Newly engaged, this Pinay fought her brain tumor with love and humor

by Charlene J. Owen
Aug 11, 2018
Diega Villanueva and Scott Webster's battle against Diega's brain tumor nicknamed "Chonalyn" will make you believe in love again.

It was the usual story: girl meets boy in a bar—an English karaoke bar in Japan, to be exact—girl and boy fall in love and overcome the distance.

But as it turns out, the LDR wasn't all they had to was just the beginning of their love story.

While enjoying the night with a friend, Diega Villanueva was approached by Scott Webster, who noted that she had a pretty voice. It was the beginning of a whirlwind romance that transformed into a long-distance relationship as Diega returned to the Philippines and Scott went back to the States.

“Five days later, he wrote me a short story. It was six pages long; poignant, passionate, and romantic,” shared Diega on “He wrote: ‘My thoughts were now filled with wonder. What lies ahead for us?...These few hours we shared were bittersweet...Part of me wanted to cancel all of my plans. Throw it all out the window. Run back to her. Spend another day, week, forever near her.’”

Diega felt the same way as she received letter after letter from Scott. Their correspondences continued via snail mail and phone: a handwritten “I love you” sent from California to Manila, four-to-five-hour conversations that unraveled each other’s personalities. Soon, Scott made his way to Manila to visit Diega’s parents, and Diega planned to fly out to the States to visit Scott’s.

It was almost a fairytale, until life got in the way.

A headache that lasted for three days brought Diega to the ER, which started a battery of appointments and tests with different specialists. While she passed several with flying colors, a cautious doctor told her to get an MRI. The scans revealed something that she never expected.


“They discovered a tumor in my brain the size of a duck egg which has been growing for the past 10 or so years,” Diega wrote.

It was a personal catastrophe that could have easily brought any woman down, but Diega wasn't just any woman.

"Following my doctor’s advice on medication to prevent swelling and seizures, I braved my way to him."

Armed with unwavering determination and an ever-present smile, Diega took the plane to California to meet Scott’s family and friends. She confessed that it was one of the best times of her life, and not only because she got to visit so many places with the love of her life.


A day before she left for Manila, Scott took her to see the Golden Gate Bridge and other famous tourist spots.

"On our way back, he saw one of the picnic tables and sat down. He propped up his phone for a video. I had complained before that we didn’t take enough videos when he was in the Philippines, so he said now’s our chance.

"We kissed. We hugged. We danced some salsa. And then he told me he wrote me a poem: 'Fate brought us together, time and distance keep us apart, our love brings us closer; you’re always in my heart.'

"When he knelt down and asked me to marry him, I didn’t even see that he was holding a ring. My eyes were too blurry from crying."

A post shared by Diega Villanueva (@diega_v) on

Sadly, there was very little time for celebrations: the day she got back to Manila, she was immediately scheduled for surgery.


Scott knew about the tumor, and decided to see it through with Diega.

Yet no matter how serious and frightening her situation was, Diega’s sense of humor never wavered. She named her tumor “Chonalyn,” and she sprinkled her Facebook posts with hashtags like “#ChakaNiChonalyn” and “#PatayinSaSindakSiChonalyn.”

She wrote in one post, "Third wheel si Chonalyn sa aming relasyon at sadya lang siyang upstager na kailangang puksain kaya kailangang i-overdose ng dasal at pagmamahal. Kaya natin 'to!"

DAY 2: #BeatChonalyn SURGERY DAY!! (Backless pic with makeup for more hospital gown fashion realness) Doctors said they will operate at 630am. But they moved the surgery to 8am because Dr. Gap Legaspi, chief of PGH, has to meet with the ambassador of Bhutan. Nahiya naman ako kay Ambassador! So dapat malaking donation ibigay niya sa PGH gaya ng paghakot ko ng mga blood donors para sa kanila (more than 20 and counting!) dahil na move back ang schedule ng pagbukas ng utak ko nang dahil sa kanya. Charot. Thanks to all those who dropped by, donated blood, gave prayer cards and rosaries, visited to get banana bread (yes yun lang daw agenda nila), and all family, friends and even strangers (!) who showed their love and support for me and Chonalyn! And of course, to all the doctors and nurses who dropped by, esp the man and star himself, Dr. Gap Legaspi! I was so shocked he visited me because I know he's a busy man. But after 2 brain surgeries yesterday, he made the effort of checking up on me habang parang may pa-brgy fiesta sa kwarto sa dami ng bisita. . A few more hours to go.. goodbye Chonalyn! #PatayinSaSindakSiChonalyn #ChakaNiChonalyn . . **posted on behalf of Diega & Chonalyn ?

A post shared by Diega Villanueva (@diega_v) on

Scott, of course, flew in to be with her.

Luckily, Chonalyn was benign and localized, and was successfully removed from Diega’s brain on June 18.

A post shared by Diega Villanueva (@diega_v) on

Diega is still on the road to recovery, but the future for her and Scott seems bright.

"Salamat sa aking irog na si Scott, I was able to take my first shower since my surgery," she wrote on Facebook. "Ang sarap ng feeling ng pinapaliguan! Tunay na pagmamahal. Nag-umpisa na rin ng kaunting wedding planning."

She was released from the hospital a week after the operation, and Scott had to fly back to the U.S. "He's going back to the U.S. for work… Kailangan sulitin ang natitirang araw ng pag-ibig."

It’s almost like a script for a movie—they met, fell in love, jumped through hell and high water to be together, and got rewarded with forever.

Both Diega and Scott will have a lot of adjustments to make, but their story hasn’t ended just yet. Now, with Chonalyn gone, it looks like their sequel is just about to begin.



This story originally appeared on

* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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Diega Villanueva and Scott Webster's battle against Diega's brain tumor nicknamed "Chonalyn" will make you believe in love again.
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