This Filipina breast cancer survivor in Bahrain shares her story of hope

Here’s to strong, powerful and resilient women!

Breast cancer is the most frequent cancer among women, impacting 2.1 million women each year, and also causes the greatest number of cancer-related deaths among women. Today, we are sharing our conversation with Erylle Hidalgo, a breast cancer survivor, about her struggles and her story of hope.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you and what are you doing in Bahrain?

I am Erylle dela Rosa Hidalgo, a Filipina resident in Bahrain. I am a single mom of three who came to the Kingdom to sustain my children’s education and future.

When did you first learn that you had breast cancer? What stage were you diagnosed with?

I was detected with breast cancer in March 2020 at 43-years-old. During the 2nd or 3rd week of that month, I felt a small mass on my right breast. At first I did not mind, thinking it was only something normal like fibroids.

Since I was working at a medical center during that time, I had the chance to check with our gynecologist wherein she advised me to get a mammogram and an x-ray. It took me a while to undergo in an MRI and screening as the procedures were a bit expensive for me.

After a while, the test results came. I was confused with the number of medical jargons but the phrase that stood out the most from the result was “highly suggestive of malignancy – 95%”. I was referred to another hospital to help me interpret my screening results and get a biopsy procedure. The biopsy showed that I had an “Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Grade 2” – a cancer that began growing in a milk duct and has invaded the fibrous or fatty tissue of the breast outside of the duct. I underwent another biopsy because there was another cyst found near my axilla and unfortunately, the results showed that it was also positive with cancer cells.

What was the biggest challenge you have experienced during this battle?

My experience with breast cancer was really tough especially when I was already advised to do chemotherapy. The biggest challenge for me was the financial burden breast cancer entails.

As a regular wage earner, I am already struggling enough financially with my responsibilities so I did not have money to pay for the procedures. I tried asking help from my friends and colleagues but due to the pandemic, they were also struggling. I remember thinking that it was better for me to die here in Bahrain at least my family will get financial compensation when worst comes to worst.

We cannot imagine how tough your battle with breast cancer was. How did you handle it in Bahrain? Where did you get the support?

Nevertheless, I couldn’t have done it alone. I have supportive nurses like Ms. Divina Tungol and doctors like Dr. Wadie Yousif, who didn’t even let me pay for the screening procedures. I have friends like Famel and Shane Fields, who were the first people to support me in paying for my tests. Finally, I have my guardian angel, Mr. Michael (name changed for privacy purposes), who helped me in everything without any hesitations.

At first, I cried knowing that I had cancer. I immediately accepted it soon after because I know that crying will not change the fact that I have it. I surrendered everything to God and tried my best to live as positive as I can.

I am also blessed with people who are continuously praying for me especially my family, friends and extended family here in Bahrain. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to answer any of these questions, let alone survive the entire experience.

Can you tell us more about Mr. ‘Michael’? How did you meet him?

I met Mr. Michael in the gym I’m working at way back in 2015 – he then became my confider. He treated me as family, as his sister.

When I confided in him about having breast cancer, he immediately helped me right there and then. He even offered to pay for my chemotherapy, medicines, lab tests and treatments. His support didn’t stop there as he also supported my daily needs when I had to stop working as I was undergoing all the treatments. His friends also extended their support through driving me to and from the hospital every time I had checkups and tests.

This was the reason why I didn’t feel alone all throughout my struggles. I am so thankful that although I had cancer, I’ve received so many blessings from above. All the pain that I’ve felt was lessened because of the people who stood as my guardian angel.

What message would you like to say to you ‘guardian angel’?

I am so grateful that I have met you. I believe that God sent you into my life to be my guardian angel. Thank you would not suffice for all the things that you have done for me, especially now with my cancer journey.

Thank you for your sincere help and endless support. You are one of the reasons why the days of my life are longer. I will forever be grateful for everything and I will never forget your kindness.

What would you like to say to anyone who’s battling breast cancer right now?

A cancer diagnosis makes you feel very out of control. Acceptance is the key in our case as this is something beyond our control. But there will still be things in your life that you can control so focus on that.

I would also like to tell everyone who is battling cancer to always pray for guidance and wisdom as well as to trust that God has a plan for us.

Stay positive, avoid stress and take care of yourself. Find comfort and support in your friends and family. Most importantly, never give up. Let’s keep on fighting until we win our battle!

Note: Mr. Michael’s name has been changed for privacy purposes