On their way to the Bollywood-themed chemo party are Michelle
Soliven (rightmost) with (from left) her sister Jaqui Boncan, niece Christel
Boncan, sisters Christine Dayrit and Yvonne Romualdez.]
Tenorio, Jr. - They say laughter heals.

This couldn't be more evident than when my "sister" Michelle
Dayrit-Soliven (photo) turned her funny side into a virtual capsule and,
with Darna attitude, ingested it to make it part of her daily sustenance to
combat her cancer. Believe me, her sunny disposition weakened her cancer.
Michelle is now on total remission!
In January this year, Michelle was diagnosed with breast cancer, stage 3.
With resolute faith in God, she surrendered everything to Him and in the process
found strength to hold on. "Thank you, Lord, it's me and not anybody from my
family. I have absolutely no doubt that I will be well. I am not afraid. I can
handle it," was her prayer when her doctors confirmed she had the Big C.
Everybody in the family cried but Michelle did not shed a tear. In her mind, she
was thinking: "It's party time!" And what a party it was!
In our family — yes, the Dayrit orphans have been my surrogate family in
Manila for almost 18 years now ever since their late parents Ting and Mila
Dayrit "adopted" me — we combine faith and laughter to carry us through life's
many challenges. Among us, joys are multiplied and sorrows are divided before
they get washed away by our own brand of humor. Every blessing is celebrated,
even each pain.
So, with Michelle's bout with cancer, we all donned our eclectic outfits and
our happy and infectious disposition as we cheered Michelle on while she wore
her boxing gloves, so to speak, to make sure she won each round of her chemo
therapy with flying colors.
Michelle personally turned her chemo sessions into parties. She was supposed
to be treated in a cubicle at the cancer center of the Makati Medical Center but
the room was too small to accommodate our whole entourage and our "baon" and
paraphernalia. Yes, along with baskets of food lovingly prepared by Ate Jaqui,
we also brought a collection of funky wigs and headgear, all treasured gifts to
Michelle from family and friends. Each of the six chemo parties had a theme and
a matching menu. To accommodate all of us, we, all adults, found ourselves
occupying the whole pediatric ward of the cancer center and turned it into a
party venue.
The first time we entered the hospital wearing wigs — from lilac Afro hair to
long, velvety pink locks — people stared at us while a few secretly took our
photos. Michelle was unfazed by being beautifully bald and found the most
colorful and creative ways of making it fun. In all her six chemo cycles and
other treatments at the hospital, she made everyone, including her nurses and
doctors, wear a wig or a headgear so people had to guess who the patient was. To
the uninitiated ones, their guess would always be wrong.
On her last chemo party, she thought of a Bollywood theme. So the women in
her entourage — including her sisters Jaqui, Christine and Yvonne — gamely wore
colorful saris to the hospital. Even Fr. Gerard Deveza joined the fun wearing
kurta and maharaja hat. When we alighted the car, the people at the lobby of
Makati Med were treated to an early morning burst of color and an unexpected
spectacle. The guards clapped and smiled as Bollywood found Michelle dancing on
the hallways en route to the cancer center. There, we feasted on Ate Jaqui's
yummy curry.
Christine, my BFF, was the most affected watching Michelle undergo chemo and
radiation therapy. Michelle, in between her treatments, even had to accompany
Christine to The Farm in San Benito. Christine decided to have her detox and
medical-wellness vacation. The doctors at The Farm wanted to see Michelle, who
was enjoying the lovely villas and garden landscape, but she said, "I am not the
patient today" and sheepishly pointed to Christine.
[PHOTO -Michelle at the cancer center of Makati Medical Center with
siblings Mark Dayrit, Christine and Jaqui. Photos by Benny
With all her treatments, not even once did Michelle show a dampened spirit.
She never complained. She never cried. Well, the only time I saw her cry was in
my room at The Orphanage (that's how we call our home) when she was reading the
column article of our friend and editor Joanne Ramirez, who wrote about
Michelle's strength of character and faith in God. "I cry because of the
kindness of people."
Prior to that, the last time I saw Michelle cry, este, wail, was in 2007 in
Singapore. That time, her doctors there cleared her of endometrial cancer, her
first bout with the Big C, which was successfully treated at St. Luke's Medical
Center. Those who know Michelle are privy to her voracious appetite. In fact,
she eats much more than her only brother Mark. While we were about to partake of
a lauriat previously arranged by Christine at the Scarlet Hotel, Michelle got
word that she needed to fast that night for one more test in a hospital in
Singapore the following day. While the whole family was having a feast, Michelle
broke into tears as she was served her consommé. From silent sobs, she wailed
because she was not allowed to eat. And she never cried because of her cancer!

