At age 26, former MTV VJ and radio jock Andi Manzano paints a portrait of a young woman leading an ideal life.
She’s beautiful, smart, and successful in her career—and she’s about to get married to the love of her life, GP Reyes.
But behind the fairytale, the public knows nothing about the distressing ordeal Andi went through this year.
She revealed for the first time to PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) and other members of the press the crisis she hurdled when one closest to her was diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Andi began her detailed narrative: “It happened June. And it was my mom [Rose Manzano].
“My mom is like my bestfriend. We’re very close, we’re five in the family, and we’re very tight.
“I’m the eldest and we’re all ages, just to give you a background. I’m 26, I have a brother who is 22, it continues with a 16, 13, and a 12.
“My mom, we thought she was going through menopause, we thought, you know, she was being moody, she was parang panicking cause she would just all of a sudden start bleeding.
“And this has happened for like, two months straight already. And she talked to a friend and the friend was saying, you know, that’s not normal. And she had herself checked.
“And after she had herself checked, maybe like a week after, she gathered me and my siblings.
“She goes, ‘You know what Andi, I have to talk to you guys.’ ‘Okay, mom, what’s wrong?’
“And we could see it in her eyes already, we knew somehow that there was something wrong but we didn’t know what kind of cancer.
“And sometimes, I can’t even say the word ‘cancer’ because it hurts so much.
“So when she said that she had cervical cancer, everybody just started crying.
“We cried for about what, honestly, like thirty seconds. Then we have to be strong for her.”
Cervical cancer is caused by human papilloma virus (HPV) and is transferred through sexual contact.
Symptoms include abnormal vaginal discharge, bleeding, and pain which usually manifests only at the late stages.
Diagnosis at the early stages can be done by going through regular Pap smear tests.
Andi continued: “You know, my mom has been strong for everyone, especially me.
“And you know, seeing her so weak, seeing her go through everything—even through chemotherapy, even through radiation…
“And I promised her, ‘Mom, I don’t want you to go through this alone. I’m gonna go with you in every chemo session you have.’
“So I’d wake up, I’d pick her up. I’d drive to UST and be with her.
“And it’s no joke seeing cancer patients and it’s no joke seeing what they have to go through, seeing…
“Hearing the bad news… Hearing everything that you didn’t wanna hear.
“And it’s so unexpected talaga. You know, my mom is a strong woman.
“She’s been healthy her whole life and suddenly, this happens. So, I was there, I saw everything.
“And first of all, I thought chemotherapy was a big machine, I had no idea, I didn’t know what it was. And then this black bag came, and they were just hanging it.
“And they had to insert it through her veins, and I could see how every week she would shed weight, her hair, little by little, you know, she has falling hair.
“And just to see her go through that and my family, as well, was the most difficult thing, especially when you’re planning a wedding.”
It was in October last year that Andi said ‘yes’ when her boyfriend, GP, surprised her at the NAIA Terminal 3 with a marriage proposal.
Eight months later, who would have imagined that her mom would be diagnosed with a grave illness?
For Andi, preparing for her wedding did not turn out as she had imagined it would.
“So the six months that I was planning my wedding, I did not plan anything at all. Wala, nawalan ako ng gana.
“Cause you know what, I always had my mom. To pick out my wedding dress... You want your mom to be there.
“You want someone close to you. You want your best friend to help you pick your wedding dress.
“And instead, I had to do it alone. And I had to go through everything alone and it was the loneliest time in my life.”
But Andi knew her mom went through worse. As she told it, “So my mom, she went through chemotherapy. Again, this was six months, she had radiation every day.
“Then after six months… She was stage one, by the way. She was stage one, it was good we caught it early.
“After that, my mom said, you know what, you should get the vaccine. And everybody—we are four girls—we had vaccine done.
“And after the radiation and the chemotherapy she was the weakest. And parang you thought na, she was gonna pass away. It was that bad. It was that bad.”
Cervical cancer can be prevented by getting HPV Vaccine which is administered in three doses within 6 months (day 1, month 2, and month 6).
The vaccine is recommended for girls starting at the age of 9 and even for women in their forties who had not been sexually active.
Andi went on: “And after a few months, we continued, we kept praying. It was the only thing we could do. You know, for strength, for our family.
“And it was just like a month and a half ago that she had herself checked, to check if there was still a tumor, if there was still cancer, inside her body.
“And if she still had, then right now, she would go through surgery and she might not even attend my wedding.
“But, thank God, after we found out… She said, ‘You know what Andi, I don’t have to go through surgery cause it has become smaller.’
“And now, you know, when you see her: she’s healthy, she’s back to normal. It’s like, I have my mom back.
“And, I don’t know how to end. It’s just been a challenging time for me, especially my family.
“You know what, I just don’t want people to experience it. I don’t want anyone in your family to experience it because it’s really tough.
“I mean, kahit anong cancer naman, e, it’s difficult. But if you can prevent it, di ba, why not?”
Andi’s bridal shower last November 5 in Makati Shangri-la hosted by Glaxosmithline became the vehicle for promoting awareness for cervical cancer prevention.
On the campaign, which is named X Means Love, Andi said, “It’s not just saying that you love yourself, but you love other people also—people that are around you.
“That’s why this campaign, it means so much and it just so happens that perfect timing, they have come up with this campaign.”