Meet Maja, Uncovered
Maja (she/her) — Filipino and Spanish
Diagnosed at 39 years old — Stage 3C Triple Negative Metaplastic, BRCA2+
I am a thriver. I am a warrior. I am resilient.
After I received my diagnosis, there was a stigma that I should keep it to myself. This is a big thing in our culture to keep it confidential which leads to more isolation. It was tough to step out of that cultural situation when you are expected to keep your cancer diagnoses confidential and quiet. It is not helpful at all and honestly can put you deeper into the rabbit hole. It makes it harder to come to terms with what has happened to you.
“Don’t be ashamed to share your story and speak your truth”
For other Filipino or Spanish people, don’t be ashamed to share your story and speak your truth. You don’t have to remain silent, it’s okay to reach out and ask for help and support. Sharing your story and helping others will fill your soul. Battling cancer can be extremely isolating and if I can help one person, that alone makes my heart full.
I wish the cancer community did more to have Black, Indigenous and People of Colour represented in things like brochures, blog posts, resources, etc. During my surgeries, I tried to find photos of other Filipino people to get an idea of what I could expect or may look like afterwards. I couldn’t find any photos and this was hard. Our scars, colouring and overall aftermath of surgeries can look very different in comparison to white skin, which is often the only photographs or examples available in resources.
This is why I wanted to be a part of this resource – I wanted to represent Filipina and Spanish women as there aren’t too many in the cancer community who are willing to share their story, due to so many things including cultural reasons. It’s important to have representation for every race as cancer impacts us all, and we don’t see that in the mainstream media.
I brought a photo of my son and my rosary to the photoshoot for this project as these are two things that helped me the most in getting through my diagnosis. My son is my hero and who keeps me going. He suffers from severe Autism (non-verbal) and he always reminds me to be present, live in the moment, and that the simple things are the big things. He is my reason and purpose for still being here. He is my heartbeat. After my diagnosis, prayer was the first thing that I turned to. I never prayed so hard in my life and sometimes I prayed several times a day. I remember the next day after I received my diagnoses; I went to church, sat there alone and bawled my eyes out for hours. To this day, collective prayers and meditations continue to help me as I navigate life after diagnosis.
“There are so many ways to share our stories”
From a Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) perspective, it is important to have more recognition for Filipino and Spanish women as TNBC tends to impact us at a higher rate than white women, plus cultural boundaries, stigma, and challenges overall with equality in the cancer community, this makes for a really difficult experience to navigate. There is this stereotype that Asian women tend to be quieter and more reserved, and I feel like that is how many think they need to behave. Even if someone is more reserved, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be recognized. There are so many ways to share our stories. Sometimes people just need someone to reach out to them with the opportunity to share their story and see that someone cares to hear it. We all deserve that opportunity of equal representation in this community.
Cancer is not a gift, but the people you meet and the community you find are. It fills my heart with love. To be able to share your story and have people around you just get it and understand what you’re going through really helps you to keep going and feel less isolated. Thank you Rethink Breast Cancer for all that you do to represent Black, Indigenous & People of Colour — we appreciate it. Equality is unity. — Maja