and it was also discovered that her right breast bore a cyst as well. Fortunately, the new cyst was only on its first stage, whereas the one in the left breast was already on its third. She then underwent radiation therapy for 22 days straight just before Christmas of that year.
Despite all the medical intervention, however, Erlinda remained an active Chief of Operations for non-profit organization Women Involved in Nation-building (WIN), and even organized her golden jubilarian high school reunion in early 2009. She still saw her life as fun and exciting, and remained laid-back and happy throughout her treatment.
In April 2009, a third recurrence of cancer was detected in the same breast—the greatest and gravest blow to Erlinda’s waning health. It was then that Erlinda consulted with her multidisciplinary team of doctors regarding the next move to make. She had found it easy to communicate with the team from the beginning, thanks to TMC’s unique philosophy of patient partnership, which ensured that she and her family would always take an active part in making decisions regarding her health. It was during that consultation that Erlinda decided to forego all hospital-related medical interventions and just concentrate on pain management and proper nutrition.
This was where the Cancer Center’s Palliative Care Unit became most helpful to her. Palliative care is the medical specialty focused on the relief of pain, stress, and other debilitating symptoms of serious illness. It also helps patients get the strength to carry on with their daily lives. At TMC, those in need of palliative care can be attended to not only by physicians and nurses, but also by dietitians, home health aides, chaplains, and social workers—whoever is deemed necessary to improve the patient’s quality of life. Family and friends who need support and guidance can also benefit from the unit’s services.
Thanks to palliative care, Erlinda was able to live the rest of her life with her trademark passion and positivity, still doing her best to promote her women-centric advocacies and generally going about her daily routine. She was doing so well, in fact, that she wrote her TMC doctors the following letter:
To my team of doctors at The Medical City, thank you. I am experiencing a good quality of life, and am reinventing the topic of death as something fun to plan for. All you doctors are angels to me. Let me say that cancer has turned out to be a good opportunity in the end. One can live life, love, and laugh and in God’s time join Him in eternity.
Erlinda passed away in her residence in June 2009, surrounded by the people she loved the most. Despite being weakened by illness, she remained in good spirits ‘til the very end, brave and blithe as she had always been.