Gene Fortitude

The invitation

The invitation

March 26, 2009, 6:00PM, I received a phone call from Mike Lui and his immediate question was “What is this I read in your message about Rachel and FF?” So I have to explain that Franz Pantaleon, 18 years old, the eldest son of FF and Rachel Evangelista-Pantaleon was diagnosed to have Extra Skeletal Ewing Sarcoma.

Part 1: Joining Arms
One time Franz wrote in his facebook account that he is treating his condition like a computer game. There is indeed a similarity in this case, not in how the game is played but how the games were made. I remember installing games in my computer. In a normal course of installation, so long as the computer user follows the instruction prompted on the screen, the games will be set up properly. But what if despite careful obedience to the instruction, there arise some abnormal electrical influx or disturbance during installation that made one program of a game fuses with another and then replicates itself progressively, increasing its file size indefinitely… a system failure is expected to happen.. Similar things perhaps must have happened to Franz’ kidney.
Extra Skeletal Ewing Sarcoma or Primitive neuroectodermal tumor (PNET) is a malignant round cell tumor of the soft tissue caused by translocationn between chromosomes 11 and 22 , which fuses the EWS gene of chromosome 22 to the FLI1 gene of chromosome 11. To my understanding, this means that sometime when Franz was still a bunch of cells (no limbs, no arms, no organs yet… still a lump of cells), something unusual happened, particularly in one neuroectodermal cell. Two chromosomes: chromosome 11 and 22 joined arms when they are not supposed to. This resulted to a change of genetic make up, rendering it a mutant cell. Unfortunately however, this type of cell is still in the stage where it is actively multiplying, hence with the passing of time it’s population increases until it reached a gamut of overwhelming size… in this case at Franz’ kidney. By November 2008, Franz urinated blood and recurred several times sometime January 2009… an indication suggestive of a renal system failure.
Part 2: The Big Boulder
The news of Franz’ condition came about when Karl Zafra forwarded Rach’s message asking for prayers. The texts in my cellphone screen appeared like a crystal shattering from extreme internal pressure . A long deafening sound reverberated into my ears rendering me to stare blank onto the white ceiling. My mind got suspended at life’s episodes that the Evangelista-Pantaleon family is trailing. Then came flowing some thoughts… now that the tracks has been regained, that the threats has been conquered, when things started to fall into their rightful places and the ride seems to run smoothly, a big boulder came rolling down the hill, blocking the road making it impassable. Everything seemed to freeze as everyone tries to size up the boulder. Perhaps figuring out what kind of strength is needed in order to move that gigantic blockage out of the way. Clueless of what steps to take, I started off by joinibg the FOR FRANZ PANTALEON e-group at facebook, which was created by the friends of FF. In that e-group, Rachel narrated in detail the inside story of discovering Franz’ illness. After reading, I took note of their address and set off walking under the scouring heat to get to the house I once visited year 1995 to 1998.

Part 3: Rachel, FF and Franz De-coded

As I walked towards the Evangelista-Pantaleon residence, my memories replayed back to the moments when for three years I was a neighbor. Back when I was assigned to that areal, I was only a few blocks away from Evangelista-Pantaleon. Being new to that place, I have decided to pay a few visit to Rachel.

For section A, Rachel, is the symbol of beauty and literary arts. The honor she gave to our section with her winning on the Miss Thomasian Pharmacy and Spanish Inter-collegiate contest is something we deeply appreciate. Her team up with FF is one that we have gotten accustomed to. . Although, theirs is a love story that was initially sneered upon by a few but later was learned to treasure and follow dearly. With this, FF has been regarded as the adopted son of A-MT90. Since then, Section A have greatly enjoyed FF’s wackiness. Five to eight years after graduation FF and Rach proved their love is grounded on a strong foothold. Armed with FF’s humility and Rachel’s strength, the couple managed to topple down their long lingering enemy. When things had gone well, they finally crowned their victory with a matrimonial vow. Franz that time is perhaps only 5 to 8 years of age. He was a very smart boy resembling the face of FF. In pictures, he projects an awkward smile, reflecting a child who is not comfortable before a camera. His assignment notebook or planner manifests a diligent student well guided by his mother. Ten years has lapsed, Franz now stood taller than his father, wearing the smile, the strength and writing skills of her mother.

