This Young Fashion Designer’s Cancer Survival Story Will Inspire You To Take A Step Back And Move Forward With A Renewed Perspective
UPDATED (October 28, 2018) - Early this year, we wrote about the CEO, designer, and creative director behind the Patricia Santos Couture Fashion House. At the time, Patricia Santos had already established a huge following and an impressive clientele that includes some of the most popular and loveliest celebrities today. In just a matter of months, her name has gotten bigger, as she worked with more celebrity muses, launched her RTW bridal 2018 collection, and built a new atelier in a building that enjoys a stunning view of BGC's cityscape.
Little did people know that beneath these triumphs, Patricia had an even more inspiring story to share: she had thyroid cancer. Yesterday, however, she shared on Instagram that she had another neck surgery. "So today, I still can’t believe I just had my 2nd neck surgery. It’s been a really though road fighting against cancer and I’ve never been more scared than ever, I almost literally backed out of my surgery but I have faith that God is with me and he will heal me and that's what’s keeping me strong and positive," she says. Thankfully, Patricia said her surgery went well, and she's praying she will never have to go through this again. "I’m so looking forward the day I can say that I got through it! This is definitely just another bump in the road," she adds.
A lot of people have expressed their support for Patricia, and they can trust that she will not give up her fight. She ends her post on a positive note, "I will definitely come back stronger after this 'cause I have a lot more to give! Nothing can dim the light that is from within!"
Read more about Patricia Santos and her battle with cancer below.
She’s young. She’s beautiful. She’s successful.
You’d think her life is all rainbows and butterflies—the Instagram-perfect life, if you will.
But it’s not.
“Life is short,” she quips. “I’m grateful that I’m still here.”
This realization comes from a 28-year-old young woman, who is on the cusp of success in her fashion design career. She was on a roll (she still is!), working hard to make herself known one intricate gown at a time. She would stop at nothing, with her eyes dead set on the prize. Her life was all about work. Work defined who she was.
And with all the work she’s done in her five years of designing, by this time, Patricia Santos is no longer an unfamiliar name in the local fashion scene. She has succeeded in achieving her goal of establishing herself as a designer, one possible indication of which is how much followers she has on Instagram now (@patriciasantosatelier has 126k as of this writing).
Patricia is the talented designer behind the memorable Star Magic Ball gowns of Kim Chiu in 2014 and Kathryn Bernardo in 2017. The intricacy of her creations is reflective of how detail-oriented she is, and the amount of work she and her team put in to make sure every piece comes out of her atelier impeccable shows just how passionate she is for her craft.
She was clearly having the time of her life—or, she thought she was. Everything she worked hard for, she almost lost, when she found out she had thyroid cancer.
Now that she is blessed with a second lease on life, Patricia vows to live life with the same passion, drive, and enthusiasm, only this time balancing it with more time for herself and her loved ones.
Creating clothes was only a hobby for this fashion design graduate from the now-defunct La Salle College International-Makati until people noticed and complimented her designs, and she was inspired to pursue it as a career.
Patricia loves telling the story of how she started her business with only a capital of P30,000 and one sewing machine. “I was the cutter, the seamstress, then I only had one beader,” she shares. “I was also the runner. I would go to Divisoria and even take the jeepney, carrying the things I bought.”
On her first year as a professional fashion designer, she joined a bridal fair and was commissioned to do a wedding gown for a Chinese client. Seeing that she did a great job on it, through word of mouth, she later saw growth in her clientele.
Back then, she felt her designs were “girly and super young” until she evolved with an aesthetic that’s classy and ladylike.
“I had a lot of struggles that made me strong. Those were the foundation of this business. I went through so much. I am set and determined to be successful.”
Early on in her career, Patricia has banked on establishing her signature style, which her clients have come to see as stunningly ornate. As a designer, she gets a sense of fulfillment from knowing that she has successfully made herself a go-to for a certain design, while not losing sight of versatility in that category.
Now that she has clearly created a following, she can’t help but look back on her humble beginnings. She shares, “I think in every business, when you start, you have to go through the lowest point. I think it’s good that I was able to go through that because I get to appreciate more what I have now."
Patricia was already gaining traction in the local wedding scene, but the design that really created a buzz for her was actress/singer Kim Chiu’s Star Magic Ball 2014 gown. Celebrity stylists Kim and Boop Yap got Patricia to work on Kim’s gown only seven days before the Ball. Though hesitant at first, she shortly found herself taking on the challenge.
Photo by Nimfa Chua for ABS-CBN News
In her nude turtleneck gown with intricate black embroidery, Kim Chiu stood out on the red carpet and was one of the best-dressed stars who really shone at the Ball.
After that night, Patricia shares, “The next day, I got so many calls and more than 1,000 emails, I think. Suddenly, people knew me, and they were calling me up.”
