Having cancer is known to be like getting a death warrant.
For Ryan John Bito-on and Anne Patricia Genson, however, it was seen as a challenge to be conquered, and a chance to look at life in a different way.
Ryan John and Anne were both diagnosed with the same kind of disease at the prime of their lives— a blood cancer called lymphoma.
However, both defeated the disease after months of fighting in order to continue— and even step up— their ways of life.
Ryan John, a native of Silay City, told DNX it was Holy Week of 2012 when he noticed a lump on his upper right chest, which he immediately consulted the doctor for.
After months of testing, he was diagnosed with stage two lymphoma on his 18th birthday.
According to Medical News Today, lymphoma occurs when lymphocytes (white blood cells) that are infection-fighting cells grow out of control and prevents the immune system from working effectively, most often spreading to one’s liver, bone marrow, or lungs.
Like any other types of cancer, lymphoma requires treatment including chemo and radiation therapies.
After Ryan John’s first chemo session, he said he suffered from phlebitis as his veins became inflamed from the chemicals pumped into his body.
He revealed that because of phlebitis, he once experienced constant sharp pain all over his body and his cancer advanced to stage three.
Then and there, he said he was ready to die, but his mother’s words of pleading him to live compelled him to continue fighting.
He added thinking about accepting death because of this pain was a constant battle for him, as he thought it would do everybody good.
This was opposite to Anne’s case, who underwent the same therapies, as she said her chemo experience was relatively painless.
Anne was diagnosed only three years ago, when she was 25, with stage two lymphoma from a lump right below her neck.
After months of testing what the lump was, Anne said she smiled when her doctor told her she had cancer.
She said her parents were weirded out when this happened, but only one thing was running in Anne’s mind— finally getting an answer after battling an unknown disease somehow gave her a sense of comfort and security, even when this answer was as dreadful as cancer.
She revealed this was because she was confident she was going to survive.
“If you look at things positively, your mental will be as healthy, [and] percent of the battle has already been won,” she said.
Like RJ, Anne underwent six cycles of chemotherapy, which she was aware would affect her fertility.
Because of this, Anne underwent egg freezing, which she said was one of the highlights in the duration of her treatment.
The families of Ryan John and Anne played a big part in their recovery.
“I wouldn’t be in the position to even recover without them,” Ryan John said, tearing up when talking about his parents.
He said he hated being a burden and had no sense of purpose back then, but seeing his family and friends’ support and sacrifices for him during his treatment motivated him to overcome cancer.
The same thing happened to Anne.
“I have to beat this not for me, but for everyone else… If I were alone and didn’t have my family, I would be okay with dying,” she said when asked about what urged her to carry on despite the facing the possibility of death.
Both were thankful to be from financially capable families who had resources available to them.
While Ryan John and Anne endured different journeys, they had the same approach in life that drove them to conquer their challenges — they were both competitive by nature.
However, Ryan John believed in hope; this motivated him to get better and helped him “redeem himself.”
Anne, on the other hand, did not.
She said having hope sometimes ends up to someone being disappointed when things don’t go their way.
Instead, she focused on finding happiness, as this was what kept her going.
Now, Ryan John and Anne are flourishing at 28 years old.
From being a frail, sickly figure after he beat cancer, Ryan John went into powerlifting and recently won as a champion in a national powerlifting competition.
He is also focusing on being a good father to his 6-year-old son.
“Now, I get satisfaction and happiness from very mundane things,” Ryan John said on how he had a change of perspective after beating cancer.
Meanwhile, Anne has become a known motorbike rider and is currently running their family’s bread business.
“Being diagnosed with cancer and when you’re faced with death, that’s when you realize how important life is,” she said.
Ryan John and Anne are hoping their stories of survival could reach and inspire many as a reminder to perceive life as a precious gift and to treat every day as a chance to be better, even in the face of adversity.