Part 4: Keeping Us Posted

In the advent of summer heat, after coming from a blood laboratory check up, I came to meet FF and Franz once again. It is not at all difficult to start a conversation with FF, for words do comes out easily in his nature. In his usual spontaneity are narrative accounts of the painful surge of emotions that engulfed him; the close vigilance on the availability of blood units for transfusion; the tiring repeated answers to the deafening repeated questions asked by compassionate relatives and friends; the heavy feeling they have to bear every time they are confronted with a pitying face; and so on and so forth. Soon, tears started to well up FF’s eyes. Good thing I have a tissue at hand with which to dry his eyes. As he wipe off the tears he continued on venting out. But all these he relayed in a tone of a father who is at a forefront of a battlefield. After a quearter of an hour, a man arrived to deliver a gift from a relative. To their joy, it is the much desired continuous internet access. It brought in cheers to the Evangelista-Pantaleon, for this will keep Franz connected despite his leave from school. In the following days, Fran would update his facebook account, bring up to date his status, replies to comments as well as publish his insightful writing composition, thereby keeping us posted.

Part 5: Chinoy’s Math

At the end of my visit, am already elucidated of the type of help a classmate can offer: to support the fundraising project and help disseminate information of it to my batch-mates… the first in line is Rock for Reason.
Rock for Reason is an event set up by RockEd, an organization that uses the rock music community to support various causes and advocacies. With only 150Php entrance fee, one will have the joy of a bottle of beer while listening with the great line up of bands. The artists are composed of: Sandwich; Pedicab; Chillitees; Bagetsafonik; South Super Highway; Gasolina; Juan Lunar; Chubibo and Rivermaya. This news elicited queries from a few and for some, their generosity. One Chinese classmate even expressed how small a 50% of 150Php will be and so asked for the details of a bank account into which he can deposit his donation. This generosity was replicated by another Chinese classmate who was saddened by the news. The benevolence of these two Chinoys brings in agreat warmth in the heart for with a peso spent in text messaging, their reply insinuates a hundred fold or perhaps even more. Hurray to Chinoy’s math.

Part 6: Timely Talents

At 7:00 PM, of March 26, 2009 Judith and I agreed to get to SaGuijo on time or we will lose our chance to get a seat. So, we took our meals, get down from the condominium, hailed a taxi and soon we arrived without getting lost. At 9:00 PM, the beginning time stated in the invitation, SaGuijo bar is already buzzing with people. Both the text generations and that of the eighties swarms the streets of Guijo giving it a very festive mood. After getting off the cab, we immediately caught sight of Rachel and FF. Both were clad in a black shirt; a get-up that can adapt well to all age group. Rachel spotted us and in no time did she welcome us with a big smile. In order not to tie her from meeting other guests that is continuously coming and would definitely want to see her, I gestured to get in the bar and find a place to stay. Rachel gladly pointed to the direction. Up the entrance were kiosks of tote bags, shirts and other paraphernalias—the proceeds of which will go to Franz treatment. After paying our entrance fee, we were given the blue drink stub and a stamp mark on our arms. Judith and I entered the room, but all seats were taken, so we decided to try the side veranda. The garden sets were already taken by a few but ssince there are still vacant spaces, we requested a couple if we they can share with us and they complied. Judith and I then sat quietly to that corner until a familiar figure and voice emerge from the dark… “I was looking for the curly hair” she said. Leah Illada-Vasquez, along with her husband, came to join us. Judith and I then moved a little to accommodate the two.

@ Rock for Reason

@ Rock for Reason

@ Rock for Reason

@ Rock for Reason

Shortly the band begins to rock and we started teasing each other as to the relevance of getting a seat—the bones of the eighties has come to stage that long standing becomes an issue. A few minutes after, three teen-age girls joined our place and such elicited a conversation from Vasquez couple as regards their daughter. It is noticeable that the two are getting themselves prepared for the coming teen year of their girl. In a while the sound of one of the nation’s favorite band begins to roll and the three teen-age ladies stood up to join the crowd for jamming, they leaving their French fries for us to guard. Our attention then get pre-occupied with all the reasons we can give the girls as an excuse for eating their snacks. With the coming and goings of strangers who shared a seat with us, we soon found ourselves giving in to our cravings for the strips of potatoes we were entrusted to guard. The hunger pangs, all the more get the better of me that I decided to order for a pizza and that was the time I received a message from Karl saying they are at the site. So Leah went to peak behind the walls while I stood on top of the bench hoping to find them. Frustrated, I decided to pass through the crowd and at the driveway and there I found Karl and Weng leaning on the wall. Failing to see them, I went to meet them and bring them to where we were seated.

