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Surgery delays cancer patient's return home as donations snowball

06 September 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao 

Elma on video call with family in the Philippines set up by a friend after her surgery

A cancer-stricken Filipina domestic worker who was set to go home last Sunday is likely to remain in Hong Kong for a few more weeks, after she decided to undergo brain surgery on Aug 27.

In the meantime, a number of those who have read about the plight of Elma P. dela Cruz, a single mother of two whose breast cancer has metastasized to her brain, have begun sending financial help.

One local employer has reportedly pledged to give $10,000, while a Filipina resident sent $1,000 to a fund set up by a workers support group for the patient.

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Dela Cruz, 39, will be moved shortly to the oncology department of the Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital, where doctors operated on her last Friday, said Welfare Officer Virsie Tamayao of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

Tamayao said she spoke with the patient’s attending doctor on Saturday to find out if the hospital already has a discharge plan for her.

Ang sabi ay ililipat siya sa department of oncology for further treatment and that it might take a long time and only the oncology doctor can tell kung kailan siya puwedeng i-discharge,” Tamayao said in a message.


“They got my number to call me in case may discharge plan as I have explained the procedures and requirements for her repatriation,” the OWWA officer said.

Tamayao said she would try to find out more about the worker’s condition from her oncologist.

Mary Alejo, a childhood friend and townmate of Dela Cruz who visited her in Eastern Hospital last weekend said the patient appeared stronger than when she took her to the hospital on Aug 25.

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Yesterday, when she visited Dela Cruz again, the hospital staff allowed Alejo to set up a three-way video call with the patient’s parents and two children, and herself, although she had to launch it from outside the doorway because of Covid restrictions.

“She looked better with God’s help. Her condition had improved and she could speak to us better than previously, so her family was very glad,” said Alejo. She added that the patient recognized everyone in the video call. 

Alejo shared a composite photograph of the video call with Dela Cruz and her family, which contrasted with a photo she took right after the surgery, in which the patient looked visibly in pain.

Elma looking much more frail shortly after her surgery

Meanwhile, more kind-hearted people have been sending help to Dela Cruz.

On Friday, Filipino community leader Alann Cayosa Mas said a local employer wanted to give $10,000 for the patient’s needs.

The donor has been asked to deposit the money in an account set up for Dela Cruz by the group Social Justice for Migrant Workers.

Another donor, Filipina resident Evelyn Bernabe sent $1,000 cash for the patient, according to SJMW founder Marites Palma.

As of Sunday night, the group had already raised more than $17,000 for Dela Cruz through a crowd-funding initiative.

The patient who hails from Santiago City, Isabela, had initially decided to return home after the cancer left her blind in one eye, dashing her hope of getting employed again.

She had worked in Hong Kong for less than three years. She was signed up by a Chinese couple and came here to work on Nov 8, 2018. 

When her contract came up for renewal last year, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her Chinese employers decided not to rehire her.

Luckily, a kind-hearted British couple signed her up, although they were about to leave Hong Kong for good. They told her to use the time remaining in their contract to get herself treated here.

Early last month, a Hong Kong couple also agreed to hire her even if they knew she had cancer. But an elderly family member disapproved on learning about Dela Cruz’s medical condition, and told the couple to fire her.

But again, the couple told the Filipina that they would continue sponsoring her visa so she could continue her treatment in Hong Kong.


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