For an upcoming fashion designer, that was such a huge validation and a much-needed motivation to keep going. And so, she went on and on, to a point where it had become too much. “I was working from 9am to 9pm everyday,” she says. “That was when I became a workaholic. When I was not doing anything, I would feel useless. I actually forgot about my family. I forgot everything else around me. I was so focused on my goal. I forgot my life in general.”
The Biggest Shock of Her Life
The concept of work-life balance was non-existent in her life. She acknowledges the fact that her being a workaholic may have been a big factor for her and her ex-boyfriend’s breakup.
Patricia sacrificed a lot to get to where she is now. “The reward, of course, is I got what I want,” she says. At some point, she felt she wasted her youth. Yes, she may be successful now, but all those times she failed to enjoy her youth, she cannot bring back anymore.
And that rewarding feeling she gets from actually living her dream was at one point replaced with a mixture of fear, confusion, and a whole bunch of questions and what-ifs.
“I found out a year ago that I had stage 2 thyroid cancer,” Patricia told Metro.Style.
Patricia is a firm believer of Padre Pio. Once, she was going through something, so she went to St. Padre Pio chapel in Libis and prayed for the saint to help her find the right path. Coming from the chapel, she had dinner with her brother-in-law and his uncle, a doctor, who noticed lumps on her throat or neck area.
She immediately got herself checked. After a series of tests, those lumps turned out to be tumors. The moment she found out she had cancer, she thought, “How can this happen to me? Bakit ako? I was so young. What am I going to do? What if I die now? Sobrang dami kong hindi nagawa. I didn’t even know paano na [ang] kapatid ko. My mom, I haven’t even spoken to her; I haven’t really spent so much time with her. There’s so much in this world that I don’t know and haven’t done yet.”
She had to undergo surgery to remove her entire thyroid, a move that she decided to go with to prolong her life despite lamenting over the fact that it could hurt her chances of getting pregnant later on.
“I got really really sick. I didn’t expect I was going to get that kind of sickness,” Patricia shares. “I didn’t want to tell anyone about it because I was scared people might be judgmental in a way, that if they find out I’m sick, they might think I’m not capable of working anymore.”
“I think the hardest part of my sickness was that I couldn’t share it with anyone. I didn’t want people to pity me.”
She was sick, but Patricia continued to work because she didn’t want to put down any of her brides or clients. “I want my clients to see that I’m really serious about my work, that I’m a strong-willed woman, and that I want to achieve something,” she says.
With this experience, Patricia felt God gave her a nudge. “It inspired me, because sometime in my career, I think I lost my fire. I lost my passion. I couldn't focus. I was just working like a robot,” Patricia enthuses. “It happened to me not because God was punishing me, but more for me to realize that I have a life, for me to give importance to my life, and not just get stuck on work.”
Last year, Patricia created a buzz again for her beautiful creation of “Queen of Hearts” Kathryn Bernardo’s Star Magic Ball gown. Made with 100,000 pieces of Swarovski crystals, the champagne ball gown was a definite standout on the red carpet. That was one of the most photographed gowns of the night, and Kathryn looked radiant in it.
Last year, she also had her ready-to-wear bridal collection. Countless brides were in pure bliss as they donned her masterpieces on their special day, whether custom-made or RTW.
Her creations were also featured on Metro Weddings magazine with Anne Curtis and Coleen Garcia. Celebrities like Kim Chiu, Sarah Lahbati, Nadine Lustre, Pia Wurtzbach, Lovi Poe, and Erich Gonzales have worn her pieces in various events.
Clearly, the disease didn’t dampen the enthusiasm she has for her craft. If anything, the experience taught her to value what she has more and lead a well-lived life.
A Renewed Perspective
After going through that ordeal, Patricia now makes it a point to have work-life balance, and she’s thankful that her boyfriend is always there to remind her about it and give her a nudge whenever she shows signs of going back to her old workaholic self.
Now a cancer survivor, she says, “I prayed to God and told Him I really love my life. I promise I will make it right.”
These days, she happily spends all the fruits of her hardwork by seeing and exploring the beauty of the world. She makes sure to travel once every month and enjoy life to the fullest, and as much as she could. She shares, “My boyfriend and I, we’ve only been together for almost two years, but we’ve already been to 12 countries together.”
Patricia believes that when you work hard and save up, the mindset shouldn't be about saving for the rainy day but, ultimately, a way of rewarding yourself and giving yourself that chance to savor every moment you're given. When you do that, she says it makes one all the more motivated to work.
“I’m really more inspired now. I’m really happy with where I am now,” she concludes. Young as she is, we bet there's so much more she can produce that are truly worth looking forward to.
Metro.Style dropped by Patricia Santos' new atelier. Watch out for the feature, soon!
Photographs by Pat Buenaobra
Photo courtesy of @patriciasantosatelier (Kathryn Bernardo)