Find Faith And Inspiration From Toni Gonzaga's Interview With This Teen Bravely Battling Ovarian Cancer
This 16-year-old's response to her cancer diagnosis? "Cancer ka lang, maganda ako"
The latest episode on YouTube talk show Toni Talks hosted by Toni Gonzaga-Soriano makes us want to ask you ladies this: Do you remember you at 16?
You were likely an ordinary high schooler, daydreaming the days away wishing for the weekend to come and never end. It didn't matter what generation you were from—whether you fangirled over New Kids on the Block, the boys of Gimik and Tabing Ilog, NSYNC and Backstreet Boys, F4 (the original, of course), or BTS—because life for every 16-year-old girl should be defined by only the best memories possible.
But Janella Dapusala, currently 16, has a little more going on for her than waiting for her K-Pop idols to drop their next big hit.
In Toni Gonzaga's interview with Janella Dapusala, it was revealed that she was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer late last year. During her surgery, her heart stopped. She needed to be revived for her to make it through. Her mom Aileen weeps on the side as she describes her daughter's palpable pain every time needles are inserted in her fragile veins—necessary suffering for long-term survival.
But even so, Janella identifies with being a cancer patient much later down the line. She is first a student, a daughter and sister, a friend, a devoted Christian, and oh—a major BTS fan, too. She's an ARMY through and through, the only difference being she listens to their songs and watches their choreo videos not after class in the comfort of her room, but during chemo sessions that take place in a shared hospital ward.
"Sabi ko kay God na 'Alam kong may may maganda kang plano sa akin. Kaya nagtitiwala ako sa kanya," Janella says.
Janella thought she was just a chubby girl at the start of it all.
She had put on weight during lockdown, but who didn't? Besides, it was life under lockdown for everyone she knew which meant sedentary lifestyles had become the new normal.
And so Janella did what every teenage girl noticing some extra bulge around her midsection would. She laced up her shoes and slapped on some exercise clothes, hoping that whatever Internet workout routine would help her achieve that much-desired inch loss.
And then she noticed that she tired easily. And the pain—that should have been the reddest red flag of all. She felt severe and prolonged abdominal discomfort, so much so that she could barely stand upright. But even then, Janella attributed the debilitating sensation to her new exercise regime (maybe, this was the way great abs came about?). The pain was isolated in her pelvic area, near the hips, right where ovaries are located.
She continued to ignore her body's warnings and kept her days as regular as possible until her belly continued to expand at an alarming rate.
One of the only reasons her family decided to finally take her to the emergency room was that they suspected a pregnancy (despite Janella not engaging in any sexual activity that could have resulted in pregnancy).
The pregnancy test was negative, but the CT scan and ultrasound came back with harrowing results.
There was 28 centimeter-large mass attached to the back of her left ovary, and it was life-threatening.
Janella was 15 when she learned it was Stage 3 ovarian cancer and the only way Janella was going to beat it was with surgery—to be performed right now. She was inconsolable in the beginning. She cried and cried and cried, and she wondered out loud why her, why now. ("Gusto ko pang mag-enjoy kasi bata pa ako, eh. Imbes na nag-aaral ako ngayon kasi online class, andito ako sa ospital, nakahilata," she confesses).
"Dapat October 29 'yung operation kaso hindi na po umabot," she tells Toni.
"Kasi noong October 25 ng gabi, sumusuka na po ako," she continues, describing that her body was expelling copious amounts of substances she couldn't even identify on her own. She was rushed to the hospital right then and there and was operated on on October 26.
Her doctor later on explained that it was practically the beginning of the end. The cancerous mass had burst, and her vomiting was her body reacting to the poison that had started to spread.
Her emergency operation was riskier than what was anticipated.
Janella's heart stopped, she was revived, and was in intensive care throughout the whole process.
She made it through in the end, but her surgery wouldn't be the last of her and her family's ordeals. She was required to undergo chemotherapy, 28 sessions each requiring a five-day confinement, as soon as possible. She went through her first session in January 14. She has at least 15 more to go, as of this writing. Sometimes, she has to shout to help herself deal with the pain.
Janella feels immense physical and emotional pain every time she has to sit in her chemotherapy chair because it hurts. It hurts in a literal sense as nurses insert needles under her skin to rid her body of toxins, but it also hurts to see other kids her age, even infants, in the same room as her go through the same. It's a sight she'll never get used to no matter how often she checks into the hospital.
But Janella's faith is strong. It's stronger than the cancer that almost cut her life short.
"Ginagawa lang 'to ni God kasi alam ko na pagtapos nitong pagsubok na ito, may premyo ako," Janella confides.
The prize her heart so deeply desires? For her family to be whole again, and for good. See, Janella lives with only her mom and her siblings. Her father was imprisoned for drug use sometime ago.
"Ayaw kong magpalunod sa lungkot," she states, but when she's on her own, alone with her thoughts and reflections, she still fears that she may not be able to see it all through till the end. The hardest part is and will always be acceptance. She could have been living a cancer-free parallel life, but here she is. This is her reality now and it can't be reversed. The future is even more uncertain these days, especially because the physical pain comes back every now and then without warning.
She cries on the worst of days, and then she prays.
Toni Gonzaga heard about her story because of a Tweet of Janella's from February
She posted one of the first photos of herself with her new 'do. She shaved her head not long after she started chemo and captioned the photo showing off her new look with, "Cancer ka lang maganda ako."
cancer ka lang maganda ako🤨 pic.twitter.com/NjcoiGrotl— Janella Dapusala (@DapusalaJanella) February 10, 2021
Janella encapsulated the strength not often expected from a teenager, much less from a teenager whose life depends on her body's cooperation with cancer treatment. People were quick to notice the same. As of this writing, Janella's tweet has been reposted more than eight thousand times, quoted almost 1,500 times, and liked 123,600 times—numbers that show how much she's inspired so many people and encouraged them all to keep fighting the good fight no matter how terribly hopeless things appear.
She ends her interview by confidently telling Toni that it's just hair. It's just smooth skin on my head now, no big deal. Besides, it's not hair that dictates beauty or any of a person's lovely qualities.
"Para sa akin, maganda pa rin ako," Janella smiles.
Watch Toni Gonzaga's interview with Janella Dapusala in full below:
Note: Proceeds from the ads that air during this interview will help fund Janella's medical expenses. To help Janella and her family, allow the ads to play instead of skipping them.
Photos from @celestinegonzaga @janelladapusala