Back in early 2001, Maritoni Fernandez, a Philippine cinematic gem, was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. At the time, Maritoni was very busy with her acting career and during a brief visit to the US to get a second opinion for her mom’s medical condition, Maritoni was surprised to find out that a lump she had noticed years prior, which she thought was benign, turn out to be positive for cancer. It’s 20 years later and she still tears up when she recalls the moment that turned her life upside down. But as surprising as the diagnosis was, her year-long struggle with a disease that could have taken her life, soon came to an end with her on top. Feeling very strongly about paying-it-forward, she’s been an iCanServe member for 19 years and has made sharing her story a personal advocacy; “The day I stop sharing my story is the day I’m no longer brave and I hope that never happens.”, she says.
Maritoni grants us an afternoon to share her inspiring story with the hopes that it gives others, going through the same experience, strength to overcome it.
Looking back, she feels blessed that she followed her instincts to have herself checked again despite getting initial medical advice that she had nothing to worry about. Admittedly, she was hesitant to bring it up again as having the thought of a possible sickness is something she didn’t want to verbalize. Being the strong and determined person that she is, soon after confirming her diagnosis, Maritoni set her mind to overcome the biggest hurdle in her life. “In hindsight, it felt like a wild roller coaster ride. It’s also a test of patience and grit.,” said Maritoni. She decided to create a relationship with her cancer to help prepare her for the long journey she had ahead of her.
During treatment, she went through 4 Chemotherapy sessions followed by 26 sessions of radiation therapy. She was then put on oral medication and was instructed to stay on it for 5 years but with the help of her medication complemented by natural supplements, her body recovered in just 3 years and was blessed with a miracle of being pregnant with her second child.
Despite the terrifying experience, her faith got her through the ordeal. She says “I knew the fight was not mine. I physically had to fight it, but the fight was really HIS. I was allowed to get sick because a lot of people are gonna learn from it. “ Her lovely daughter, Lexi shares the same sentiment saying that “The world can get to me but having faith keeps me grounded. And this is something I’ve learned from my mom’s journey.”
Ever since she was declared cancer-free, Maritoni has taken it upon herself to share her experience and inspire people to keep the faith and to not look at cancer as the end of one’s journey. Her advice to those who’ve been diagnosed? “Have faith, don’t lose hope, and pray as God is a mighty healer. Breast Cancer is not a death sentence. Follow what your doctors tell you to do but don’t be scared to get a second opinion before getting aggressive treatment. At the same time, don’t just leave your prognosis to your doctors. Do something about it and research. Keep your chin up, keep going, and find something to live for everyday - for me it was my daughter Lexi. If you do get healed by the grace of God, pay it forward.”
For this shoot, Maritoni prepares for a charity ball which she supports. She believes this is worth remembering because she attended with her daughter and SweetEscape is the perfect partner to capture this moment in this warrior’s life.
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