Here's another proof of her insatiable appetite despite having cancer. On the
eve of her second chemo treatment, the family spent the weekend at Sonya's Bed
& Breakfast in Tagaytay. Sonya Garcia prepared glorious food especially for
Michelle. After salad and appetizers, when her sisters weren't looking, she
gobbled two whole catfish, lengua with rice, pasta with chipirones en su tinta,
two bowls of pochero, caramelized sweet potatoes and a whole bandejado of
plantain bananas with slices of Gruyere cheese drizzled with guava jelly. The
next day she had fever and had to cancel a chemo party. When she texted friends
about the postponement of her chemo party due to her fever, one friend
humorously texted her back: "It's not fever! It's impatso!" And Michelle laughed
the hardest.
When Michelle was to be operated on for her breast cancer, Jaqui and Yvonne
turned her Makati Med room into a pink boudoir with pink foot rugs, pink
beddings, pink bathroom accessories, pink towels, pink slippers, pink
tablecloth. Even the lampshades and eating utensils were in pink. She even
refused to wear the hospital gown as she insisted on wearing her pink robe and
pink fuzzy socks as she snuggled on her pink bed with her pink furry hat.
On her first night in the hospital for her operation the following day,
Michelle was visited by Karylle, now the celebrity endorser of Miladay, the
jewelry company of the Dayrit siblings. Karylle's mom, Zsa Zsa Padilla, was next
door because she was the "bantay" of Dolphy when the Comedy King was in the ICU
of Makati Med. Karylle asked if we wanted some food because Sen. Jinggoy Estrada
sent yummy Chinese food. At first, it appeared that I was the only one who was
hungry so Karylle brought me to her mom's room to get food. When it was time for
Karylle to go home, I brought her to the elevator. When I came back, Michelle
was already almost finished eating my food. And she was still hungry for the
same food. It was a good thing Michelle's good friend Cynthia Gonzalez was
around so she went next door to ask for food. Cynthia knocked at Zsa Zsa's room
and said: "Hi! Good evening. My name is Cynthia and Michelle said she is still
hungry. Can we please have some more of your food?" Kindhearted Zsa Zsa
willingly shared all her food to the delight of Michelle who slept soundly that
The following day, Michelle had a smile on her face, ready for the doctors'
knives at the operating room. After praying the rosary, we wheeled her in until
the nurses gently told us that we were not needed in the operating room. When
Michelle woke up in the recovery room still groggy from her eight-hour surgery —
performed by cancer surgeon Dr. Victor Gozali, reconstructive surgeon Dr. Eric
Arcilla and assisting surgeon Dr. Edwin "Boboy" del Rosario — her first question
to Ate Jaqui was: "Hmm… What's my food?" That's Michelle, she loves to eat!
Two days after her surgery, Dr. Arcilla walked into her hospital room at 6
a.m. to do her dressings and check on her tubes. "The faster you get up and
move, the sooner you will heal," he told her. So, Michelle got up and, with
tubes, IV line and all, started dancing to the tune of "Do the Hustle" and
"Saturday Night Fever" with her husband Benny and their only son Vincent.
Oh, she really loves to dance that last Monday, during her Herceptin party at
the hospital, her oncologist Gary Lorenzo walked in to see her learning Yvonne's
"Firework" dance steps for her velada — all this while she was hooked up to the
Michelle is always so animated and cheerful. One can hardly believe she was
affected by the cancer cells. In fact, as she always says, "Cancer colored my
Faith, laughter, a grateful heart and glorious food are a deadly combination.
They all helped Michelle in her healing. To this day, in that order, they still
continue to heal Michelle as she serves as an inspiration to us all.
(For your new beginnings, please e-mail me at
I'm also on Twitter @bum_tenorio. Have a blessed Sunday!)

Chief News Editor: Sol
Jose Vanzi

© Copyright, 2012 by PHILIPPINE
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