@ Rock for Reason

@ Rock for Reason

Greetings, taunting, updates and laughter lingers in that corner. The upcoming get-together with Joy Fernandez were brought up, followed by posing of pictures for a snapshot of the gathering. As the night were getting deeper and the young crowds are getting high with the jumpy rhythm of the bands, the Vasquez couple bid their farewells to the quartette of singles: the bachelor Karl, the spinster Nova, the single again Weng and the geographically single Judith.

Rock for Reason Concert

Rock for Reason Concert

@ Rock for Reason concert

@ Rock for Reason concert

@ Rock for Reason

@ Rock for Reason

The four of us stayed on for a few minutes, posed for three more photo shots and then decided to call it a night. So we get off our seats and search for FF, Rachel and Franz for a picture with them. Our sleepy heads however got lost in the confusions that no pictures were achieved. Save the one in Rachel’s camera… although a copy of which remains a mystery as to how it will gets its way to the e-group. When the situation strongly suggests that our goal can no longer be achieved, without a word we walked towards the car that will wheel us home. Despite the vague verbal directions from his passenger, Karl managed to drop us off the condominium building. I went to bed amazed at the number of friends that can be gathered in times when you need them most.

Few days after, Rachel did not leave everyone wondering if indeed the activity reached its goal. In FOR FRANZ PANTALEON e-group she wrote:

At the end of the day, between gate sales that reflected 330 or so attendees, merchandise sales, and donations in that hefty box, everyone’s concerted effort yielded a staggering Php 90,000 for Franz’s chemotherapy. Just a few weeks ago, as my sister reminded me, I was worried about the new cost of Franz’s chemo for April amounting to Php 125,000 excluding hospitalization. Now, seemingly in the blink of an eye, the lion’s share of Franz’s upcoming treatment is covered.

Great things can indeed be achieved when many people gather up together and work for one purpose. Rock for Reason is not just a concert of the bands but a concerted effort of friends who no matter how little they can give has a great talent of being there when you need them.

Part 7: Chromosome Fortitude

“In the beginning is a word… and the word was made flesh.” This is a biblical passage that one of a great French geneticist had reflected on in relations to the subject of his profession. This passage pertains to the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, but this somehow bears a likeness as how genes work. For genes indeed are referred to by geneticist as words, which holds information to build, multiply and maintain their cells until they become a fully developed living organism. In this regards, it is apparent that humans indeed partially resembles its Maker. It is however in this genes too that cancer cells are formed. But this is not because there is a genetic composition for this illness, but because the normal genetic make-up has been abnormally altered. In the face of this intrinsic genetic defect we may feel helpless. But a man of great faith knows too well that within him is a power more superior than the material word written in his chromosomes—the power of the supernatural reality that God created us in his image and likeness. Within this reality man can draw the energy to topple down a difficult enemy. This energy is what I learned as the virtue of Fortitude.

Throughout my dealings with the Evangelista-Pantaleon couple I have had a few glimpse of the power of fortitude permeating in their soul. From the onset of their love to tying of their knot, it has been colored with valor. Such power continues to fortify their spirit as they moved onto a path of discipline and as they cross the road with a buried land mine. Exemplary were they in living it well that it has been replicated in Franz manifests the same. In the evening, of March 26, 2009, Franz together with his family have shown an amazing sportive optimism as they mingle, dance, laugh and play along with the guests who have come to support them. Now, I am convinced that Evangelista-Pantaleon is chromosome Fortitude.

ADDITIONAL PHOTOS

@ Rock for Reason

@ Rock for Reason

@ Evangelista-Pantaleon Residence

@ Evangelista-Pantaleon Residence

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