By Carla P Gomez
Visayan Daily Star
A 4-year-old boy blind in his left eye and a very sick 15-year-old who was released from the hospital against doctor’s advice were among 23 young cancer patients who got “a touch of magic” last week.
The 23 joined the 5th annual Suntown Camp in Bacolod City from October 26 to 30 ran by volunteers who try to bring joy to the lives of young cancer patients.
John Vincent “JV” Panolino, 15, is suffering from Thalassemia Intermedia, a blood disorder that causes the body to produce less hemoglobin.
JV has deep yellow skin, is often weak and lacks the energy to do much, and when he is hospitalized he often is left without a relative to watch him in the daytime because his grandmother sells food at the North Terminal in Bacolod City to make a living.
Suffering from edema, his stomach and feet are bloated, but he cannot be operated on for now because of the risk of bleeding, Dr. Alvin Parreño, Suntown Camp vice president, said.
Having joined previous Suntown camps, JV begged to join this year’s gathering despite being confined at the Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital, and was only released against doctor’s advice after his grandmother signed a waiver.
Looking weak and pale, he even managed to get up and sing to his friends at the camp. But, as he sang “My Bukas Pa”, that speaks of a tomorrow in one’s life if one lifts his troubles up to Lord, he brought tears to the eyes of many of those present.
Jacob Mirano, 4, is suffering from Retinoblastoma, a rapidly developing cancer that develops in the cells of the retina, which led to the removal of his left eye.
He was too young to join the camp that accepts children who are eight years old and above but an exemption was made for him, camp director Mark de la Rosa said.
Jacob, the son of a farm worker from Hinigaran, was undergoing chemotherapy during the camp, but would return from the hospital everyday with a smile on his face to join in the fun.
His mother, Maria Mirano, said Jacob seldom has an opportunity to have fun, so being able to be part of the camp was a rare treat.
Like JV and Jacob many of the children at the camp have had difficult lives, with their parents or guardians barely able to make ends meet amid mounting medical bills
“The camp gives them the fun and fullness of life they miss in their everyday lives because of the presence of disease amid poverty that has deprived them of even the most basic joys of childhood,” Millie Kilayko, Suntown president, said.
At the camp the children also got a touch of Disneyland as about 40 Suntown volunteers put on a show for them. The volunteers dressed as Minnie Mouse, Cinderella, wicked witches, mermaids to Aladdin and Princess Jasmine on a flying carpet – acted out their parts, sang and danced to the children’s delight.
The night at “Disney” also came with treats, fun food, capped with a video of fireworks over a castle.
It was indeed “a touch of magic” for the children who forgot their pain amid the excitement, and left with big smiles, new friends and bags full of goodies.*CPG