Zoey Taberna is finally cancer-free! The daughter of Anthony Taberna shared her journey and the wonderful news on Facebook. “This is my story in writing and on video, of how I went through everything, and how I did my best to stay happy despite the challenges,” she wrote.
The 13-year-old was diagnosed with leukemia in December 2019 and has undergone chemotherapy since then. She shared, “Everything was going on smoothly, and complications were very minimal. My hair had grown a lot and I was getting back to feeling normal, as I could do a lot more things than I could when I was weaker.”
However, everything changed two years later. In December 2021, she would often feel pain in several parts of her body. “When they brought me to the hospital, they did tests and said that I had problems with my blood sugar because it was way higher than it was supposed to be,” she recalled. “Some doctors said it was caused by my steroid medications, and by overconsumption of sugar.”
They found out that her acute lymphoblastic leukemia had morphed into acute myeloid leukemia. “This meant that all of the cancer cells that were supposed to be long gone, came back in a way more dangerous and fatal form,” she explained. “I had a hard time understanding why this was happening because, from the start, my doctors said that this situation was very rare. I was supposed to repeat all my chemotherapy in the Philippines, but of course, my parents wanted the better option, so that we could be sure that I will be fully healed.”
She was recommended to fly to Singapore, even amidst the pandemic, and her family did their best to do so. Zoey continued, “All of this happened in just 3 weeks so I still couldn’t process everything in my mind.” This made her sad and scared. “I didn’t want to leave home, especially because my family and friends were there, and we had to be away for around 6 months. When I heard that I was going to do intensive chemo again, I got so scared, especially because I already knew how it felt, because this already happened before.”
“I knew how weak I was gonna be. I knew that I would have headaches 24/7 and would throw up all the time. I knew that I would have mouth sores and body pain, and I knew that I would lose my hair all over again.”
However, she wanted to get better already–above all–so she agreed. “We left home on the 3rd week of January. When we got there, almost immediately, the chemo started. My doctor explained to us that I would be having 2 chemo cycles and a bone marrow transplant. [And] because I needed a transplant, we needed a donor,” the daughter said. Between her parents and her sister who got tested to find the perfect match for her transplant, her sister became her donor.
“Helga being my donor didn’t worry me much because the doctor said that it was just like a blood transfusion,” she expressed. “But after a while, we found out that Helga would also have to go through multiple procedures like often blood extractions and different injections.” This was when she started feeling guilty. “I’m the reason why she has to do it. If they would do those to me, I wouldn’t care even if it hurt because I’m so used to it already. But, it was my sister. She’s never even been confined!” As a sibling, Zoey did not want Helga to feel pain and felt like she deprived her of a lot of things. “She was stuck with me,” Zoey noted. “So I’m more than grateful that she did this and sacrificed for me.”
Looking back, the child didn’t think she could have handled everything she has been through. “Everything that I went through here definitely wasn’t easy, especially because of the side effects of my treatment. I experienced things that, looking back now, even I thought I wouldn’t be able to handle. But with the support of my loved ones and God, I was able to get over it,” she explained. “It’s shocking for me because I’m the most paranoid, emotional, and easily scared person I know. “
“I’m not gonna lie, there were so many times when I thought it was the end for me–that my life would end at 13 years old.” She kept wondering about her friends, family, and church duties. “What will happen when I’m gone? Will people care? Will they be sad?”
She then revealed what helped her stay strong throughout her journey. “Because I grew up active in church, I always prayed while holding on to my faith, and I felt so much stronger,” she said. “I am certain that if God wasn’t there to give me the strength I needed, I wouldn’t have done it. After those things happened, seeing other people be proud of me made me happy. When others show me how much they care for me, I feel so thankful to the point that I think everything I went through was worth it, despite being in terrible pain.”
The family had to stay in Singapore for 100 more days after the transplant to observe Zoey’s condition. Thankfully, they saw improvements day after day. “We would encounter small complications here and there, but they’re nothing big.”
After 167 long days, Zoey is finally back home in the Philippines, totally cancer-free! “I would still have checkups and maintenance drug infusions from time to time, but that is nothing compared to what I’ve been through,” she claimed. Then, she moved on to thank her family, relatives, friends, medical team, the ministers in their church administration, and even the Kpop group BTS.
“I guess it’s safe to say that that’s the end of my cancer journey.”
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