Many were surprised as a man whose voice sounded like a robot’s went up the altar during ABS-CBN’s Seven Last Words last March 25, 2016. The said man introduced himself as Engr. Emer Rojas, Global Cancer Ambassador and founder of New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP)
Engr. Rojas soon explained why he had such a voice. He confessed that he lost his vocal cords due to stage 4 laryngeal cancer. He underwent an operation in 2003 and since then, he has used an assisting device that helped him have a voice.
Despite everything, Engr. Rojas considered himself a lucky man. When he was diagnosed of cancer, he was told that he had only five years to live. He was also made aware that only 20% among stage 4 laryngeal cancer patients would usually survive. In other words, he was convinced that he has been blessed with a new life and he could not think of anything but to use it to make a difference in other people’s lives.
Surrendering to God
Engr. Rojas got really upset upon learning he had throat cancer. He was having a time of his life during that time. Apart from having a growing business, his career as a radio broadcaster was also promising. No wonder, it was not easy for him to accept the sudden turn of events.
Indeed, he lost many things because of the disease. Yet, trials did not just end there. Things got worse when he had a recurrence. For one year, he had to spend a week every month in the hospital for his chemo therapy.
It was just then that he realized his mistakes. He realized that he was wrong after all. A few prayers and some amount of cash were not enough for his suffering to end. He was already vulnerable, physically and financially, and he knew there was no assurance that he would survive. Having thought of this, he decided to surrender himself to God. Little did he know, what he told God during that time was actually the 7th word that goes, “Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit.” It was the same line he was asked to talk about for the Seven Last Words.
The Gift of a New Life
When Engr. Rojas told God that he was willing to go if that was what He willed to happen, he asked for a little more time so he could help other people. However to his surprise, he was given the gift of a new life.
Having survived cancer and all the other obstacles that came with it through the Grace of the Lord, he committed himself to helping people by pushing relevant advocacies. It’s the perfect opportunity to pay it forward, he believes, so he is now engrossed with his advocacies. As the president of NVAP, he has been busy with the organization’s activities which mainly revolve around:
- Cancer support and rehabilitation of speech-impaired PWDs
- Tobacco control advocacy, and
- Persons with disabilities advocacy
In 2011, he was also chosen as a Global Cancer Ambassador by the American Cancer Society. Since then, he has been involved in international cancer control programs. He has also given talks to various schools and served as a guest for television and radio shows, in the hope of raising people’s awareness on cancer and inspiring those who have been affected by the disease.
Paying It Forward
Like many cancer survivors, Engr. Rojas was able to realize the importance of awareness in the battle against cancer. By educating people on what causes the disease, how to lower the risk of contracting one, and what its possible effects are not only to the people diagnosed but also to their loved ones, more and more would be mindful of how they live. They would also be more motivated to protect themselves and live healthier lives.
Apart from this, he also recognized the relevance of quality healthcare among individuals, regardless of their socioeconomic status. This way, they could address even minor health concerns, thus preventing them from worsening or leading to complications. Preventive healthcare procedures should also be made available to ensure individuals’ good health.
It is for these reasons why Engr. Rojas has also been busy supporting the Cancer Alleviation Network on Care Education and Rehabilitation or CANCER Party-list, a network of cancer patients, medical and health professionals and advocates of saving lives from CANCER and other diseases.
Besides providing cancer patients and survivors representation in the government, CANCER Party-list also seeks to become a catalyst for accessible and quality public health services. It is in the belief that reform is necessary when it comes to healthcare and patients’ rights in the country. It is also very much concerned with the lives of the youth, adults, poor people, elderly, and persons with disabilities that are affected by cancer.
After all, apart from praying for individuals and families who are affected by serious ailments, it is also important for people and families affected by serious ailments to have someone who can reach out a hand to them and help them as they deal with the challenges that come with cancer. Engr. Rojas, through CANCER Party-List, is more than willing to be this kind of person and hope to them.