Joan was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, when she was 16 years old. At the time, she lived with her parents and two siblings in a remote area of Mindanao, 7 hours’ drive from Davao city. Her father works as a subsistence farmer whilst her mother takes care of her siblings and helps on the farm.
Joan first noticed something was wrong when her right knee began to swell. Initially it didn’t cause her to much discomfort and she assumed the swelling would reduce in time. Several months later, the pain had become worse and the swelling had increased. Her parents became worried and tried local medicines such as herbal oils and leaves.
As Joan’s pain got steadily worse her parents decided it was time to take her to the Southern Philippines Medical Centre in Davao. After undergoing numerous tests, Joan was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. She remembers feeling confused and angry. She had heard of cancer before but didn’t realise children could get it and was unsure if it could be treated. Joan was given further bad news when doctors told her they would need to amputate her leg. The tumour had become very advanced, leaving them with no other option. Joan felt very depressed and worried. She didn’t understand why this had happened to her.
Joan’s leg was amputated just above the knee before she received 6 rounds of chemotherapy. She hated the fact that she had not only lost her leg but also hair as a side effect of the chemotherapy. She felt self-conscious and didn’t want to go out in public or play with other children.
After receiving treatment, Joan was discharged and allowed to go back home with her family. Up until that point Joan’s father had been travelling back and forth from the hospital to attend to his farm. It is the only means of income the family has.
After several months Joan noticed a new mass on her right leg. She remembers instantly knowing the cancer had returned. Her parents took her quickly back to the hospital in Davao where doctors confirmed the diagnosis.
Joan went through further treatment and in August 2016 was told she was in full remission. She now lives at House of Hope, a home that provides accommodation and support for patients and their families. She is receiving ongoing physiotherapy and attends a local school. Joan hopes to stay in Davao after she finishes school and get a job. She says the facilities in Davao are much better for disabled people. Her parents have now returned home and visit her on a regular basis.