Former Miss South Pacific and Miss Samoa, Manamea Apelu-Schwalger, has spoken publically for the first time about her battle with breast cancer.
Manamea, who was diagnosed 13 months ago, told about her ordeal during the national commemoration of World Cancer Day at Moto’otua, yesterday.
Encouraging members of the public to make healthier lifestyle choices to avoid the leading cause of death in Samoa. Manumea said she would continue to be strong as long as she is alive.
“I’m now battling advanced breast cancer,” she said, telling her friends, families and colleagues that she doesn’t want their pity nor their tears but their support and strength.
She recalled the moment she got the news.
“Thirteen months ago, I came to the National Hospital after self examination on my left breast where I discovered a lump,” she said. “Unfortunately for me, after my surgery the lump was found to be malignant and so my journey started as a cancer patient.”
At Acute Seven, Manamea said of six patients, three suffered from cancer.
“The first one opted to go home by choice,” she said, “a choice I could not understand at the time (because she went) to seek the assistance of a traditional healer.
“The second person, a 35-year-old mother who had battled cancer for a very long time, was released from the hospital to go home. I presumed she had farewell her family of young loved ones.
“I fortunately at that point in time was given the opportunity through the generous support of the Samoa Medical Scheme to travel to New Zealand to undergo yet another surgery and six months of chemotherapy.”
It was a trip that brought relief.
“Four months after my last chemotherapy, I came home elated. I thought I had beaten cancer.
“In November. I underwent my third surgery because the lump had come back and cancer has come back aggressively.”
Today, Manamea said she has a very simple message about cancer.
“Cancer does not discriminate,” she said. “My doctor friend said ‘treat the causes, don’t treat the symptoms.
“But don’t cry for me. I joke with my friends, “don’t cry for me Argentina, I don’t want your pity, I don’t want your sorrow, I want your strength.
“Come closer to me, said the minister this morning, I want your love, because if I can, we can.”
Manamea wants Samoans to live healthier lifestyles.
“I beg of you make healthier choices for yourself and for your children,” she said. “Choose healthier living.
“Cancer has no cure but it can be made to go into remission, advanced medicine has blessed very many in their battle against cancer.”
As for her, Manamea knows every day is a gift and she is living life to the fullest with a very supportive husband, Alan, and her family.
“I’m going to Zumba today because I can. It’s as simple as that,” she said.
“My last reflection is, God has a master plan for us all and I’m going to be brave for whatever second, minute, day, year that He gives me.
“I will live and breathe and hope that my story, my strength will challenge the next person to look at healthier living and choices.”