POSTSCRIPT / October 11, 2018 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Duterte announces he is free of cancer!

IT’S GOOD news for the anxious nation! Imagine the confusion and distress if President Duterte announced that he had cancer – a dreaded disease that most Filipinos equate with imminent death.

Duterte, 73, has said that if he had even only Stage 3* cancer (not the often-terminal Stage 4), he would just bow to it. That sort of “surrender” to the disease could trigger a mad scramble for control by the power factions waiting like vultures.

We wish, though, that his doctors made the announcement themselves in an official bulletin, so everybody would know exactly the physical condition of the patient complaining of multiple ailments.

Instead, what happened the other night was that the President himself broke the news to the Malacañang press in snatches of Taglish:

Hindi pa ako cancerous. Do not be afraid to go near me… Lumabas na… If you mean I was found positive of cancer? No, it’s not the colon, it’s my Barrett… It’s badly eroded because I was told to stop drinking years ago… ’Yang health natin, parang baterya ’yan, may positive at saka negative.”

The comments of his coterie did not shed more light on his actual condition. One senator said, “The President had said he has polyps, he has growth in his intestines, but it’s nothing. It’s benign. It’s a polyp but not cancer, and he was in high spirits. He was very happy, cracking a lot of jokes.”

Why was the senator talking of the polyps that earlier reports on the President’s colonoscopy said were found in his intestines? When Duterte told the press of his being cancer-free, he referred to his Barrett’s disease which involved his esophagus, not his colon or intestines.

From what section of the digestive tract was the test tissue taken for the biopsy? What did the polyps have to do with the test? Were his polyps left alone, removed, cauterized or what?

The presidential photo-bomber did not make the picture any clearer when he offered his lay opinion: “He’s healthy. He’s OK. He’s cancer-free.” Nor did the senator help by saying: “The President is as strong as an ox, we saw it yesterday, he was in good spirits.”

Some senators were in Malacañang (Senate President Tito Sotto was not mentioned) for a dinner with the President to discuss legislative matters. It was like a scene showing a risen Christ reassuring his disciples and asking a doubting Thomas to touch his wounds.

We’re waiting for the presidential spokesman, hurrying back from his one day “tampo,” to contribute to the chatter. But we strongly suggest instead that a formal medical bulletin be issued by the doctors, not by the patient nor by his fans.

At least DILG Secretary Eduardo Año was honest enough to point out that he was not a doctor when asked by the press for details of the Commander-in-Chief’s medical condition.

He was recalling their Cabinet meeting Monday after the President’s return from his Hong Kong weekend trip with his common-law wife Honeylet Avanceña and their daughter Kitty.

Año said: “In the middle of the meeting, (the President) said, ‘By the way, the test is negative’ and we all applauded and told him, ‘Congratulations, Mr. President!’”

Asked to elaborate, the general said he was not a doctor and did not know much about medical issues, but that he believed the President was in good health.

 Sharing some notes on cancer

WE BEG medical doctors, meanwhile, to be patient with us as we share with readers some of our basic notes on the subject.

Cancer is characterized by the growth of abnormal cells that divide uncontrollably and have the ability to infiltrate and destroy normal body tissue. At some stage they can spread throughout the body.

The stages of cancer are often described as follows:

* Stage 0 — The cancer is in one place (in situs). In this early stage, natural treatments coupled with clean eating (like no processed food), and taking steps to boost the immune system often succeed in reversing the cancer.

* Stage 1 — A small tumor has spread to adjacent tissue, but not beyond. This is an alarm signal that should not be ignored. Regular screening is recommended.

* Stage 2 – The tumor has grown bigger and may have spread to nearby tissue within the region.

* Stage 3 (*which a tired Duterte has mentioned as a kind of last line of defense for him) — The cancer may have started to spread to surrounding tissue or to the lymph system.

* Stage 4 – The cancer has metastasized or spread to other organs or distant areas. Unattended breast cancer, for example, may be detected to have spread to the ovaries or uterus (in women) or other organs. This makes treatment more complicated and difficult.

 When we don’t follow our own rules

READER Ben Hur Ong wrote us after noticing the first paragraph of the second part of our Postscript of Oct. 9, Tuesday, (subtitled “Orderly constitutional succession crucial”) that said:

“News of the President’s unannounced trip set off the usual question of who would take over should anything untoward HAPPENED to him while abroad….” (all caps supplied).

He asked, “Shouldn’t you have said HAPPEN instead of HAPPENED?” and added, “I hope you don’t take offense. I mean well in asking. I am a regular reader of your column. Thank you for raising a very timely question. Cheers!”

He is right. And I offer no excuse for violating one of our copyreading rules.

That sentence originally said “…IF anything untoward HAPPENED….” But when rewriting it I changed IF to SHOULD, I failed to also change HAPPENED. Reminds me of what we seniors tell reporters: when you change a word, reread the entire sentence carefully.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 11, 2018)

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